Friday, June 30, 2006

Progress report

It's been a while since I determined to do the 12 step program for porn addiction. I haven't had any problems since then, but I realize that I've got to be proactive in doing the work on the steps or it won't be of any use.

People say individuals finally become willing to abstain when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution. Have you come to that point? If you have not and you continue in your addiction, you surely will reach that point because addiction is a progressive problem. Like a degenerative disease, it eats at your ability to function normally.

I thought this quote from the addiction manual was an interesting idea, although I'm not convinced it fully applies in the case of porn. I can imagine cases where it does apply: there are certainly case reports of porn users progressing to increasingly edgy porn to the point they engage in viewing illegal and frankly abhorrent images. I've heard (although I don't remember the specifics) that porn can progress to rape and murder.

However, it was precisely because the pain of the problem was so minimal that I've had a hard time getting started on the 12 steps. I was able to keep the porn on the down low, and without ever being confronted about it by my wife, things were quite comfortable all in all. The problem, of course, is that during this time I was losing opportunities to affirm my heterosexuality and to bond with my wife. I think sex was easier after looking at porn because I was more arousable. How stupid to become reliant on porn to have good sex. Sex should be a warm humanistic activity, not one where your highest highs involve a beige metal box with little blinking lights. It's a frustrating and complex situation for a gay man who wants to be deeply intimate with a woman.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thinking things

For the last couple years I've had a recurring nightmare. It isn't always the same, but the theme is consistent: I find myself in a high-stakes situation in which I am unprepared. It's often academic. For example, I'm waiting to start a final and I realize (somehow suddenly) that I never bothered to read the textbook. Or I never once showed up for class, forgetting that I had even enrolled. I scramble through my backpack trying to find the text to flip through for a few moments as the proctor says to put away your materials. Panic ensues. Terror.

Life foists that same uneasy feeling on me once in a while. But, being awake, I experience it differently. I feel defensive. I rationalize. I justify. Thankfully, I don't feel nearly as out of control. My mind starts going into overdrive to lay some cognitive path that will protect and defend my... I dunno... happiness?

Yes, I'm still on the happiness kick. Essentially, I'm trying to convey that our brains drive our behaviors, and our personal needs drive our brains in some significant ways without our ever necessarily even realizing it. There's some brand of happiness that our mind vigilantly attempts to get and defend. And when our world view is threatened... when things go wrong, our mind has as its primary task making things better. Unhappiness of this variety gets things going. It makes me move. It protects me as a creature. Can it be viewed as merely another means to a biological end? What about a psychological end? I think it certainly could explain why people (myself included, of course) have such a hard time having a civil conversation about sensitive topics. Happiness is at stake. Sacred personal psychological comfort.

I suppose this explains why I had dread in the pit of my stomach when I attended the scientific presentation about reparative therapy given by Jack Drescher. I suppose it also explains why Dr. Drescher during the lecture was willing to categorically condemn anyone involved with reparative therapy (offering or receiving) as guided by poor motives. Our respective world views seemed to be at stake during that lecture. Consequently, I would have been reluctant to change my opinions had he said something compelling but particularly at odds with my hopes (which he didn't, scientifically), and he offered no concessions of good faith to conservatives or religious folks I believe because to do so would have opened the door to middle ground (unacceptable in terms of his political goals). Anyway, I digress. The point is, people need happiness and they're willing to do mental gymnastics to get it. And it's all quite unnecessary. Truth doesn't give a damn about your mental gymnastics, or your happiness. Things just are what they are. And being aware of that and okay with it seems to be a step toward a more robust and genuine happiness.

Unfortunately, everyone thinks they're already rooted in truth. Their happiness is already genuine. And when the shadows are cast across the quaking soil... panic. Defend the happiness.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pain problems

Bill Clinton's biography includes his acknowledgment that he began to question his religious roots because he couldn't understand how a loving God could allow so much suffering and pain in the world. I don't remember exactly how he put it, but it was another iteration of the problem of pain discussed in theology and philosophy classes around the globe. It's a problem I appreciate.

If God wants us to be happy, and he most assuredly does, then why does he "make" us in a manner that we desire something forbidden to be happy? For some, the reductio ad absurdum argument ends there and the conclusion is not that happiness doesn't lie with the forbidden thing after all, but that he in fact doesn't forbid it. It's the more pleasant way to resolve the issue. Is it a fallacy? I hope you won't be offended by my offering my opinion that it is.

God doesn't take suffering lightly. He makes it clear throughout scripture that whatever else we do, if we fail to help the suffering, we are in big trouble. But, at the same time, he doesn't keep even the best from suffering. Christ, of course, suffered more than anyone. Job suffered immensely, and the list of martyrs is long. People suffer all the time, and God not only puts up with it, but seems to let it happen to the best. And, it even seems to me that God Himself suffers because of His children's poor choices. This makes me think that presence or absence of suffering isn't a big component in the happiness I'm looking for in life. Maybe it's only the presence or absence of suffering in those around me that counts. I dunno. Maybe there's something distinctive about different kinds of suffering.

Long ago I was told that the key to success is the endurance of pain. I've thought on that quite a bit and realized that subjecting oneself to certain kinds of "suffering" does indeed foster success, discipline, sacrifice, self-control and many other virtues. It's the purported antithesis to happiness that brings the most success and consequently more happiness. Where in all this does embracing gay love or gay sex lie? Does abstaining count as virtuous suffering that will make me stronger? Or does it count as frank unhappiness on the surface?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Not happiness

I'm not entirely sure how to verbalize what happiness is. But I'll tell you what I think it isn't.

I don't care for the aphorism, "ignorance is bliss." I think curiosity is a virtue and knowledge is nearly always a good thing. Perhaps a more apt saying would be "blissful ignorance is just unhappiness saved for later."

One day in clinic I was discussing smoking with a middle-aged lady. She was convinced that because her aunt who had been smoking like a chimney for decades had never had any problem with her lungs and was healthy into her 90's, the warnings about smoking were overblown and inaccurate. Her personal experience and perceptions of what was true and what made her happy led her to continue behaving in a manner that was likely to result in debilitating disease, suffering, and eventual death. Like many people, she couldn't quite understand the idea of relative risk--the idea that there's no black and white correlation between risky behaviors and bad health outcomes. She's like the compulsive gambler who fails to see the high probability of financial ruin because he's so focused on the real possibility, however infinitesimal, that he'll strike it rich. She's a sweet, ignorant fool playing the odds. Nice lady, don't get me wrong. But blissfully ignorant. Stubbornly so.

And this is not happiness. Pleasant, most likely, but not the kind of happiness anyone should be shooting for.

I was told as a child that you can't buy happiness. And I think I've had enough experiences now as an adult to demonstrate to myself the truth of that sentiment. I've had meals that cost over $100, I've traveled, I've spent a fair amount of time with friends taking in the nightlife. And it's all a lot of fun, but ultimately a bit disappointing. Or rather, ultimately a bit pointless. It's the version of happiness that prompts skepticism at the metaphor of heaven as a cherub sitting on a cloud playing a harp and eating grapes. Sure, you can paint the scenario as beautifully as you want, but what the hell is the point?

I can imagine a life for myself in which I find ultimate sexual fulfillment for many years. I can imagine a life in which I am remarkably wealthy and powerful. I can imagine that this life is achievable for a person of my personal qualities. But, again, what the hell is the point? When the libido wanes, the mind is less sharp, and arthritis sets in, that brand of "happiness" will be over. I don't think such a life could necessarily be described as happy regardless of how genuinely great it would be. And that's why I'm trying my best to choose a principled life instead. I'll live off of an average salary and find worthy uses for anything we earn over that. I'll raise a family and give them everything I can. I'll try to heal people and ease their suffering. And, to the extent I do these things not to find happiness, but because they are what's right, I think I'll be happy.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Over my time blogging, there have a been a few topics that have become central to my journey--a few things about which I hope to always increase my depth of understanding... topics on which I see confusion and misunderstanding. One is certainly love. One is freedom. One is truth. And one is happiness.

My thoughts on the subject of happiness are disjointed enough (and perhaps complex enough) that I can't think of how to write a readable blog entry that captures it. So, I'll just acknowledge that up front and then take a stab at it.

Happiness, according variously to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, is the purpose of our existence. Men are that they might have joy. How we define happiness and how we believe we will reach it is where the disagreement starts. I don't think the conventional happiness I hear some pursuing is what Joseph was talking about, and I don't think that getting to real happiness is a "choose your own adventure."

So, what is happiness? I'm interested in hearing what everyone has to say. I've wondered if it is a sense of peace and fulfillment, a pleasant sense that one's life is in fulfillment of one's potential and in accordance with God's expectations. Is it loving and being loved? Is it having low enough expectations that you can never be disappointed... embracing each small blessing with gratitude and bliss, no matter how small? Is it paradoxical, as Hawthorne suggests, in that you can never achieve it when you pursue it? This makes sense to me based on my impression of what happiness is.

My experience so far is simply that when I give up my pursuit of what I think will make me happy and attempt to focus on other more principled goals, happiness inexplicably sets in. Faced with the impossible situation my sexuality and my moral views place me in, there was no conceivable way for me to achieve what I know I want more than anything. It just wasn't going to work. And I assumed that happiness was going to be impossible for me. Having relented the conflict of how to force it all to work and rather having determined to do what I believe is right rather than what will make me happy, things worked out for me. It's like facing an impenetrable wall and having stopped pushing against it with my shoulder to busy myself with helping someone else, I find myself suddenly on the other side.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Depth of Conversion

"Conversion" has nice rhetorical relevance to this blog, given the name. It's about change. And while changing sexual orientation has been on my mind quite a bit of late, the evidence is pretty weighted against that. Conversion to greater satisfaction with hetero sex may be more likely. Hell, that's already happened, come to think of it. But I'm not ruling out the possibility of full flung conversion--there's anecdotal evidence it is possible however improbable.

But the conversion I'm pondering tonight is conversion to the gospel. Testimony is having a knowledge of the truth, conversion is putting it into practice. I once asked my seminary teacher, "Why wouldn't someone who knows something put it into practice? Why would they just act differently?" He pointed out that that's the whole point of life. We must learn to act on things we know... and part of that is avoiding doing what we know is wrong. And as we do that, I guess, we get converted.

"Depth" of conversion is another matter. I remember when I was a kid, my Mom was a doomsday 2nd coming buff. She loved to talk about it, and most of the time scared the crap out of me. But one of the interesting things we talked about was how many in the church would fall away before the 2nd coming. I thought this was ridiculous. I mean, if it's actually part of the prophecy that part of the people would fall away, then why wouldn't people guard against it? Why wouldn't they figure out a way to side-step the risks? Why wouldn't they actually see it happening, realize that it was exactly what was predicted, and then pull their butts back to being faithful? What sort of depth of conversion is necessary to survive?

I have no answers even now. As I see friends and relatives leave the church, I'm struck with amazement as I watch the inexplicable fulfillment of those childhood lessons. People seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons, but (as predicted) most of them can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds. I realize this indictment of mine can be offensive to those choosing to leave the church, but it still seems to fit well as a rule. And I'm amazed.

So, how does one like me get the "depth" of conversion necessary to make it through? How can I be one of those virgins with the spare oil? I appeal to your collective wisdom.

Friday, June 16, 2006


There have been occasional comments underlining skepticism among by bloggin' buddies about how great my marriage is (or how selective I am in describing it!). The dogma is that gay/straight mixed marriages won't last, but I keep touting how great it is and how happy we are. And I stand by that. Marriage for a gay Mormon is no panacea, but it can work. Work, being the operative word there--it takes lots of work.

The issue of the week for us has been porn, but it could easily have been something else. Issues will come up with some regularity between couples, and dealing with them appropriately is the key to success and happiness. Last night things went south and we had a fight.

My wife and I have discussed pornography before on many occasions. I have always tried to be honest with her no matter how much it hurts. I have, once or twice, misrepresented things only to be prompted to come clean a short time later. But when we get into the issue it usually gets really sticky. My wife feels betrayed, rightly so, and becomes quite emotional. I feel misunderstood, and become defensive. Soon, we are acting not as if we are on the same side but as if we are bitter vultures gathering ammo for divorce court.

Invariably one of us will extend a reconciliatory olive branch in the form of validating the other person's feelings and listening without interrupting (despite the impulse to defend or correct every other sentence!). The other will answer in kind. We will slowly return to the point where we want to understand, work through, get back to being on the same team.

And that's pretty much what happened last night. I had been acting cagey while chatting with a gay Mormon friend, and she suspected that something was up. In reality, the reason I didn't want her to see the conversation was completely unrelated to porn, but that was irrelevant. We've long had the understanding that she can read my e-mails, my blog, or my chats any time she wants. She doesn't, as a rule, because she respects my privacy. But when I do something that seems odd, she is allowed to look, and look she did. What she found was my description of caving to the temptation to look at porn recently--an account of the incident that precipitated my last post. And then she read the post. And she felt betrayed because I had shared it with the blog but not with her. She felt shut out--as if I had been keeping secrets from her.

Ultimately, we sorted things out in conversations last night and through the day today. Her view is that I need to be willing to share with her--allow her to know what is going on. She worries that pornography can destroy our family, and that fear is certainly not without cause or precedent. My view is that I am willing to share, in fact, I long to share this burden. However, past experience has shown me that things become so dramatic afterward that it isn't particularly helpful to me. I feel judged rather than supported. I would rather share where the reaction is more calm concern.

So, the point is this: My marriage rocks. My marriage has bumps, just like anyone else's. Communication is a good thing and things may get immediately worse but will almost certainly then get better. Being one with another person is tricky to do, but completely worth it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Step 1: Honesty


Deep breath.

I'm addicted to porn. My life is out of control. I can't stop.

Although I've been blogging for months, I have yet to really address porn in any constructive way. I just seem to acknowledge it and move on whenever there's a problem. And that's fine as far as it goes--my mental health is pretty good and I'm relatively happy. But it doesn't get rid of the problem. It just accommodates it, and that's not good enough anymore.

So, I'm going to take Samantha's advice and use the church's 12 step addiction recovery program. There's magic in that program. It has been proven scientifically again and again to produce results. Admittedly, there isn't the robust data for porn addiction that there is for other kinds of addictions, but I'm willing to give it a try. Doing something (anything!) proactive is progress for me.

So today is the start.
KEY PRINCIPLE: Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

I started looking at porn of my own volition (not just glances in the school hallway) when I got back from my mission. I had seen an "internet phone book" in a member's house once and when flipping through it saw that the internet was largely full of porn sites. So, in a moment of idleness after being one of the first folks in the neighborhood to get the 'net, I typed in my search: "naked men". I was not disappointed. Far from it, the subsequent experience was one of the most intense of my life. I had certainly never seen male porn before, even at a glance, and I was suddenly so powerfully immersed in desires I had never admitted to anyone. My experience was certain to be repeated, and it was.

Over the years I learned about auto complete, browser caches, and the history. I was always ahead of the learning curve out of necessity, and I was rewarded with successfully clandestine indulgence. I became so brazen (and skilled) that I viewed porn in a number of unlikely and risky situations. I viewed it in places that had safeguards in place by subverting the admin's token precautions. It seemed that much more exciting and rewarding.

I became skilled enough with computers that I actually found myself catching other people viewing porn--a roommate who borrowed my computer, residents of my dorm,... others. As I realized how pervasive the problem was for others, I minimized its significance for me and advanced deeper and deeper into the trap. I abstained from R-rated movies religiously and listened and believed the counsel from church talks on the evils and snares of pornography. But, my duplicity didn't command a lot of my attention. I was already in the snare. I was hooked. I am hooked.

Despite efforts with my wife, counselors, bishops, and friends, I can't go longer than several weeks without turning back to it. I'm ashamed and repulsed by the prospect of how little control over my own actions I have. I'm inclined to minimize the problem when I discuss it with others--overestimate the time since I last slipped, underestimate the hours spent. And regardless of what I see as a healthy amount of insight into the subject, I can't get myself to really believe my problem is significant or that I must immediately change. I'm more comfortable with the prospect of change always being in the near future.

But not anymore. I'm powerless to overcome porn. My life has become unmanageable.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Last night I attended a scientific presentation on GLBT psychology and biology. It was very interesting. I was quite nervous beforehand because I feel like there is such a huge fervor on anything gay related, I wondered if it would end up being a circus freak show of medicine. But it wasn't. It was real science, real medicine, presented by nice and caring people. And that made me glad.

However, ever the skeptic, I paid pretty close attention to what the experts were saying to see how much of it I believed. Turns out, even the experts have some real bias issues. I guess there's nothing surprising there. I just hope they realize it. I hope I'm not going to be the only one to challenge the information they've presented because it will appear to be a sensationalization of the topic--exactly what I feared would be imposed on me before attending!

For example, a brief history of early prejudicial paradigms on the subject showed that research results about gay populations were skewed because the only gays enrolled in the study were those in prison for violating anti-sodomy laws. Not exactly scientifically appropriate selection criteria for a study that seeks to say something externally valid (i.e., have generalizable results). Interesting stuff... scientifically appropriate... all good material presented so far.

And then they showed [fanfare music] the new improved methodology that compared non-clinical homosexuals and heterosexuals, controlled for confounding factors like age and religion and excluded individuals with a psychiatric history. The new results completely defied the old ones: rather than gays always having "global deficits" as was previously scientifically demonstrated, they were now shown to be potentially "as adjusted as heterosexuals". Yeah!

Except... doesn't excluding all the gays with psychiatric issues sort of beg the question? Psychiatric issues are much more prevalent among gays, and hand-picking the population of gays to demonstrate "adjustment" is just as inappropriate as using prison inmates! It's not generalizable. And yet, here was an expert in the field completely ignoring this fact.

Later in the presentation the question was posed: "What causes people to be gay?" The answers offered as representative views included:
  • parents
  • labeling
  • poor peer relations
  • biology
  • choice
  • lack of hetero experience
  • same sex seduction
Through the magic of statistics and research, most of these possible causes were disproved in the subsequent discussion. Well... sort of, anyway. A statistically significant correlation to a cold father was discussed, but the magnitude of the relative risk was minimized by the lecturer (unbelievable--if you have a statistically significant result, it is by definition SIGNIFICANT). He asserted, "There is no ONE family situation that produces a gay sexual orientation." Ultimately, the lecturer declared that through "path analysis," an esoteric branch of statistics, tautology had been demonstrated to be the cause of sexual orientation. Tautology meaning that the relation between childhood same-sex feelings and adulthood same-sex feelings are that they are one and the same. People are gay because they're gay.

Thank you, science. For nothing.

There was one other particularly interesting point in this lecture. When "gender nonconformity" was measured, it was significantly related to orientation. So, if you don't do masculine stuff, you are more likely to be gay. Hmmm... now whose theories does that remind me of? A woman stood up during the Q&A and asked why that was the case. Lecturer: we don't know. But after the subsequent presentation when the Q&A was reopened for either presenter, he back-pedaled. Someone in the audience had apparently glared disapprovingly at his academically honest indication that the reason wasn't known. So, he wanted to clarify that his conjecture was that gay boys feel different as children because of society's straight projections, and gender nonconformity follows from that. The fact that reparative theory explains the situation much more plausibly was never even entertained.

The only part of the second lecture that I want to comment on right now was a question from the audience. After a presentation of a wide range of scientific data, the executive head of a special interest in San Francisco wanted to know which of all the studies presented was the most concise and compelling in demonstrating that orientation is immutable. The lecturer offered his opinion that a study of pheromones did the trick. The study showed that male scents stimulate the "smell" part of the brain in straight men and gay women, but stimulate the sexual part of the brain in gay men and straight women. There were analogous results for female scents. He concluded from this that sexuality is biologically based and is therefore immutable. I have no idea why showing that sexuality is physiological rather than merely psychological proves anything about mutability, but that's what he said.

And I suddenly feel more at peace with the science. I can appreciate the good science without being taken for a ride by some of the silliness. I'm a huge advocate of science informing public policy. Huge. But although science is good, I will keep looking for understanding in other places too.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I haven't really read much of Cohen's book yet, but I remember seeing a chart that made a hierarchy of friends to help with healing. The idea was that gay friends are okay, but SSA (resisting gay) are more healing, straight friends are even better, and straight friends who know you struggle with SSA are the best. There was a rationale there, but I prefer to leave out the context to spur ridiculous comments. ;-)

So, I ask myself this evening, where do virtual friends fit in? My one and only gay date was found online. I've been propositioned online. I've heard that folks even get propositioned in support groups (e-mail groups as well as in-the-room group therapy). Unfortunately, I've heard of a lot of heartache resulting from cyber hookups--sometimes long-term. What do virtual friends have to offer besides temptation?

For one thing, they're my only support option in some ways. If I want gay companionship, I can knock on the wall and have the gay man who lives next door come over and be my friend, but he just thinks I'm a Mormon prude (and I really have tried to be nice to him... I guess I just reek of orthodoxy). And the fact that he's constantly inviting over calendar boys doesn't bode well for me. There's no Evergreen group within hours of here. Who am I supposed to talk to?

My discretionary time is about to vanish. Soon. How can I keep up with the chats, the comments, the posts, the e-mails? Cyber friends (sounds way better than "virtual" as it turns out) take a lot of time even when you type fast.

Well, who knows where it will all go. But to each of you who have offered your insights through comments, e-mails, and chats, thank you so much for your friendship. I think I'm a better man for it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


It would be nice to have a clear understanding about the magic of sexuality--how development occurs, how it can be variously a life-saver and life-destroyer, what goes on in the heart and mind... but I'm a bit skeptical that anyone can ever have much understanding in this area. There are plenty of well meaning and successful researchers chipping away at questions in the field, but ultimately I believe sex is a black box that no scientific reasoning or probing can get into. The subjective nature of it--the fantasies, the deep visceral desires and needs that are being offered and taken--make it impossible to measure without disrupting the process. "How does that feel? What are you thinking RIGHT NOW!?" All the probes and sensors, equipment, and measurements in the world won't really nail it down.

Which supports the plausibility of the view that God's take on the subject is of value.

My conjecture is that masturbation and pornography are obstacles to achieving the best sex possible. I wonder if one who successfully avoids masturbation altogether and whose first sexual experience is with a committed life-long partner is blessed with a powerful aid in psychological fidelity as well as a supernal sexual satisfaction that can only be achieved when comparison to outside sexual experiences is avoided altogether.

This seems consistent with the distracted and even bored appearing demeanor of models in amateur porn videos. The pros put on a better show, but I suspect they hide the same mental gymnastics I see attempted by those boys who actually have to WATCH porn in the background to get excited enough to MAKE porn. It's like an admission that everything they do is disappointingly average. They may be in their physical prime, alarmingly attractive, and virile to the gills, but when the climax comes it's an empty thrill. A moment of pleasure here and then gone leaving them only to lust for the next possibility for an equally fun but ultimately meaningless expression of physical pleasure... like ice cream.

If sex can be something more transcendental, as I believe and hope it can, it's not going to be achieved by sowing wild oats. I think it would be achieved through fidelity and discipline--avoiding porn and masturbation as well as any form of what Christ called committing adultery in the heart.

That masturbation was thought to cause "a perceptible reduction of strength, of memory and even of reason; blurred vision, all the nervous disorders, all types of gout and rheumatism, weakening of the organs of generation, blood in the urine, disturbance of the appetite, headaches and a great number of other disorders" but is currently understood in medicine to be a healthy and normal practice is commonly cited as evidence of the ridiculous nature of religious sexual purity. But for reasons based on my thinking here, I can imagine how masturbation could have ill effects, and apparently God has some ideas as well.

I know homoemotional feelings develop before puberty. I've heard reports that homosexual feelings can too, but I wonder if that's an artifact of our society's sexual preoccupations, as I think few sexual feelings of any kind should develop before puberty. But once puberty hits, I imagine sexual desires search for an anthropological structure on which to drape themselves. If that skeleton involves pornography and/or masturbating to fantasies of the same gender, I can see how that would lead to a developmental chain that after years would have established an inexorable intuition that one's sexual feelings are innate and unchangeable. But, it would be a mistake.

Monday, June 05, 2006


My immediate goal is to get the porn under control. It's no wonder my mind is divided against itself with that kind of influence in the mix. Alan Medinger wrote, " is one of the most intense experiences most people have, and whatever sex touches becomes more alive. Just as salt enhances the flavor of food, sex intensifies the power of any experience."

For many years now I've been "enhancing" my attraction to men by masturbating to porn. And here I'm using "porn" in the most general sense of the word: Clothed models in health magazines, underwear ads, and of course mainstream movies and TV too. They've all been subjectively pornographic to me. Unfortunately, your full flung porn is in the mix too. Given any privacy whatsoever with an internet connection, I can get porn and get away with it. The problem exploded from G rated to XXX when the Internet became my enabler. Given my history with porn, it shouldn't be a surprise that my mind has been well-conditioned to respond more immediately and completely to men than to women. I'm addicted in the clinical sense of the word--there is physiology involved, not just psychology.

I'm somewhat familiar with addiction medicine. I have several friends in the field, and porn is a formidable addiction. Porn is becoming a huge scourge on society, as Pres. Hinckley has warned. I had medical student classmates disciplined for stupidly using school computers to view and even print porn. I saw my elders' quorum president accessing it in the library once. I know relatives who have problems with it (again, the computer skills), and I'm appalled at the pervasive influence porn has achieved. It's the Turkish Delight of the real world (without Narnia's magic). With a taste you will do just about anything to get more. And in our society it's practically impossible not to get a taste.

Now that I'm trying to achieve greater intimacy with my wife, porn is a greater enemy than ever. I sometimes wonder if the poor results of reparative therapy are attributable largely to porn. It makes sense to me that once some of the developmental issues have been addressed that contributed to homosexuality, the neurological pathways that resulted from them will still remain. Changing neurological pathways is no overnight endeavor, but that's the goal if you're trying to change orientation. You have to wait for certain pathways to grow and others to atrophy from idleness. And that atrophy can never be achieved if the pathways keep firing off every few days. And if I turn to porn when I'm troubled, they will fire off with regularity. And that's what I'm afraid is happening to me more often than I would like.

I'm in way over my head and I'm still working through it all. It will be an uphill battle to overcome, just as I've been warned it would be. I can remember the endless "standards nights," the Sunday School lessons, the firesides, and the youth pamphlets. They all taught that choosing obedience to God's commandments brings freedom while disobedience limits freedom. Or, specifically in my case, indulging in porn has decreased freedom by creating chemical and neurological chains. There are real consequences. And they suck.

Boy I'm stupid. I really could have avoided a lot of troubles by not sampling porn and getting myself addicted. Now, as I've said before, my desires have changed. I want something different than what I want to want.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


A German word which means "anxiety" or "anguish." Technically, this is a term used in Existentialism which expresses the dread reality that the future is an unknown chasm; therefore, the choices that a person ( the existent ) makes are the determining factor in the outcome of one's future - thus, the cause for "angst."

My angst ebbs and wanes. For several weeks now, perhaps months, I've felt quite comfortable with where I'm at. But yesterday things boiled over and it reminded me that this journey is not going to be a short one.

My wife brought a gay-themed DVD home from the library this week. About 10 minutes into the show it was pretty clear that this show was not going to be good for me. I was turned on by the graphic portrayal of the characters' lives (nudity, sex, hot models dancing... it was all there). My wife asked if I was okay watching it, and I said that I didn't know. She asked if I wanted her to make the decision and I said yes. We turned it off.

Later in the day I confessed to her that I had watched a bit more of it. It was hot. And I was hungry. Plus, I had considered ripping it to the computer so I could watch it later when she wasn't around. I told her these things because I work through my angst, my conflict, my turmoil by discussing it with the person who loves me most in the world. And she said I had no need to hide it from her. If I wanted to watch it, we could watch it together.

I broke down. I was more emotional than I've been in months. Perhaps years. I said, "No! We can't watch it together. You don't get it! I'm addicted to pornography and that's exactly what this is for me. 90% of me wants to watch it with you. But the best 10% wants to get rid of it. It's not your fault. I know you are trying to help me and be supportive. But if I'm giving you mixed signals, that's why." My face scrunched and puffed. My dignity evaporated. My humiliation set in. Of course, being the saint she is, she apologized and agreed to help me be my best. She hid the DVD from me knowing I would probably want to watch it later that day. She loves me and struggles to know how to do what is best for me.

But this experience underscores the source of angst in my life. It's the divisiveness between the part of me that wants one thing and the part that wants the opposite. Someday I might make it to 100% one or the other--like Hurc or Kim--and that angst will be thankfully gone. I understand that neither rode is easy.

It would be hard to leave Mormonism for me. Despite my occasional doubts and struggles with the faith, I think the process of rejecting Mormonism would be a means to the end of embracing my gay desires. And I don't think I could be satisfied with leaving Mormonism as a means to an end. I'm in too deep.

And Kim says it has been 3 years angst free for her, but I know her struggles with the issues have lasted over a decade. No picnic down that road either. I've chosen this road for myself. The road less traveled? From all indications, I think my particular combination of choices and circumstances could be described as such!

Hence, the angst.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Every blessing

...Those who earnestly seek to conform to the Plan are provided small miracle after small miracle until they are able to experience every blessing of the gospel. I have yet to find an exception to this rule. This puts me at odds with both those who treat men and women with homosexual feelings as though they were voluntary perverts and also with those who insist that there can be no genuine reconciliation between such persons and the highest standards of the Kingdom.

Carlfred B. Broderick

It's been very interesting to see the 600 or so comments on a couple posts about the First Presidency's request for members to notify political leaders of their position on the Marriage Protection Amendment. I even threw in my 2 cents, although I was way over my head. Well established commenters carry the day on those blogs, and for good reason--they had very interesting things to say.

However, like a mosquito buzzing in my ear, I kept being bothered by some of the comments. Understandably, people want to be empathetic about gay Mormons' situations. In that spirit, they would discuss the hopelessness of having no acceptable alternatives in life: no acceptable method for full sexual expression, unachievable expectations of celibacy, no tenable opportunity to change... and on and on.

The circumstances of gay Mormons are as varied as the men and women themselves. Why do we feel the need to find blanket solutions or make blanket statements against solutions? I love the above quote because it reminds me what faith really means. Small miracle upon small miracle aptly describes my experiences with this issue. And although I still have most of a lifetime left in which to deal with all my issues, I expect there to be a never-ending supply of small miracles.