Walking with Autism, Leading with PRIDE

ImageMy first PRIDE was my “coming out” PRIDE. I came out of the “Mormon Closet” as a gay man AND as an LGBTQ activist. This year I come out as a leader who shows those who want to lead, but do not think they can that they can, and that they will! Everyone is able to lead and make a difference in the world if they set their minds to it!  This year I  come out in a different way, I come out as a man who fully accepts himself and who he is, despite his differences from the majority of society that are very much NOT because he is gay…

Up until two months ago, due to high school bullying and social rejection,I hated something about me as much as I hate getting fat. This “Thing” (as I called it) has been with me my entire life, and it will be with me until I die. When I realized that I helped in creating the LDS LGBT movement, and have accomplished what I have accomplished because of this “Thing,” I realized that this “Thing” is what has created EVERYTHING that I love and appreciate about my life and that my “Thing” has put me where I am today. Up until Imagetwo months ago I rejected this “Thing,” but now I love it and I embrace it. I OWN it like a PRIDE Beauty Queen owns her EIGHT inch pumps.

What I now call “Me” comes with its advantages. I can concentrate on a task more than a “normal” person can, I see the full set of consequences that a single action can cause better then a person who does not have this “Thing,” I am naturally honest, I am a critical thinker who’s thinking patters are very clear-cut and extremely rational, I have improved spatial perception abilities (meaning I am a 3D thinker), I am naturally resistance to group-think/orthodoxies and am not swayed by peer pressure, I naturally and easily create vivid and realistic artwork, and I easily learn how to play a musical instrument. These advantages help me in being a strong and productive leader. But I am also disadvantaged, and have to work through these every day and have to pay more attention to how I am perceived than the average activist does.

Some of these disadvantages are awkward and I had to train myself to not do them when I am in public. I have a VERY hard time looking people in the eyes, I am sometimes overbearingly and UNKNOWINGLY prideful in my accomplishments, I have to set a timer when working on projects or I will literally not eat, drink or use the bathroom, I have to write down all of my commitments, I am VERY picky about how my environment looks AND how it interacts with me, I have a hard time being at large parties/gatherings, I sometimes forget that others do not think like I do and I forget to explain why I do some of the things I do (such as why I chose to do a project the way I did or why I chose an abnormal or out of place approach to solve a problem or to complete a task), I cannot learn math in the same way as “normal” people, I don’t like being touched, I sometimes am not as sympathetic as I need to be, I… this list keeps going…

My “Thing,” my “Me,” my advantages and disadvantages go by another identity: I am a High Functioning (or Mildly) Autistic Gay Man.

My autism is me, it is my leadership type, it is my decision making platform, it is my organizational strategy, it is the glue that binds me to the label of a successful human being. My autism is meImage, and I am my autism.  We are one, and as one we lead! My autism is the best gift that I will ever receive.  If it was not for me being a high functioning autistic man I would not be in the position I am in today. Everything I have is because of my autism. I am more than autism, autism is more than just a disorder it is a tool for unique and talented leaders!

For those of you who are afraid to get involved in the LGBT movement because you are autistic or because you have a “disability” that people have told you prevents you from being “normal,” I have some advice:

Use your GIFT to your advantage, allow your gift to take you above and beyond what others think you are capable of, change the world, change your perspective about yourself, use your gift to your advantage. Remember that you see the world differently than others do and that your perspective could be what is needed for progress to happen.

In honor of PRIDE and everything that it represents I come out not as a gay man, but as a man who is a successful high functioning autistic individual who is also an activist for LGBTQ equality, civil rights, human rights and fairness.

For all the autistic people reading this: This year at PRIDE lets let the 3D trend take over, let’s freely think the way we think and show the world how awesome we are!

Walk with Autism, Lead in PRIDE! You are MORE than Autism, you are YOU and you are a leader!

-thatboyleroy

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Day 5: Do not go into a Lavender Marriage

Hello Readers!

I am in one, yet I tell couples not to do it… LDS gay men should NOT go into mixed orientation marriages (M.O.M.’s), otherwise known as a Lavender Marriage: a marriage meant to cover up or fix a persons sexual orientation.

For me, this is an awkward conversation because it is one where my thoughts and my actions did not go into the same direction. Many people assume that because I am in a Mixed Orientation Relationship that I think that it is what EVERY gay man needs to do, that they should do this to “fix themselves,” and that this is what God wants of his children. This is entirely not the case and is the exact opposite of my opinion and actions on this issue. When asked, “Do I think that a gay man should be married to a woman?” Almost always I would answer by saying, “no!” Here are my thoughts on this issue:

When someone finds out that I am gay and engaged to a woman they almost always ask me, “How does that work?”, unless they are LDS (Mormon), then I am usually congratulated and told something that means: “Good, I am glad you did the right thing.” The first response is easy to answer and the second makes me very sad and sometimes angry. The interesting thing about these two reactions is that I almost always answer with the same goal, to get them to understand that I did not expect or seek out my relationship with Anna to please God, I did it because eventually I realized that I had somehow fallen in love with a woman (an amazing lady at that!).

Before Anna and I decided that we were going to get married we discussed the harms that we had seen happen to other relationships like ours, both of us were worried that the same fate would befall us a few years down the road. We read blogs and heard from soon to be or were long ago divorced M.O.M. couples where the relationship sent both spouses into a downward spiral of depression and attempted suicide, into sadness and broken families and into anger and hurt. In these situations no one was spared, children, parent, spouse, family and friends all suffered. Anna and I did not want this for our future, and we were concerned that this would happen. To prevent this hurt from happening in our relationship we talked, and talked, and talked about what we would do if the relationship was harmed do to me being gay and her being straight. When would we know when to end the relationship, if needed.

We eventually decided that we were not going down the path of self-destruction and decided to get married.  Soon after this decision was made I came out to Anna’s parents. My soon-to-be Mother-in-law, unknowingly sharing our past fear, asked us to see a counselor. She was worried that we were setting ourselves and our relationship up for failure, it is unnatural for a gay man and a straight woman to be together. The counselor cemented our past decision, that Anna and I were making the correct choice.

For us, our M.O.M. works. We realize and try to let others know that this is not always the case (in fact, very rarely!). For Anna and I it just happened, I was searching for a Man and so was she. I just happened to find a woman instead! We are also not in  a M.O.M. forced by religious belief, which I think is absolutely horrible and should never be done. civil_disobedience_gender_identity_Ekthesi_fotografias_kai_video_art_apo_to_gitv12

Suffering as a gay man in LDS culture and beliefs I learned and do not understand HOW the majority of LDS culture tries to convince gay men that they need to be in a heterosexual relationship. Religion forcing someone to be what she/he is not is a very cruel and horrible thing to do to ANYONE who identifies as being LGBT. I by ACCIDENT fell for Anna, and was intensely shocked when I realized I was in love with a women. The internal struggle of this realization was one of the hardest in my life, it was a choice of being honest to my sexuality or Anna’s and my  happiness. Eventually, after months of watching our relationship and having MANY conversations with Anna made the decision that it was ok for us to be together. As I said above, it took us thinking A LOT and seeing a therapist to make us fully comfortable with continuing our relationship.

Being in a Mixed Orientation Relationship is not a joke, and can end VERY badly for the couple if they go in thinking that the relationship is “commanded by God” or that it is something that they should do because religion tells them to do it. Do not EVER go into a “Lavender Marriage,” do not ever go into a relationship because God or religion told you to. Make sure YOU know your self in your own skin, as a gay man, before you commit to anyone else. This is especially true if you are thinking about entering into a mixed orientation marriage, where you and your gay may affect the relationship in ways you may not want it to.

For those of you thinking about going into a Mixed Orientation Relationship and even a Marriage, make sure that it is the right thing for you. Ask yourself if it will make and KEEP you happy. If you are going into the relationship for you or her, only because God has “told you so”  (I have heard many men say that the revelations telling them to marry a women were false), and/or that your bishop, parent or someone else is making you think it is your only choice. If you say “yes” to any of these I highly recommend that you rethink your commitment before you hurt yourself, your spouse/potential spouse and your future children.

I cannot say more than this without getting redundant, but I do recommend the following blogs that talk about the pro’s and con’s of being in a Mixed Orientation Marriage:

http://aaronandstephanieslife.blogspot.com/

http://www.joshweed.com/

http://www.rickross.com/reference/mormon/mormon336.html

http://mtagm.blogspot.com/2011_12_01_archive.html?zx=176f65e617a3901f

ex-gay

I am in a happy and successful Mixed Orientation Relationship, but I would not recommend to other gay men to do what I am doing. If I did I would fear that they would face the same fate of depression and hurt that so many other gay men have unknowingly gone into.

Also, I have a message to those of you who are considering fixing your gay through marriage, instead of trying to pray your gay away and seeking for God to fix you, pray and ask if He wants you to be gay. While doing this, ask for yourself and not for what others want from you or because you have been told you are supposed to be straight. Pray and ask if it is ok for you to be gay, then define for yourself what being gay means to you. Being gay is not a light switch that you can turn off, it is part of you and always will be you. God made you as you are for a reason. As Bruno Mars says, “You are beautiful just the way you are!” 🙂 (check the music video out here)

Sincerely,

-thatboyleroy and thatgalanna

Day 4: Protests, Cooperation and Love

Dear readers,

Tomorrow the Utah legislators begin looking at the non-discrimination ordinance that will help in protecting LGBT people from discrimination. It is unpredictable what might happen with this bill, but whatever does happen always remember that it gets better! To help those of you involved in this both personally and organizationally Anna and I have some words of knowledge that we have gained that we would like to share.:

Anna and I have two role models who have helped us with activism, being and staying human and always remembering to love each other and our fellow human beings. One of the ways we show our love is through carefully planned protests, that harm no one, no plan, and no thing. We recognize that words and deeds go a long way and represent who we are, the distance our words and deeds travel go farther than most people understand. Through action change occurs, through words change is brought forth with motivation.

Anna takes a lot of her inspiration from Robert F. Kennedy who said,

“Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation … It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Here Mr. Kennedy tells us how courage and the belief that many small actions done by many people will create positive change. Kennedy understood how protesting worked and how this tool of free speech effected the progression and digression of positive change in American society. With this direction, Robert Kennedy also gave us a warning, he said that the future “will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the great enterprises and ideals of American society.” To create change, you have to also do it reasonably. To create change in a reasonable manner and with many people doing small actions you have to do so cooperatively, including the main negotiators and the citizens. Gandhi, who I love and try to be as good as, also thought this and saw the benefit of not rushing into “the battle” by protesting in a way that has the potential to hurt those who the goal is to protect.

Gandhi taught that protests should not happen unless they will not harm the cause. Gandhi taught what Kennedy taught, that passion, reason and courage create change. However, Gandhi also emphasized the power of love and careful planning. Gandhi realized that many people create change, and he worked in a network of activists who together created change. Not one person alone can create the change needed to make the world a better place, but many people with like minds aimed at carefully thought out protests do create change.

Anna and I realize that change needs to happen within many aspects of the worlds societies and cultures. We also realize that to create change a person has to think about how this is to happen before it happens. For a group of people to bend history, each one has to work in harmony with the reality of the situation and with the others involved. One rogue group never accomplishes anything, and often makes the situation worse. We hope that tomorrows protests and discussions were created in this way, with the implications of the consequences well realized before the gathering of people began occurring.

Anna and I have watched many people (including ourselves!) suffer because of the actions of those who did not think about what their actions would cause. We hope that tomorrow, Thursday, stays peaceful and that the days events create positive change for all involved, including all individuals on both sides of the LGBT issue. positivespeaking

Anna and I believe that love, wit, courage, patience, knowledge , reason, passion and cooperation are the keys to creating positive change. This is only the case if everyone involved in the creation of change are communicating in a positive and effective manner.

It is also important to recognize that peace, love, hope, belief and faith are character traits needed by both the individual and the group to be able to do and encourage the needed behaviors and character required to create the pro-active change in the world that both John F. Kennedy and Gandhi describe.

Tomorrow is a big day, Anna and I will be sending good energies your way! Our thoughts, actions and prayers are for positive change to come to our society and world, and Utah taking a step forward is a huge step towards the goal of full equality for all.

 

With Love,

-thatboyleroy and thatgalanna

 

Letter 3: Food- Do it right or die trying!

Dear Reader,

A lot of people ask me what the biggest change in my life was when Anna and I became serious. For me it was: FOOD.

Anna and I we have a lot of dietary restrictions. What is interesting is that because of Anna’s food allergies I was able to get some of my health issues solved. I did not realize that some of the food I was eating was causing things like asthma attacks and crazy stomach issues. Figuring this all out was a great thing, but it also meant HUGE changes to my diet that I still fight against today…

Together, our list of food allergies is LONG and covert all the food allergies most parents have nightmares about! The foods Anna  is allergic to are dairy, gluten,eggs, soy, peanuts, avocado and lentils. My food allergies include crab, tuna, dairy, gluten, non-organic lettuce, pork and possibly tomatoes. With all of these dietary restrictions we have a hard time figuring out what to eat, which has led us to sometimes not giving our bodies what they need. Luckily, Anna has been in this food allergy world for several years and has a doctor who knows her food caused illnesses very well!

Anna’s doctor is one of those hippy doc’s who blame all health issues on food and lack of yoga and meditation. I was REALLY skeptical of this doctor until recently, when she figured out what is causing my asthma (dairy) and why I am sometimes sluggish in both mind and body (gluten). Anna’s food caused illnesses are even worse, soy causes open sores, gluten puts her in bed for a week, and dairy basically makes her unable to do anything.

The lack of these  American diet staples messes with her (and my) body.Funny enough, we are able to attribute food to a big part of how our relationship developed (we did after all meet in a coffee shop!). These food allergies and intolerance have led us to want to live a life of good health, because for us it is either do it right or die trying. To take care of our bodies right we have to patiently communicate and understand each others likes and dislikes. A lot of meals are started by this conversation,

“How about we eat this?”

“No, I do not like that.”

“How about this?”

“No, I am not in the mood for that.”

“How about THIS?”

“YES!”

Through doing this we have developed a patience for each other and an understanding of what each other likes and dislikes that we would not have had otherwise. This almost daily conversation has moved into other aspects of our relationship where communication is critical. Through communicating about our food allergies, dislikes and likes we have been able to build our relationship around good communication. We have also discovered that food seems to bring us together in ways that nothing else does, food is a medicine for the body and the soul. When used right, food is a huge blessing to our lives.

For us, eating the right food is like building and keeping our relationship: We either do it right, or we die trying!

For those of you wondering what we DO eat, we eat a lot of raw foods, veggies, fruits, meat, and bakes goods made with rice flours. A lot of alternative foods are also available.

 

-thatboyleroy and thatgalanna

Day 2: A day worth celebrating!

Dear Reader,

Today is a day of celebration! The first functional cure for HIV was found, for babies! 🙂 Neither Anna or I have HIV, but we do recognize the harm it does to the LGBTQ community and how this cure could change many people’s lives. We are crossing our fingers and our toes hoping that this can be replicated.

Check out the article written by US News here:

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/03/03/researchers-describe-1st-functional-cure-of-hiv-in-baby

 

-thatboyleroy and thatgirlanna

My Gay Travel: from socially engrained self-prejudice to love

As I write this I am locked in my bedroom awaiting my damsel to set me free… She is trying on her wedding dress and new shoes, in following tradition I am to avoid her at all costs until the dress is back in its cubby and hidden from my prying eyes.

While waiting I thought I would announce my next posting series. This series will be covering Mixed Orientation Marriages and relationships and will be discussing why some are successful and why some are not.

This is the first post in this series, this post is very much about me and parts of my life journey that have led to today’s reality. I felt that it is necessary to show the beginnings of my journey into a Mixed Orientation Marriage (M.O.M.) so that you know who I am and so you can see what Anna and I see, which is something different and honest.

Here is a little bit of my story, how I got involved in the LDS LGBT movement and the very beginnings of Anna’s and my relationship:

My journey down my life’s road was not an easy one. It, as I now refer to it as, was long, both uphill and down, windy, hot and made of gravel. Some people asked me, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” I always answered, “Because of my faith.” My faith is not defined as a religion, instead I define it as knowing that everything has a purpose and a meaning that effects the future. My faith is my story, and is the causality of what I call my life today.

"I became immersed in the opposite of tolerance, intolerance."

“I became immersed in the opposite of tolerance, intolerance.”

I grew up in the majestic rain forest wonders of Western Oregon and Washington, where the giant fir trees, huge lakes fed by aquifers and runoff from glaciers hidden in mountains that I hope to one day climb and cities neighbored by small towns that mostly respected personal choice and diversity. All of this made me into the reality I am today. It was here that seeing two men kiss in public was part of my normal day. While at church it was common to see gay men sit in sacrament, partaking of sacrament, and passing the sacrament. Then I moved to South West Idaho, where the barren desert landscape mimics that of the conservative insanity which seems to harbor homophobia and racism. I moved from a culture that did not care, but loved, and into a culture where not caring was no longer an option. I became immersed in the opposite of tolerance, intolerance. I soon learned that I was required by my peers to be either a
farm raised gay bashing hick, or an all-loving assumed to be “you-are-obviously-a-sinner” liberal who was socially ostracized and constantly judged by those who make up his very religion and social group. I took the second path, and began a God guided journey that ended after four long hard college years and then renewed itself in messages of action, with an inspired group called Mormons Building Bridges.

Through my experiences as an exploring college student I learned that not caring is one of the most important lessons a person can understand. By not caring about another person’s life I was able to rid the judgmental attitude that I gained from those who made me think it was a requirement of being Mormon. Along with this I was able to be honest with myself about who I am!

As a teenager I was too busy to date, but I kind of knew that I liked guys over girls. In college I learned more about the Gospel and as I progressed through my religious studies program at the wonderful College of Idaho I soon learned that I was a phenomenon in the LDS Church. I was chivalrous, I dressed well, I knew how to make my hair look good, I shaped my eyebrows, and I had a successful and meaningful future planned. As I became more engrossed in the emotionally harmful social group of my singles branch I hid who I was and I started dating LDS women who were more conservative then a straight line. After a year of this social pressure induced trauma I decided to back away and out of this group. I then sent myself into a promise, two years of no dating so I could answer one question. How can I be gay and Mormon? I also found solace in a group of ‘liberal’ Mormons, who could care less if someone was gay.

"I learned that I did not need to "pray away" the gay, I did not need to "fast the gay gone," these practices are not religious belief in action this is self inflicted torture engrained by social bias and prejudice."

“I learned that I did not need to “pray away” the gay, I did not need to “fast the gay gone,” these practices are not religious belief in action this is self inflicted torture engrained by social bias and prejudice.”

The next two years were easily the hardest of my life, so far… I read the scriptures more than a bookworm could in its lifetime. Soon my scriptures contained no margins; they were overly filled with notes about personal revelations, questions and thoughts that begged the question, “is being gay ok?” I prayed, I Prayed, I PRAYED. AND I PRAYED. I also fasted, often. These two years made me realize that I am who I am for a specific reason. I have my experiences and gifts so that the future could benefit from them. I learned that I did not need to “pray away” the gay, I did not need to “fast the gay gone,” these practices are not religious belief in action this is self inflicted torture engrained by social bias and prejudice. I also learned that it is ok to like guys over girls, and I also learned that my beliefs, my faith and my eternal purpose were just as needed as honestly acknowledging who I am. Once I did this, once I said I am gay, my life changed and God took over. For the first time in my life I was in balance with both my spiritual and personal selves.

To my surprise, about six months after this self exploration ended, I went on a date with a gal who I am now planning to marry. Somehow the gay man inside of me fell in love with a wonderful woman who is my yin and I her yang.

Some of you who are reading this may be thinking that a gay man gone straightish is a Mormon excuse to fit into the norm, for me this is not the case. I promised myself that I would not marry a girl unless I knew I loved her and that my attraction to men would not harm our relationship. I take this VERY seriously! Not only is this the case, but our relationship is not the “Mormon norm,” Anna is Unitarian. We are very open about my sexuality with each other and for some reason I am more attracted to her then I have ever been to ANY man. Now that you know that I fell head over heels for on our first date, let me share how I got involved with Mormons Building Bridges.

"I am a Mormon gay man who is marrying a beautiful woman"

“I am a Mormon gay man who is marrying a beautiful woman”

A year and a half ago I began to gather information from interviews and online sources and was soon SHOCKED at how many people in the LGBT community had been negatively harmed both emotionally and/or physically due to the negative social occurrences that have come from LDS social groups. This was my motivator; this information was what triggered an earthquake in my life. I began doing silent activism and helped those men who I could, I told my leaders about what I was doing and offered my time. I did the Mormon thing and prayed for opportunities, and I received many. Day after day I met LDS LGBT members. I heard story after story about how social pressure(s) had caused depression, feelings of being ostracized, and humiliation. When the word got around that I was doing this research and I was an openly gay member of the LDS Church the backlash began towards me, and I soon experienced the homophobia and hate that is common here in Idaho and Utah LDS social groups. These experiences shocked me and forced me into a meditative deep prayer.

From this prayer I emerged a new being with new motivation. Personal Revelation taught me to be prepared for an opportunity to change the homophobic behavior that had taken over much of the LDS social culture. I prepared myself through reading literature and creating presentations that I could use for action. I also wrote a monthly column called ‘Ask a Mormon’ for the College of Idaho’s newspaper where, along with other religious issues, I discussed Mormonism and homosexuality. It was in these college newspaper articles that I “officially” came out. I also worked within my singles branch in showing that yes, it is possible for someone to be Mormon and gay! I kept myself in this circle of initiatives until Mormons Building Bridges came into the spot light, what I had been waiting to happen finally happened! I took this opportunity to build a Mormons Building Bridges group here in Boise, Idaho, the first group to branch itself off of the main MBB one in Utah. We are still young and in the planning stages, but we will and have been creating opportunities for the LDS social mindset on issues of LGBT to change in Idaho. I am also involved in Mormon Allies.

To end I would like to share a scripture with you all which helped me along the way: 3rd Nephi 27:9 “Ask and Ye Shall Receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” I would not have been able to help others as I have if it were not for the advice this scripture gives. This scripture has been the teaching factor to me that without God, nothing can be done.

-thatboyleroy