Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hugs

Sorry to post twice, but I really needed to share this as well. And hopefully it's not quite as heavy as my other post :)
I talk all the time about how I love being who I am. I love feeling like it's okay to be who I am and just live life that way. I like to be open about being lesbian and mormon and a byu student and a firefighter.

But there's a major part of me that I feel like I had to abandon a little bit when I came out as lesbian.
I love hugs. I love physical affection and expression.
Those who are close to me know that when someone is having a bad day, I don't have words to make things better. I never know what to say. All I can do is offer a hug or an arm around the shoulder or a hand to hold.
The same thing goes when someone has a good day or does something amazing. I communicate with a pat on the back or a high five.
When I want to say that I think something is absolutely adorable or fantastic or ridiculously talented, I will hug that thing or person so tight they're eyes will pop out.

I'm the kind of person who has to shake hands with any new person I meet. I have to say hello and goodbye with a hug.Hugs are part of who I am. And they are the part of me that I lost when I "became" lesbian.

Here's the story:
I hugged all my friends and practically everyone I ever came in contact with.
Then I told this girl that I liked her--loved her.
She freaked out. Got scared that my physical affection meant more than what I thought it meant.I began to question my motivations for physical affection.
I worried that it was inappropriate for me to hug girls.
I didn't know very many guys to hug.I stopped hugging people altogether.For a long time, I didn't notice.
Because I was depressed, and disconnected from the people around me.
I was scared to touch anyone.
At one point I wanted my mom more than anything because she was the only person I could hug without it being perceived as wrong.
Then one day my roommate and good friend said that we never hugged anymore.
She missed my hugs. I missed her hugs, too. Because she gives really good ones.
And I realized that I didn't initiate hugs with anyone anymore.
So, I tried to work on that.
Because I'm the kind of person who needs five hugs a day, at least.


Now, I don't hug very many people. I feel much more constricted by social rules and people's personal space. I don't want to cross the lines. I don't even know what the lines are, which is why I'm so cautious now.I still communicate physically. Which is why a lot of people think I don't communicate very much--because I don't.
I love being who I am. I want to be all of me. I don't want to deny one part of myself so I can have another. I want to enjoy everything about who I am and not worry about all these personal bubbles. Most people like hugs (even if they don't know it).
I've come to accept the lesbian part of me.
Now it's time to embrace the hugging part of me. ;)


Also, I'm really good at hugging.



~live your own truth~

Sex Trafficking and Saving the World

Okay, so I went to England two years ago. But, before I left there were all these people who asked me if I'd seen "Taken", which I had not. They then proceeded to tell me to be careful while in England.

I had no bad experiences in England (other than the ones I created by hating myself for being lesbian...um...) Anyway.
I watched "Taken" because my cousins told me it was a good movie.
First of all, it was a terrible movie.
It was about sex trafficking, but not really. Because it was more about an ex-spy who goes around killing a bunch of bad guys before he can actually get any information out of them. He "saves" a girl only to find out where she got his daughter's jacket and then abandons her.
Of course it ends happily ever after with him taking his spoiled-brat daughter to meet the famous pop-star singer.

The acting was poor. The action was, for the most part, unnecessary.
I came away from the movie with very little hope for humanity.
I came away from it wanting to do something about this very REAL issue and not knowing where to start. What can I do? I'm just a little girl who has no CIA training and no billions of dollars to blow on plane tickets and creative little devices. What can I do to help protect young women from being kidnapped, drugged, sold, and raped?

If you know of anything, please tell me. I once donated like $5 to some hippie little shop that was supposedly doing something to stop sex trafficking, but I don't even know how they could do that. How will my donation help someone? Or is it some kind of scheme to aid the whole trafficking thing itself? See? I have no trust for humanity either.

Sometimes I feel like I want to save the world. I want to help people. I want to make things right. Safe. Happy. Free.

But, I can't.

I can't give LGBT individuals equal rights.
I can't protect women from being kidnapped.
I can't free people from being enslaved.
I can't save the whales or the rainforest or the wilderness.

I feel completely powerless sometimes.

I know I just said I can't, can't, can't.
But, I do know that there are some things I CAN do.
I can spread the word.
I can share what I know.

The world is a messed-up place. There are a lot of terrible things that happen, and I can't imagine how anyone gets mixed up in any of it, but little by little we can all do something.

I've said before that my goal is not to advocate for gay marriage or gay rights. And while I do hope for those things, it is still not my goal. Above everything else, I want you to understand me a little better. I want you to see what I see even for a second and then think about what other people are feeling. I want to generate empathy and understanding. My goal is to promote acceptance and love. Life is hard for all of us. I think we would do well to remember this fact when we see others making choices we think are wrong. Or when someone gets on our nerves. Or when we really just want to punch someone. We would do well to remember that life is hard for all of us. This does not leave room for a self-pity party. This means we must look out for each other. We must stand up for each other. We must LOVE each other and do something about all the shit in the world, even if it's just a little something.


~Live your own truth~

Friday, July 29, 2011

5. Effects of Early "Religious Abuse"

Hi friends, Justin here.

This is my favorite poem.  It's by James Merrill.  I remember finding it, I think when I was in high school, as I was flipping through an enormous collection of Merrill's poetry in a bookstore.  It's been tossing around in my head for years.  It's part of a longer poem titled "Family Week at Oracle Ranch."

This part goes:

"The great recurrent 'sinner' found
In Dostoyevski--twisted mouth,
Stormlit eyes--before whose irresistible
Unworthiness the pure in heart bow down . . .

Cockcrow.  Back across the frozen Neva
To samovar and warm, untubercular bed,
Far from the dens of vodka, mucus, and semen,
They dream.  I woke, the fever

Dripping insight, a spring thaw.
You and the others, wrestling with your demons,
Christs of self-hatred, Livingstones of pain,
Had drawn the lightning.  In a flash I saw

My future: medic at some Armageddon
Neither side wins.  I burned with SHAME for the years
You'd spent among sufferings uncharted--
Not even my barren love to rest your head on."

James Merrill (taken by Rollie McKenna in 1952)
Image source: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/217

Poem source:

Merrill, James. "5. Effects of Early 'Religious Abuse'" The Best of the Best American Poetry, 1988-1997. Ed. Harold Bloom and David Lehman. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. 204-05. Google. Web (Google eBook). 30 July 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=Vsd9jwYZ5HEC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

Monday, July 25, 2011

This Such and That Forth

So, here's a short anecdote from my own life. This last week my roommate was complaining that no boys had come and asked her on a date (we were doing this thing in my ward where they were supposed to, so it made sense). It was supposed to be just a little fun date, nothing serious, so I told her "If you want, I'll take you on a date". She looked at me with this look that has grown so familiar to me and has come to say 'Bridey, I'm still not a lesbian', to which she added "I love you, but it just wouldn't be the same". I pulled my best sad/hurt face and said "I tell people that all the time, but no one believes me". I'm not quite sure why, but this was instantly hilarious to both of us and had us holding our sides in laughter. I love my roommates, and I love that we can have these moments.

Afterwards we talked about it a bit, how the situation would be the same, just with different people. Just as going on a date with a girl isn't really her can of olives (if you will), going out with a boy is not something I get excited about either. There have been other times in my life where I've been asked to explain to someone how I feel towards women, because they cannot understand, as the idea is foreign to them. I've heard people compare it to being born with a mental illness--in that I did not choose this for myself, etc. Recently I heard it compared to someone who is predisposed to become an alcoholic...they have these temptations and desires that they should just ignore, and may sometimes need help getting over. I believe that neither of these (and others I'm sure you've come across) are a good way to understand gay feelings at all. The only way that I can see it, and have used to explain it to my friends, is that it's exactly like the feelings they have for boys (or for girls if they are my straight guy friends). The only difference is who those feelings are for. If it's the same, think how hard it would be to be told that you have to be with, and marry, the gender that you're not attracted to. Most of my friends say that they don't think they could do it, or at least not be happy doing it. I've found it helps people be able to put themselves in shoes they never thought they could. Being willing to see things from someone else's point of view is the key to understanding and finding compassion, and that's for any situation, whether that be one's sexuality, religion, culture, politics, personality or just general way of reacting to life (this goes both ways). The point is loving people, even if we may never understand them.

~Bridey J

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Promises

Sometimes I make promises to people that I intend to keep.
I do this because at the time it is really something that I mean.
Because keeping the promise would be part of who I am.
And it would be easy, and worth it.
But, I'm realizing something about myself.

I change.

All the time, I change.

I change my clothes when I get home from work.
I change into my work-out clothes before a run.
I change into my birthday suit to shower (and do other various adventurous things).

I change my hair style about 5 times a year.
I change my shampoo when I realize the one I have doesn' t make my hair soft.
I change my tampons and feel glad I'm not wearing a diaper, yet angry that my body must endure menstruation.

I change my shoes according to the events I attend.
Chacos for hiking and wading and everything else summer.
Nikes for running.
White's/Hawthorns for work.

I change bikes according to terrain.
Road for the roads.
Mountain for the mountains.

I change my socks.
I change my underwear.
I change the sheets on my bed.

And yet somehow with all these changes,
I'm still me.
My socks are still my socks, and my hair is still my hair.

But how is it that I can change my mind,
my thoughts,
my views,
my religion,
and still end up
me?

I say, do, and write a lot of things. I have opinions and I express them.
Then my opinions change
and I express them.
I become a hypocrite from an outsider's point of view.
But to me, I'm still me.
Learning.
Growing.
Changing.
And wishing sometimes that I had all the answers
but loving every moment when
I don't know a damn thing.

I know it may seem awful dishonest and terrible of me, but I must tell you now that if I've ever promised you anything, the truth is that it may not be kept.
For one thing, I don't always remember the promises I make.
And for another, I'm never the same person I once was.
I can't make promises.
I don't know if I can keep them.
I might change my mind tomorrow.






~Live your own truth~

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guest Post: The Hardest Stage of Coming Out

Hey, Tyler here. I contributed a bit to Justin's post last week and I'm happy to be a guest today. While contemplating just what part of myself I wanted to put online, I considered many options.

At first, I was sure that I would have to speak about my Southern Baptist upbringing and being raised in a rural town where my dad is the pastor of the biggest church in the area. "That'd be entertaining," I assured myself as I considered witty stories and zingers to include. It's certainly an interesting facet of my life that I don't get to speak about at length very often.

Then my mind jumped to my college experience, specifically my trouble transitioning from feeling trapped in an ultra-conservative Bible belt town to finding freedom at a larger university (The University of Virginia) where I was able to be myself. However, that wouldn't be the whole story, and it's truly just skimming the surface of some of the issues that many religious homosexuals face. It wouldn't be fair to take one of the "easier" roads.

So I've decided to confront arguably the biggest enemy in my ongoing journey to being comfortable with myself, both as a gay man and as a Christian...myself.

It's no secret, coming out is rough. For every smooth announcement, there seem to be ten horror stories of abandonment and anger or hurt. Families, especially those where religion is emphasized and valued, can be the worst environments to open up a conversation on sexuality. Parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins can all quickly change perspectives when they're informed one of their own is gay.
Friends and acquaintances, sadly enough, can be much the same. The pressure to come out and the fear of doing so can be debilitating for many.

My personal experience has taught me that we may be our own worst enemy when it comes to acceptance.

I remember when a guy I had been interested in for months finally had the nerve to ask me if I was interested in other young men. I was in ninth grade and I had known for years that it was indeed true, but this was the first time that anyone had forced me to truly consider it. I remember staring blankly ahead for what seemed like years and finally shakily admitting that I was gay. I knew in that moment that my life would never be the same, and I could never go back to my life before I admitted it to myself.

I refused to tell any friends or family members for years after because I hoped that it would eventually change and I would be straight. Sometimes I pushed it to the back of mind and sometimes it dominated my thoughts, but I would pray weekly that God would relieve me of my "issue" (the term that my parents and many still use to describe it to me) and to restore me to where He wanted me.

Since then, I've tried to make progress with myself. I require my own acceptance more than anyone else's approval, and I can honestly say that I make progress every day. It's difficult, there's no doubt about it, but it's a sort of daily reward.

I wish I could say for sure that the story has a happy ending, and I believe that eventually it will, but I'm still trying to find personal acceptance 7 years later. And 7 years is nothing compared to some of the personal stories that I have heard of men and women who spent a lifetime trying to deny aspects of themselves, either the gay or the religious, who never found much satisfaction in either facet of their lives.

As cliche as it may sound, the first step toward acceptance from anyone else has to start within. The good and the bad news is that we're harder on ourselves than others may be.

So, open question to anyone...how have you worked toward personal acceptance? How has this journey with yourself affected other relationships in your life? What progress have you made and where have you struggled?

Thanks for the opportunity to put something out there!

Guest Post: All That I Want


I am a Mormon, and I support gay marriage.


Whew! There, I said it. The best part is that I am far from alone. Every day, those who have opposed the union of same-sex couples are being shown that gay love is in fact a manifestation of genuine love, and that gay marriage is not the kryptonite of the “traditional” family. Marriage equality is gaining support among the religious and the conservative, slowly but surely. Perhaps it's just a point of concession, and yes, there will always be those who will never support gay marriage. But they really can't rain on my pride parade; the American LGBT community is itching to prove the naysayers wrong, and I, for one, am willing to take the shift in the wind full sail. It's an exciting time.


One fallacy that keeps rearing its ugly head among the particularly embittered who are against marriage equality is the idea that legalizing gay marriage is the first step in some “master plan” of the left. I kid you not. There are those who believe that once the “legalizing gay marriage” box is checked off on the liberal conspiracy bucket list, the homosexual's thirst for power will not be quenched until it has desecrated America with feather boas and glitter. Not to mention all will have to hand over their firstborn child to the homosexual regime.


Meh, so I got a little carried away with the hyperbolizing. Unless your firstborn child is David Archuleta, I am not interested. Feather boas make me sneeze, and glitter is the herpes of the craft store, so no thanks.


I feel quite confident in saying that any gay person I know is just looking for equal rights. They want to have the option of marrying the person the truly love. They want the right to be truthful about their identity if they serve in the military. They want to be respected as a minority. To anyone who believes that gays are looking for more than their fair share, and that this push to legalize gay marriage across the states is the first step in a campaign to undermine the American legal system: Is respect and human decency too much to ask for?


To put things into perspective, let me outline what exactly it is that I want out of my little gay life:


Right now, I go to Brigham Young University. I'm studying film. In about six months or so, I plan on serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I confess that I'm not as literal of a believer as I used to be, but I still hold firm to the Mormon idea that personal spiritual revelation is a valid line of communication with the divine. I want to teach that, and I want to provide for other's spiritual and physical needs. I have my reservations about my future missionary service, but I plan on seeing it through because I also have high hopes that I can change someone's life for the better. That's as simple as I can put it. All I want is to give back.


After my mission, I want to enlist in the Navy. Anyone who knows me may be surprised at my choice, as I've never admitted the fact that I'm drawn to military service. The truth is that I see the protection of the country I live in as a cause that I cannot watch from the sidelines. I am particularly interested in the humanitarian efforts of our military. Jokes about gays and the Navy aside, there is much good our brave servicemen and women do, a lot more than the media gives them credit for methinks. Specifically, I want to be a religious programs specialist. That means that I would assist Navy and Marine chaplains in their duties as well as provide them security. I want to help the men and women of the military be ready for the unknown. No matter what they believe, I want be there to provide our soldiers with inner peace amidst external chaos.


My game plan after the Navy becomes rather vague. It is life, after all; who knows what will happen. I do know I'd like to finish a college degree. I do know that I have a passion for theatre and the arts, so that will always be there to enrich my life. I do know that I want to marry the man of my dreams, and I know that I want to be a father. Blame it on my Mormon roots, but it's kind of my ultimate goal, to be husband and father.


(Personal anecdote alert. I promise I go back to my original topic.) I was joking with a friend of mine the other day about the fact that I've kind of assumed the role of housewife while I've been home for the summer. I've been cooking, cleaning, going to the gym, picking up my brother from places. Essentially, I've been channeling my inner suburban mother. But here's my little secret: I like it.


Stay-at-home Dad, househusband... Whatever your name you have for the calling, that's really what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a homemaker; it's a dream of mine really. I don't think I ever had a parent who stayed home full-time when I was in school, and I kind of wish I did. I want my kids to grow up knowing I'm there for them and I love them. Not that my parents were bad or insensitive or anything, the sentiments in the previous sentence have just always been implied in our relationship, never explicitly stated. Often times I've been left wondering where the love is in our home, and I don't want my kids to ever have any doubt in their minds that I am there for them. Children are the leaders of the future, and they deserve the very best we can give them. I want to do my small part in making that happen. Plus, I love kids; family can be so rewarding.


And there it is! My outline for the future. Check in next week, and it will probably be completely different, but that's beside the point. The point is, does this sound like anyone who wants more than his fair share? I submit, that I, in fact, want nothing more than “the pursuit of happiness.” That's all that anyone, gay or straight, can ask for.


I aspire to be a son, a lifelong student, a saint, a sailor, an artist, an actor, a father, a husband and a homemaker.


It's a mouthful, so I say I just aspire to be human.


Truly Yours,

Elliot


P.S. Follow my blog! apronkid.blogspot.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

T-shirts

Once upon a time, I made a shirt that said: "i'm okay if you're gay".

Well, that's not entirely true.  I had over 40 made.  ("community" was on the back.)

I thought it would be fun if those of us who agreed with this statement wore them to school (BYU) on the same day.

I had also relatively recently been through the Honor Code Office for, among other things, "advocating homosexuality as being morally acceptable."  I was wary of having to go back.  (Note: "advocacy" has since been removed from the Honor Code.)

After speaking with my father, a cautious attorney, I decided to confirm with administrators at BYU that this would not ... cause any administrative problems.  I (with a friend) spoke with one of the deans of the university, who was kind and referred us to another dean.  We went to this second dean's office.

Dean #2 suggested that a group of students wearing shirts like these on campus--and meeting for lunch, taking a picture together, etc.--may be considered a formal act of public expression, for which permission must be granted by the university.  As final exams were fast approaching, he suggested we try for a later date.

A formal act of public expression.

I felt ashamed to do so, but I cancelled the event.  Maybe nothing would have come of it had we continued with it.  Or maybe something wonderful might have come of it.  Maybe some gay/lesbian/bi/trans (ok, I don't think there are any transsexuals at BYU yet ... ) guy or girl might have seen the shirts and realized that the world isn't such a harsh, judgmental place.

Those moments--when we realize how beautiful the world actually is--are significant.  Did I ever tell you that once a BYU professor referred me to a magazine issue published at Notre Dame that dealt with the lives and experiences of gays associated with ND?  That was a "the world is beautiful" moment for me.

Several days later, I decided to see if I was over-reacting.  But no--having invitations by Facebook (Facebook!), meeting, and snapping a picture, according to Dean #2, seemed formal.

Several students wore their shirts anyway--by their own volition.  I've worn mine--by myself--a few times and received pretty positive responses.


This experience reminds me of the YouTube video posted above, about students who protested Dick Cheney's coming to speak at graduation several years back.  If your time is limited, jump to 2:40 and see President Samuelson's response to one student asking why BYU responds to things like this the way they do.  It's golden.  (Does anyone know if it's been clipped shorter than the actual response was for dramatic effect?)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Your Dose of Neil Patrick Harris for the Day

On my other blog, I've posted a list of my favorite actresses and musicians. I'm not gonna lie, I enjoyed it thoroughly. So, I'll post my favorite gay and lesbian people on here (I'll limit it to ten). And ask you this question: who would you put as your top ten gay/lesbians?

Portia di Rossi
If you have never seen her on Arrested Development, I highly recommend watching her. She was hilarious on that show. I give Ellen Degeneres props for marrying this beautiful and talented woman.










Chris Colfer
He is adorable. I love his voice and I love his character. After Glee, I hope he is able to keep finding work in the industry. I'd love to see him develop more as an actor.

Chris Pureka
She is amazing! I love her voice and her music. She just has a certain depth of quality in her voice. It's a voice that you could listen to over and over again and not feel like you've heard all that could be expressed.

Jay Brannan
Jay Brannan is a musician with a beautiful voice and is such a cutie ;)

 Tracy Chapman
Another musician with an amazing voice. I have a confession on this: when I first heard her voice back in high school, I didn't realize that Tracy was actually a woman! I know, embarrassing right? I have since learned so don't judge me too harshly.

Christopher Rice
Son of the famous Ann Rice. He typically writes murder mystery novels with the main character or major characters being gay. I personally loved the book Density of Souls by him and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to read. 

Jane Lynch
Oh, who doesn't love her? She is talented and hilarious! Jane Lynch is the reason that I love Glee. The character that she plays, Sue Sylvester, is just sheer comedy in evilness. After watching her performance as Sue, I have a secret desire: I want to be Sue Sylvester. 

Jake Shears
This man is sooooo hot! Well, to me at least. He is fun to watch and fun to listen to. If you've never heard of him (how have you not?), he's the lead singer in the band Scissor Sisters. There are quite a number of songs to listen to but I'll recommend this one.

Brandie Balken
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a local hero. Brandie is in charge of Equality Utah, the political group that advocates for LGBTQ rights in Utah. She is amazing, wonderful, and intelligent. Seriously, if you have never met her, I highly recommend it. She is on my list because of everything she is and all that she works to accomplish. Brandie, you have my support as always!

Neil Patrick Harris

Yes, it's him. You just cannot deny his awesomeness. Have you seen him in the Prop 8 Musical? Do so now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Days of Summer I

There are three things that I would like to address in this post, which is my first post of my series of 'Days of Summer' posts, which finish in September. They correlate with a few goals that I have.

Primary Goal - Become more aware of lesbians, lesbian issues, bisexual issues, and both cultures.
Secondary Goal - Be more aware of my interplay of feelings as an autistic, a bisexual, and a rape survivor.
Tertiary Goal - Finish my current renaissance fantasy manuscript, but that correlates less with the content of these posts and more with the idea that I just want to get it done.

After reading Tiffany's post on Coming In, I realized something. I came out as bisexual, but I never came into the bisexual or lesbian cultures. This is partially due to my own fear of dealing with my own sexuality, something I barely understood in high school and only slightly more during college. I've had friends go in, and I've watched distantly, not joining them in their revelry and celebration and consumption of things typical to lesbians and bisexual culture. Frankly, it's scared me more than a few times.

However, I do have to repeat that before I identify as bisexual, I identify as an autistic person. My senses and how I perceive things on a sensory level comes before my sexuality--at least for me. Just as immediate to me is my identity as a rape survivor. I say survivor and not victim since words will put you in mindsets and purvey particular perspectives. I'm trying to stick to the traits of the former and not the latter. Especially by shifting to agnosticism from Mormonism, being autistic, having been raped, and dealing with my bisexuality, I have a lot to victimize myself for. However, since strengths can be derived from all of those things, it's something I've worked to transform from hindering to enabling.

I've wanted to stick a lot of my dislike of lesbian culture to my own personal preferences and being autistic. I don't connect with people in the same way that most do, and a lot of lesbian interaction subverts or plays around with a lot of different social rules between girls. That actually scares me. I'm not against the idea at all, but it's a challenge for me to work with. However, I've made the goal to at least become more familiar with different memes, media, and patterns within bisexual/lesbian culture in order to at least keep my bi card renewed.

Like I said before, I'm not a big fan of Tegan and Sara. However, after giving all of my albums of them a second chance, I realized I liked a few. I revisited some of the songs that I liked, and Missing You and Walking With a Ghost now have double-digit play counts on Songbird. It's not that I don't like the lyrics of Tegan and Sara. I love having girls scream in the background "I LOVE HER!" What I dislike is their instrumental arrangements and their vocal performances--it comes off as mediocre to me. Call me a snob, but that's how I see it. 

That's been my progress so far on opening my mind this week. There's also something else from an earlier post that I'd like to clarify.

I have no hard feelings against experimentation and finding out who you are. None. It's when you flock to a label or a name and do everything in your power to become that label for perceived acceptance--that bothers me. Believe me, if you want someone who does not feel that experimentation of heart and soul are necessary for life, you're talking to the wrong woman. However, experimentation can lead to harming others, and repression of experimentation can lead to self-harm--I know both of those things very well. Self-expression should always be healthily processed and unhindered in that process in the right time and place.

Before I step off the soapbox, there's another topic I want to address.

I've been heavily questioning my sexuality over the last two or three months. I've been tempted to rename myself a pansexual and an asexual at the same time. That would make most people at least quirk an eyebrow, if not more. At one moment, the thought of both straight and lesbian sex sounds awful and disgusting. I just want to curl up in someone's arms, and sometimes, not even that. What never changes is that I want the deep, emotionally intimate connection and relationship, the empathy, and the assurance that no harm will come between us.

From my reasoning, it would seem that my rape situation at seven years old still affects me deeply, which I've come to terms with. I'm not completely at peace with what happened, but I've accepted the idea that I might never be at peace on that matter. However, I'm determined to get to the bottom of why at one moment, all I'll want for days and weeks at a time is to be held or just to be protected. Then, I'll suddenly shift gears and be on fire for love and lusting after nearly any possible person (more often 5-6 people in particular at a time) and be attracted to nearly anyone around my age. I can say that I'm romantically and sexually attracted to any range of gender, but being attracted to anyone is not always a constant. 

Thankfully, I've been able to come to a peaceful resolution with my boyfriend on that matter. We're working through it and we're both doing everything possible to keep me from overstimulating on an autistic level and from reliving rape. When it happens, we've been able to work through it just fine and he's worked hard to make sure that the situations that lead up to those reactions don't happen. That's what love is--working to make the other partner happy, and that shouldn't be limited to any combination of gender.

Anyway, I've been ranting, haven't I?
Chew on those thoughts for a while, and tell me how it tastes.

Keep on keeping on,

-Amber

Monday, July 18, 2011

They're Everywhere

Anyone who follows me on Facebook (you bunch of creepers) knows that a few weeks ago I had the very unfortunate experience of reading the opinion column in the Daily Universe (BYU newspaper). The columnists had decided to write in response to the New York gay marriage law going through. I'll post it here, not to get all riled up again (that may or may not be another post for another day), but for context for anyone that has no idea what I'm talking about: http://universe.byu.edu/index.php/2011/06/27/that-is-not-a-family/

It really upset me. For one, it just showed ignorance and narrow mindedness. Also because the next day they only posted letters to the editor that agreed with her, leaving me feeling that all those opposed were not given the chance to make it manifest. I just didn't like that so many are quick to try and put their opinions on others. I knew that in the past my reaction would have been very different. I would have been scared, seeing the the article as the opinion of all BYU students and equating it to saying I was a bad person. I'll admit this would have only been made easier due to my ridiculously low self esteem at the time and the already deeply held belief that if I were to admit the truth (being a lesbian) to anyone, they would get the torches and pitchforks and run me out of Provo. (thoughts may have been exaggerated to illustrate the depth of my fear and self hatred). Now I know better, about both myself and the people around me. However, I'm sure that there are others who are at the stage in their process that I once was, and I worried.

I got the idea in my head that if I went and talked with her in person that she might gain some understanding, even if it was only the slightest bit more than she had before. Well, it did not go down the way I had hoped at all. A few minutes into it I could already tell that she was not the least bit interested in understanding or listening to anything I had to say. Luckily, my roommate (who later wrote a kick ass response to the article) came with me and stopped it before it got worse.

Before this sounds like I'm just ranting, I'll bring in my actual point of this post. My whole life the idea of loving people and acting on that has come so easy to me. My experience with being lesbian and learning to accept and love myself for everything I am has opened my mind and heart even more, which I am so grateful for. Sometimes it's hard for me to really understand why people wouldn't want to try and understand or love one another. Then I remember that other people don't actually think the same way I do, or have not been through things in their lives that might force them to really take a look at something outside their own bubbles. This really brought me down for a while. It was this reminder that no matter how much I accept myself and others, there will always be people who won't.

That being said I would like to tell you that there will always be people who will accept you and love you for everything you are. A friend once told me that even if they don't understand, if they love you they will try. This past week or so events have brought to my attention, not just all the people who currently are in my life and making it wonderful, but also the people who have been or have yet to be but are willing to step up and help me through anything. I am very fortunate to have these people who love and support me. It has taken me a long time to find them, but I am constantly reminded that these kind of people are all around. Look for them, you might be surprised by people sometimes.

~Bridey J

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coming In


This past weekend I got to spend a lot of car time talking with a really awesome person. One of the great things that I gleaned from our conversations is the term "coming in". We were discussing the topic of "coming out" and the processes that a lot of people go through when they're coming to terms with their own feelings and desires and all that. But, my friend told me that she didn't like the term "coming out" because it doesn't describe her process at all. "Coming out" seems to imply knowing something for a long time and finally deciding to shout it out to the world. Personally, I've reached that point in my life where I have "come out" (see my youtube channel Both Sides Now). But that wasn't the whole of my process. There was a time when, instead of parading around in a fancy mask and pretending to be everything every Mormon should be, I had to come in. I had to listen to that truth inside me and learn to accept myself the way that I am. I'm not saying that I can't change or grow or become better, but the best thing I ever did in my life was to come in.

One of my favorite songs is Dark Come Soon by Tegan and Sara because it's my "coming out" song.
Another reason I love it is because it reminds me of my own "coming in". The lyrics that I identify with the most go like this: "Everything I say, I say to me too. Everything I do, I do to me too. So what. So what I lied. I lie to me too..." I wou
ld sing to this song very angrily when I felt like someone didn't understand how I could pretend to like a boy and then be lesbian all of a sudden. Or how I could be such a good Mormon girl and then be lesbian all of a sudden. I felt like I lied to myself for a long time, and it hurt more to think that I lied to myself than it did knowing I lied to anyone else. Coming in and seeing my own truth for the first time was what helped me get to the happy state that I'm in right now. I know that I can be honest with everyone. More importantly, I can b
e honest with myself.

Just to add a little religious bit here, my favorite scripture has always been
Revelation 3:20.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If any man hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.



Being able to see my process of accepting and loving myself as "Coming In" has also made me think about how much easier it is to let Christ in to my life. Before I came in to myself, I was guarded and I withheld a lot from the people around me. I was very judgmental and self-righteous. I didn't know how to let love into my heart. I didn't know how to see the good in people. I didn't know how to relate to others and to come to understand, accept, and love them the way that Christ does. I believe that coming in helped me learn to let others in, and that has been the best blessing of all because I can now truly live my religion of Love.

A special thanks to Victoria ;)

~Live your own truth~

Friday, July 15, 2011

Favorite gay-themed movies and books?

Hey friends, Justin here.

Glancing at the posts from this week ... 

Jeremy's post moves me.  I don't know where he gets his courage from, but he is so brave.

I'm in love with Bridey.  There, I said it.  She is just so marvelous.  Seeing her openness inspires me.  I always admired her in USGA.

And Tiffany--she expressed so much of what I've been wondering about, too--about standards, and how to live in our worlds.

What are your favorite movies or books that address gay themes?  Extra points if they bring religion into the mix.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wait...Where is the Turkey?

A couple of weeks back, my father told me that he and my mom would be considering the possibility of disowning me. I will not deny the fact that I get overly emotional at times. I react from emotions instead of reason and rationality. It is at times a weakness.

It broke my heart that such an option could be so easily considered. The memory of that conversation has weighed heavily on me. It has left me with a feeling of deep pain and sorrow. Though I am happy, truly happy, with all that is going on in my life, I must admit that deep within me I feel that pain. It strikes sharp and strong. For it is the realization of both the pain that my parents feel about my life and the revealing of a crumbling relationship over the past ten years.

In time it may heal. In time things may get better. I feel as though I have tried for so long to keep our relationships together. Now, I feel my heart just can't deal with it. There is poison in these relationships right now. I have struggled with this. I know I want them in my life but I feel so hurt by what has happened that I don't want to pursue a relationship with them further. I love my parents very deeply but right now I feel that our relationship has been blown apart and I don't know if I really have the capacity anymore to pick up the pieces and put things back together.

I realize this post is sad. I wanted to share my thoughts because several of my friends (gay and straight) are going through a similar situation (both worse and better than mine) with their parents. It's true that your biological family is irreplaceable. But I believe that I have seen true kindness in life. Kindness from strangers, friends, and my biological family. So it is my opinion that if I want to make life beautiful for me, I need to make life beautiful for others. I want to make my own family out of all of this. A family of friends where people can feel safe and wanted. I don't believe it has to formal or official. Just simply this: if you're my friend, you have a place in my heart always. You have my ear and my heart. I want to be here for you as long as you will permit me. Let's travel through this life together for as long as we can and notice the small and large beauty that's in it. Ugliness will come, yes, but beauty is ever present.

As for the name of the post. I have an urge for a turkey sandwich. Can you blame me?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hope and Meaning

I don't claim to dispense great words of wisdom. Ever. I'm not even sure if anyone reads my posts and walks away better for it. I know I used to search the internet for anything that would let me know that there was hope. I would dig through pages of blogs to find people who were like me (gay, and very rarely Mormon too) that had ended up happy, and stronger. At the time it was all I could do from giving up. I've come a really long way since then...but then again that wasn't very long ago either.

I read something earlier this year while preparing a short talk. It was about a man named Viktor Frankl, who was a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor. Many psychiatrists believe that human beings can not handle very much pain, which is why we develop psychological ways to compensate and survive. Viktor, however, saw that people could withstand and push through great amounts of pain if they could find meaning in their suffering. He saw it was the prisoners who came to believe that the bleakness around them was all there was ever going to be...those who lost hope...that were the ones who broke down, got sick and died much faster. He believed very strongly that "...even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he can not change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself...changing a personal tragedy into a triumph".

Much of the time the only thing that could keep me going was to think that there was some reason for this messed up life of mine. I always fantasized that maybe someday I could find and help somebody going through this same thing and keep them from feeling alone and hopeless like I did. I have yet to do this (directly anyway). Some days I still get discouraged, left feeling like I've helped no one, and it was all pointless. I've only recently been able to recognize what I have done. I've had lots of roommates and friends who probably would have never had the issue of homosexuality come up in their lives if they had not met me. I think the fact that I have allowed people to help me through this has opened doors of understanding and compassion. In this way accepting their service has been service to them. This is the greatest meaning there can possibly be in life.

This is why I write to you...whoever you turn out to be. Don't give up Hope. You will find meaning.

~Bridey J


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quest for Mormon Values in a Gay World

Okay, so on Friday Justin and Tyler answered a few questions. The one that I'm most interested in right now is "Lots of us lose the faith, but what do we replace it with, if anything?"
Tyler said: "From what I have observed both in my life and in the experiences of others, many who lose the faith and seem to distance themselves from spiritual relationships will opt to throw their energy into less spiritual and possibly unhealthy bonds with others. For example, it makes sense that one may feel that their sexual energy and freedom is stifled due to their religious beliefs, and they may immediately seek instant and frequent sexual satisfaction in order to "make up for lost time." After years of devotion to developing strong and healthy spiritual lives and relationships, it makes sense that those who lose the faith would pursue just the opposite."

I feel like I'm on a quest. I'm trying to find some good Mormon-type values in the realm of gays (but mostly lesbians) and it seems really hard. I don't feel at all successful in my searching. Perhaps what Tyler said is true. People lose faith. They lose faith in God, faith in Christ, faith in mercy, forgiveness, love, salvation, redemption. And when they lose faith in humanity and in themselves they turn to what the world has to offer. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. I've noticed that a lot of gay and lesbian Mormons tend to pursue the opposite of what their religion advocates.

I'm not trying to point fingers. I admit. I've tried it. I went off the deep end and disregarded everything that I once stood for. A large part of it was curiosity. I'd never gone against the teachings of my church. I didn't know what it was really like. I soon found out that it is everything all my church leaders and fellow members said it would be. Degrading. Disastrous. Destructive. It didn't make me happy.

But, how do I embrace every aspect of myself and feel happy? If I adopt every little piece of my religion down to the stuff about homosexuality being evil, then how do I love myself? And if I deny my religion to the point of never opening my scriptures again or never falling on my knees, then how do I live with myself?

For a long time it seemed to me that if I couldn't get married then what did it mean for me to follow the rule about abstinence until marriage? Would I then have to be single and celibate for my entire life? Maybe that wouldn't be so bad. People live those kinds of lives all the time. Monks and Catholic nuns, for example. I thought about becoming a Catholic nun once. I decided I didn't want to be married to Jesus, so a friend of mine suggested I become a Mormon nun. If there were Mormon convents then maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But the truth is, the LDS church only knows how to talk about two things. Marriage, and children. If you don't have these two things then you are either too young for that step in life or you're doing something wrong and you need to get yourself an opposite-sex partner quick so you can make babies asap. There's really no place in the church for gays and lesbians, and that's tough.

I don't want to feel like I have to throw my values away because I'm lesbian. I know that it's important to not be physically intimate with someone until after marrying that someone. I know that alcohol is not good for the body, neither for the spirit or the mind. I know the value of having faith in a loving God and maintaining a close relationship with that same loving God. Can I not have those things with another woman?

Maybe I can't.

So, what I have to do now is live my life according to my own standards. I have to make a place for myself.
I will stick to my personal standards and not lower them for any reason or anyone.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Gays and spirituality - answering my own questions

Hey friends, Justin here.  And Tyler.


We're on a date.  He's the son of a Southern Baptist minister, and I'm, well, Mormon.  We decided we're going to answer some of these questions I asked a few weeks ago.  Fifteen minutes.  Ready, set, go.


What are our stories?  


Justin:  BYU grad who semi-faithfully attended USGA, and loved it.  Excited to answer some of these questions.


Tyler: Justin spoiled my story by announcing from the beginning that I am, in fact, the son of a Southern Baptist Minister. I live in an extremely small town and came out to my parents and brother last year.


Do we yearn for it more than others?  


Tyler: In many cases, I do feel that religious gay youths pursue a more spiritual life. Personally, I always felt the need to adhere more strictly to religious teachings and to conduct myself as the "perfect Christian." It wasn't until I reached college--where one is forced to examine their own spirituality instead of perhaps riding on the coattails of one's parents--that I realized that I had been pursuing such perfection partially in order to make up for my supposed shortcoming of being a homosexual. This is a recurring theme among the gay Christians that I have met, and one of the prime reasons that many religious and gay individuals could end up with serious issues of depression and self-loathing in the long run. 


Justin:  When I was young, I always felt a great interest in slave narratives, and also in the civil rights movement--and race relations before then.  Beauty born of suffering--perhaps that's what drew me to black lives.  Perhaps part of me felt some sort of connection with that suffering.  Do you know who has the best choirs ever?  Black baptist churches.  At least I think so.  I don't know--all that suffering (not that we suffer so much--in fact, that thought is a bit funny) deepens a soul, maybe.


Are religion and spirituality synonymous at any level?


Justin: Where I currently live, there's a magnet on our friday that says something like: "I can't stand religious people, but spiritual people inspire me."  Sure, they're synonymous at some level--I feel like one of the primary purposes of organized religion is to help adherents cultivate greater spirituality (from the collective to the individual).  Most of the time it probably has that effect.  Mormonism?  Certainly belonging to the LDS Church gives us many chances to feel the Spirit, to feel a deeper testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, an appreciation for the priesthood and prophets, etc. 


Do we feel sick sometimes thinking about the disconnect with our former lives?  


Justin: Absolutely, but perhaps less and less as time passes.  When I left for a mission, I decided that I wouldn't think about the disconnect, and it worked alright.  There was a time limit--two years is do-able.  But I often thought about Stuart Matis's story--especially as I returned to the Church and prepared for a mission.  I am not him, but I wish he had made the other choice--to pursue gay relationships rather than to feel trapped in the Church.  I decided at some point that I'd choose the former if it ever came to the mental/psychological angst that Matis found himself in.  And this--pursuing relationships--feels alright.


Tyler: The disconnect has been something that I have pushed to the back of my mind since I finally admitted to myself in early middle school that I was gay. While I am entirely out to all of my friends at college, I have yet to speak with anyone from my small town besides my immediate family members. At UVa, I feel that I am able to live my life as though there is no disconnect because everyone has been genuinely supportive of my identity--both as a Christian and as a gay man. However, this leads to the sometimes painful reminder that I am not and would not receive such support from those in my hometown and even in my family. For this reason, I can say that  while I absolutely miss the safety of my "former life." However, I do not miss the constant feeling of questioning how those in my life would feel about me if they know that I was gay, especially after receiving such encouragement from my collegiate friends. 


Do we often end up with something syncretic and tolerant?


Justin: Obviously I asked this question with myself in mind--unfair question, huh?  When I was in Korea, I thought a lot about the Buddhism I had read before going.  Once, at the top of a mountain, I thought, "I know nothing."  And it was interesting, because in the Church we often let ourselves feel certain that we know the answers to--if not everything--a whole lot.  Non-attachment is an important aspect of my spirituality.  Perhaps that's how I can let myself choose what Matis did not.  On the other hand (and this is the syncretic part) I don't really buy the "just be a good person and you'll be alright" thing.  I still feel that ordinances, etc., are important.  Oh, also, feeling grounded is important--to realize that lots of what you're thinking/worrying about now isn't important, and isn't even really real.  Grounding can be achieved through things like walking barefoot, thinking about the food you're eating, meditation, breathing, etc.  I'm new to this, but it feels good.


Lots of us lose the faith, but what do we replace it with, if anything?


Tyler: From what I have observed both in my life and in the experiences of others, many who lose the faith and seem to distance themselves from spiritual relationships will opt to throw their energy into less spiritual and possibly unhealthy bonds with others. For example, it makes sense that one may feel that their sexual energy and freedom is stifled due to their religious beliefs, and they may immediately seek instant and frequent sexual satisfaction in order to "make up for lost time." After years of devotion to developing strong and healthy spiritual lives and relationships, it makes sense that those who lose the faith would pursue just the opposite.


This is all kind of serious!  (Heaven forbid we be serious ... )  Here's something you might enjoy.  (I posted it on my blog re: graduation, I think.  It's a great song.  And Tyler agrees.)  Oh, P.S.  We actually spent a longer than 15 minutes.  But whatev.



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Words and Music

Music affects me like nothing else. It captivates my soul and communicates to me in a unique and almost direct way that almost no other medium can. It's a soul to soul communication. Music is beautiful to me. For that, I have no qualms enjoying music from diverse genres. I readily admit my atheism and in the same sentence will admit to loving the music produced by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I love Gregorian chants and many kinds of religious-themed music (but not all, mind you). Anything that catches my ear and that I can relate to, I want it.

video
I choose this video first because it expresses my views of atheism so clearly. Atheism to me means freedom. The freedom to explore my morals and to accept and find the most that most benefit me and help to assist in making a better American society. Some of those morals or standards include honesty, integrity, empathy, and a love for the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. I do not ask anyone to agree with my perception. Just watch it and move on.




I love this song. The lack of worry, fear, or self-loathing is what attracts me to this song. We should celebrate love (straight AND gay)! I will never know the joy she feels in kissing a girl but I can relate in the joy of kissing a guy, ha ha! I can appreciate how she feels in it. That joy of just living life and realizing that you are fine and that you are happy is such a wonderful feeling. This is a song I listen to on my down days!



This song moves me in a way that I cannot fully express. Honestly, when I hear this song, it takes me back to the book "And the Band Played On" (about the AIDS epidemic). The desire to live your life with dignity is something I can relate to. I have watched so many of my friends struggle with loving themselves (gay and straight). The want to accept themselves is both powerful and elusive. How many of us have looked in the mirror and wished we were somebody else? How many of us have wished we could just not be us? This song reminds me of all those feelings and the promise to transcend them. And please note that in the song that the word "we" is used a lot in it. You and me, we were social creatures, not solitary beings. I am here for you.

I used to listen to this song on my mission nearly every day. I still love it very much. When I hear this song it reminds me of cold winter days and warm spring mornings. I think of rain and I think of the ideal home. If I were to ever be allowed to choose the kind of faith people should exemplify, it would be summed up in this song. It is beautiful in so many ways.


This song needs no explanation, lol!


Yes. Glee. Get over it. The song is beautiful and wonderful.

What can be said after all of this fantastic music and thoughts? Well, nothing, I guess. So I will leave with pictures.