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Preview: Like a squirrel...storing the nuts of life.

Like a squirrel...storing the nuts of life.

Updated: 2016-09-07T22:34:06.437-06:00


apparently i am quite the little determinist


The tension between a belief in free will or determinism can be found in many professions, religions, and cultures.  The assumption of either is fundamental to our understanding of why people behave, think, and feel the way they do, and how to address problematic behavior and bring about positive change in people’s lives.  My knowledge and understanding gained through the study of psychology has had a great influence on my personal assumption of determinism in every aspect of the human experience.  I will use a biopsychosocial framework to illustrate how human behavior, cognition, and affect can be explained from a deterministic stance, as can theories of change and modification of each of those aspects.  Scientific research on the influence of human biology on behavior is extensive, and points to biological processes being an important piece of understanding and addressing behavioral change.  Genetic research, in particular, has offered an explanation for many of the physical and even psychiatric conditions that exist in human beings.  We know that along with conditions such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and spina bifida, other conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and schizophrenia have a large heritable component.  By having a genetically-related individual who has one of these conditions, one’s risk of developing the same condition increases markedly.  A significant portion of the variance in intelligence and personality are also genetic.  Furthermore, biology outlines the potential for change as well as the limitations or barriers of change.  A person with a physical disability is limited by her or his biology, and change may not occur at the level of changing biology.  One might say that a person’s life trajectory is determined in part by the opportunities and limitations that their body (including their genes) offers them.   One cannot “will” themselves to be taller, faster, or more intelligent.  The constraints of biology are always present when considering the ways a person might change over the lifespan.Libertarians assert that whatever the limitations placed on a person by the body and its biology, humans have freedom to make choices and depart from previously determined paths simply because there is some part of them that is spontaneous and not bound to deterministic factors.  However, much of what we know about introspection, memory, and learning (hence behavioral change) points to the great fallibility of the human mind in its attribution of free will and choice.  Research shows that people are not good at predicting how they will behave in the future, and that their memory of the past is always subject to distortion and selection.  Because people cannot get outside of their subjective experience, it is not always possible for them to know the reasons behind their actions.  The role of the psyche is to make meaning of, to interpret, and to process the environmental surroundings.   The ways it does this are due in large part to conditioned thoughts, values, and assumptions about the world, and are not active choices untethered to the natural context.  Libertarians acknowledge the role of biology and the social environment on human behavior, but allow some space for spontaneity and free will.  In an article entitled “The Unbearable Automaticity of Being,” Bargh and Chartrand (1999) showed that much of our life experience is based on conditioned, automatic responses to the various stimuli we encounter.  They contend that we function automatically most of the time in order to have energetic reserves for the instances where we actually do have the freedom to choose.   I assert that any instances of “free will” exist in a specific context that must have allowed that sense of “free will” to occur, and therefore the supposed windows of free will are in themselves determined. Finally, the social and cultural environment has been shown by social p[...]

i have a major intellectual crush on bell hooks


a friend recently directed me to youtube videos of her cultural criticism and transformation, which i thoroughly enjoyed as a commentary of how race, sex, and class are portrayed in popular media. i eat this stuff up. :)

click the link and watch, if you feel so inclined!

calling all gays! stop the woman-hating...


I've noticed it more and more lately. Comments about girls being gross, "no vaginas allowed" proclamations at a party, references to "axe wounds," and conversations about "scary lesbians".

The misogyny of gay male culture has caught my attention in a way that has both shamed me and provoked me to be more outspoken against anti-woman, anti-lesbian, and anti-feminine comments I hear from those around me, non-hetero and hetero alike. It's not fun knowing that I have, at times, actively participated in such conversations, and made those comments. The feeling is similar to the regret I feel about the homophobic statements I made in high school when I was a fearful, closeted, self-hating gay kid. Because of that, I like to think this newfound awareness of anti-woman comments is a positive sign of my own maturing and expanding understanding of the world around me and how I participate in it.

With the release of Katy Perry's song "E.T.," I found myself enjoying the beat and the music until I listened to the lyrics. Suddenly, I realized that I could not support a song where a woman sings about wanting to be "a victim," "infected," and filled with poison. However, many of my gay friends who adore the pop princess have been dismissive of my opposition. Sure, it's a small example, but as a self-identified lover of pop culture, I struggle with many of the messages that pop culture advocates that I ultimately don't.

A large part of my cognitive dissonance regarding anti-lesbian rhetoric has emerged from my close friendships with several queer women who I love dearly, and who are not "scary." They are sensitive, strong, intelligent, beautiful women who may fit some lesbian stereotypes, but who are obviously so much more (just as I may embody many stereotypes of gay men, but exceed those stereotypes to become--guess who?!--me!).

By definition, gay men don't "like" women. We're not attracted to them, we don't want to marry them, and we don't want to have sex with them. We "like" men of course! However, I believe there is no place for making condescending or derogatory comments about women. This extends to all negativity toward the "feminine," which comes up in comments about "queeny" or "femmy" men. There is a definite hierarchy that is somehow understood by gay men that the "masculine" ones are somehow better than the "fems." It's everywhere on hookup sites and gay personals: "masc only," "no fems."

I post this in the hopes of holding myself to a higher standard in terms of my words and actions, in order to be more in line with my own values. I believe that when we become more aware of the impact our words have, and reclaim our responsibility over them, we do good to ourselves and to all those around us.

"Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it." -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

professional/personal ponderings


The other day at the counseling center, while visiting with my clinical supervisor from last semester, I was approached by a senior staff member who asked me if she could briefly consult with me about something. She proceeded to explain that she was seeing a gay-identified client who was struggling with a relationship, and expressed ambivalence about keeping the client or referring him to a gay-identified therapist, such as myself. She asked me, "How do you feel about being called 'the gay therapist'?" Taken aback, I was about to answer when suddenly my current supervisor walked into the room, and I was suddenly surrounded by past and current superiors. I felt the wheels of my mind spinning, trying to negotiate the power differentials, the sexual orientation differentials, and the flattery, as well as the tokenization, of being asked such a question. Finally, I responded. My answer is not so important as the effect of having to produce an answer, and the broader issues connected to this experience. This situation was the first significant time I was approached about the connection between my professional identity and my sexual identity. How do I feel about being called "the gay therapist?" It's a question I have thrown around within myself since I took on the role of a therapist. Even earlier, as I started my program, I asked myself, "How do I feel about being 'the gay psychologist'?" Navigating the realities of being a developing psychologist and psychotherapist has been challenging, yet quite meaningful to me. My advisor explained to me at the outset that it was my choice on how much to include my personal identity in my professional activities. She explained that she knows LGBTQ-identified psychologists (researchers and practitioners) who make all of their work LGBTQ-related. At the same time, she knows others whose professional interests are completely unrelated to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Since that discussion, I have pondered many times what balance I seek to achieve in my life. Thus far, I have arrived at some tentative conclusions, though they are certainly subject to change as I gain more experience. First of all, I see my professional work as my activism. My research interests are geared toward the clarification and deconstruction of oppressive systems and ideologies, and emancipation and affirmation of marginalized groups. Whether as a researcher, teacher, or clinician, I strive to be aware of ways I can accomplish these goals. Yet as strongly as I feel about that activist spirit, I also desire both professional and personal balance, recognizing that I have many other goals and interests that lie outside of LGBT-related issues. Thus part of my process has been to develop as a well-rounded researcher, teacher, and clinician. Yes, my being gay allows me a perhaps privileged and unique perspective on issues surrounding sexual minorities. However, I don't want to see LGBTQ clients exclusively, and don't want to research only LGBTQ-related topics. I feel that to send such clients to therapists with the same gender identity experience or sexual orientation ghettoizes those populations, and does a disservice to both clients and clinicians alike. A better approach, I believe, acknowledges uniqueness while also affirming the commonalities that exist between all of us. People of all sexual orientations, ethnicities, ages, body types, gender identities, etc. have relationship issues, which are largely similar in nature and understandable by any well-intentioned and empathic therapist. While I would love to see LGBTQ-identified clients, I would also like to put forth that any competent therapist should be able to help those individuals, and that I as a gay man and a "gay psychologist" am perhaps no better suited to help them.The short answer is: No, I don't mind being referred to as a "gay-identified therapist" if that would benefit a client and if I could provide some unique service or perspect[...]

finding my spiritual home: part 3


I didn't intend to write a "part 3." But I have had somewhat of a reawakening these past couple months, which I feel the need to share and process through writing.

One evening in May, I went to an impromptu gathering at the Geller Center for Spiritual Development (which I began attending last fall semester). The guest speaker was a wonderful woman with such a light spirit, and wonderful spiritual knowledge and insights to share. I really felt a connection to her, and to the words she used, because they were the words I had begun using to describe my spiritual experiences and my spiritual awareness. That night, I was reminded of the incredible spiritual experiences I have had throughout my life. I had been feeling somewhat distant from that part of myself for a few months, and that night I felt a rekindled desire to learn to use my spiritual gifts for my good and the good of others.

Throughout my life, I believe certain people have been placed in my life as guides and sources of knowledge who have helped me grow and understand myself and my experiences more fully. My mom is one of them, along with a few other individuals with whom I have felt a powerful, soulful connection. Thankfully, a couple of them currently reside in Fort Collins, and they have been an important part of my current awakening.

This spiritual awakening has been healing, in that it has helped me integrate my spiritual past with my present experience. I believe that Mormonism provided me with a foundation for understanding the spiritual, for calling on the Divine and seeking personal guidance and direction. I had many sacred experiences within the Mormon context, which I continue to cherish and contemplate. I had been taught that if I ever departed from the "straight and narrow path" I would lose that connection to God (the Gift of the Holy Ghost), but my experience has been quite the opposite. Since accepting myself fully for who I am, I have felt an ever increasing connection to spiritual energy, and have continued to be guided, inspired, warned, and protected in amazing ways. As I continue to learn, I gain a greater appreciation for my spiritual heritage, and am thankful for it. This has been so helpful for me, since I no longer feel like I have rejected the religion of my birth, but have taken the best of what it offered me and have moved forward into the path I feel I need to travel.

I see now how I have always lived intuitively, following my feelings or the "vibes" I felt in order to navigate the world. I am currently reading Sonia Choquette's book Trust Your Vibes, which has given me a lot of insights into how to better understand spiritual energy and live a "six-sensory" life. Much of what has happened and is happening to me in the past few months is hard to explain, and sometimes might sound crazy, but I am loving the space I am in right now, and look forward to where I am going. I truly feel that this is a new and wonderful chapter in my spiritual/personal development, and I ultimately feel that my spiritual home is within me, around me, behind me, and in front of me, and that there are thrilling developments to come.


psychotherapy: being on both ends


And thus I have finished my first year of graduate school. Wahoo! Only four more to go. Actually, I am looking forward to the coming years of training, and I am grateful for this past year in which I have learned and grown so much personally as well as professionally. One unique aspect of my experience this year, particularly this past semester, was being a therapist and a client simultaneously.

During our second semester, my classmates and I began seeing real clients as therapists. With quite a bit of trepidation, we each called our first clients and scheduled appointments with them. All of us were fortunate enough to see two clients each over the semester, most of whom continued in therapy for several consecutive weeks. I saw one client for twelve weeks, and another for nine. For me, it was a beautiful experience. It was so affirming to receive positive feedback about my work from my supervisor and my professor, and especially from my clients. The experience greatly increased my confidence in my choice to become a counseling psychologist, and it feels great to know that I'm already good at psychotherapy.

About the same time as I started seeing my own clients, I sought out the services of a therapist in town to deal with some of the issues going on in my personal life. That has also been a wonderful learning experience. I was already a believer in psychotherapy, as I had seen a counselor at the BYU Career and Counseling Center in 2006. That was a significantly helpful experience, and was a major factor in my choice of profession. Yet it was interesting that although I believe in therapy, and although I am a therapist now, it was still hard to finally call, make an appointment, and then open up to my therapist in our sessions. When it's personal, it's much harder, and if anything I have gained a renewed respect for the amount of risk and energy clients put into therapy, even by taking the first step and calling to make an appointment. I consider myself a pretty self-aware and insightful person, yet it has taken me a few months to finally feel like I'm getting to the heart of my concerns and issues. Thus I can respect clients by allowing them to be where they need to be, and to share what they need to share. Being both a client and a therapist has provided me with a richer perspective on both worlds, and is as useful in my training as any class or practicum could be. And now, as I embark into the world of group psychotherapy (on the giving end), I look forward to gaining further experience and insight into the therapeutic process as well as my own personal growth.

quelques pensées


Ça fait longtemps que je n'ai pas écrit sur mon blog, et ça fait même plus longtemps que je n'ai pas écrit en français, ma deuxième langue "maternelle."  Donc j'écris ceci pour moi-même seulement, et je vous assure qu’il y aura beaucoup de fautes, mais je ne retiendrai mes compétences qu’en pratiquant, même avec des fautes.  Attention, c’est parti! La vie s’est compliquée de plus en plus cette année, depuis que je suis revenu de New York.  Mon copain a cassé avec moi le jour après mon retour, et donc c’était des larmes et la dépression pour un couple de semaines, mais enfin je me suis rétabli, pour la plupart, et bien que je sois toujours un peu fâché contre lui, et que je me sente toujours un peu blessé, je vais bien.  C’est intéressant parce que j’ai rêvé de lui plusieurs fois ces dernières semaines, et chaque rêve était chargé d’une émotion distincte, ce qui m’a montré ma propre progression intrapsychique quant à cette rupture.  Dans les deux derniers, c’était moi qui l’a refusé, et donc pour moi ça montre que je ne veux plus rien savoir de lui, vraiment. Mais l’école va très bien.  J’ai commencé à voir des clients en tant que psychothérapeute, et je commence à faire du progrès pour ma thèse.  Ma conseillère académique est merveilleuse, et elle m’a beaucoup aidé.  Je m’entends toujours très bien avec mes camarades de classe, et nous finirons bientôt notre première année !  C’est dingue ça ! Actuellement, je me sens très bien dans ma peau.  Je me sens confiant, beau, désirable, accompli, intelligent, et béni.  Je suis chanceux d’avoir tant d’opportunités de développement professionnel et personnel, et j’ai hâte de voir ce que je vais faire et qui je vais rencontrer dans les mois qui viennent. De plus en plus, je reconnais que c’est en écoutant mes sentiments et mes intuition que je ferai les bons choix, que je serai où je dois être, et que je deviendrai la personne que je suis.  C’est réconfortant, parce que récemment j’ai vraiment senti que je fais les bonnes choses, que ce programme d’étude est parfait pour moi, et que je suis sur la bonne piste professionnel et personnel.  C’est tout pour maintenant, mais je devrais faire ceci plus souvent, parce que je ressens déjà la frustration par rapport à mes compétences diminuées en français.  Mais bon….c’est la vie ! [...]

finding my spiritual home: part 2


In part 1, I discussed my former spiritual home, and in this part I hope to explain my current spiritual beliefs, values, and needs, and propose some possible “places” I might find a new spiritual home that fits them. I currently identify as “spiritual but not religious.”  My personal dissatisfaction with religion stems from my experience in it, as well as a more objective observation of how it functions in the lives of other people.  I am not, however, anti-religion.  I find that religions provide a meaningful structure for the spirituality of many people, as well as a sense of belonging and community.  Because religion is heavily cultural, it is hard at times to separate a religion from the culture it relates to, thus making religion an integral part of the daily lives and cultural identity of its adherents. Critics of religion cite the many religious conflicts (past and present) as evidence of religion’s harmful nature, but I find that argument misguided.  I would go a level deeper and say that difference of any kind has the potential to cause the same animosity that religion causes.  My own criticisms relate more directly to the idea that religion just does not work for me, at least right now.  My feeling is that if the church or religion you belong to is meaningful, helps you become who you want to be, and is overall helpful for you and not hurtful to yourself or others, then by all means, stay in it.  I also see that people sometimes hold onto their church or religion in unhealthy ways, particularly when the person and the religion are incompatible.  I have seen far too often individuals who cannot seem to let go of their religion, but who are also miserable or at best bewildered by being different and not feeling fully accepted by the general religious community.  Still, above everything I value self-determination and do my best not to judge people who either stay in or leave a religion, and I ask the same for others when they examine my personal experience. In some ways, psychology has become my religion.  I am ambivalent about this idea, because while it is true that the ideas I have learned in my studies have helped me deconstruct many unhealthy attitudes and paradigms, I am also uncomfortable with being labeled as another “godless psychologist” who was led away from the doctrines of God by the philosophies of men.   Still, psychology is often the lens through which I view the world, and it helps me maintain a balanced, inclusive perspective of all aspects of life, including my spirituality.  Psychological principles provide the primary means through which I understand my experience of the world, which is also one of the main functions of religion, so on that ground you could say that psychology is my religion.  Because of this, I value reason, empirical evidence, and existential concerns as important parts of my spirituality. Even from a young age, I have been a spiritually sensitive person.  I have had many significant spiritual, even sacred experiences, which I continue to cherish, though the way I frame them and explain them has changed over the years.  I believe in dreams, the metaphysical/supernatural, and an afterlife.  I have felt and continue to feel guidance from a higher power, and I still pray and meditate fairly regularly.  The most important part of my spiritual self is what I perceive to be a “center” or “core” with which I strive to remain in harmony.  I know when I am at peace and when I am not, and I try to make choices that are consistent with that place that I feel inside me that indicates when I am living in harmony with who I am.  Indeed, harmony is one of the key elements of my current belief system.  I strive to live in harmony not only with myself, but also with nature, other people, and with God. Another important part of my spirituality is consci[...]

finding my spiritual home: part 1


The concept of a “spiritual home” became personally meaningful to me last week while sitting and meditating in a church meeting a couple weeks ago.  While pondering my current spiritual standing, some questions came to mind: Where is my spiritual home?  What do I do there? Is it inside me or outside of me? This is especially significant because lately I have felt a longing to have a place I can call my spiritual home, since I left the religion of my birth and have since been defining and restructuring my beliefs for the last few years.  Perhaps it would be helpful to examine my past spiritual home to see what did and did not work for me, and then to describe my ideal spiritual home, in order to gain a better idea of what to look for.  The spiritual home I was born into was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.  My family is descended from the original members of the church, and Joseph Smith, the founder, is my great-great-great-uncle.  I grew up in Utah, the heart of Mormonism, and had what I think is the typical Mormon upbringing.  I was blessed at birth, baptized and confirmed (given the Gift of the Holy Ghost) at age 8, ordained a deacon at 12, a teacher at 14, a priest at 16, and an elder at 18.  I went through the temple and received the ordinances there, and went on a 2-year mission to Montreal, Canada, at 19.  Through all that time I was a 100%, true blue, orthodox Latter-Day Saint.  I believed what I was taught by my parents, church leaders, prophets, apostles, and bishops, and from a very young age I sought to conform completely to all of the standards and commandments of the Church, which I believed to come from God through his ancient and modern prophets.  I thoroughly internalized the doctrines and beliefs of the church, and sought to be “the perfect Mormon boy.”  I pulled it off, at least from an outsider’s view.  I was often praised for being such a good, obedient, upstanding young man in the church.  That felt good for sure, but there was another side to it, a darker side that tainted my blissful Saintly existence.  What I call my “first gay memory” occurred when I was about three or four years old.  From that time I have many memories of feeling different, of being attracted or interested in the boys and men around me, and the development of my sexual orientation was a parallel process that I saw as directly at odds with my spiritual development in the Church.  The LDS Church is not gay-affirming, as its recent political moves have so clearly shown.  However, there has been much improvement.  I remember reading the book Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McKonkie, in which he describes homosexuality as a sin next to murder.  There were other church materials I read that were equally homophobic and misinformed, which only caused me to heap on the denial and repression of my sexual feelings even more.  While I appeared to be the “perfect Mormon boy” on the outside, on the inside I felt like a disgusting, evil sinner who could only hope that my good works would somehow balance things out such that I would be worthy for one of the lower heavens (there are multiple levels of heaven in Mormon theology). I suppose the culmination of my Mormon experience was attending Brigham Young University when I returned from my mission.  BYU is the gem of the Church, and the policies of the institution serve to make it the epitome of what Latter-Day Saints represent, good and bad.  It was during my first semester there that my wall of denial and repression was broken down, and I began the long hard road of self-acceptance and understanding.  My coming out process was gradual, as I first attended the reparative-oriented Evergreen support groups, and it eventually led to me finally accepting my sexuality as part of who I am,[...]

"out" of the garden: why mother eve and i are not so different


While visitng in Utah for Thanksgiving, I saw the BYU production of Children of Eden by Stephen Schwartz. I admit, I was surprised that BYU actually put the production on, because of some of the themes it contains. However, I really enjoyed it, since it furnishes a new way to look at some of the stories from the Book of Genesis. One of the more meaningful aspects of the story for me was how it portrayed Eve and Cain. In this version of the story, they both share a thirst for knowledge, not being content with the status quo. When she was tempted to eat the fruit, Eve expressed desire to know what lay beyond the bounds of Eden, and she wanted to have Father’s knowledge. Similarly, Cain was not content to stay in the wilderness with his parents and brother, Abel, waiting for Father to return and let them go back to Eden. He eventually learns that they will never be able to return, and actually forsakes his family’s pious, innocent existence in order to find out what lies “beyond the waterfall.” It’s certainly a much more sympathetic treatment of the traditionally evil, cursed character Cain is made out to be. A few days later, while walking with a friend who had attended the musical with me, we discussed the story of leaving the innocence of the garden for a life of knowledge, which is both beautiful and painful. He shared a completely new application of the story of Eve’s choice, based on what we had seen in the musical the week before. Based on what he shared, this is how I conceived it for myself: I grew up in the safe, innocent, even idealistic atmosphere of gospel doctrine and Mormon culture. The Church was my life—it formed the foundation of my views on everything, and I took everything it gave me without question, seeking only to do what was right and please my parents, church leaders, and ultimately God. The Church was my Eden. And just as Adam and Eve were given certain limits to what they could do (in being forbidden to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil), I was given similar instructions to avoid certain substances, behaviors, and ideas. The part of those instructions I internalized most revolved around sexuality. I was then unaware of my own sexual orientation, though it began to manifest itself in some ways from an early age. But because of what I was taught, I sought for my entire adolescence to not only avoid anything sexual, but to actually annihilate my own sexuality, because I thought it was evil and wrong. I was not only trying to avoid the forbidden fruit, but actually believed I needed to chop the tree down. As we know, Eve eventually spoke to the serpent, who convinced her that by eating the forbidden fruit, she would be wise like God, knowing all things. He conveniently did not mention that such knowledge would result in both joy and pain, and that knowledge, when misused, is dangerous. Even more, Eve would gain the knowledge of her own death and the death of her loved ones. Instead, the serpent played up the positive aspects of eating the fruit: gaining wisdom and becoming like God. In my case, I would say that the serpents who told me the half-truths about being gay were our greater culture as well as the gay culture itself. From the popular, Western/American culture, I heard messages about the danger of being gay, that I would contract HIV and die a lonely and miserable reprobate. From the gay popular culture, I heard idealized messages about beautiful men, out-of-this-world sex and Broadway musicals. I even heard about the possibility of having a long-term relationship with a man. Yes, these messages were seductive, and like Eve, I partook of the forbidden fruit. In the Genesis account, this was a single event, but for me it was a process that took a few years. I didn’t bite down all at on[...]

a new look at old issues


Denver, CO—The state legislature held a special conference Monday to address current adolescent issues.  Mental health professionals, school administrators, and parents convened to discuss the factors that most influence teens’ personal and academic development.  Also among those present were many groups of adolescents who were there to express their views and share their experiences.  Of most concern to all were the treatment of reproductive and racial minorities in schools, and the programs designed to help under-achieving students who are often from affluent backgrounds. Addressing the conference attendees, Marc Jasperson, member of the Denver Board of Education, said: “The time has come to address the great disparities that exist in our schools.  Some of our teens are growing up in a hostile educational and social environment, and we need to understand the factors involved in order to make changes and address needs.”  One important issue addressed at the conference was the treatment of reproductive minorities.  Those who are attracted to the opposite sex are often put at odds with the dominant gay and lesbian culture, and those individuals find few resources in addressing the needs that come with their heterosexual orientation.  One male student said, “It’s hard feeling so different for something you have no control over.  I have been attracted to girls my whole life, and nothing I do can change that.  And the only thing they really tell us we can do after we get our education is make babies.  I don’t just want to make babies, I want a career.”  Indeed, there has even been controversy over the term “reproductive minorities” because the term seems to stereotype people with a heterosexual orientation as only wanting to reproduce between themselves.  Carrol Harnsworth, director of State Reproductive Services, begs to differ.  “These kids want special treatment just because they feel they need to reproduce with the opposite sex.  Our services are specifically designed so that no one should need to have intercourse to reproduce.  Our egg and sperm donation programs and our surrogate network are proving to be very effective in serving the needs of the community.  It’s difficult to understand why some people choose not to participate.” One student who has firsthand experience with this issue is Janelle Goatson.  At 15 years old, she has fallen into a peculiar predicament, since she is pregnant due to heterosexual intercourse.  As a girl from a wealthy family, she already lacked the social status she so desired in school.  “Since my parents pay for everything, I don’t know what I will do or where I will go when they find out.  Kids make fun of me, calling me a “breeder,” and I don’t know if I can finish school in this kind of environment.” Janelle’s experience is not uncommon for heterosexual teens.  They often experience emotional and psychological difficulties as the result of teasing and discrimination.  Though research has shown some links of a heterosexual orientation to genetics, there is still much debate as to why the orientation still persists in society.  Dr. Paula Fortin, a Denver area psychologist, pointed out some measures that can be taken to better support underprivileged students: “Teens need a healthy support structure.  This structure involves home and school, parents and teachers.  Students of a higher socioeconomic status, in an ethnic or racial minority, or who have a heterosexual orientation need all the more support because of the severe psychological as well as social difficulties they face.  As educators and parents we can go back to the things that have always worked: open communication, building trust, emphasizing love and not judgment, and promoting p[...]

it's been a while


and I keep thinking I need to write some grand and glorious post about something terribly, terribly important.  But that isn't the point.  I have to remind myself of the beauty of simple, perhaps banal thoughts that I might want to share, since I so often enjoy the simple, sometimes banal thoughts of others.  I also hate update posts, but this might become one.

I feel like I'm in a whirlwind of experiences.  There are so many things to think about and so many things going begins to seem daunting.  Let me be more specific:  I have been living in Colorado for two months now, and so much has already happened.  The simple answer to "How is Colorado?" is that I love my classmates, my classes (except statistics, but even that's going better), my roommates, my house, Fort Collins, the weather here, and Colorado State University. I have been impressed by the people I'm meeting, and the experiences I'm having.  I'm just starting the first step of a long road....but I still feel it is the right road, and I will stay on it.

In summer 2008, I had a couple experiences where I felt very strongly that I needed to pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology.  I attribute those experience to divine guidance, and so I applied to programs, waited for responses, and ultimately ended up here, at CSU.  Now that I have been here for a couple months, I have begun evaluating again, to see if I am indeed where I still need to be.  And last week I had another confirming experience, perhaps less spiritual, but reassuring nonetheless.  I feel like this is a good program, and that Fort Collins is a place where I will be able to put down some roots, at least for the next few years.  This past weekend, I had a conversation where I began to convey my passion for psychology and my excitement at being on the path to my dream career, and it felt so so good.  I wouldn't want to do anything else, and I am so grateful that I have this opportunity to advance in my education and professional development.

Recent experiences have caused me to reflect on some themes or unresolved issues that I want to explore, some of which I may do on here, or perhaps in personal therapy.  But it helps to know and really feel that I am right where I need to be in my life, and that I am still going in the right direction. 

The Great Divorce-Westy Style


I have been in Colorado two days and I already have Colorado plates on my car.Abrupt, you might say.  Sudden.  Rash.  But it's all part of my plan to become a Colorado resident (mostly for tuition purposes).  I met with the Financial Services office today and they laid out all the hoops I have to jump through to be recognized as a resident, which involves forming ties to Colorado and severing ties with my ex-state.  Sorry Utah, you were good to me for so many years, but I must move on.So far, I love Fort Collins.  It's a beautiful city.  There are bicyclists everywhere, along with sprawling parks, trees every few feet, quaint neighborhoods, and the Rocky Mountains hovering in the distance.  I visited CSU's campus today and was quite impressed.  Being used to BYU, I thought I would be disappointed in another university, but so far I have been nothing but amazed and delighted.  It actually does remind me somewhat of BYU's layout, except there is about twice as much green space.  Everyone who helped me today was not only courteous but friendly and helpful.  That goes for CSU employees as well as the people at the sheriff's office, the county court offices, and the DMV.  This is by far the calmest evening I've had since my arrival.  The first evening I went to a PFLAG ice cream social that a friend invited me to.  It was a wonderful experience because the focus was on finding ways to help the local Fort Collins religious community become more understanding and welcoming to its GLBT members.  Fourteen churches were represented, and each shared its intra-congregational struggles and brainstormed ways to move forward.  Mostly, it was touching to see parents who say with teary eyes, "I love my children--straight or gay."  Last night I went out with my roommates (two really beautiful girls, one from Denver and one from Portland).  We ate at a lovely sushi restaurant, then strolled around Old Town, the city center with all the bars, boutiques, and restaurants.  After that--well, let's just say we got some champagne and it all went to our heads.  I did, however, have a moment of feeling lonely today.  I had called and texted some friends, but with no response, and was feeling a bit daunted by the mass of paperwork I need to compile.  So what did I do?  I called my mommy.  She empathized and encouraged as she does best, and I felt better.  Of course it's normal to have moments like that during a significant transition, and so I just sit with my feelings and experience them as worthy expressions of the love for what I left behind.  There are certainly people here who will become some of my dearest friends, and I look forward to putting down roots here in Fort Collins.  My mom compared me today to a plant that has been transplanted, and I'm still feeling the shock but will eventually feel just as secure and grounded as I did in Utah.  These things simply take time.As a friend told me yesterday, "Utah's loss is Colorado's gain."  I will always think of Utah as my home, but it does feel liberating and refreshing to break away from what I have known to settle in a new place.  So far I feel this new place welcoming me and inspiring me to continue with my personal and professional goals.  As long as I stay true to what is inside me, I don't believe it really matters where I call my home.  [...]

"No More Goodbyes" - a response


Today I finished reading Carol Lynn Pearson's book, "No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones." Reading it was a beautiful experience that reminded me that at the end of the day, we just need to love people. Just love people. Just love people. We may not agree with others' choices, beliefs, or clothing style, but in spite of our differences we can love them. It is inevitable that we will encounter people with vastly different experiences from us, experiences that are no less valid than our own. Ultimately, I believe all we have to go on is our experience and what we can learn from others. Whether through prayer, study, listening to promptings, or reasoning, each of us must feel out, as best we can, the best path for us, and I believe we know when we are on the right path because it is then that we love life most and begin to understand who we really are. My own experience as a gay man has taught me many beautiful truths about what it means to live and love, and how to be compassionate to other people, whatever their circumstances. I have learned that you can assume nothing about anyone. I have learned patience. I have sat down with difficult choices and tremendous consequences, weighed them carefully, and moved forward in ways that have blessed my life. It was during my first semester at BYU that I finally realized/accepted/became aware that I am gay. A lifetime of confusion, self-hatred, repression, and denial melted away into an intense depression as I found myself in a group that even I had spoken ill of. It took a year or two to work through many issues, especially my religious beliefs and expectations for the future. I attended Evergreen, firesides, and other gatherings where I met other Mormon men who experience homosexual attraction. It was only about two years ago when I could finally say that I loved and cared about myself. Those beautiful feelings coincided with a general acceptance of who I am, and since then I have thought deeply about my purpose here on earth and my life's meaning. In conclusion, I want to say that being gay has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. And reading Sister Pearson's book has reaffirmed that feeling and enhanced it. I recommend it to all, because it reminds us to be more aware and understanding of others' trials and conditions, whatever they may be. And most of all, it reminds us that we just need to love people. Whatever the situation, we must do our best to love others. I pray that my life can become a model of that kind of selfless, unconditional love, and that whatever I may face in the future that I can face it with strength and with self-assurance. May God help and bless us all.[...]

dietary consciousness: a lesson in awareness


I am a vegetarian.  Well, perhaps more of a lacto-ovo-pescatarian at this point in time.  Let me explain:   A couple years ago, while at BYU, I was spending all my time on campus--every day, all day.  For convenience, I ate at the Cougareat, and over time I realized that all of my meals contained meat in them, and I began to be sick of always eating meat.  This view was supported by what I knew of the Word of Wisdom, which counsels to eat meat sparingly.  That part of the principle always seemed under-emphasized to me.  In church we always talked about avoiding coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, but somehow rationalized that eating several hamburgers at a ward BBQ was okay.  Somehow that became a less important part of the law, and carnivorous gluttony seemed a lesser evil than drinking a cup of green tea.  Anyway, the story continues with me moving into a house with fantastic roommates who were all vegetarian.  That fall we made a dinner group along with the girls who lived across the street--a vegetarian dinner group.  This was my first exposure to a complete vegetarian diet, and I appreciated the delicious preparations my friends and I made for dinner.  Though I still ordered meat dishes in restaurants, my consumption of meat was greatly reduced, and I felt better.    From that time on, I became a self-described "meat minimalist," and the only time I would eat meat was when I ate out, and even then not all the time.  The greatest change took place when a friend recommended a website to me, called  When I explored the website, it showed how animals are sometimes treated in farms and slaughterhouses, and I was appalled.  Having always been sensitive to the treatment of animals, I was horrified to see how the animals we eat are often deprived of their dignity and are mercilessly abused, then brutally killed.  The site explains ethical, environmental, and health reasons for being vegetarian.  Of course it’s biased toward promoting vegetarianism, but the experience jolted me enough to make me commit being a vegetarian.  My initial reason being that I did not want to support an industry that promotes such a degradation of life and a mass-marketing of cruelty.  Since then my philosophy behind my diet as well as the diet itself has morphed and expanded, as I seek a reasonable way of living that follows the greater principles behind the practice.  The central principle that guides my eating practices (as well as my way of seeing the world) is CONSCIOUSNESS.  Consciousness of what I put in my body, where it comes from, what it means, and the effect my consumption has on the world around me.  More than anything, I am disgusted by the lack of connection we have to our food in general, whether we eat meat or not.  Thus the principle, in my opinion, is not completely about what I eat, but about recognizing that the food I ingest comes from somewhere, takes resources to produce, and might have a certain dignity that should be respected.  For example, I feel that a cow should have the dignity of being a cow while it is alive, free to roam the pasture, socialize with its cow friends, and then when it is time to kill it, to do so quickly and humanely.  More than anything, I advocate dignified treatment of the life that sustains our life—there is nothing wrong with eating meat, I believe.  It’s just that I am uncomfortable with the amount of meat our society consumes and the methods it uses to produce such mass quantities of meat.  There is a sense of entitlement to eating meat in our society that disgusts me, made worse by the lack of consciousness that the meat we consume comes from actual livin[...]

MoTab inspiration


Tonight I went to the free pre-tour concert put on by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  While I have heard many of the songs many times over, I quite enjoyed the concert, and I was truly touched several times by either the words or the music.  While they sang "Come, come ye saints" these words stood out to me as they were backed by a beautiful sound:

"We'll make the air with music ring, shout praises to our God and King....All is well!"

I'm not sure why I liked that part so much, having sung it all my life, but perhaps the combination of the music and a few months of not having sung it helped me hear it with a fresh ear, and I was able to feel the beauty intended by those words.  

I think we should all make the air ring with the music of our praises to God, for being alive and for living in this beautiful world.  

sex and the salt lake city


I would try to start this post with something punny if I were sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw, but alas I am not.  Sex and the City has become my all-time favorite television show.  I saw the movie last summer, and surprisingly liked it.  I was touched most by the love I saw between Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha--girlfriends extraordinaires.  Then, during my last semester at BYU, I began watching the TV version, then the DVD version of the series--and my life changed.  SATC provided much-needed catharsis and got me through those last lonely months at school.  Like any fan, I took a few of the "Which Sex and the City character are you?" quizzes and the most reliable results put me as being about half Miranda and half Charlotte.  Which works.  I do have a practical side when it comes to relationships, at times trying to quell my feelings for someone because they are inconvenient and/or irrational.  Yet I am also the idealistic Charlotte, who after a successful outing with a man exclaims, "Maybe he's THE ONE!"  And while I might fit more comfortably in a Miranda or Charlotte role, I suppose I still aspire to be like the Queen of Sex herself, Samantha.  Avoiding commitment at every turn, she goes from one man to another, like the libidinous sybarite she is.  "It's just sex," she says.  Samantha Jones has been the patron saint of my summer.  This is because I have a tendency toward monogamy, which probably comes from my upbringing, especially my strictly repressed sexual past.  With girls, who I was never attracted to or interested in, it was fine to go on a date with one girl one week and another the next week.  All in good fun, right?  However, my track record with men is that if I go on a couple good dates with a guy, we end up dating for however long.  That is not to say that I did not enjoy dating who I did in the past--and I am still friends with all of them and care about each of them.  But after all, I am 24, and have only gone out with a handful of men.  Yet there are so many men out there!  So many people to meet!  And at this point in my life I have felt the need to put myself out there and meet a lot of people, dating men with the same frequency and variety that I dated women, and just having a good time. Other factors in this include the fact that I am only in Utah for a couple more months, after which I move to Colorado, so I don't really want a serious relationship at this point.  And so to change things up and try a new approach, I took Samantha for my role model.It began by finally signing up on Connexion, a networking website for LGB people.  I have many friends on it, but have also met several people on it who I have gone out on dates with.  Some were good, some were mediocre.  I would say that none were bad--no creepers and no jerks.  It has felt so good to be excited to go on a date, and not feel any fear of being seen or discovered.  I am finally able to again enjoy the dating scene--this time with the gender I am attracted to.  However, I am afraid I am having a hard time sustaining the Samantha in me (probably because there is none), and I find myself sinking back into monogamy.  As much as I admire her, I don't think Samantha and I are compatible.  The Charlotte in me longs for the commitment, stability, and romance of a relationship.  Even if it's a short-term one.  And though nothing is for certain at this point, I have started seeing someone, and I recognize the old patterns returning.  If I enjoy being with someone who I am attracted to, why would I still go out with other people?  That seems to be the rhetorical question I a[...]



It's been too long.  There are several subjects/themes I have been meaning to write about for some time floating around in my head, but have not taken the time.  And now we are well into the summer, and I am finally taking the time to write something.  But before I do, I just want to do a little update, so that there is at least some continuity going on....So it happened.  I finally graduated from BYU!!!!  I quite literally thought it wasn't going to happen, but it all worked out.  I found my last year there particularly difficult, what with Prop 8, a run-in with the beloved Honor Code Office, and mounting anxiety and paranoia about being there.  I spent a lot of my mental time there repeating the rosary prayer, "I don't belong here. I don't belong here."  And guess what?!?!  I felt like I didn't belong and I wanted out even more.  I swore I was going to leave BYU with some kind of anxiety disorder.  My trust in others was essentially hit by a nuclear bomb when I was reported to the HCO, and even though nothing happened, the paranoia, bitterness, and feeling of separateness only increased, until I couldn't stand it anymore.  It numbed the nostalgic feelings I would probably have had, and all I wanted was to graduate and get my diploma.  That is why I am so grateful I participated in the commencement exercises.  I hadn't anticipated BYU graduation to be such an uplifting, healing, and emotional experience for me.  Yet I found myself moved when I sat in the Marriot Center with my fellow graduates, and I felt a stir of pride as my degree was conferred upon me.  Over the days of commencement and convocation, the bitterness, anger, and distance I had felt for months were eroded away, and I was left with a sense of gratitude for the education I received at BYU, and pride for the achievements and contributions I made while there.  As I sat there, I thought, "You know, I do belong here.  I have made meaningful contribution to the school as well as the education of the students here.  I have every right to possess this diploma, and I am actually proud to do so."  Ultimately, I feel that though BYU may not think so, my life will reflect the values and standards of excellence that it promotes.  I do believe in the saying, "Enter to learn, go forth to serve," and I hope that my personal and professional life can be reflections of the wisdom contained in it.The way I frame my BYU experience, at least for now, is similar to the way I frame my mission.  It was a cherished experience that was very difficult at times that I would never do again.  And though I might disagree with certain policies and practices at BYU, I can say that I love the school, and that 95% of my happy memories from the last four years are tied to BYU.But that doesn't mean I wasn't excited to leave, and even more thrilled to receive my diploma in the mail a month ago.  Physical possession of the diploma, to me, symbolized complete emancipation and freedom from retribution.  Essentially, I felt that once I got my diploma in hand, my education and professional future were no longer contingent upon my lifestyle choices, and that I was no longer bound to a moral code I no longer believe in.  And all I can say is that since I got my diploma my life has expanded and developed in wonderful ways (which will be detailed in other posts).  Basically, I moved out of my parents' house into an apartment in Salt Lake with two other gay guys, and I have been soaking up life with many of the people who are dearest to me.  I feel like I am in a secure, centered place spiritually, physically, relati[...]

Saint Patrick's Day


Last summer, we discovered that Samantha, one of the stray cats who had adopted my family, had given birth to a kitten.  He was born under some boards next to the building we call the pad, so we named him Paddy (which we decided was also short for Patrick).  We watched him grow and though he was initially afraid of us, we were able to get to the point where we could pet him and play with him.  He had such a cute, playful personality.  My mom especially adored him, and she build Paddy and his mom a little shelter next to our front door for the winter.  Both were outdoor cats, and they were content to play in our yard and catch birds and mice or whatever else they could find.  

Tonight, my mom told me that on Saturday night Paddy didn't come around when she called before bed.  The next morning our neighbor called to say that there was a cat in the middle of the road.  My mom knew it was Paddy, and so she and my dad went to get him, and they buried him a couple feet from the place where he was born.  Mom told me she planted a flower over his grave today too.

I was sad to hear the news, but in the few hours since hearing the news, I have been tearful and just a little bit sad.  It might be because I have had a lot of emotion in the past couple months but haven't been able to release it until now, but it has felt so good to cry tonight.  I guess Paddy's death has once again reminded me that life is so precious and so easily lost.  I have seen Paddy's whole life, and to me it is a reminder that whether we live for 9 months, 9 years, or 90 years, we will all die.  Though I have worked through a lot of my feelings toward death and mortality, I guess there will always be pain when I lose someone I care about and love, even if it is a pet.  Funny how animals can touch us so deeply that we cry over them when they pass away.  Of course I'm more of a softie than most.  

So on this Saint Patrick's Day, I will be remembering my Patrick, the adorable kitten who was with us only a brief time, but who brought much joy and amusement to my family.


carl rogers, "on becoming human"



"Neither the Bible nor the prophets--neither Freud nor research, neither the revelations of God nor man can take precedence over my own direct experience."



Over the past five years, I have noticed a pattern:  about the end of December or beginning of January, I begin feeling apathetic, depressed, irritable, and just not myself.  By the end of February or March, I feel cheery and "normal" again.  However, it was only last year when I became aware of the pattern, and though I somewhat anticipated it returning again this winter, I was hoping I could stave it off with exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet.  Well...not so lucky.  I took a look at the most common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and I found several that apply (and that recur every year, around this time):

  • a change in appetite (somewhat)
  • weight gain (i wish)
  • a drop in energy level (yep)
  • fatigue (yep)
  • a tendency to oversleep (somewhat)
  • difficulty concentrating (yep)
  • irritability and anxiety (yep, much to my chagrin)
  • increase sensitivity to social rejection (yep)
  • avoidance of social situations and loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy (yep, it sucks)
I don't really know what the point of my writing this is; I suppose I just want to state that I have this problem, and I need to figure out the best way of going about it.  I just don't feel like myself right now, and I feel more frustrated than anything that my brain chemistry gets screwed up at times when I really have so much good in my life.  Well, this isn't meant to be a pity party, but if anyone has some Prozac to spare, send it over. 



I finally submitted all my applications for counseling psychology PhD programs.  I won't know any decisions for a while, but it's such a relief to have the applications done.  Here are the lucky schools that got them:[...]

a dear friend shared this with me yesterday and i love it


the greedy the people
(as if as can yes)
they steal and they buy
and they die for because
though the bell in the steeple
says Why

the chary the wary
(as all as can each)
they don't and they do
and they turn to a which
though the moon in her glory
says Who

the busy the millions
(as you're as can i'm)
they flock and they flee
through a thunder of seem
thoguh the stars in their silence
say Be

the cunning the craven
(as think as can feel)
they when and they how
and they live for until
though the sun in his heaven
says Now

the timid the tender
(as doubt as can trust)
they work and they pray
and they bow to a must
though the earth in her splendor
say May

e. e. cummings

what is a friend?


a friend is:

someone who does your laundry for you when you have been to busy to do it.

someone who sends a meaningful text just to say hello and "thinkin bout ya".

someone (who might be your mom) who loves you unconditionally.

someone (who also might be your mom) with whom you can talk about EVERYTHING under the sun and still be friends afterward.

someone who gives you a ride to wal-mart on sunday because you have no more food.

someone who you dated and who shows that they still care about you.

someone who can sing showtunes with you like nobody's business.

someone who you can tell about your chihuahua.

someone who shares beautiful art, music, and words with you on a walk home, or in an email.

someone you can chat with for two hours that pass like a few minutes.

someone who uplifts and inspires you.

to all my wonderful, amazing friends: i love you so much, and know that the kindnesses you show me never go unappreciated.  thanks for helping me get through a rough couple of weeks.

why i oppose prop 8


What an election year! There are some crucial campaigns that will be decided by the vote in November. Other than the presidential election, the campaign I am most interested in and concerned about is the one for marriage equality in California. The other day I made a feeble attempt to explain my position to the "Yes on 8!" table at school, but I would prefer to do it in writing on a blog that practically no one reads, if only to collect my thoughts and examine the issue further. Of course I am sympathetic to the cause of marriage equality (hence voting no on prop 8) because I am gay. I realize that I cannot completely divorce myself from my situation to look at the issue completely objectively, but neither can anyone else. However, I have thought about this a lot over the summer and even more this semester, and have come up with a few specific reasons why I oppose prop 8:1. I look to the case of interracial marriage for an illustration of another form of marriage that was looked upon as immoral, unnatural, and unnecessary. Prior to 1967, when the Supreme Court decided that banning interracial marriage was unconstitutional, there had been many movements to define marriage as being only between people of the same race, as well as legislation passed banning interracial marriage. Today, that would seem unthinkable to many to keep people from marrying because of something they did not choose--their race. I assume that the love between people of different races is the same as that between those of the same race. I simply see too many parallels between interracial marriage and gay marriage to not support a movement that would bring equal treatment and equal rights to all people. 2. When I talked to the Prop 8 people on campus, one of them told me that gay couples already have 99% of the rights of married people and so there is no need to give the term "marriage" to their relationships. The domestic partner laws suffice. To me, this smacks of "separate but equal": Black and white people both have the same right to water, but the black people need to go and use their own fountain. Rosa Parks can ride the bus with everyone else, but she'll just need to sit in the back. Still, she get's 99% of the same transportation as everyone else. That argument just doesn't fly with me. In Alma 30:7 we learn that it is "strictly against the commands of God that there should be a law that would put men on unequal grounds." Prop 8 sounds like such a law to me.3. Some say that this debate is over the definition of "traditional marriage" and not an attempt to keep rights from people. I cannot help but wonder what tradition we are trying to uphold. Heterosexual marriage has been no picnic, especially for the millions of women who have been mistreated, abused, forced to have child after child with no recourse to birth control, and denied any right to hold property rights or have a say in family matters. Of course, there are wonderful marriages in this world where husband and wife enhance one another and create a beautiful family. However, I hesitate putting marriage up as a shining example that has "traditionally" been good for society. Patriarchal society, perhaps. I also do not understand how same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriages, especially religious ones. It seems to me that most men will still be attracted to women, and most women to men. If they grow up in a religion, they will most lik[...]