To My Son on His 21st Birthday

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(Here’s the letter I wrote to my son in his birthday package. Among other gifts I sent him a book. The link is at the bottom. He’s working a summer job on the other side of the country right now. He’s still LDS and is attending BYU-Idaho this Fall)

Happy Birthday, son!

Since I won’t be taking you out for your first drink at 21, I decided I still needed to get you a gift that says, “I recognize your adulthood and I honor it” in some other way.

I hope you’ll read this explanation thoughtfully before you open what is obviously a book.  You probably don’t want to open it in front of your friends…maybe you do. Just read this first.

I’ve researched and asked around and this book comes highly recommended by at least one well-respected LDS marriage and family therapist. It has been adopted as a textbook in several universities for those who are studying marriage and family therapy like you want to.

It’s about sex.

Now, before you open it, roll your eyes at your crazy dad and throw it into the bottom of your suitcase thinking “it’s not something I need yet,” I hope you’ll at least peruse certain chapters when you have the time alone. It’s not necessarily meant to be read cover to cover in one sitting but to be kept as a resource. It uses frank language. It doesn’t shy away from any topics, and you certainly don’t need to be afraid or shy about reading it now that you are an adult man.

In spite of the rather provocative cover and the title, it’s not pornographic, nor is it meant to encourage you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with at this point in time. But as a man, one day your body and sex with a loving partner is going to be a major part of your life. You should be comfortable talking about it and learning about it. I promise you that you don’t already know everything in this book.

It’s funny because there’s a weird paradox that happens with sex. The more you fear it or think it can’t be discussed openly and honestly or that it’s shameful or sinful the more obsessed with it you become. I’ve never seen any group of more sex-obsessed people than my fellow students at BYU. Even in marriage, the more hush-hush and the more “no” that happens in the bedroom the more it will overpower you. Repression breeds obsession.

But when you respect the significant place it does and SHOULD hold in your own life and in your partnership, the more it will comfortably couch itself softly in the background of your life and allow you to live a content, happy, fun and energetic life. I want that for you.

In other words, it’s not everything, but without it everything seems out of whack.

Sex is a gift. Once you start having it regularly with someone you love, a switch will turn on and it will become an enormously important part of your life. Regardless of what you are doing or not doing right now, your body is shouting at you to turn that switch on. And when you do it is amazingly wonderful!

Many people live in frustration because they are afraid of their own bodies or misunderstand them. Or, they misunderstand the bodies of their partner. That’s a cocktail for an unhappy relationship, an unhappy marriage and a mediocre existence. I don’t want you in any way to miss out on the beauty, the fun, the intensity and the intimacy of sex throughout your adult life. You were created with sex to be an integral part of who you are as a man.

Any parent/child relationship gets weird when discussing sex, I respect that. I’m not giving this to you because I’m afraid or shying away from talking to you about these things myself. I’m always willing to talk. I’m hoping that you’ll come to me for opinions or advice at any time. But whether it’s because I’m gay, or because I’m no longer LDS I feel like you think I might not understand, or that I am so bad at it that I couldn’t make it work. LOL

Parenting advice always says you should answer a kid’s sex questions, but not give them more than they are asking for. I think I’ve done that but I may have left out some important talks about sex because I feel like there’s more to say than I’ve said. There’s more to say than you’ve thought about asking. Even if sex is only conceptual at this point for you, you are an adult man and there are things you should know now and not wait only until weeks or days before you get married. School, church, church leaders, the internet or just talking among your friends isn’t good enough. Getting advice from people who have their own awkward relationship to sex isn’t helpful either, which is why I wanted to give you something more.

So, that’s why I’m giving you this book in celebration of the absolute privilege that was mine 21 years and 9 months ago to do my part in creating you. It was fun. It was beautiful. It most certainly has been the foundation for a thrilling roller-coaster of a ride in life in being your dad. And it all started with sex.

I love you!

Daddio

 

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Reclaiming Honesty

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A common refrain among those of us coming out of the closet later in life is the phrase, “to live authentically.”

Once I came out, it felt amazing to begin living on the outside in a manner consistent with how I felt on the inside. It didn’t happen overnight, but the peace and clarity were rejuvenating compared to my life lived in hiding.

After the initial honeymoon phase wears off, however, sometimes we are left with the collateral damage of a life lived in pretense for 20, 30 40 or 50 years prior. What I mean by that is that pretending isn’t a light switch that is can just suddenly be turned into the OFF position. It strikes me as a rather stark reality that in order to pretend to be straight and fit in with society’s expectations of me like I did, I had to lie quite a bit.

I lied about a lot of things. In the hopes of not getting caught or discovered I sometimes overcompensated to appear straight.

Between the ages of about 5  to 40 I pretended to:

  • Like things I didn’t like; and not like things that I loved.
  • Feel things I didn’t feel; and not feel things that I felt.
  • See things I didn’t see; and not see things I saw.

To be clear, while I was in the covering up mode for 40 years, what I actually liked, felt and saw became vague and unclear over time. Mormonism had taught me to question both the accuracy and the validity of who I really was.

It took some experimenting to settle onto many of my own tastes. Sure, once I let go of all that I was free to admit that I DGAF about sports talk; I liked to talk theatre, films and crass humor instead. I was free to feel warm and tingly inside when a guy flirted with me. I no longer had to pretend not not cry during a movie. I could stop pretending to be looking at the beautiful woman walking by and clearly appreciate the man at her side and acknowledge it without guilt.

But the impulse to lie about small insignificant things sometimes still slaps me across the face. I just did it the other day. A friend simply asked me if I liked to read. I said yes and so he asked what I was reading at the moment. Instead of saying the truth which is that I do like to read but that I haven’t picked up a book in about 2 months so I wasn’t reading anything at the moment, I talked about the last book I read and made it sound current. The lie morphed into a bigger one that I ended up changing the subject to get rid of the discomfort. That may seem like a small insignificant lie but it bothered me that I was pretending something that wasn’t true. Even more so that the actual truth isn’t even embarrassing or unworthy. I’ve simply been too busy and caught up in other projects.

So, why not just say THAT?  Because my impulse is to lie.

I’m sure recognizing it is a significant part of changing, but I also think being more impeccable with the truth in all aspects of my life will help me change that impulse. Getting rid of pretense and exposing the raw, vulnerable me is a habit I want to nurture.

To honor that, here’s an embarrassing truth just as trivial and meaningless, but funny and more of who I really am. This happened to me this weekend and I don’t think I’m going to be allowed back to the gym because of it.

I had In N Out last night for the first time in months so I had gas this morning.

Anyway, at the gym I’m in a boot camp class and we’re doing our workouts in stations. I’m in the corner so I figure it’s a safe time to fart. Plus, the music is really loud so…. I let it go… And the trainer immediately tells everyone to take a quick water break.

Guess where the water fountain is…. Right behind me

It was bad. No one said anything though. But they had to know.

That’s the real me.

Children Living at Home as Adults

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In the case of my ex-wife and I, having two adults in our home happened somewhat abruptly. My son had left for his two year LDS mission almost immediately upon turning 18. He then returned just as our daughter was turning 18 herself. Suddenly we had two 18+ year old young adults in our homes almost overnight.

I’m sure we aren’t the only parents unsure of how to handle this unique life milestone.  It was clear that our expectations did not match those of our children. But, how do you most effectively pivot and start treating your own children as adults while still  providing and caring for them under your roof?

We put our thoughts on paper and later arranged to review these expectations with our two adult kids as a united team over lunch. Only one other time in the 11 years since we divorced have my ex-wife and I actually sat together during a meal, but we took them out to eat and presented a united front with our list. That meeting alone was a pretty remarkable feat in our post marriage history.

Our lunch went well, and tonight as I was sharing this story with some friends they asked if I would share the list of expectations that we developed. Here it is:

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Living at Home as Adults

We want you around!  It’s exciting having adult children and we want to point out things that may seem insignificant but that make a big difference when living with others. They’ll help you in marriage and family life too.

Here are some specific ways you can prepare for being successful independent adults and help us all to avoid misunderstandings while still living under the safety net of your parents’ homes.

  • You are old enough to stay at either house but we will assume you are following the younger kids’ schedule unless told otherwise. You can change your regular schedule but let us know. Even though you are adults, we want you to have some sort of accountability to us so that someone always knows where you are in case of an emergency. We’re asking for communication, not saying you have to ask permission.

  • If you are going to be out after midnight, let us know where you are and when/if you will be home that night. Let us know if you are going to be home for dinner or not.

  • As adults in the house, we expect you to treat your siblings with kindness and respect, and help out around the house without being asked.  Do chores each week by your own doing, not being told and not getting paid to do it.

  • You should have a full-time job and/or be in school.

  • What we will pay for:

    • Housing, food, household items, toiletries, and other items we choose to help out with.

    • As much schooling as possible at the time. (Mom & Dad will split what each can) You should plan to contribute what you can.

    • Car insurance until 22, graduation, or marriage. (Mom & Dad will split)

    • Half of car repairs until 22, graduation or marriage. (Mom & Dad will split)

  • You will be responsible for the following:

    • Gas

    • Clothing

    • Entertainment

    • Personal care items

    • Any other luxury or necessity items you desire

    • Paying back debts to us consistently without missing a payment and before your own luxuries or entertainment. (We should not be the source of side jobs if you are short paying us. If your job isn’t able to cover the gaps perhaps you need a different job.)

    • Starting some sort of savings no matter how small for emergencies (This is a form of paying yourself)

    • Paying for your own fines and tickets and other emergencies

  • Show respect of being an adult living with other adults and siblings

    • Clean up after yourself – Kitchen, bathroom

    • Clean up after your friends. You and friends are welcome to eat our food and spend time in our home but things should be cleaner when you’re done. If you dirty some dishes, put those AND the ones in the sink into the dishwasher and start it.

    • Turn out lights, lock doors if you’re the last one in at night.

    • Clean up even messes that others make when you notice them.

    • Talk not SHOUT no matter how upset you may be in the moment.

    • Buy some earplugs if your schedule differs from the rest of the house.

If these things are not being done, what should the consequences be?

Once you have reached 22 years of age, you should be self sufficient and should have a plan to launch if you haven’t already.  If still in school, we will evaluate and come up with a plan. At that time you should plan on paying for your own: Car insurance, phone service, rent, food, emergencies and car payments and repairs.

Love,

Mom and Dad

 

 

In full disclosure, we haven’t really come up with a substantial consequence if they don’t live up to these expectations. Short of kicking them out, there isn’t much leverage to enforce anything. Maneuvers such as withholding cars or phone service become burdens for us, the parents. For them to live up to our expectations of jobs and schooling, they need the cars and phones. They both seem to have the natural desire for more independence and freedom, so I expect that we’re never going to get to that point anyway.

Know someone who is gay and closeted?

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I am working on a project with gay-dads.org to anonymously record and preserve stories of men and women who have never come out of the closet publicly. I’m talking about men and women who either remained single or entered into a mixed orientation marriage with little to no discussion of their sexual orientation.

This population of folks will likely be reluctant to share their stories, but if you know of, or suspect you know of, anyone to whom this would apply please share this survey link with them. There is an opportunity at the end to leave an email voluntarily but otherwise no identifying information will be collected or shared.

https://goo.gl/forms/tCg85r23cNElwlhP2

Heritage Update: Irish?

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So…. Never felt much of a connection to St Patrick’s Day. Until this year. As far as I knew my maternal ancestors were exclusively English and my paternal ancestors were German (Yes, unlike my avatar here I’m pretty white).

Two years ago I even wrote a couple of posts (post one and post two) about my Mormon heritage, specifically about my great grandmother Evelyn Nessie Eleanor Rudd. She was the first convert to Mormonism in England.

Then, this last year a few siblings and cousins did that DNA testing and they all found Irish in their blood. Everyone was left scratching their heads. One cousin confessed to me in private that her research leads her to believe that our great grandmother, Evelyn Nessie Eleanor Rudd was an Irish prostitute in England.

Her detailed explanation of the facts and reasoning seem sound. She even believes it might go back a couple of generations. Prostitution might run in the family.

Several generations had held onto their maternal surname, a common marker of prostitution. She had several children out of wedlock. She lived in an area known for such sordid activities. Once she did eventually marry she was never accepted among the local town folk because… well that was always blamed on her eventual conversion to Mormonism, but it must have run deeper than that because it seemed to pre-date the conversion. It also further explains her deep attraction to Mormonism and the doctrine of forgiveness. That must have been deeply comforting to her. It’s also ironic how little she would be accepted in today’s Mormon culture of Pharisaical fanaticism.

Suddenly I’m all about the Irish!

We can’t all be royalty ya know!

That We May Be One

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The other day things got heated at home.

I don’t remember exactly how it started, but it ended with my 20 year old returned missionary son crying, shaking, bearing his Mormon testimony, and then leaving to “take a walk.”  Between all that I said some things, while true, that I regret and that he’s not ready to hear. He and a couple of my other children shared a few LGBTQ LDS experiences, both positive and negative, and things got a little too sensitive.

Without even trying to accurately report the full conversation, I’ll say that at one point my son said that the LDS church is very different from what it was when I was part of it. In 11 years since I left, things have supposedly so dramatically changed from the previous 40 years that I wouldn’t recognize it especially with regards to LGBTQ issues.

I didn’t and I don’t buy it.

One of his biggest pieces of evidence for such a claim was Tom Christofferson’s book, That We May Be One; A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family.

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I’ve had lots of opinions on that book and the unintended consequences of its publication but I’ve held off saying anything because I hadn’t actually read it.

So, I read it.

I read it after it was being used as a weapon to diminish my voice and my LDS experience or to support an imaginary world where the LDS organization and community is LGBT friendly and anything but homophobic.

I am clearly NOT it’s intended audience.

I had completely forgotten the sycophantic tone of LDS authors but this was a big slapping  reminder of that. Every time there’s a grand point to be made an LDS General Authority quote is inserted and the reader is supposed to ponder it in awe that a human being could utter such goodness. Each time that happened my eyes rolled back into my head a little more.

If there’s a sweeping theme of the book it’s that we (and by ‘we’ he means anyone who is a believing LDS member with an LGBTQ person in their midst, family, friend or ward member)  should love and accept one another. THAT I can get behind, except that it completely ignores the status quo in most LDS wards, families and leadership quorums. According to Christofferson we’re not supposed to worry about LDS policies or leadership and the damage that they can do. It’s the old, “I don’t know and I don’t care. It will all be figured out in the afterlife.”

That’s naive and not good enough for me.

Let’s face a few facts. This book would never have been published if:

  1. He were not the brother of an LDS apostle
  2. He had not returned to the LDS faith like a prodigal son in his advanced years
  3. He were still in a committed homosexual partnership like the one he was required to walk away from in order to get re-baptized and have his temple blessings restored.

As much as he and others pretend that the intention and message of the book is to honor any path and any choice, there would be no message and there would be no book without those 3 key elements. Those ARE the message.  Given that fact, I’m left actually feeling sorry for the poor  sap who, after 60 years, couldn’t break from the LDS homophobic indoctrination to remain committed to his loving partner.

The book reads like a tragedy to me for that reason.

It’s about the breakup of a family, but it’s just a gay family so the reality of that crisis never gets the full light of day.

It’s about an aging man who still so desperately wants to please his older brother that he’ll throw himself on the sword to do so.

It’s about the isolated goodness and kindness that some humans can show towards one another when there’s something that they don’t understand.

It’s about those very same humans not flinching at all when their gay brother, son, uncle and friend trades love for a solitary life to achieve their FULL acceptance.

It’s about the depths of indoctrination and how that thick muck NEVER leaves.

If the book was reflective of any sort of change in the LDS faith why didn’t his brother, the apostle, write it?

And let’s not let one little glaring fact escape this discussion: Tom Christofferson left the church and completely ignored the leadership for over 30 years during a time that many of us instead stayed. We followed the LDS plan of marriage, kids, callings, temple attendance, scripture study, etc based on our faith that it was true and that we and our families would be “blessed.” Instead of blessed, we got screwed and we caused a lot of collateral damage in the wake of our following the brethren. He escaped all that.

It strikes me as incredibly callous for someone like Tom to have avoided the pain of church activity and then to re-enter the picture later in life with a softened libido and tell his story of faith and family.

I was WAY more committed for far many more years when it was crucial and my divorce and financial ruin and raw emotions are all a result of following the brethren. His current life is only possible because he DIDN’T follow the brethren. His story, more than anything is a testament that leaving the church allows you you maintain some semblance of favorable attitude towards it.

I do believe that there are loving and accepting LDS members out there and I still desperately want to believe that my own children are counted among them. I’m glad those were exclusively the ones that Christofferson encountered in his east and west coast wards. My experience has been quite different for the most part. And yet I do recall my year long stint in college in a Manhattan ward that was much like he described even back in the 80’s. Nowhere else but in coastal metropolitan areas is it remotely like that.

But my point to my son and readers of this book is that for the most part it doesn’t matter. The end result will still be the same. Tom Christofferson is still alone. He’s still gay. Every single one of those “kind” and “loving” LDS members in Christofferson’s life and in my life will still walk into an election booth and vote exactly as the LDS leadership want them to, homophobic choice or not. They’ll still raise their hands to the square in obedience to the leaders in Salt Lake City even if it goes against their personal experiences and their own moral compass.

Yes, Brother Christofferson, we may all be one. It’s just that that one is in the image of a stale, tired and out-dated group of 90 year old homophobic dudes in Salt Lake City. That’s my perspective on your faith and your broken family.

Protect LDS Children

Three and a half years ago I posted on this site the details of a conversation I had with a friend of mine. In that conversation I related an experience  during my first LDS bishop’s worthiness interview at the age of 11 wherein the bishop taught me how to masturbate.

Recently, due to such stories as mine, a gentleman by the name of Sam Young has started a movement to halt such invasive and inappropriate interviews among LDS youth.

I fully support this movement called, Protect LDS Children.

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I would encourage you and anyone you may know who may be supportive of this cause to sign the petition, read the stories, or even join their March for Children on March 30, 2018  at the Salt Lake City/County Building.

This is important for anyone even remotely connected to Mormonism, in or out. To illustrate that point, here’s a scene with the recently crowned Best Actress Frances McDormand in her film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri explaining to a catholic priest why he’s culpable regarding the abuse of children even though he personally may never have done anything inappropriate:

*Warning: Language

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My Walk With “Grandmother”

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You know how it goes when you are exposed to something that you’ve never heard of before and then almost immediately begin to see, read or hear about it everywhere?

That’s how this story starts.

Six months ago I’d never heard of anything like ayahuasca or DMT. Have you?

Then, socializing at a party one day a good friend of mine made a comment about a Peruvian shamanic ceremony that he had recently participated in and I immediately dove deeper with question after question. We were huddled together for over an hour while the rest of the party buzzed around us, him relating snippets of what was obviously a significant experience and me pestering him for more depth of understanding. Even as a confirmed skeptic I was fascinated by his telling of his ayahuasca ceremony experience.

Soon, almost every podcast I listened to, every vlog I watched, every news  & magazine article I read seemed to say something about it. After checking and double-checking precautions, possible dangers or side effects I fairly soon made the determination that I was going to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony given my first chance.

If your level of knowledge is where mine was six months ago, let me help.

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First, the hype

Many Ayahuasca ceremony participants report life-changing outcomes such as,

…acquiring deeper knowledge of oneself, personal and spiritual development, or healing for a variety of psychological and physiological afflictions, including substance dependencies.

Ayahuasca is a shortcut to the unconscious. It allows for the possibility to relive stressful biographical situations again, and repair them, reorder them. This has tremendous therapeutic value

Many interviewed ritual participants reported spiritual peak experiences that fostered a connection with the divine: a spiritual power or existential values infusing life with meaning, providing a sense of relief from confusion, and promoting feelings of wholeness and inner balance.

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Participants of ayahuasca rituals often report insights that enable acceptance of previously denied problems and dysfunctional patterns. The visionary state of consciousness produced by ayahuasca can also provoke reflections on personal relationships which provided the motivation for making the changes necessary to resolve interpersonal problems.

Ayahuasca can also improve treatment of PTSD through enhancing trust and social feelings. In addition to these beneficial core effects, in proper settings it may also elicit “moral lessons” with subsequent relief and redemption.

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Or as William S. Burroughs put it in a letter to Allen Ginsberg collected in the book, ”The Yage Letters” about his ayahuasca experience in Panama in 1953, ”I experienced first a feeling of serene wisdom so that I was quite content to sit there indefinitely.”

Morris, Bob. “A Strong Cup of Tea.” New York Times, 15 June 2014, p. 1(L). Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A371335165/OVIC?u=dkelsch&xid=1540eb5b. Accessed 22 Feb. 2018.

What is it?

Ayahuasca ceremonies originate in the Amazon basin where a local shaman administers “medicine” to several participants, then sings or plays music called “icaros” while recipients experience a hallucinogenic state. Today in the US, shamans show up all over the country with with varying degrees of authenticity and training. The practice is becoming somewhat of a fad. It has attracted celebrities & soccer moms, but also psychotherapists and scholars.

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The ayahuasca brew is made from the bark of a vine which grows in the Amazon called Banisteriopsis caapi and leaves of a shrub called Psychotria viridis.  It is all boiled down, reduced and filtered into a thick tea. DMT is generally considered the main psychoactive active ingredient and it typically lasts 4 – 8 hours. It’s usually a nighttime ceremony among a group of participants with a shaman and a few assistants.

Book-ending the hallucinogenic state,  vomiting is usually experienced immediately before and napping soon after. The experience itself, however, varies from participant to participant. For some, ayahuasca is often referred to as “grandmother Ayahuasca” referring to the wisdom, compassion and loving gentleness that the medicine tends to embody. For others “Vine of the Dead” is a nickname conjuring up frightening images darkness, torment and ghosts.

What it is not

Ayahuasca is not a religion. While many people describe the experience as spiritual and with a vocabulary of faith-like terms, there is no dogma, creed or prophets of ayahuasca. There’s no need to “believe” anything to partake, just an interest in participating and succumbing.

It is not a panacea for all physical, psychological or emotional ailments. Very limited studies have found measurable benefits for sufferers of  PTSD, anxiety, addiction, and psychological trauma such as childhood abuse. But, there are conditions and character traits incompatible with this experience.

It’s not a recreational drug. It is best experienced under the guidance of a trained, experienced shaman using quality, reliable and pure ayahuasca. Consider also the integration or aftercare of an ayahuasca experience. Some may want to involve a knowledgeable therapist in their  pre and post-ceremony approach.

It’s not for everyone. If you can’t immediately think of something about yourself  that could be addressed in such an intense, focused way you should probably not bother.

I finally did get to participate in a ceremony and for me it was extremely positive and devoid of any sort of torment.

My experience

My ayahuasca experience consisted of a full weekend with two separate administrations of ayahuasca. This happened locally at the above-mentioned friend’s house (I’ll call him Steve) about 5 miles from my home. He invited the same shaman who had conducted Steve’s first ceremony in another US city earlier in the year.

Our shaman (I’ll call him Sergio) was an experienced, South American-trained musician and ayahuasca scholar from the midwest.

On Thursday night about 15 of us all got together to meet the shaman and his 3 assistants and to get an overview of our weekend. I already knew about 8 of these invited guest. The others were friends of Steve’s I’d never met before. In addition to the shaman’s presentation, we all introduced ourselves and stated what our intention was for participating in the ceremony.

My stated intention was to address the latent shame that hovers with me from being a gay ex-Mormon divorced father. Many of us were gay or exmormon in the group so similar intentions were expressed around the room.

We all returned the next day at about 7 pm on Friday. We set up our pads, sleeping bags and pillows around the room with buckets and Kleenex at the foot of each station. At the head of the room the shaman set up a table with the medicine, tools and various musical instruments. We each had a one on one meeting with Sergio’s assistant to discuss dosage and intentions.

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By about 8:30 the shaman began. Most of us reclined or sat at our stations in a meditative attitude as the shaman ceremoniously cleansed the room with tobacco and sage. At some point, our serving of ayahuasca was presented in a small Dixie cup. Mine was about 2/3 full and I drank it down in one gulp like a shot. It had the consistency of molasses without the stickiness. The aroma and taste was of the exotic plant and root based brew that it is. Our shaman had previously assured us that the concoction was genuine and safe, having been shipped directly from his personal Peruvian contact.

At least an hour passed as I lie there anticipating….something. One by one, a few participant began purging into their buckets. I still felt nothing. At some point Sergio invited us to partake of a second dose of ayahuasca and I agreed. Within seconds of taking my second tiny dose I began to vomit into the bucket.

I hate throwing up, but this felt different. It actually felt cathartic and cleansing like I was wiping off my dirty windshield and allowing myself to see clearly through the lense of grandmother ayahuasca. I immediately began to feel cold and tingly but peaceful. Sergio began playing some sort of mandolin-like instrument that sounded other worldly and for a short time I saw meaningless shapes and caricatures spinning and shape-shifting. Then, it was as if  stepped into another world and I felt as if I were being welcomed into a state of intense pure bliss and clarity.

I wasn’t frightened in the least. Instead, I felt an excitement that I was getting to know something or somewhere that had long been held from my view. It’s as if I were suddenly in an elite club and it was grand and marvelous.

The challenge now is to explain in words that can’t even remotely do justice to the actual lived experience. I remember seeing images, hearing sounds and feeling emotions that hearkened me back to some movie, play, song, or piece of art and thinking, “So THIS is where they got that idea!”

After this initial introductory experience I went through a period of time that the sounds in the room around me coming from other participants distracted me and pulled me out of the experience. So, I kept having to relax, concentrate and let myself back in, but I was continually frustrated by the ambient sounds. I kept getting distracted and pulled out of the beautiful world I was in.

At some point, the visions and  activity mellowed out a bit. Nothing was happening TO me but I was still in that world. So, I was able to guide my experience and make some decisions about what I wanted.

I first chose to see my kids and so I was immediately taken to their presence. I saw each of them individually and sensed the energy from their souls. For some of them it was easier to sense than from others strangely enough. I saw my baby girl and immediately sense a young woman full of joy and potential. I didn’t get any energy or angst coming from her so I moved on knowing she was OK. I felt a powerful amount of love from and towards each one of my kids. I saw the beauty of their inner selves, at least enough of it that I didn’t violate any privacy or boundaries. That love was intense and I  likewise had the experience of seeing that their goodness stems from both me and their mother. I felt an enormous sense of gratitude towards their mother and for the part of creation that we both took part in. I wanted her to have the same intense gratitude for our kids and who they are.

I next chose to see my mother who has been deceased for 15 years. She died before I ever came out or left Mormonism. Like with my kids, I experienced a powerful amount of love and compassion towards my mother. It’s hard to explain, but I also saw her humanity… that like me she was just a human trying to do her best. Without thinking I blurted out to her, “Thank you for dying and paving the way for me to come out and live the rest of my life authentically and in peace. I love you and will forever be grateful for that sacrifice.” Of course, my mother’s death had nothing to do with me and that was such an odd and new thought to me, but I have to admit that I would never have likely come out and left Mormonism with my Mom alive and I somehow sensed that she knew that. The compassion and love that I felt with her was overwhelming.

After this experience, I was again left to select what I wanted to do. At that point I chose to revisit critical times in my life where I could have made a different decision. I got to live out my regrets and twist them into actionable items. In my vision I made the other decision. For example, I chose to date a guy in my  first year of college rather than to suppress my feelings. I let my high school crush know that I was crushing on him. I chose not to go on a mission. Some of this was a struggle but still cathartic and healing to experience. I know it wasn’t actually happening, but with grandmother ayahuasca it FELT real and that’s where I believe the healing comes in.

Those are the highlights of my first night with ayahuasca. By about 4 am we were all napping and then at 8 am we shared a healthy breakfast before meeting together again to share the details of our first ayahuasca ceremony.

While there were 19 of us in the room, each of our experiences were unique and separate. A beautiful side effect of the medicine was to feel connected and loving towards all the others with whome we were sharing that experience.

By about 11 am we all went back to our  respective homes to relax for the day. I spent the day thinking, sleeping and caring for myself with a facial mask, bubble bath, etc. I still felt a lightness and clarity about me – perhaps the “hangover” from the medicine. It was a beautiful day of self love and self care.

Then, by 7 pm on Saturday we all returned to do the ceremony one more time. They say grandmother ayahuasca knows us and knows the experience we need and that’s why each experience is so different.

Shaman-ayahuasca-ceremony

My second night was NOTHING like the first, but I think the medicine knew I needed that positive uplifting experience before I got down to do the real work of healing. My stated intention for the second night was similar to the first as I didn’t feel like the first night really addressed the shame or struggles in my life. This time grandmother ayahuasca thought I was ready.

The ceremony started out the same as the first night. I asked for a slightly higher dose as I felt I was too easily pulled out of the world on my first night’s experience. I had also prepared slightly better. I bought some earplugs to help block the ambient noise, a face mask to not get distracted by changes in lighting and extra clothes to keep me warmer. I also moved my position in the room away from the noisier participants.

Again, it took a while for grandmother to arrive but when she did I was greeted with purging and similar visuals and sensations to the first night. Except this time, at some point in my introduction to the ayahuasca world I felt attacked by a dark force. I wasn’t really afraid at this point as I was aware that I was in ceremony and that this was part of the process. It became a psychological battle of sorts where this evil force was trying to communicate with me and I was fighting it.

I knew exactly what it was. Five years ago I shared on my blog that I had been sexually abused in my adolescence. You can read part I here and part II here. To be honest I have dealt with this issue in counseling and wasn’t feeling especially needy of addressing it anymore. It wasn’t why I chose to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony, but I also knew it was a possibility that it would come up if grandmother ayahuasca so chose.

She chose.

This war took me on a tour of my sexual abuse and the sexual molestation in my extended family and then in generations past and further into the psychological mutation of sexual abuse in the evolution of man. I saw those who had given into the mutation and cursed them for not being stronger. I then confronted “IT” and had a battle where I proudly and defiantly declared it that it never got ME and that I won by protecting my kids from it. I knew in that moment that I was a better man for having done so and for conquering that evil strain of sexual mutation in my family. It was almost like a chest-thumping primal experience to feel like I’d beat the shit out of that evil.

I won in the sense that it doesn’t have me and it doesn’t have my kids. I protected them. And can say I faced it, resisted and am better for having done so. I needed to feel that power…that this pansy-ass gay boy is braver than the darkness. That I was man enough to face it and to resist it was an indescribable privilege.

During this struggle I was sitting up with the purge bucket between my legs, rocking back and forth. I imagine that I was the one making the noises at that time, but no one said anything or complained. When the struggle was nearing the end, the shaman sat with me lightly patting my back as I came down from the battle. At some point he held me in his lap for a couple of minutes and then laid me down so that he could sit by me and sing one of his unique icaros to me. It was beautiful and so, so powerful.

This. was. life. changing.

The night wasn’t even half over at this point and the rest of the night gave me additional insight into myself and the way I present myself in the world. I heard a voice at one point say, “Pretense is the enemy” and that phrase kept being repeated over and over again. Grandmother ayahuasca made it clear to me that being fake or inauthentic was poisonous to me, that my best life was to be lived without pretense. I still have that mantra in my head and in my heart and I believe it will be a guide for me throughout my life.

What I’ve related is probably about 1/2 of everything that I gained and learned from the ayahuasca experience. Afterwards I was raw and emotional, quite a contrast to the insight and clarity I had felt the previous morning. But still, it wasn’t a bad, bruised and damaged sort of raw. It was more of a healing, scab-is-gone, now you are stronger sort of raw that made me feel both insignificant and powerful in the universe all at the same time.

Like I said, this sort of process will not be for everyone, but it seemed to have been tailor-made for me and I’m a better man for having done it. I feel like I was able to clean up some emotional and psychological trash. I would do it again although I would most certainly wait 6 months to a year before joining another ceremony.

I welcome respectful thoughts, questions and reactions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out by commenting or e-mailing me privately.

I’m also adding some additional information with links below:

Ayahuasca Overview

Positive Effects

mild to extreme mood lift, euphoria

ego softening / ego loss

oceanic feeling of connectedness to the universe

feelings of love and empathy

a sense of inner peace and acceptance of self, others, and the world

profound life-changing spiritual experiences

emotional healing / mentally therapeutic

claimed physical healing (such as anti-cancer effects)

Neutral Effects

sedation

strong visions; some typically reported include snakes, big cats, insectoid aliens, female goddesses

meaningless visual “noise”

auditory hallucinations / sound distortions

altered sense of space and time

increased likelihood of embracing magical thinking, paranormal ideation

Negative Effects

nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, sweats/chills (alternating), and other flu- or food poisoning-like symptoms, much less common after multiple experiences

fear and/or paranoia

feeling as though one is losing one’s mind

feeling as though one is dying

disequilibrium, difficulty walking

Source

 

Ayahuasca Articles

Ayahuasca – Wikipedia

Ayahuasca Made Me Purge My Guts and My Boyfriend – The Bold Italic Blog

The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale – New Yorker Article

The ayahuasca ceremony is going under the scientific-method microscope

Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science

The Psychedelic Revolution Is Being Led by a 79-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor

 

Scholarly Journal Articles

The current state of research on ayahuasca: A systematic review of human studies assessing psychiatric symptoms, neuropsychological functioning, and neuroimaging

A Psychotherapeutic View on the Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Addiction

The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization

Documentaries

The Reality of Truth Documentary

Ayahuasca Diary Documentary

Metamorphosis – Ayahuasca Documentary

Stepping Into The Fire

Drinking The Jungle 

Podcasts

Here We Are – Psychedelic Science

Here We Are – Meditation + Mushrooms

Neurohacker – Understanding Neurofeedback: Brain Optimization – Dr. Andrew Hill

Psychadelic Salon – Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca Podcast Collection

Winner, Winner!

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Thank you to my readers who nominated me and then voted for me in the 2017 Brodie Awards. My blog post “Taking Back My Power” won for Best Discussion on Parenting.

This is my second win. Back in 2015 my post “Speaking To The Kids About This Mormon Gay Thing” also won in the category of  Best Mormon Parenting Piece.

Very cool. Thanks again.

I’m especially honored because I really haven’t written much this past year. I’m still around. As this blog’s name implies, my writing has been an amazingly effective way to release angst and frustration, but the less angst I feel over time the less impulse I have had to write.

As the saying goes, it has gotten better!

I don’t delude myself into thinking anyone’s out there regularly pondering “What happened to Dads Primal Scream?” But for anyone reading this who is now where I was 12 years ago it might be helpful to hear how some things have changed.

First, referring back to my “Taking Back My Power” blog post mentioned above, the party mentioned was extremely successful. I had about 30 – 40 friends stop by to help me welcome my son home from his mission. I was a little disappointed that none of his  Mormon friends or family came but my kids were all there. They were gracious and kind to all my gay and ex-Mormon friends. I was so proud of them. My son greeted everyone with a hug and socialized cheerfully. I highly recommend this sort of celebration to fellow outcasts. Make your own party rather than fretting over the treatment you’ll get at the tradition events.

I could never have imagined this 12 years ago.

Secondly, I have two adult kids now living at home ages 18 and 20. It’s been a challenge figuring out how to treat them and what my expectations should be. The big news out of all of this is that my ex-wife and I talked (well, it was more like e-mailed and texted) and put together some rules and expectations for our adult children living at home, most of which we agreed upon together. Then, we took the two kids to lunch and gave them copies of the document and got their feedback. In 12 years of divorce, this is only the second time my ex-wife and I have sat down together and presented a united front to our kids. It’s pretty monumental. The first time was 10 years ago after she won the move-away court battle and much less congenial.

I continue to have my minor children 50% of the time and the older ones stay when and where they want. One ends up with me most of the time, and the other one tends to sleep more at his Mom’s. We’re only a mile apart so they still spend time at each house.

I joke that my weekends with my kids are spent being “Uber-Daddy,” driving them to and from events, friends’ homes, etc. The older ones haven’t really materialized into reliable resources to help with that like I fantasized that they would. They have their own jobs, activities and busy lives.

All my kids show love and respect towards me. Two of them tend to lean more towards Mormonism and the other two don’t. They see it as a boring interruption to their lives and have expressed doubt to me. If I’m being honest it doesn’t even matter as much to me anymore which way they lean. Even the ones who are active in church bring their friends around my home. Their friends all know I’m gay and not LDS and it doesn’t seem to matter. Weekend friend gatherings and sleepovers still happen at my home.

Personally I’ve been doing really well at work. Financially I’m in a good place and not living in a constant state of desperation and anxiety like I used to. My income has increased and child support has decreased with each kid turning 18.

I’ve been dating more. I’m finally able to have guys over with my kids also around and to arrange dates on my kid weekends so that has helped. No one I’m dating is a keeper yet, but I’m not really stressed out about it like many guys I know. I suffer from a rare condition of not really minding being alone. Of course I’d love to find someone I’m compatible with, who lights my fire and with whom I can share an amazing future with, but it hasn’t happened yet.

My  happiness, contentment and peace isn’t dependent on that elusive guy.

I had a life-changing experience recently, an experience which merits its own blog post. Coming soon! I continue to hold a deep sense of gratitude, insight and personal power from this experience so I can’t wait to write about it and get reactions.

Not only does it get better but the growth that comes from those extremely challenging, tense and troubled times of failed relationships, divorce, coming out, professional failures, leaving the faith of my fathers and feeling so very alone and emasculated in this life has nourished a garden of wonderful relationships, strength and peace.

Until next time.

Affirmation Sparked My Interest in Forgotten Gay History

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I had an enlightening weekend attending my first Affirmation Conference in Provo Utah. After 12 years of being an out gay ex-Mormon I was invited by friends to attend this conference because of the powerful affect it has had upon them and the friendships it had fostered.

For those who don’t know, Affirmation is a gay organization for Mormons and former Mormons. It’s not too hard to imagine that getting gay Mormons and gay ex-Mormons together is an exercise of epic proportions where each side maintains vastly different ideas of how one should approach Mormonism. The similarities that bring them together in Affirmation is that, unlike North Star, Affirmation recognizes and affirms all life paths as valid and worthy regardless of church affiliation.  North Star is faith-based which really only validates 2 options for gay Mormons:

  1. Celibacy
  2. Mixed orientation marriage

Affirmation also includes folks living those two life choices, but it further encompasses divorced gay fathers like me, young gays who are actively dating and hope to marry one day, currently married gay couples, single sexually active homosexuals, trans and bisexual folks as well as other folks representing all the initials in LGBTQ+ acronym.

While North Star is primarily faith affirming, Affirmation is primarily LGBTQ+ affirming.

I had the good fortune of meeting some pioneers of Affirmation and learning a bit of the history of that organization. These are people who paved the way for homosexuals with a Mormons background and who lived life on their own terms.  I don’t think enough is said about gay history in general, but Mormons and ex-Mormons certainly know very little homosexuality in their culture. I’m hoping to change that by posting a little of that here.

If you are interested, you may want to start out with some important primer information:

A History of Mormons and Homosexuality  A Radio West interview with Mormon historian Greg Prince

An Examination of the LDS Church’s Position on Homosexuality What Do We Know of God’s Will For His LGBT Children? By Bryce Cook

Future posts will explore unknown gay history both in Mormonism and in society at large. Stay tuned!

And study the two articles above!