Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coming Out - Complications at Fifteen (Part Two)

This is Amber--continuing from Part One: Stereotypes.

I want to relate my story of constantly coming out by going into further detail of when I first came out to myself and a few others.
 There are four vivid experiences of me coming out to adults where it went horribly wrong. To put it simply, my parents' process in coming to understand and accept my existence as a bisexual has been a very long one. It has required ample patience from me and from them. I love them dearly, but I wouldn't wish this situation that I'm in with them on anyone. As I'm writing this, I'm trying to move out of the house as soon as I can, because the situation of my different social and religious beliefs are just too much for them to handle.

I had an LDS Seminary teacher start ranting at me about how bad pagans and witches were when I tried telling her that I was a pagan and a bisexual--and when she exploded at me for telling me how horrible those Satanists and those devil worshipers and those magic-workers were going to be the end of society. "Not to mention the gays!" she added on, before I could say anything about my bisexuality or pagan beliefs. She dropped me off at school just as she said that phrase, and I trudged into my high school, not able to think of much else besides the fact that she would have people like me put away in mental institutions.

My bishop was so bad that it's a story for a different day.

In essence, my initial coming out to respected adults was nothing easy. As several close LDS people that I loved were adverse or outright hostile to my feelings, I clammed up for a long time.

Fortunately for me, I had been so inured and brow-beaten about being an autistic individual that shutting up about being bisexual was easy and it was something I could easily hide...so I thought.

Coming out to my friends was a slightly different story, almost the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I had so many people wanting me to completely embrace it immediately that it hurt. More than one of my non-LDS high school friends openly asked if I was lesbian in my junior year, and there were a few instances where a few girls groped me in trying to get me turned on. It became very clear to everyone that I had no intention of dating girls, I did not appreciate unwanted sexual advances.

When I'd remember having a few girls grope me, and I'd shudder, linking female touch to unwanted touch, going back to when I was raped at a young age. No, no, no, I shuddered. I didn't want to be handled without my consent. The last time girls tried to convince me in my sexuality was when I had been thinking about being raped, and my rage and terror were enough to drive me to express myself quite openly to one of my best friends. I was in tears, crying as I asked why they would do something like that to me, and she went to make sure that all was made right. After that, they apologized profusely, never did it again, and did everything they could to rectify what had been done. However, I had gotten to the point that I couldn't even approach this girl as a friend without thinking I'd harm her in ways that others had harmed me on a romantic and sexual basis. 

While I had a crush on this adorable, talented girl (who will be nicknamed Ellie) with cute scarves, gorgeously braided black hair, dark eyes and perfectly dark skin and big glasses, I was also crushing on a particular boy at the same time. It's pretty typical for me to crush on many people at the same time, usually a guy and a girl--and crushing twice as heavily on the guy as I am on the girl. I thought that maybe I was rebounding onto her because I couldn't have the guy that I had been crushing on for five years. While I silenced my feelings for her and moved onto longing after a different boy that did not return my affections, I always wondered what it would be like to date girls.

I hid it away behind my mask, and that was just one time of many where I have ventured my sexuality forth into the world. It could be why I fear a second adolescence, thinking that I might just become sex-crazed for the same gender and not return to liking guys. It may be why I'm always hesitant to accept myself as being fully lesbian and a fully straight person at the same time.

All I know is that I want to accept myself for who I am. Coming out to others validates that acceptance for ourselves because frankly, no man is an island. People are social creatures and to an extent, we do psychologically rely on each other. We all need to know that we love each other despite our differences.

I just hope that we can have a day where we can come out without fear of being brow-beaten, smacked down, disowned, etc. Love is what we all need.


Coming Out - Stereotypes (Part One)

Hello crowd, it's Amber again. I've had a bit of trouble being able to write due to family drama and partially a lack of ideas. Here's a long, two-part post to making up for missing out on my chance to write last week!

Other writers here have mentioned self-acceptance, self-expression, their parents, their families, and a lot of self-searching. I intend to go along the same veins and ideas. Our generation (those of us in our twenties) have been served the most expressive and connected technology that mankind has known up to this point. It has caused more drama and more chances for self-expression than what we could ever imagine. It's also caused the need for careful wording and even more subtle nuances. Today, I wanted to write about when I lost a job and separately, nearly being homeless due to my bisexuality. However, I have friends and family who read this blog. I will not speak of those situations here until the causes behind the latter event are settled. Despite all of my attempts for careful wording, I couldn't write out what happened without harming someone else in the process of my writing. Even seven years later, that issue has not been resolved, and I apologize to the readers here for addressing the topic so vaguely.

I realized one trend that ran between both of those events. If you are LGBTQA-etc, you will always have the option of coming out of the closet in every situation that you are in. You will have the option of letting any new acquaintances know about your identity for whatever reasons you choose. Who of you feels the need to express your identity? (a rhetorical question--we all do to some extent!) If you are part of the non-heterosexual communities, you are very likely to get bored of people asking the same, mundane, hum-drum, ignorant and awkward questions that are going to make you want to stab everyone's eyes out.

Depending on how you present yourself visually and in your words, you'll have a different range of responses for your sexuality. Sticking to the stereotypes decreases the amount of questions you'll get. I realized this about a year ago and thought: "Ah! That's why so many people try so hard to fit in with the conventions and the stereotypes of whatever sexual type they are!" It gets you less questions, it defines you more easily, and it gets you laid more easily, to put it bluntly. For people coming out of the closet, there is the rumored period of second adolescence, where the world is a candy store again and you pursue this new wonderland of attractive people that were in front of your eyes the whole time--but you never could get yourself to think that you could date them or love them like you wanted to.

Being the individualist that I am, I have a pretty big problem with the idea that I need to conform to a social stereotype in order to get laid or get intimacy or find a partner that I would spend the rest of my life with. It drives me insane to think that I would have to change myself so drastically just to explore. When I first tried looking around in dating girls, I got a lot of almost uppity comments that merely reflected the insecurity of their creators. I've heard these exact two sentences from more than eight different lesbians on these topics:
"You can't be a real lesbian if you don't--" / "Don't even talk to me if you don't--"
  1. Watch Skins.
  2. Watch The L Word.
  3. Listen to Tegan and Sara.
  4. Love hummus.
  5. Love cats!
  6. Hang onto a label (such as butch, lipstick, diesel, stud, femme, blue jean femme, etc) seemingly FOR DEAR LIFE. 
  7. Eat a vegan/gluten-free diet.
While I stop there in my list of what seemingly may be my own version of the lesbian ten commandments, I want to add that I see nothing wrong with these things. I love hummus and vegetarian food. Cats can be adorable, but I'm allergic to them and I prefer dogs. What gets me is when I'm dropped off at my apartment and I'm told, "Call me when you've listened to all of Tegan and Sara."

"Because Tegan and Sara help me so much in loving you as a person?" I wondered inwardly.

As she drove off, I realized, "Well...it is something she cares about and enjoys. It would be nice to share that with her." However, this comic strip puts it into perfect words and points for me. Nearly all I could see in that girl for the five hours that I was with her was that she didn't care much for anything that didn't scream LESBIAN, and that she didn't like that I wasn't the same way.

When you know that you're looking for love, and not just sex, don't fall into the trap that who you are is who you want to have sex with. I say it harshly and with all of the points above (sarcasm included) because I have seen so many people fall into it. Sex won't fill all the parts of yourself that you want comforted if you're scared and alone. It sure will help--but it won't fulfill you as a person, not in my experience. I have no problem with people being really flamboyant or following the stereotypes if that's who they are. I would encourage people to go through their own process in finding their sexuality, finding out who they are, and what they love. Please find what you love, what you stand for, and who you are and what you want to be. People will love you for all those things as long as you're honest with yourself. If you have fallen into that trap (which I have,) I'd say just to keep on evaluating who you are, what you feel, and what you want to be. Keep trying to be you and more because (pardon the overworked phrase) you love yourself.

To finish this part of my points on having to constantly come out, this video tells it all. I'm a big fan of Tyler Perry/Madea, so you'll probably see more clips of him/her again.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Be You

This weekend I took a trip with some friends down to St. George, UT. At one point in the trip we went swimming and one of my guy friends decided to wear a speedo instead of his trunks. We playfully made fun of him and laughed, and tried to talk him in to showing off his new found confidence to some nearby girls. By the end of the night I saw a new side to my friends (and I don't just mean the part of his legs that are usually covered by pants). Even in a situation that could have been weird he was very comfortable with himself. He took our teasing with good humor and even made fun of himself a bit. It has always been fun to be around him because he is very comfortable with himself and makes it easy to be yourself too. At the end of the night as we were leaving he said that someone has mentioned to him before that if he continues being weird and silly he's not gonna get a girlfriend (paraphrased). But then he said "You know what, if she doesn't like all my silliness then she's not the right girl for me."

He's right. It's a philosophy that I've tried to establish in my own life, time and time again, of just being myself and not caring what others thought. It starts with loving who you are (something I confess I'm still working on). Then finding people who also love who you are, and would never ask you to be something different. Those are the people who will be worth keeping in your life. And being able to be yourself is worth waiting to find those people.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


A few of the other bloggers have mentioned their parents.
I decided that I wanted to say something about mine.
I'm lucky.
My parents are wonderful. They have their issues and their moments just like anyone. But when it comes to my being lesbian, they couldn't be better.
My mother is the most loving woman I have ever met--and I've met a lot of very loving people. She doesn't judge. She doesn't complain. And she will never abandon her family for any reason. I know that my situation (being lesbian and mormon) worries my mom a lot. She knows how hard it can be to go to a church where people have very strong opinions about certain issues. She knows how hard it is to live in a culture that isn't very good at accepting and including people who are different. But she also knows what her true religion is, and she practices it despite what others say or think.

I wish that everyone could have a mom as great as mine. She has told me that no matter what happens in my life, and no matter what choices I make, she will always love and support me. If I choose to marry a woman, she will support me even if it means going against what the LDS church says.

My dad doesn't like or really believe in gayness, but he's reached a point in his life where all he can do is love and accept his children because everything else takes too much effort. For a man with terminal lung cancer, he knows how important it is to cherish people right now rather than get angry at them for being lesbian or whatever else. When we talked about it he said that if this were twenty years ago he'd beat me till I was straight. If I'd come out to him twenty years ago I'd have been 2 and I don't think it would have gone down very well...so, I'm glad I didn't have a clue back then. Other than that my dad has been really good to me. He likes to joke around. Any time my lesbianism comes up he likes to say that he's lesbian too because he likes women.

I'm grateful to have such good experiences with my family. But I know that other people aren't so lucky. I don't know what to tell you. But, if you're the family member I'd like to say that it's okay to have your own coming-out process so to speak. Everyone does. The most important thing to remember is that being gay doesn't make anyone different--they're still the same person. My advice is to love. Don't let anything get in the way of love. And, I don't know how much I believe in "tough love" anymore. If "tough love" pushes family or friends away, then it isn't worth it.

All you need is Love.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Being Gay is an Honor

Hey there fellow readers, friends, and goofballs! My name is Nathan and I have the wonderful honor of being a guest contributor on this lovely blog.

A little bit about me first. I am 20 years old, Mormon, and yes I have the honor of being gay. Don't let my wording trip you up. You might be asking yourself, "Did he just call being gay an honor?" and to answer your question I say "Yes. Being gay is an HONOR everyone!"

Growing up in the crazy and beautiful Mormon religion made my growing up gay a crazy and unique experience; but over time I realized that religion doesn't define me it is a part of me, just like the fact that I am gay. There is more to our lives than just being labeled and sorted.

Before coming out I used to constantly have thoughts of 'the world will end when I come out' 'my parents will never love me' etc etc etc. These thoughts were poisonous garbage and I am quite glad to be rid of them today. What really happens when you come out is this; love.

The people that you truly need in your life will accept and love you no matter what you are because of who you are. I found that my friends and close family became closer; they knew the truth and they in turn made this into a much stronger and powerful bond.

So today we need to realize that sexuality is a PART of us; it will never define us. Now I am extremely proud of who I am and I realize that at the end of the day you need to be happy with yourself; if the rest of the world has a problem with it well it's their problem, not yours. Don't let other people EVER get you down or tell you that you are less than you know you are.

I am a wonderful, fun, caring, creative, talented, unique person and this wouldn't be any different wether or not I was gay or straight. If you are gay reading this than be proud to be gay. If you are straight reading this than be proud of that too. To be gay is to be unique; we get to live a life that most of the world will never know so we need to enjoy this gift that we have been given, a different look on life.

While your outlook on life might not be great right now just know that, and yes you have heard this a thousand times, it gets better! And it really is true. Coming out to a friend, family member, each time has made my life better. And while I do attend a school where I unfortunately am unable to be myself and love who I choose, I realize that the future is far off and yet near and it will get even better then. Every year I am so happy because I get to celebrate the anniversary of the day that I came out to my parents; I celebrated my 2nd anniversary this past march and I bought myself a PS3 to celebrate! That's right I celebrate my freedom, my life, and my pride in who I am.

The past is history, the future a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.

Love yourself no matter what because you need to be your closest friend at the end of the day.

Your friend and fellow gay blogger
- Nathan

Feel free to check out my blog! Comment, ask questions, contact me, I would love to hear from all of you!http://dumbledoresdilemma.tumblr.com/

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mormon Stories.org and the upcoming conference

Hi blog friends, Justin here.  I know, I know ... TWO posts in ONE day is too much.  But I've been sitting with these for a week!  I actually meant to send one to Tiffany last Thursday to post for me, but, lo and behold!, I accidentally sent it to the wrong person.  Love accidental come-outs ...

Has everyone heard of MormonStories.org?  I think it’s a great resource for Latter-day Saints, especially those who, perhaps like ourselves, feel as if we don’t fit what we perceive to be the LDS “mold.”

(Granted, this mold is, I believe, almost entirely self-created.  Certainly, Heavenly Father does not intend for us all to be the same.  I feel like he delights in diversity of many kinds.  Heck, maybe he’s black, as Macaulay Culkin’s character suggested on Saved!.)

The site’s subtitle, a sort of mission statement, reads: “Exploring, celebrating, and challenging Mormon culture through stories.”

“Stories” is an understatement.  These aren’t mini-biographies of random LDS people telling us about their difficulty, but final reconciliation, with the LDS church.  Instead, they are in-depth, often hours-long interviews with some of our finest thinkers, including Richard and Claudia Bushman, Ed Kimball, Carol Lynn Pearson, Morris Thurston, our very own Bill Bradshaw, and others.

(One part of Carol Lynn Pearson’s interview)

Remember when fellow BYU student Cary Crall wrote that editorial to the Daily Universe about Proposition 8 that was published and later pulled?  Afterwards, Dehlin interviewed Cary and a few others about that event, Proposition 8, and related topics.

Last November I sent my parents a link to Professor Bradshaw’s interview, which they watched with some interest.

Mormon Stories is advertising a conference in Salt Lake City next month—from June 10-12, 2011.  If there’s still room, I’m thinking about going on Friday evening for the dinner and/or Saturday for the service project and afternoon session/discussion.  (I’m flying out to Virginia Saturday night.)  If you’re interested in going, leave a comment!  There’s even a student discount—see the site for details.

Glad to meet you on this blog. J  Big thanks to Tiffany for setting it up.

Friday Poster: Self-introduction / coming out story

My name is Justin and I’m a _____ (homosexual, Mormon, southerner, student, amateur gymnast, etc., etc., and so forth).

So, I'm the Friday poster.  I love to read.  Today I read a bit from Shaw’s prologue/apology to Mrs. Warren’s Profession.  I’m also currently reading a book about Buddhist psychology (The Mindful Path to Self-compassion) and, of course, blogs.

I majored in Korean, minored in chemistry, will study Russian this summer, and will start an MA in Asian studies in the fall.

I like posting media on blogs.  Despite my fear that you’ll perceive this as a personal ad, here’s a picture of yours truly with my little sister:

I talk about myself sometimes, but not a lot a lot.  But let me tell you a bit about what it was like to come out to my family.  I’m taking this with minor revisions from a post on my personal blog.

I was 18 when I came out to my family.  (I am 24 now.)  I came out on Christmas Day, at night, after all of the festivities were over.  I was between semesters at BYU.  I was afraid.  But I had also spent the months, and perhaps even years leading up to the event falling into habits of self-destructive behavior that I thought would ease the pain of feeling so different and fundamentally unaccepted.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to say what I wanted to, “I am gay,” when the time came, so I typed a letter which I read to and left with the members of my family.  I was so scared of how they would react, of where my life was going, of how I could ever face them after they knew.  But I said it and handed a copy of my letter to members of my family.  It said,

“I don’t even know how to begin.  I am gay.  However sordid that may sound to you, I am so pleased with myself for finally being able to say it.  I want you to understand how amazing it is for me.  Simply typing it right now, a week and a half before you will read this, seems to release, ever so slightly, some valve from a vacuum that has been sucking in and collecting so much self-hatred, guilt, and shame over the years.  I want you to realize how at peace I feel right now, knowing that with the release of this terrible secret also comes the release of those terrible feelings.  Do you now see why I must tell you?  I simply cannot keep holding this secret inside of me …

“I hope you understand that by telling you, however you react to what I am saying, I sense that it will be a positive thing for me …”

Needless to say, it seemed a monumental, awkward, and disconcerting Christmas.  But now I look back upon it, and it feels strong, brave, beautiful, and good.*  No person who intends to live a joyful life can be apologetic for the truths of their lives.  Easier said than done.

*This is a variation of the Latter-days quote about Sunday comics:  “Sometimes it all still feels like a mass of dots.  But more and more these days, I feel like we’re all connected.  And it’s beautiful… and funny… and good.”  The comics look like a mass of dots when you hold them close to your eyes.

Anyway, glad to meet ya’ll.  Hope to read more of your stories in your comments, posts, and guest posts.

(Quote source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0345551/quotes)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


My parents are embarrassed.

I should keep quiet about my "temptations." That is the logic they employ. But what I say in response to them, to all that would support this view, is "I will never be quiet." Pretending something does not exist will never make it go away. But, ah, how it has been tried. To you, dear reader, I encourage you to accept the beauty that is within you.

Sexual orientation will never define you in a total sense. It is but one label, term, or aspect of the rich personality that is you. But it is an important aspect to you. Sexuality is not about the expression of preference for the gender of your partner. It is about the expression of love in its most intimate, public, and private acts. The world, homophobes, and the uninformed focus on the sexual act. They focus on the intimate and most private of all acts and seek to make it villain. They ignore the affection and expression of love that can be seen in two hands with fingers intertwined, the gentleness of one person's head resting on the shoulder of their partner, a quick peck on the cheek, and the simple and cherished relief that you feel knowing the one you love is nearby. They ignore the laughter, the tears, the romance, and the hope that expressions of love bring between two people.


What does it grant us? Ignorance. As a gay man, I live in a world where my existence is denied in some countries, given the death penalty or severe jail terms. I am ridiculed by my peers, mocked and hated by adults in nearly all professions and religious organizations. Children all over the world are taught to hate and fear me, my friends, and those among them that will grow up to be gay.

So I do not accept the request to be silent. Silence stripped me of my identity and shoved me into that proverbial closet to appease those around me uncomfortable with the idea that a man could or would love a man. Being vocal brought me into contact with men and women of diverse backgrounds together in an effort to celebrate who we are: human. I am honest about who I am.

I will never be silent again. I invite the same from you, dear reader. I challenge myself to forever live up to this decision.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tornadoes and Ostriches

So for everyone who doesn't know yet, last night (may 22, 2011) a tornado touched down in Joplin, MO. They are calling it the nation's deadliest tornado since 1953. The death toll is 116 and might be rising. The closest thing I can relate to was a tornado that touched down in Oklahoma on may 3, 1999. It tore through everything just north of where I'm from. But that wasn't really anywhere as deadly, just lots of damage. We moved there just a month or so afterwards, and I remember seeing the aftermath and thinking "why on earth would dad make us move here?!" My family has never had to deal with that kind of loss, but we've come close sometimes.
Talking with my dad this morning, he told me how much he wanted to go and help, but it's 200 miles away. He can't imagine going through that himself, but we know many who have. He equated it to the idea of the lottery. Only in the sense that we all know someone has to win, but the real chances of it being you are slim to none. The winner's chances were still nothing, just like everybody else, until the very moment they won. Twelve years of living in Oklahoma has let me experience more incredible storms and tornado sirens than I could possibly count. I've had tornadoes within a mile of my house, and yet every time I always think "that's never really going to happen to me".
There is this mentality I have found many people have, including some of my past (and possibly present) roommates. The idea that yes, people who deal with same gender attraction exist, but I'm never going to know any of them. This is a popular theory, from what I gather, here at BYU. It's not so much a hatred as just an ignorance. Everyone thinks that they're never going to have to deal with it, and probably never know someone who is either, so they don't learn about it. It's other people who go through those things, right? A few months ago I had the opportunity to talk to a psychology class about my life dealing with being lesbian and Mormon and what I had to go through. Afterwards I noticed there was someone I knew from my freshman year sitting in the back. I'm sure she would have never thought that she knew someone who was gay. In fact she told me as much afterwards (did I blow her mind?...probably). I'm also very sure that my parents never thought they would have to deal with this in their lives, let alone their own child.
Chances are you're going to know someone who deals with same gender attraction...and you probably already do. It's not like the lottery at all. It's a serious issue that you or people you love are going to have to deal with. Don't be ignorant and don't bury your head in the sand. We are people, not ostriches!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Hello fellow bloggers!

I think that this will be a common theme that most of us talk about, but it's something that I think is the most important aspect of my life right now.

I believe in love.
Love is my religion.
It is my goal, and my life.

As a Mormon, I've learned to place a lot of value on love.
When you scrape away all the green jello, funeral potatoes, fast-and-testimony meetings, white shirts and ties, and the sounds of Sunday, then you get closer to seeing what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly founded on. You see love.
The church is centered on Jesus Christ. Christ is love. This is why I am still Mormon. Because religion based on love makes sense to me.

In the Bible Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. He responds that it is to love God. And the second is like unto it: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

There was a long period of time in my life where I hated God. I hated myself. And I thought that I loved my family and my friends and my neighbor. But I didn't. Because I hadn't yet learned that in order to love someone else I must first love myself.
The second commandment only applies if you manage to figure out the one that hides between the lines. The one that says you must love who you are.

In the Mormon church it is easy for people to shy away from loving themselves. Nobody wants to be caught with having pride, because that's seen as sin. That's a whole different topic, but the truth is people are scared to let themselves enjoy who they are. Like I did, they miss how critical it is to love yourself.

I believe that no one can truly love another until they have learned to love themselves. Call me crazy, but I've seen how true it is. I thought I loved others, but the reality was I became dependent on the people around me. I fed off of their love, their talents, their lives that they lived.

I learned to love who I am. Every part of me--Mormon, lesbian, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, traveler, firefighter, student, runner... I love my eyes and the crinkles that form when I smile. I love my freckles and my nose, my small ears and my hair that takes way too long to grow. I love myself despite my bad knees and my grouchy moods. Once I learned to accept and love myself, I felt like it became much easier to love the people around me, which is a very important part of my life.

"I love you" means nothing until you can say it to yourself.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Hey all! This is Bradley and for my Thursday post this week, I’ve decided to share a prose poem I wrote about my first boyfriend. I originally composed it for a creative writing class. I hope you like it:


My fascination with dyed hair began with Clint.

Hypnotic black with traces of metallic green the color of a beetle shell,

His rude outfit included scuffed converse, jeans, and a tight purple t-shirt:

It had an upside-down tree splashed across the front.

He had one ear bud in at all times, and smelled nicely of cinnamon.

I remember the night we met:

Everything and everyone smelled distinctly of chlorine from the pool outside.

About 30 people were swimming in their underwear.

All kinds of junk food littered countertops and floors.

With a “Clint, Bradley… Bradley, Clint”, we locked eyes, laughed, and he took my hand.

We sat in the crater of the gumball-green beanbag where we compared music tastes

We sampled music by sharing a pair of headphones.

As we got closer, the divot in the beanbag got deeper.

My head lay against his shoulder above a spaghetti tangle of limbs.

Clint leaned in closer and kissed me softly.

I felt a huge wall crumbling around me. There it was.

Something inside of me melted and I felt warm sticky goop wash over my soul.

Again he kissed me, and I felt suspended in midair.

An invisible puppeteer had lifted me by the spine.

As we kissed, I think I blew a fuse somewhere inside me.

He had pierced my armor and tickled my soul.

I was utterly spellbound by that choppy green hair the color of a beetle shell.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The End of Fighting

I awoke from a long and difficult battle drained of hope. I had lost. The morning greeting me without sun or blue skies or even gray-clouded ones. It was still night and I had to be to work in a half hour. I dreaded my job, ignored the piles of homework that would await me when I returned to my apartment after classes, and felt more alone than ever. I hadn't hung out with friends in a long time. My roommates were always busy hanging out with friends and leaving me alone in the apartment. One of the few people I called almost daily was my mom but those conversations lasted only a few minutes and I could tell by now that it was the mere bonds of child-parent that kept her answering the phone. She had nothing to say to me really. Our conversations had long been shallow and empty.

After work and my first class, I went to the counseling center on campus. I did not run or click my heels in relief when I requested an appointment with one of their counselors. I had given up. This was my final attempt to stave off the darkness that had been slowly closing in over the past years and recent months. My face and my body held a weariness I had never felt so deeply. It transcended muscle and bone and went straight to the soul. I had fought for so long to keep the stress, panic, and fear at bay. But after two weeks of the deepest depression I had ever faced, I knew I had lost the battle. Keeping on as I had been, would result in nothing but more defeats and a sorrow I would not be able to bear.

Admitting defeat was the best I could do. It meant that I no longer had to wage war against my emotions and that I no longer had to see me as the enemy. I could no longer fight on. My enemy, an enemy I had succeeded in forgetting even who or what it was, had won. A nameless, empty victory.

The first time I met with the counselor, a short few days after, I was attempting to once more convince myself I could be happy again. The woman that sat down in front of me was middle-aged with red hair. She spoke with a professional tone, measured and cool in tone. A thin veneer of friendship could be garnished from her words, but it was the friendship a professional offers to a client and nothing more. With pen and pad in hand, she asked me to talk about myself. So I did, I shared all the details of what brought me here in a tired tone. I had slept very little the night before. Not that it mattered, even when I had a full night's sleep, the weariness was still there.

I talk about the depression I had been feeling for nearly five months now. How I had left my parents to come back to school just to avoid the pain and fear I was feeling. I talked about the job I had, a custodian in the morning, and my classes. The stress nightmare that fed my depression and the simple admission that I was gay.

"I would kill myself if I believed it would take me somewhere better," I told her at one point. It was not intended to shock but to explain my beliefs. She asked me what I meant. "I wish I didn't believe in an afterlife. I don't want to die and go someplace else and keep on existing. I just don't want to be anything anymore." I felt trapped. I was tired of living. Tired of existing with everything I felt. Death was no comfort to me. It meant that I would have to do more. Work. Work. Work. There was no rest in death from what my religion taught me. She offered no comment but wrote down more notes. I was too exhausted on all levels to wonder or ask her why she didn't say anything.

The next visit she offered repairative therapy. A cure for my attractions. After all, she was trained in such counseling and could, if I were willing, help me suppress my feelings for other men. This was not the first time I'd been offered such a strange thing. I imagined being asked to surrender a piece of my soul. A piece, however tarnished or ugly, that had formed my struggle for over ten years. I knew it well: those feelings. I had resisted them in almost every imaginative way. Yet through all my struggles I had learned one important lesson: I did not fight some stranger or some alien part of me. I had fought me. This ugly, pathetic, and vile thing still bore a piece of my soul, was still me in the mirror. It was wrong, sinful, and I would never embrace it, but I would never surrender that aspect of me.

I gave no grand speech to her. I simply told her I didn't think it would be a good idea right now. She respected my decision and our session ended.

I never realized, walking away to my next class, I had done the right thing. It would take months before I would come to understand what I had done and the path I had begun to walk. But even then I knew I had a spark of hope again. I would need it.

That was the lesson I gained. Gay, straight, or bi, I was still me. I may not have liked me then, but it was me. I could not escape it. I only wanted at the time to find a way to live in peace with it. I was done with fighting. Fighting only brought more pain. It gave no healing and that was what I needed more than anything. On that day, I turned from hating me to wanting to sympathetically and truly know who I was.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Tale of a Mask

This is Amber reporting. I’m a bisexual woman that just graduated from college with her BA in Anthropology. I post on Tuesdays. Like Tiff, I’m also interested in writing fiction. I’m also an epicure and love researching all sorts of different kinds of storytelling—whether it be film, art, comics, or just the personal stories and gossip that we tell each other.

Growing up, my family moved from place to place almost constantly. I was used to packing up and moving on after three to six months of living in one place, and it was not easy to really discover what it meant to have friendships at a young age. (Being mildly autistic certainly didn't help either.) I was very quiet, shy, and introverted for all of elementary school, and it gave me a lot of time to read and to think out a few questions. I couldn't live without that constant introspection, and even as a college grad, I wax spiritual and philosophical if ever given the opportunity. With that disclaimer, I apologize for the abstract notions that may flood my posts.

Being bisexual is something that has pervaded my life. I've noticed that many people tend to have one set of issues that concern them for most of their early lives--and growing up, I was much more concerned with being autistic than the fact that I liked both men and women. It did give me more challenges, but as the years pile onto my shoulders, my bisexuality has been more and more of a social challenge than my own social quirks. It has required me to remove another mask that I put on often while growing up--that I was a straight-laced straight girl, hiding behind glasses and books. It was the mask of the academic that merely fought to cover perceived faults in the self, to shout against the ideas that they harbored but desperately wished to dispel from their hearts. It was the mask of feigned ignorance about LGBT experiences. Above all, it was fear and discomfort rolled into a social sheen that covered my emotions and my true feelings.

As a kid, I remember having crushes on girls. My first was for a black girl from the south side of the train tracks in Collierville, Tennessee. She was a great friend and I never understood why I tended to blush around her. There was one point where she hugged me, and my face flushed madly and my breathing got faster. I blamed it on feeling sick and being a redhead--we ginger types flush easily. There were multiple points in elementary school and middle school where I stared at a girl for too long or grinned like a moron as I created a character based on a girl that I knew from class.

However, I was known (everywhere I went) as the girl that had a crush on every boy. Intelligence and sensitivity have always been the biggest points of attraction for me, and I'd almost always crush on the smartest guy in my class. I can't count on my fingers and toes all of the guys I've crushed on. I believe the count is around 60-75 people over the course of my life. Nearly all of my friends at college know about a redhead that I crushed on for four years, and at this point, he's still a good friend to me. 
I currently have a wonderful boyfriend that fulfills all of the aspects of personality that I look for in both women and men. For the aspects that I sarcastically label as feminine in my head, he's sensitive, careful of my emotions, and easy to communicate with. For the male aspects, he's level-headed, protective, and strong. His dedication to finding truth and sticking to his morals are the two things I'm most attracted to--no matter if he was male or female. Delving into that more would be a topic for a different day, however.

Bisexuality for me is partially being confused at why people can't fall in love with other people due to a difference in gonads. It doesn't make a difference to me. I realized this when I had my first serious, head-over-heels crush for a girl in high school--right when I had peaked in obnoxious douchebaggery when it came to LGBT issues. I was homophobic and kept building arguments against LGBT lifestyles and rights--all of which were immature, nearsighted, and lacked all sense of empathy or reasoning outside of a Christian neoconservative point of view. I had covered up my feelings for girls with multiple excuses, and focused on guys instead because I did find them and still do find them quite attractive. I went so far as to tear down people that acted on those feelings instead of pushing them away. The funny thing was that I had more LGBT friends in high school than straight friends. It really should have been a hint, in hindsight.

A black girl joined my friend circles in my sophomore year, and I could never take my eyes off of her. She's still one of the most attractive women I know, and my crush on her at 15 years old forced me to stop avoiding the question. I passed her one day between passing periods, and all of the memories of crushing on girls came to mind, along with accompanying memories of how I had felt for guys in the past. At that moment, I felt the mask that I had been wearing, and realized that it was not who I was at all. I was much more, and I had to figure out who I was. Was I a lesbian? Was I bisexual? Was I just a scared straight girl with a poor sense of boundaries?

My straight friends encouraged me to date women and see what it was like. I was terrified of the idea, and being in the family I was raised in, such a thought was out of the question. I was raised LDS and there are no paths to salvation for LGBT people within the church unless you remain celibate (automatically putting you to a lower level of the afterlife than heterosexual couples)  or silently deny your feelings and enter into a mixed-orientation marriage. Personally, I wouldn't wish that on anyone that felt the slightest shade of uneasy about the idea.

I was hesitant to talk with myself about it, let alone other people. My parents got me to a LDS psychologist who was helpful with a few issues, but not on the topic of bisexuality. After attempted reparative therapy, I knew that there was no way that I could say that I wasn't bisexual. Despite this, I decided to live a straight lifestyle. A little bit of the mask had come off, and I knew that I couldn't hide behind the word 'straight' or 'heterosexual' any longer. I knew that I wouldn't be able to face myself in a mirror with that false mask on my public face. 

Throughout 2008 and 2009, I became more and more open about letting people know that I was bisexual. In 2010, I went forward with full acceptance of myself in many ways, and especially on this matter. I tossed the mask aside almost entirely when I came out on Facebook earlier this year, albeit most of the people there knew I was bisexual anyway. 

I love the fact that I can love both genders and play for both teams. Being bisexual on one level does mean that you don't automatically think of saying "Oh, eww..." when the idea of loving someone that's one gender or the other. There's no gut reaction against either gender for me. They're just human, and that's great. 
It gets me the best and worst of both worlds, such as jokes from both straight people and gay people, "You're just a (lesbian/straight) in disguise. You just need to choose. You're a lesbian in training. You're just a straight girl that can't get any action from guys. You're just a lesbian that's kidding herself." Those jokes and those quips can be the best and worst of both worlds. The worst--because you feel that your feelings aren't being validated for what they are, as if they need to change for something, someone, and/or society at large. I know other people that lean toward the same gender have felt that way many, many times. It also can be a good reminder that things do need to change. It can also be a great opportunity to break up the notion that gender is always a solid basis by which to check your sexuality. It also provides a chance to ask yourself what you're really feeling for others, even if it's the same thing as it's always been.
As I'm currently living with family that does not accept my bisexuality, I tend to keep my head bowed and my mouth shut when the matter comes up. There is the matter of appropriateness with sexual topics, whether you're LGBT or straight, and I respect that. However, it's a very important matter to feel loved, and it's essential to have acceptance in your life from those you love most. For those of you who feel trapped by people who just can't understand you, this is what I have to say.

I love myself enough to work and save in order to find a place where I do not have to wear the mask just to get by. I take every possible chance to take that mask off, see myself for who I am, and show love for myself. The world is too harsh and life is too long for us to not love ourselves for who we are, and to love ourselves enough to become better, even more loving people.We don't need more standards and restrictions on love in this world. We do need to be careful and watch ourselves since there are hurtful people out there, but as Shakespeare said, "Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none." That includes you. You're worth this struggle and you're worth the victory that you're fighting fate for.

I have many more things to say about this mask, love, bisexuality, LGBT issues, and sexuality in general, but I believe that this is a sufficient introduction. I'll see you guys every Tuesday, and good luck with your lives in whatever you may be doing.

All the best,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Unintentional Advice

My dad came to visit this week. It reminded me of where I get my personality from. We're like two weird peas in a pod...except that he's a large man pea and I'm a small girl pea. We spent most of yesterday and today together and we talked about all kinds of things. I don't really talk about my personal life with my dad. It only became easier to not share when I moved halfway across the country to attend school. But on the off-chance that we do talk on a personal level, I've never regretted it.

I've had problems with not liking myself since I was a kid, when I realized the other kids thought I was weird. When you're ten being weird is not a good thing. It only escalated in high school when I realized I liked girls. Of course there were a lot more things before that and in between and up till now that added to this feeling, but for more than half of my life I've wished I was someone else...anyone except me.

While I was with my dad today I told him about some of the things that I've been through. Things he didn't really know about before. I asked him if I was crazy, or weird. Without missing a beat he replied "oh yes, of course...but there's nothing wrong with that". Paraphrasing the next hour or so, he told me that we hardly ever choose the things we go through. And afterwards, given the chance, we would never choose to go through them again. The things is, everything we go through and have to deal with makes us who we are. We learn and use what we learn to help others, or maybe ourselves later on.

Everything I've gone through has shaped me into who I am. To tell the truth, despite my best efforts, I haven't changed much. I'm still weird, but I'm beginning to love that about me. I'm happy when I'm me. I've started to love myself...ALL of myself...and even if I had to go through all of this, being me isn't that bad. No matter what you have to go through...love yourself. You are worth it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gay Family Values

Okay, it's been a little while since the last post, but here's a nice YouTube channel that you should check out.
It was created by gay couple Bryan and Jay in order to show the world that gay families are no different from any other family. They record some of their daily activities with their two children, Daniel and Selena, as well as some of their ideas on politics, activism, religion, and love. 

Here are a few of the our staff's top favorite Gay Family Values videos.