Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where I am in my journey - take 2

On October 4, I first responded to Abe's question, "Where are you in your journey?" Now, almost a month later, I wanted to add in a few other comments, which you will see in red text with my original take in regular text.

How did you get to where you are today?

I've been lucky. Knowing that I've sometimes been less than valiant on this side of the veil, I find myself thinking like that Julie Andrews song in The Sound of Music, "Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good." Or perhaps is was long before I was born.

I've been blessed with good genes and wonderful family and friends. I was born out of the love, passion and patience of a beautiful, talented woman and a handsome, gentle father. Whether my bisexuality is due to genetics or the environment of my mother's womb or other causes, I no longer view it as a curse. I have come to see it as gift, an integral part of who I am. I agree that, "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." (Hinckley: 1995) But I also wonder if gender identity isn't also such an essential characteristic.

I am here because of the love and service of many people, including those who have pioneered and built communities and institutions that nurture and challenge me today. I am here because of parents and siblings, counselors and doctors, teachers and leaders, neighbors and strangers, and many I do not know who have created environments in which I have been able to prosper.

I am also here, in part, because of homophobia which was much stronger as a teen and young man, but something I still deal with today. Since I came of age in a pre-AIDS world, if I had not been so afraid of coming out or of being outed, I may well have engaged in unsafe behavior. So although I did not serve a mission and found pleasure in alcohol and tobacco as a high school and college student, I did not act out sexually. If I had done so, it likely would not have been with protection, and I might well have not lived to tell the tale I'm telling today.

Are you happy with where you are? why or why not?

I am generally happy and optimistic, healthy and strong. Of course there are times of sadness, cynicism and sickness, and many forms of weakness, but overall I'm a happy fellow. One source of my happiness is improved mental health. I have suffered from long term anxiety and low grade depression. A few years ago I endured a major depressive episode during which I seriously considered suicide. For a time I sought a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I'm so glad I didn't take that step. One of the reasons I am happy is because I have gained perspective from being so ill. I'm grateful that I was again able to feel hope, to regain my appetite, to again feel loved, to be able to laugh and feel pleasure. I no longer take my mental and physical well being for granted.

It may sound strange to say "I'm happy because I was once suicidal and I no longer want to kill myself," but that's essentially what I was trying to say above. I am grateful that I had that experience. It was no fun at the time, but since then I have been more vigilant about my mental health. My advice to anyone who is dealing with serious depression or anxiety is go get professional help. Without it I doubt I would be here today. Fortunately, I can testify that it is possible to move from feeling hopeless and discouraged to a better place--no, not a perfect place, but a place where challenges and trials can be put in perspective--a place where there's a better balance of positives along with the negatives that are a part of all of our lives.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I agree with the idea that it is never too late to have a happy childhood, I also believe it is never too late to have a happy adulthood. My wife and I have a largely functional marriage which I hope will continue to thrive until I predecease her. Should she predecease me, I can imagine dating women or men since I see myself as bisexual.

Whether I remain married or become a widower, I believe my well being is largely determined by the choices I make to stay healthy and live a balanced life. I am not out to all my children. I hope that will eventually change. When it does I hope we can all benefit from more candor and openness. Several of my coming out experiences have not been positive, so this is an area of the future that concerns me.

I hope my future will include rejoicing as LDS church continues to refine its attitudes about sexuality. The Family: A Proclamation to the World includes this highly significant sentence: "Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." I find hope in the idea that the church, like individuals, may find it necessary to adapt. One of my greatest sources of hope is the 9th Article of Faith: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal and we beleive he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." Meanwhile I am grateful to feel love and acceptance from both sides of the veil. I am also grateful that I have the capacity to accept and love others.

I've been though peaceful times and hard times. Recent years have been postive for the most part, but having experienced leaner, meaner moments of life, I know they can come at anytime. So as much as I want to think I can handle the future, I must also admit that my greatest trials may be yet to come. This is a good reason to enjoy, to celebrate, to be aware of the good that each day brings. It is a reason to offer thanks to God and to the human angels in our lives who do such much to make our lives happier. The Moho community--those I've met face-to-face and those I read here--have helped a great deal. Thank you, one and all!

What roadblocks do you have and/or have overcome?

I am a survivor of childhood asthma and if my parents had not lived next door to a physician I may not have lived to see my fifth birthday. I reached adulthood before the 1978 revelation that all worthy men could receive the priesthood. The church's former racist policy and teachings were a roadblock to my fully accepting Mormonism. The fact that that roadblock fell is a source of hope that other much-needed changes should and can be made. My mixed orientation marriage (MOM) has survived my coming out and several bouts of unemployment, depression and anxiety. We have been greatly blessed with children, extended family, friends, neighbors and associates.

Some of my personal roadblocks include laziness, disorganization, procrastinaion, selfishness and lack of self-control. Still there are positives. I can hit deadlines, and see more than one way of organizing. I do appreciate the value of getting started early and plugging away at a goal, even though I don't always follow this method. I also would like to think that my selfishness is at least an informed kind of self-acceptance and self-pacing--a way of putting on my own oxygen mask first before I try to help the person in the seat next to me.

What advice do you have for others following a similar path that you have?

Ok, I see this as an invitation to stand on a soap box, so here goes: Seek to keep yourself physically, spiritually, mentally, intellectually, socially, educationally, profesionally and financially healthy and strong. Be a lifelong learner and contributor to those causes you value.
Seek mentors and friends you can draw strength from. Seek to be a mentor to others and to encourage and strenthen them. Reach out to others in friendship and be sensitive to those who may be reaching out to you. Don't underestimate the value of a smile, laughter, a handshake, an arm around a shoulder, a clap on the back, an embrace. Celebrate and nurture the good you find in others.

Seek and find outlets for your creative gifts. Write, compose, construct, consult, counsel, draw, photograph, design, play, compete, paint, contribute, teach, instruct, lead, learn, follow, organize, produce, bake, make, craft, install, improve, perform, collaborate and direct. Believe that you have many things to contribute to your world and to this planet. Discover and do them.

Be generous with your time and means. If you don't want to pay tithing, pay fast offerings and make donations you do feel inspired to make. If you choose to enter into a marriage with a woman, fully disclose your situation to your prospective wife so she can make a fully informed decision.

If you experience extreme sadness, anxiety, inability to function well in your day-to-day life, please get professional help.

What advice do you have for family and friends?

Acknlowege the elephant in the room, the topics associated with homosexuality, bisexuality, same gender attraction (whatever you want to call it). Don't always wait for your family member or friend to discuss the elephant. Bring it up youself and thereby show that you don't consider it to be an unspeakable topic.

If you ask a friend or family member how they're doing, listen to the tone of their voice and notice their facial expressions as you hear their words. Remember this lyric from Lord I Would Follow Thee: "In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see." I have been so grateful when family and friends have spent time with me, have touched me, or have embraced me. My advice is that we strive to love one another without condition as our Heavenly Parents and our Savior love us. This love can be expressed in many ways: in the gifts of time, listening, companionship, service and touch.

If you experience extreme sadness, anxiety, inability to function well in your day-to-day life, please get professional help.