Is Reconciling Being Gay and Mormon possible?

Introduction

The purpose was to show how a person can be reconciled to being gay and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter referenced as the Church), often known as the Mormon Church. However, the more I investigated, both at a personal and professional level, this does not seem possible, excepting a few isolated cases, which I explore.

Self-disclosure

I’ve been a member of the Church for nearly 44 years. This gives me an awareness of the changing history of its approach to LGBTQ matters. This length of membership gives me an understanding of its doctrine, theology and culture. I recognise the potential for bias. Though, these days, I’m not so sure whether this bias is for or against the Church. Whilst researching this, I’ve discovered nothing new, that I was not aware of, regarding their approach to gay matters. Reflecting on personal experience, as well as that of others, bringing everything together has been more painful, hurtful and frustrating than expected. It somewhat took me by surprise, raising the question why had I not seen and connected the dots previously? It also brings the question, why I am still associated with the Church?

The Church

Before examining the possibility of those who are gay being reconciled with the Church, I feel it pertinent to outline the doctrine of the Church with its relevance to gay members. Without doing so, I feel much written here may not make much sense to anyone outside of the Church. Such may also add clarity to how a therapetuic approach may or may not be of value to gay members. In case anyone is wondering, my aim as a therapist is to explore where a client is – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, nonbinary, straight – not to convince or persuade them to be any particular way. Conversion or reparative therapy is not to be undertaken in any form.

I see four key issues standing in the way of any reconciliation. First, obedience to Church authority. Second, the Church concept of heaven and the after life. Third, the view of what’s needed to qualify to get to the highest degree of heaven. Fourth, Church culture. Fifth, considered causes of people being gay.

Obedience to Authority

At the top is the prophet. From the Church website:

Today, a prophet, acting under the direction of the Lord, leads the Church. This prophet is also the President of the Church. He holds all the authority necessary to direct the Lords work on earth (see D&C 107:65, 91).

If we keep the commandments of the Lord, we shall enjoy the presence of both the Father and the Son, and we shall receive the Fathers kingdom and shall be heirs of God—joint heirs with our elder Brother. O how wonderful, how great the blessings of the Lord to the Latter-day Saints and to all who are willing to go through the waters of baptism and abide by the law and keep the commandments of the Lord!” (Smith, “Keep the Commandments,” 3)”.

Herein lies one main issue. The prophet and other general Church leaders (seen as prophets, seers and revelators) are considered as speaking directly for God. Meaning, if you disagree with things taught by these men you are seen as disagreeing with God.

Heaven

Strictly speaking The Church doesn’t have a concept of heaven and hell. Heaven is multi-tiered. The highest level, known as exaltation, is only for families. Heterosexual families. Men and women, who become Gods themselves, able to create and populate worlds with their own spirit children. Lorenzo Snow, the Church’s fifth President, coined a well-known Mormon couplet: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.

Qualifying for Heaven

There are many requirements. In particular marriage – only between a woman and a man.

As said, in April 2019, by Russell M. Nelson, the current prophet/president:

…the Savior Himself has made it abundantly clear that while His Resurrection assures that every person who ever lived will indeed be resurrected and live forever, much more is required if we want to have the high privilege of exaltation. Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter.” (my emphasis added).

So, what is required for a family to be exalted forever? We qualify for that privilege by making covenants with God, keeping those covenants, and receiving essential ordinances.

This has been true since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife, Abraham and Sarah, Lehi and Sariah, and all other devoted disciples of Jesus Christ—since the world was created—have made the same covenants with God. They have received the same ordinances that we as members of the Lords restored Church today have made: those covenants that we receive at baptism and in the temple.

In the latest online edition of the Church General Handbook, which leaders refer to for how to exercise their authority, regarding Same-Sex Marriage, it states:

As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creators plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The Church also affirms that Gods law defines marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.” (my emphasis added).

Reconciliation?

With the above in mind is reconciliation with the Church, with all it requires and expects, possible for someone who is gay?

I see the answer as no and yes, very much dependent on each individual. Though, what is meant by reconciliation?

One kind of reconciliation, with themselves as being gay, rather than with the Church, is possible. This is my therapeutic experience and that of Church therapists who I have contact with.

From talking to gay friends, there are some who feel they are able to remain an active member of the Church, being content with celibacy. I must admit to not having considered this as a possibility. Years ago, I had my first introduction to Affirmation held in “Gay’s the Word bookshop”, in London. This was after opening hours. At the time I was serving as a bishop of my local congregation. I attended more as an ally, yet to be fully open about being genderqueer. Having connected via Facebook previously, this was the first time I met other gay members in person.

Regarding reconciliation, some felt they were. One person said he was happy to be celibate now during mortality. He considered being gay as being broken, that he would be fixed in the resurrection. While this shocked, saddened and astounded me, they seemed very content. Hearing someone feel this about themselves was hard for me.

Options – are there any?

Apart from the choice described above, reconciliation with being gay and a member of The Church seems not possible, are there any other options?

  1. Stay and deny or suppress being gay
  2. Leave The Church altogether
  3. Find a different congregation that accepts Christianity and being gay

The first two seem valid options, which I will explore below. The third seems possible, though unlikely to be embraced. This needs more study, but my adhoc experience is that people leaving the Church rarely find comfort in other churches, being more likely to reject Christianity, even God altogether.

Staying or Leaving?

Staying

As mentioned some who are gay do stay fully involved in the Church. The questions are under what circumstances, plus for how long. Time will vary with the individual. I’ve heard of and seen people, after coming out to themselves (plus family and others) stay for varying lengths of time – from weeks, months to several years. It seems eventually there becomes a severe disconnect between who they are or how they want to be and what the Church expects of them. If you look at a section of the website the Church has, specially aimed at LGBTQ members, it gives mixed messages. The page for individuals initially is supportive, making it seem that a person who is gay can stay. However, when you reach the section “Does the law of chastity apply to those who experience same-sex attraction?” the difficulties become apparent. The law of chastity is described as:

Abstinence from sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman according to God’s law. (my emphasis)

Fidelity within marriage.

This would work if all marriages were acceptable. Being that they are not, it imposes a life of celibacy and potential loneliness for those not marrying someone of the opposite sex/gender. It is often posited that the law of chastity is the same for all single people within the Church. I disagree. If you are a single heterosexual person, you can date, hold hands, kiss, cuddle, hug a person of the opposite sex and no one will raise an eyebrow. Do any of that with someone of the same sex or gender and many an eyebrow will be raised, with the added potential of Church discipline. This was made apparent, when recently BYU (a Church owned and run University) updated its “honour code” to remove a section on “homosexual behaviour”:

On Feb. 12, officials posted the update to the honor code on BYUs website. The update deleted a section titled homosexual behavior,” which said in part, Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the honor code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

This removal led to many gay students feeling they were now allowed to date, kiss, cuddle as straights students do. A couple of weeks later BYU clarified this was not the case.

Are there exceptions to the potential loneliness? Perhaps a few. If a person is asexual and/or aromantic, maybe the need for a romantic, intimate, sexual relationship is not as pressing. Conceivably such a person can live their life fully involved as an active member of the Church. This is something to be explored more, to gather data on, as to whether those who stay and are celibate are either asexual and/or aromantic.

Mixed Orientation Marriages (MOMs)

Another exception are Mixed Orientation Marriages (MOMs), where one spouse is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the other straight. This used to be a recommended option by Church leaders, as a means of “curing homosexuality”. Thankfully, this is no longer recommended. Though, as Church culture often lags behind Church teachings there are still couples who enter into such marriages. Such often get publicised as being successful.

One such couple were Lolly and Josh Weed. Married in 2012. Divorced in 2018. Unfortunately they inadvertently became the poster couple for many, that MOMs worked. Whilst the Church itself did not overtly encourage this, Church culture overtook the situation. In a post, the couple opened with “(And the post in which we sincerely apologize to every member of the LGBTQIA community)”, as they explain why, though still friends, they were no longer able to stay together as a married couple, apologising for giving the impression that a MOM is an acceptable, workable relationship where one is a gay. Due to the publicity this received in Church circles it was saddening and frustrating for me, to see another recent MOM receive much publicity. Skyler and Amanda Sorensen say they are happy in their relationship. The question for me is will this last? Will it end like Josh and Lolly Weed, or continue throughout their lives? No one can know for sure. Are they reducing their chances of greater happiness?

It is disappointing for me, that Dr Ty Mansfield (well know in The Church LGBTQ+ community), a private practice therapist in Utah and adjunct professor at Brigham Young University, quoted in the above linked article, seems to be encouraging MOMs: “Mansfield – who is also attracted to men, but married to a woman – said that between 40 and 60 per cent of his clients were navigating sexual or gender-identity questions”, and added: Whatever path you choose, there are healthy ways and unhealthy ways to navigate that path.”

According to Mansfield, 80 per cent of those in mixed-orientation marriages” said they were generally satisfied, a far greater proportion than those that were single and celibate (42 per cent) or single and not celibate (40 per cent).

This is all very personal. For some a MOM may actually work. But at what cost to mental health, to the overall happiness of the couple?

Studies cited in the article indicate that being in a same-sex marriage or relationship, happiness is far greater than being in a MOM. So while it may be an option for some, I feel it is not appropriate to encourage such marriages. Doing so may encourage others into thinking similar relationships will work for them or members of their family. The consequence being, if things don’t work, it leaves in the wake, broken hearts, along with confused and hurt children. More so than if they had been raised in a same-sex marriage.

Priesthood Roulette

Being gay, wanting to enter into a relationship with another gay person openly, would be seen in conflict of Church teachings. In some congregations this wouldn’t really be an issue, with some congregations being fully accepting. It is the local leadership to be more concerned about. Some operate what might be termed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, letting things be. In another congregation the bishop may feel the need to follow policy to the letter, resulting in the excommunication of those in same-sex marriages/partnerships. 

Leaving

Is it easy to leave the Church? Like a lot of things related to gay matters and the Church, it’s complicated. If someone decides to leave, the question is how. Just stop attending, which seems the easiest. Though it leaves the possibility of other members trying to “reactivate” you, to encourage you back into Church activity. This may be not just annoying, but triggering, if you regularly have someone contacting you, their aim to bring you back. The alternative of removing your name from Church records, is a permanent solution. Doing so can take a lot.

As mentioned in Families Held Hostage

A strong and brave man who is willing to face an enemys bullets often melts and becomes compliant when faced with his mothers tears when she says, “Son we all love you so much, please stay active in the Church, pay your tithing, and go to the temple often so that we can all be together in the celestial kingdom of God. It would break my heart if you were not there with the rest of our family.” This awesome power, a loving mothers pleading and tears, are at the disposal of the Church!

A man or a woman who, … then decides to leave the Church must also be willing to give up his or her family.

A person, for example, working with a therapist using the GRACE model, may come to reconcile that God is okay and accepting of them being Gay. Though, so long as the Church keeps teaching that being actively Gay is against “the covenant path”, there is a deep conflict that you cannot be with your family in the next life.

General Church leaders try to make it seem they are more accepting, by seeming to reduce the type of Church discipline, making it appear on a par with straight relationships, with quotes such as the following:

While Church leaders still consider a same-gender marriage by a member to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead the immoral conduct in heterosexual and homosexual relationship will be treated in the same way,”

The reality is somewhat different. Because the Church sees the only valid marriage as between a man and a woman, a gay couple, who get married, as mentioned, are dependant on the local leadership as to what will happen discipline wise. It comes down to what colloquially is known as “priesthood roulette”. Whilst the same handbook is given to all bishops, each will interpret it differently. An older leader is more likely to adhere to procedures that were applied in past years, whereas younger bishops are more likely to be more lenient in administration of discipline, in many cases just ignoring any knowledge they may have of a married gay couple in their congregation.

The GRACE model

This has been an appropriate, effective model for assisting reconciling a person of faith with being gay. Yet, within a fundamentalist faith I argue reconciliation with the GRACE model cannot work. I acknowledge that many members of the Church will not agree with the description of it being fundamentalist.

Consent and Agency

Part of the concern I have is around consent. There are a few gay people who join the Church. One such is Jacob R. His story was published in the August 2020 Ensign, a world-wide Church magazine. My concern here is this pushes people to be celibate. There is not space here to details my concerns, but I wrote a blog doing so. Such an article can, and no doubt will, be weaponised. It’ll be sent to families with gay children, telling them not to worry, their son or daughter just needs to be celibate and everything will be okay. Similarly it’ll, no doubt, be sent direct to a gay person, telling them they just need to be celibate!! All followed by “See this guy called Jacob Rin the Ensign did it!!

Was Jacob exercising his consent? I feel that is debatable, as in his words:

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didnt fully understand everything that question entailed.” (my emphasis)

Saying yes, though he “didnt fully understand everything…entailed”. Something that frequently happens. Happened to me. Especially for children baptised aged eight. How can they really understand all that will be required throughout their life? There’s something about full consent missing in such decision making.

Being consensual is not just saying yes. It must be an informed yes. All parties being fully aware of everything that they are agreeing to do. As much as it may be claimed, this is not the case when joining the Church. When children are baptised, at age eight, there is no way there will understand all that would eventually be expected of them. Plus, it is doubtful many at that age will be aware of their gender or sexuality.  A few may. So if, at whatever age – child, youth or adult – someone begins to realise they are gay, a choice needs to be made.  Deny part of themselves and stay, facing a continual struggle. Or leave the Church.

The Future – Changing Approaches?

Over the years Church doctrine, theology, approach and policy toward being gay has changed. Or perhaps developed. Many members will deny this. They may admit to a “policy” change but not a doctrine. For the individual person this has little difference to how it affects their life. The evolving of these teachings has come as science, psychology and society progressed in their approach to the gay community. 

The changes have primarily been what caused a person to be gay, plus whether and how a gay person can be cured, to become straight. I quote Taylor G. Petrey, in his Tabernacles of Clay (p. 2). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition:

Rather than holding to a monolithic traditional” view, Mormonism has been beset by competing theories of sexual difference over the past several decades. … On the one hand, Mormon leaders have embraced the ideals of gender essentialism—the belief that there are fixed differences between male and female, which represent the natural and divine order of sexual difference. On the other hand, Mormon leaders have often taught that the differences between male and female are malleable and contingent, and so they must be guarded with strict social, ecclesiastical, and legal norms and sanctions.

As an example of change over the years, in 1954, Apostle Mark E. Peterson said the following regarding black members of the Church. I acknowledge the next few paragraphs will likely be offensive, but feel are needed to make a point:

Petersen complained that those who did not understand the LDS churchs religious teachings were unfairly accusing it of bigotry. He insisted that one should behave with respect, generosity, and kindness toward the Negro,” including support for certain legal and social protections.” (my emphasis)

This was said at a time when the Priesthood and Temple blessing were denied to black members of the Church. In June 1978, this “doctrine”, “teaching” or “policy”, however you may refer to it, was changed so there was no longer any such restrictions. This was welcomed by many, if not most, members of the Church. There was however sufficient complaining, that the un-reversible was being reversed, that in August 1978 (12th paragraph) Apostle Bruce R. McConkie felt to make the following statement to try to calm things:

There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. . . . They dont matter any more. . . . It doesnt make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.

On the current home page for the Church’s LGBTQ+ website it says something very similar, to the words, quoted above, of Apostle Mark E. Peterson, in 1954:

Kindness, Inclusion, and Respect for All of Gods Children” (my emphasis)

Similarly on the leadership page, Apostle Quentin L. Cook, says:

But let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion, and outreach to those. And lets not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender. I feel very strongly about this, as you can tell. I think its a very important principle.

Many members will say same-sex marriage will never be accepted. It was said that black members would never get the Priesthood or temple blessings. I hope that one day the Church will again, reverse the un-reversible, embracing same-sex marriage, allowing such marriages to be performed in their chapels, by their bishops. 

Perhaps one day the Church will find the empathy that Meg-John Barker in quoting Gayle Rubin (1984), in their book, Rewriting the Rules (p. 102), speaks of regarding sexuality, to which I add gender:

Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere… Most people mistake their sexual preferences for a universal system that will or should work for everyone.

Concluding Thoughts

Over time society in general has become more accepting of people who are gay. A fundamentalist religion, such as the Church, in its approach to the gay community seems stuck in the 1950s, making it extremely difficult for a young person questioning their gender and sexuality to accept themselves, acknowledging their gender and sexuality as being different to most of the congregation and community they live amongst. Some may say they have a choice to leave, but that is never as easily done as said. It is as if their lives are held non-consensually hostage.

Some things maybe we can never really know. Yet, coming to know and accept ourselves can bring an inner calm and serenity that allows us to be more at peace with the unknown. Perhaps the Church will change. Perhaps it will not. Finding internal peace, in not knowing whether or not that change will happen, can save lives. 

Whatever the Church may say that eternity will be, does it really matter? Isn’t eternity right now? Today, being part of tomorrow and yesterday. Isn’t it better to wonder and just be living, rather than be perplexed or in a sorrowful about the future? Being in the present moment, just living now.

Surely suffering for the sake of suffering is not correct, worthwhile or helpful.

Pride – poignant LGBTQ+ lyrics to reflect on

A few words from me, with lyrics from a wonderful artist/song writer. I’ve seen Grace Petrie three times live. Twice on her own, playing an acoustic set. Once with her band. All were amazing. For me poignant lyrics in this song titled Pride. Take the time to listen, while reading through Grace’s words as you do so.

A few words from me, with lyrics from a wonderful artist/song writer. I’ve seen Grace Petrie three times live. Twice on her own, playing an acoustic set. Once with her band. All were amazing. For me poignant lyrics in this song titled Pride. Take the time to listen, while reading through Grace’s words as you do so.

Well, we’re a long way from the Stonewall Inn

I’m standing on this platform, no one’s stopping me to sing

But there’s a multitude of sins that can hide behind your hashtag

Tell me again how love wins

Well, there’s nothing new about this rage

It’s a war that’s always waged

Like how no one bats an eye that when fifty of us die

And it doesn’t even make the Daily Mail front page

Well sometimes, it’s like an uphill climb

Yeah sometimes, it’s like an uphill climb

But I’m right by your side

And that’s what we call pride

And I know you don’t want to face the fact

That each and every day we’re still being attacked

And sometimes it’s by guns, and sometimes it’s by words

And sometimes it’s by the North Carolina Bathroom Act

And we’re the same as everyone

We’re all under the same sun

But if you’re trying to suggest this is just about the West

We’ve spent our whole lives looking down the barrel of that gun

And sometimes it’s like an uphill climb

Yeah, sometimes it’s like an uphill climb

But I’m right by your side

And that’s what we call pride

And the love we have each other

Will defeat the hate we suffer

You’re my sisters, brothers, and all that’s in between

And if everything that I’m made of

Was fashioned by your God above

It was Him that gave this kind of love to me

But sometimes it’s like an uphill climb

Yeah, sometimes it’s like an uphill climb

Oh, sometimes it’s like an uphill climb

But I’m right by your side

Oh, I’m right by your side

And that’s what we call pride

And that’s why we need Pride

Thoughts on BDsM / Kink – quite normal really…

In their book Rewriting the Rules, Meg-John Barker quotes Gayle Rubin (1984):

Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere… Most people mistake their sexual preferences for a universal system that will or should work for everyone.

What it’s not

Before continuing, it will be probably be helpful to dispel a couple of myths and misconceptions about BDsM/Kink.

Many will have heard about, if not read, or seen, the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Here we have Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey entering into what we are led to believe is a BDsM relationship. It is not. It is an abusive relationship. Consent is missing. There is no full consent between the two.

Also, BDsM is not psychopathological. It’s normal. It’s okay. It may not be your “normal”. You may not be “okay” with it. And that’s fine for you, so long as you don’t impose those thoughts and ideas on to others. Reread the opening quote, from Gayle Rubin, if you’re in any doubt about this.

Introduction

BDsM is a term which covers a wide range of behaviours, generally involving the use and exchange of power in an eroticised relationship. Informed Consent (www.informedconsent.co.uk), the leading website about BDsM in the UK, defines BDsM as ‘a catch-all phrase’. I use ‘BDsM participant’ or ‘SMer’ to describe those who identify with BDsM as a lifestyle or as an activity, and ‘kink’ and ‘kinky’ to describe both BDsM practices and practitioners.

BDsM – Bondage and Discipline (B/D), Domination and Submission (D/s) and Sadism and Masochism (S/M) – is a term used to describe a range of practices or a lifestyle that is characterised by the consensual exchange of power, role play and often intense sensory stimulation (or deprivation). It is a kind of umbrella term for forms of sexuality that include restraint, pressure, sensation, and elements of power exchange between people.

“Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors” so also in BDsM. It should though be noted that not all BDsM/Kink is sexually based. Some practices / scenes do not engage in sex at all.

The body is involved in the physical aspects, as are the emotions with relationships. For some, participation brings greater sexual desire, as interplay of relationships are managed, along with power and control. Amongst everything communication skills are vital. BDsM/Kink can also help in recovering from shame, which is where the brain comes in. Plus the mind can be caught up with the challenge BDsM/Kink brings to social, cultural and religious beliefs, sexual preferences, desires, attractions, tastes, along with the impact of societal censure, not being seen as a “normal” pastime.

A distinction can be made between the sexual and the erotic. There are many practices and activities that are not sexual, though may be experienced as highly erotic. An example, being restrained and put on display need not involve anyone’s genitals or any actual bodily contact, but can result in an intensely pleasurable and exciting experience. For those who do engage sexually with BDsM/Kink, the following quote on sexual health is relevant:

Sexual health: “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”

In 2005, Margie Nichols wrote, “in many ways the BDSM community of the early 21st century resembles the gay community of the 1970s, and individuals who struggle with BDSM desires experience a similar internalized shame about their sexuality” (2005, p. 292). Similarly, the limited research done, as that of early LGBTQ research, has been based on single troubled individuals in a specific situation, unrelated to being LGBTQ, that are then, unfortunately, applied across the board.

Although recently de-pathologised in the DSM V, and is now viewed less critically in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ICD-11, BDsM/Kink continued to be pathologised in the WHO’s ICD-10, so unfortunately myths still continue concerning the BDsM/Kink practice/lifestyle within society and even parts of the therapy community, as it can take a while for new approaches to be accepted. Here I hope to further break down some of the myths.

Much of society and culture sees the world in a binary way. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Female and male. Likewise gender and sex can fall into this viewpoint. So that many see BDsM/Kink as wrong, as being bad. Questions come as to who decides this? However, if we can move away from a binary view, towards a much less restrictive view of human sexuality, we are more able to embrace a diversity of the sexual and erotic. It is my hope readers will gain encouragement toward reflecting and exploring their own belief systems around BDsM. I examine some of the BDsM and kink practices and consider the meanings these may have for people. I concentrate more on the principles, than the specific practices. Before getting into what BDsM/Kink is about, I want to clarify guiding principles that underpin BDsM/Kink.

Safe, Sane and Consensual


Safe, Sane and Consensual – title of a wonderful book, also a crucial strap line for the values of BDsM and kink. I look at each separately, though like a lot of things when looked at individually something is often lost, as they overlap considerably. As well as values and actions being focused on behaving in ways that are “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” (SSC), an alternate phrase is “Risk-Aware Consensual Kink” (RACK) and more recently, “Caring, Communication, Consent, and Caution” (4Cs).

Safe

This is about the safety of all involved. Physical safety. Emotional safety. Psychological safety.

Some may wonder about safety, when aspects of BDsM/Kink can be about pain. The type and degree of any pain is though consensual. It is sought after, rather than being imposed on someone. I recognise that may seem bizarre to anyone not familiar with BDsM/Kink. Some may also worry, not only about pain, but about bondage or restrictions on breathing, breath play and asphyxia.

Safety though is a relative concept, as even what is termed, vanilla sex carries risks. Penises can get damaged through vigorous thrusting and then ‘snapping’ if one hits the pubic bone rather than entering the vagina, resulting in Peyronies, and people often have injuries from falling over or off the bed, or bruised throats or tired jaw muscles from vigorous oral sex. Any sex poses risk.

People need to consider risks and consent. Which is perhaps why SSC has fallen out of favour for some, with more people talking now about RACK or 4Cs.

As mentioned, BDsM/Kink is not necessarily sexual. Sometimes it can be about power. Though not power over, in the way power is often viewed, as that would be abusive. Whilst from the outside BDsM/Kink may be thought of and viewed as abusive, the BDsM/Kink community are very keen to protect participants from any kind of abuse. BDsM/Kink is where one participant submits willingly to another. They are not submitting because another wants them to, but rather because they wish to be submissive (often referred to as being a submissive or slave), having sought someone who is willing to dominate (often referred to as being a Dominant or Master) them for a specific activity and time period, commonly known as a scene, wherein a particular type of “play” occurs. Power is exchanged. The submissive hands over some control and yet can take it back at any time. Trust is crucial here. Safe words are crucial in this.

A submissive needs to be careful when choosing a BDsM Dominant. They need to be sufficiently educated, trained and aware to notice if a submissive has some unresolved trauma that may be behind the desire to be dominated or be caused pain. They would then not start the scene, signposting the person to an understanding counsellor / therapist. If this does not happen then the possibility of abuse is present. There are though times where abuse survivors find BDsM/Kink extremely helpful in processing their emotions. An example shown later.

A Dominant should not be out to inflict pain on others for their own satisfaction, more as a service, only as wanted, having deep concern present for their submissive, there being what might be termed genuine or perhaps great empathy and compassion between all participants.

Whilst you may not see any pleasure in pain being administered to yourself, it is certain, that for some there is pleasure, even ecstasy from receiving pain. It should be noted that because a person delights in pain received in a DBsM scene does not mean they appreciate all types of pain. Like many the pain often experienced having a root filling at the dentist is not enjoyed!!

Three quotes from submissive practitioners, show differing perspectives on the pain received:

I use the word ‘intense sensation,’ it’s more than pain, it’s the energy in the sensations. It has always been an amazing spiritual connection with myself, blissful. It’s beyond pain. There is a ritualistic aspect which is very spiritually charged. (Interview, slave L, 2016)

The pain is there, but, within a short time it morphs into an embodied meditation. But it is not like a mental meditation, it’s both out of and in the body. I am flying, free, ecstatic, but fully in the body. (Interview, slave C, 2014)

I came across an online group who called themselves ‘The healthy self-masochist.’ Seeing the spin on the use of words healthy with masochism gave me an insight to affirming my experiences in a positive way. I was able to affirm for myself, yes I enjoy these things, these things come from a healthy place. (Interview, slave L, 2016)

A comparison, that works for some people, is the marathon runner. There comes a point in the running, breaking through an initial pain barrier, when things can start to turn blissful.

Abuse Prevention

To Check against possible abuse there are questionnaires to aid in this, such as the Shahbaz-Chirinos Healthy BDSM Checklist, where there is a set of questions that can be used to help determine if abuse is present. BDsM and abuse are not the same. It is unfortunate that books and films such as the “Fifty Shades” series imply that it was Christian Grey’s youthful abuse that contributed to his desire to be a BDsM Dominant, which he doesn’t do well at.

It can be difficult to detect when BDsM is being used in an abusive fashion, particularly if the activities involved are ones that ‘squick’ a therapist.” This being where another person feels discomfort from hearing about another’s pleasure. This is why it’s helpful to see a BDsM/ kink aware therapist.

Two sayings:

  • Don’t Yuk someone else’s Yum
  • Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is ok”.

Part of staying safe is being aware of the equipment being used. Is it in good condition? Is it well designed and constructed to fulfill its purpose? Also, an awareness of surroundings. Is anything likely to get in the way? Plus, an avoidance of alcohol and drugs that would inhibit a person’s awareness of everything. This applies to both the Dominant, so they are in control of themselves and the submissive so they know if things do go too far for them, so they can appropriately use the agreed safe words.

Sane

This is where fantasy and reality are kept separate. People ideally will not confuse any exercise of power exchange negotiated within a BDsM/Kink relationship outside of that context. Part of recognition of this difference is what can make a play scene transformative. This may not work for everyone. Quoting from Safe, Sane and Consensual, to show the possibilities of BDsM:

We can script a scene so we get to be child, parent, brat, hero, bully, betrayer, cops, criminals, prisoners, interrogators, priests – the possibilities are endless. We can also get to feel a particular emotion: rage, pathos, grief, shame, cunning, predatory, helpless, hapless, omnipotent. A friend of mine once set up a scene with four gay men she knew. She asked them to tie her firmly to a padded table so she could struggle as hard as she could while they flogged her and shouted every insult they could think of that men have shouted to women – cunt, bitch, on the rag and so on. What she wanted to experience fully was her rage, and so she did, screaming and struggling, yelling back, a burning ball of fury safely tied to the safely padded table. They played it through till they were all exhausted, and my friend felt she had accomplished her purpose to completely express her rage at the sexism she had been subjected to all her life. Note that she specifically chose gay men as her tormentors – hetrosexual men might have been a little too threatening.”

“Sagarin and his associates (2009) also reported findings that BDSM practices contribute to health benefits related to stress management, evidenced in decreased cortisol levels. They suggest the “flow” described by BDSM practitioners is similar psychobiologically to the “high” described by athletes and spiritual “peaks” meditators experience. In attempts to further explain these results, Sagarin and his team propose that BDSM may be transformative.”

Consensual

People talk about consent being a crucial part in all relationships. However, within BDsM it is treated with a level of seriousness and detail not always present in many other places.

If consent is not present, it’s not BDsM, it’s abuse. Without full consensual understanding, by all participants in a scene, it’s either abuse of another or self-abuse.

On her Sexplanations YouTube channel, Dr Lindsay Doe interviews Midori regarding sexual negotiations that take place within BDsM/Kink relationships. See the video below. A 17 minute introduction on the topic, outlining communication skills applicable in all sexual relationships.

Another help towards consent is the Yes-No-Maybe list. The link opens a four page PDF of things to consider. This list is specifically for BDsM/Kink.

Mentioned here, Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent website is another wonderful place to learn about and further develop ways of consent in relationships.

For some BDsM/Kink practitioners this discussion of consent is very arousing, along with anticipation of what’s to come. Compared to, what might be termed regular sexual consent, which is often a yes or no to having sex in general, without much specifics, Kink consent is vastly different. As portrayed in the video above, not only what is going to happen is talked about, there is also the how, where, when, plus length of time.

Take flogging, for example. What type of whip. Soft, gentle, hard strokes. Where, as in which part of the body, buttocks, back, front. When, as in the first part of the scene or later. Length of time, 1 minute, 2 minutes, longer or perhaps how many strokes. Also, there are safe words chosen, which when used the Dominant will immediately slow down or stop whatever they are doing. Often yellow and red.

Such discussions are had about every aspect of a play scene, continuing throughout. If they are not then I’d have concern as to whether the participants are experienced or trained enough. If a client mentioned not having such consensual discussion prior and during a scene I’d offer a caution toward looking for a different Dominant or submissive or getting further BDsM/Kink education.

After care

Following a scene after care is crucial, for both the submissive and the Dominant. Physical care may be needed. Also emotional and psychological support. Perhaps just a hug is needed. Sometimes greater support is required. Water, food are helpful.

Kink – what exactly happens?

Here are a couple of non graphic SFW (Safe For Work) introductions. A 5 minute 44 seconds video, BDSM 101 by lacigreen, interviewing and displaying some BDSM/Kink equipment.

And a slightly longer, 17 minute 38 seconds video from Dr Lindsay Doe, with Amp from Watts The Safeword:

Counselling/Therapy

Many studies suggest that counsellors who have negative misconceptions about people involved or interested in BDsM/kink, are largely unfamiliar with key research findings on BDsM/kink relationships and practices, plus there can also be a lack of basic clinical skills needed to provide adequate care for people involved or interested in BDsM/kink. Unfortunately this can result in unethical clinical practices and ineffective or harmful therapeutic outcomes.

In an article Y. Gavriel Ansara identified five essential clinical skills for trauma psychotherapy with people interested or involved in BDsM/kink:

  1. understanding and identifying BDsM/kink relational roles and headspaces
  2. distinguishing BDsM/kink from abuse
  3. understanding and identifying key components of non-abusive BDsM/kink relationships
  4. determining the clinical salience of BDsM/kink
  5. and identifying and managing freefall

There isn’t space here to detail this. If your interest is sparked here’s the article.

When someone comes to see a counsellor regarding BDsM/Kink one thing to determine is are they BDsM/Kink aware or perhaps a practitioner themselves.

As a client are you the partner of someone involved in or who wishes to be involved in BDsM/Kink. Are they hoping you’ll perform some kind of reparative therapy for the partner who wants to or is engaged in BDSM/Kink? We, of course, do not engage in reparative therapy.

The book When Someone you Love is Kinky can be helpful in helping the partners to understand each other more.

Something to take into the counselling room, is that if a client/s comes to see us regarding their experiences with BDsM/Kink, we must not make assumptions about their motivation or be dismissive and try to “fix” them, by implying that what they may have experienced or desire is wrong. We do though need to be thoroughly aware of the possibility of abuse and check that is not occurring. See above for a checklist to assist in this.

As counsellors/therapists we need to decide early on if a client comes to us about some aspect of BDsM, do we or do we not feel able to work directly with the BDSM/Kink community? If not we need to be aware of counsellors who are experienced working with the BDsM community who we can signpost a client to.

Communities and finding one

The sites below are BDsM/Kink communities, some in the UK, others elsewhere. They are NSFW (Not Safe For Work). There are also educational and enlightening.

If you want to get invloved in BDsM / Kink take your time. Maybe see a BDsM / kink aware therapist, to explore your whys and wherefores. If looking for a Dominant here are a couple of articles to help – How Do I Find a Dominant? and How Do I Find a Dominant Partner (in a Nice Way)?

Conclusion

BDsM/Kink is hugely complex. This blog post is but an introduction. If this has sparked an interest in any aspect of BDsM/Kink, or you feel a personal desire to be involved, I’d recommend further study. The books listed in the references will be helpful, plus courses, such as those from Pink Therapy. Don’t rush. Take your time. Enjoy yourself 😊

References:

  • Rewriting the Rules, Meg-John Barker, Routledge; 2 edition; Mar. 2018
  • Becoming a Kink Aware Therapist, by Caroline Shahbaz and Peter Chirinos, Routledge; Oct. 2016
  • Life Isn’t Binary, Meg-John Barker and Alex iantaffi, Jessica Kingsley Publishers; Mar. 2020
  • Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism, D. Langdridge (Editor), Meg Barker (Series Editor), Palgrave Macmillan; 2007
  • Williams et al., 2014
  • squick – combination of the words ‘squeamish’ and ‘icky’.
  • Margie Nichols, 2005
  • https://pinktherapy.org/product/bdsm-kink/
  • Life Isn’t Binary, Meg-John Barker and Alex iantaffi, Jessica Kingsley Publishers; Mar. 2020
  • Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities, David M. Ortmann and Richard A. Sprott, Rowman & Littlefield; 2013
  • Trauma psychotherapy with people involved in BDSM/kink: Five common misconceptions and five essential clinical skills, Y. Gavriel Ansara, PhD Psychol, MSc Soc Psychol, MCouns, BA Intl & Cross-Cultural Health with African Studies, Dip Adv Clin Family Therapy, CCTP-II, CFTP, Ansara Psychotherapy & Imanadari Counselling Melbourne Branch;
  • When Someone you Love is Kinky, Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, Greenery Press; 2000

Review of an article regarding being gay and celibate

Review of an article published in the August 2020 edition of the Ensign magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Promoting celibacy as being the answer, it’s a problematic article for many who are LGBTQ+ and a member of the Church.

Why bother? Why not just let things be? Three initial reasons come to mind.

One. I have lesbian, gay, trans, nonbinary, queer friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want them to feel loved, supported and accepted for who they are.

Two. Such an article can, and no doubt will, be weaponised. It’ll be sent to families with gay children, telling them not to worry, their son or daughter just needs to be celibate and everything will be okay. Similarly it’ll, no doubt, be sent direct to a gay person, telling them they just need to be celibate!! All followed by “See this guy called ‘Jacob R’ in the Ensign did it!!

Three. I’m mid way through writing an essay, for the Pink Therapy foundation certificate I’m nearing completion. Titled “Reconciling Being LGBTQ+ and Mormon“. I was hoping to find a way to bring the two together. Yet, the more I try, the more articles such as this one appear, making it harder and harder, if not impossible to do.

Being celibate and single may work for Jacob R which is wonderful, if that’s what he wants. The concern is when one way is put out as the way for all gay members of the Church. What about a nuanced viewpoint, looking at varying perspectives of being gay and a member of the Church? A more detailed exploration of celibacy was undertaken by Thomas Montgomery here.

Yes, there may be a few individuals who can remain celibate throughout their lives. Such people are most likely to be asexual and/or aromantic, having no or little interest in sexual or emotional relationships. For the majority the toll on their mental health will be tremendous. For some so bad life seems pointless, worthless.

The Church, when talking about the need for gay celibacy seems only to share stories of individuals and couples, who on the surface, seem to make being celibate or in a mixed orientation marriage work. One such couple was Lolly and Josh Weed. Not seeking such a position, they ended up as a kind of poster couple who had a loving and successful marriage, having four children, with Josh, openly gay, married to Lolly, a straight CIS woman. After years they explained why everything had to end. This is the same with many of the LGTBQ+ people on the Church’s website. Everything initially fits the Church’s agenda, then after time their position becomes untenable.

The article itself

I’ve linked the article below if you want to read the whole thing. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs, followed by my comments in italics.

Digital Only: Young Adults

Why digital only? What’s the issue with publishing this in the printed version of the Ensign? Don’t want the general membership to read it? It has been suggested ‘digital only’ makes it easier to remove from publication, if Jacob R ever changes his stance.

My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction

An improved title: “My Experience Living the Law of Chastity and being Gay”? There seems a persistence, from the Church, in using the phrase “same-sex attraction” which appears to reduce being gay down to something sexual, missing completely the close, intimate relationships gay couples develop.

By Jacob R.

Where’s the person’s full name? I can understand the person’s reluctance to publish their name in full, with there being still not yet full acceptance of the leadership, or the general membership of someone being gay and Mormon. Maybe times will change, so one day it’ll be fully acceptable to be LGBTQ+ and a member of the Church.

Sometimes the law of chastity can seem difficult to understand and reconcile…

When pursued from a strictly binary view, it is. Why not apply the law of chastity equally to gay and lesbian couples as to heterosexual couples? Once married what goes on in the bedroom is no one’s business, except the couple.

Editors’ note: This article is part of a series in the August 2020 Ensign regarding having a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity. The term sexuality means different things to different people, but in this context, we are talking specifically about our sexual feelings and identity.

Have to disagree – this article is not “a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity”, nor “sexual feelings and identity.”

There are two things I knew to be true about myself while I was growing up:

  1. I was a Hebrew-speaking Hasidic Jew.
  2. I am gay.

Being a Hasidic Jew this person has already had years of hearing that being gay is against God’s will. Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a gay person seems like stepping out of the frying pan into the fire or perhaps the other way round?

But I’ve learned that regardless of what we may experience, when we trust God’s will above our own, our lives can turn out better than we ever imagined for ourselves.

May be so. Is God’s will being imparted directly? Or someone else telling us what they think God wants for us?

Finding the Truth

I moved to New York to go to school when I was a teenager. I started noticing a beautiful chapel near my school. I was really drawn to it, and as I took a closer look at it one day, I saw the words, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Because I was Jewish, I decided I probably shouldn’t go anywhere near it again, but I never forgot how intriguing it was.

“I started noticing a beautiful chapel”?

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Yet describing, as beautiful, chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems a stretch, which adds to the thought this is by a ghost writer. Temples described as beautiful, I can understand, plain brick Chapels, not really.

I ended up reaching out to missionaries in my area. The thing that intrigued me so much about the Church was that instead of being told what was true and having beliefs forced on me, I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true for myself.

And I did.

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.

Saying yes, though he “didn’t fully understand everything…entailed”. Something that frequently happens. Happened to me. Especially for children baptised aged eight. How can they really understand all that will be required throughout their life? There’s something about full consent missing in such decision making. I began exploring consent here.

Because I experience same-sex attraction, sometimes I struggle to comprehend what Heavenly Father has planned for my life in the gospel. For me, the need to live the law of chastity can be difficult to understand and painful to apply at times, because it’s hard imagining I might be single throughout my life. I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to get married or have children in this life, but I want to, and I keep my mind open to being sealed in the temple if that is Heavenly Father’s plan for me. But regardless of when, I know those blessings will be fulfilled eventually if I follow His will and not my own.

Eternity is one thing, but what about joy now? Because a person is gay they have to wait for family and children in eternity?

As I have learned about His eternal plan, I truly understand that we can experience godliness in many ways, not just through sexual intimacy.

Back to sex. Intimacy is much more than sex. What about talking, holding hands, cuddling, hugging, going for a walk together, kissing, sharing time together, doing a puzzle, playing a game together, etc., etc.?

I Remember That the Lord Hasn’t Revealed All Things

I’ve often wondered why I experience same-sex attraction. I’ve prayed for answers so many times. And as I’ve spoken with stake presidents and bishops and with Heavenly Father over the years, I’ve come to understand that we don’t know all the answers yet. He hasn’t revealed everything to us. God is perfect, but as we see in the Book of Mormon, He doesn’t reveal everything at once.

Avoiding the word “gay” again. Let’s hope Heavenly Father reveals that marriage between people of the same sex and gender is okay sooner, rather than later.

Our souls are wired for connection, and that longing to connect is often at the heart of sexual feelings. Connection, close bonds, and friendship are such an important part of finding joy, and fulfillment as a member of the Church in this life, regardless of your circumstances.

Absolutely. Our souls are wired for connection. What about connection for those who are LGBTQ +? Allowing marriage between gay and lesbian couples helps fulfil such wiring for connection.

I know it’s true.

When I am wholeheartedly in the gospel and when I look through the lens of an eternal perspective and spiritual progression rather than a limited perspective, I feel such incredible peace and joy that doesn’t compare with anything else. The blessings I experience from the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings I am promised outweigh anything else, and they are worth everything.

Great for you. Don’t expect everyone else to feel the same.

And that is one of the main concerns with publishing such an article in an official church publication. The implication this is for all.

Consent – some further thoughts

I was going to title this “Consent and religion”. Though that felt too much like click bait.

Whenever we join an organisation, for whatever reason we may do so, there are certain requirements or expectations of us. Perhaps weekly or monthly meetings to attend. Service to give. Instruction manuals to read/study, in order to understand the group’s additional expectation of its members. There may even be a subscription fee.

This can happen, in varying degrees, whether it’s a company we are employed with, an organisation we may volunteer with, a school, college or university we are studying with, a religion or faith we may start associating with or formally join. As time goes by requirements often change and increase. Occasionally in a way to a level not imaged or considered when first joining. Many times happening without our full agreement or understanding of everything involved.

Over time it seems our consent is being eroded. Our expectations have been distorted. It can then be difficult to extract ourselves, reclaim our personal authority and either reduce what we offer or leave completely. Walking away can be arduous due to the consequences that may be imposed or at least threatened. Some may be insignificant, others severe.

In the case of employment, in some cases, we can wait things out, while we look for alternative work with a new company. Many times waiting is not possible because of extreme expectations and/or it’s not safe to stay. This brings all sorts of difficulties. Is it possible to renegotiate our contract, the company’s and/or our manager’s expectations? If we walk out how easy will it be to find another job? Will we be able to get another job at all?

Leaving a volunteer position is generally easier. We’re not dependent on income from volunteering. Though departing an unpaid internship may affect future income opportunities. That’s another discussion.

What about leaving a religion or faith? How easy is that? If fundamentalist, I suggest not easy at all. Unless you’ve been involved or know someone close who has been, this may not make much sense. Surely it’s just a case of walking away, of not attending, not contributing any more and so on.

Yes and no. It may be different, depending how long you’ve been involved. But the one difference, I see, between leaving employment, volunteering, and religion, is that the latter deals with eternity, whereas the the former with the present. Things are worse if the religion is fundamentalist or a cult. The two are usually combined. Imagine for years being told one particular path is the only way to heaven, to being with your family in eternity. Then you discover something about yourself that seems incompatible with that religion.

This is shown in my previous post, where I explored the following article, “My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction“. The relevant part being:

I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true [the church] for myself.

And I did.

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.

Here Jacob R commits to “enduring to the end and keep the commandments…even though at the time [he] didn’t fully understand everything“. What happens later, if he no longer feels the same, if he can no longer hold to that earlier commitment?

Most fundamentalist churches are very binary in their approach to gender and sexuality. Perhaps you were born into such a faith/church, later realising you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or nonbinary. What do you do? Deny that part of yourself, in order to stay? Or develop the courage to leave?

Experience shows that staying may be possible for a time. The length of which differs for individuals. I’ve seen some hold on for years. Others months or weeks. As I mentioned before if you’re asexual and/or aromatic remaining may be easier. There are many groups, who understanding the dilemma faced, that will support you in staying or leaving. Whilst the faith/church will no doubt want you to stay, very often the leadership will have no clue of the trauma being experienced and thus no idea how to support you, beyond saying keep the faith, keep the commandments.

This is one reason fringe, unofficial groups come into existence to provide support. Helping you come to terms with being LGBTQ+, working through with you, if it’s safe to stay or leave. Individual counsellors, such as myself, also can provide similar support.

What is Consent?

What is consent? Saying yes or no to something? Well, yes, partly. Surely, it is something more though? Giving and receiving consent feels vital, where all involved know exactly what’s happening, to be expected and with whom. This, for me, is really the fuller aspect of being consensual, with everyone knowing, agreeing and happy with what’s happening, may happen and with whom. Though, not just in regard to any type of sexual relationship, but every aspect of life.

Being consensual for me is not just saying yes. It must be an informed yes. All parties being fully aware of everything that they are agreeing to. Regarding sex, fully understanding any potential health risks (STIs, pregnancy, HiV, etc.) involved, both to themselves and their partner/s. Plus, respecting any religious, moral and cultural views of their partner/s, all of which need discussing and negotiating.

I lay in bed one night pondering over what makes full consent so, so important to me. I feel it relates, at least in part, to abuse.

An experience

Consent has always been an important part of how I lived. Well, I thought it was. Sometimes I’m oblivious to things. I appreciate when people call me out on something. Consent was/is one such thing. I guess I’d always connected it solely to sexual activity. That without consent sexual abuse was occurring, which it is.

I share this experience with the consent of the other person involved. On the first or second day of a residential for the Pink Therapy diploma I’m currently studying, Sue taught me the expansiveness of consent (for further insights into Sue’s work, I recommend visiting their website https://thefeelinstitute.com). Students were all involved rotating in pairs asking each other questions. At the end of the two minutes together with Sue I reached out, in my mind, gently to hold Sue’s hands as a gesture of thanks. As my hands lightly touched theirs, Sue stepped back, saying, as far as I recall, “please don’t touch me, I haven’t given you permission”.

I admit at the time to being completely floored, embarrassed, unsure of what I’d done wrong. I think I apologised, certainly resolving to speak with Sue later, which happened. They explained about Betty Martin’s wheel of consent, which was new to me, covered in more detail later in the week. A light bulb went on. I’m grateful for the initial awkwardness I felt, that allowed me to be open to learn and change. Both consenting we hugged. 

A small example. Later in the week there was something in my room Sue wanted to see. A book or handout. Reaching my room, I walked straight in expecting Sue to just follow me. They waited at the entrance. Seeing that, I remember thinking “Sue’s waiting for consent to come in”. I said “come in”, specifically adding, “…if you want to”. Following the whole wheel of consent discussion and workshop it seemed appropriate to add that last part of my sentence, something I probably would not have thought about doing before. To me, it seemed to then be more of an invitation, a choice, which could more easily be declined, rather than any type of command. This leads to more thoughts on many aspects of wider consent, that there isn’t space or time today to write about here. Maybe another day.

For further insights into Sue and their work, I recommend visiting their website – https://thefeelinstitute.com

Diploma in Psychosexual therapy

Recently completed a diploma in Integrative Psychosexual therapy, further enabling me to work with clients’ psychosexual health issues, doing so in an integrative, holistic way, appreciative of diverse sexualities.

On Saturday, 14th June this year, completed a diploma in Integrative Psychosexual therapy at The Centre for Psychosexual Health. For me, a wonderful two years of learning and development. This has further enabled me to work with clients’ psychosexual health issues, doing so in an integrative, holistic way, appreciative of diverse sexualities.

The diploma espoused a new model for the understanding of human sexuality and psychosexual health which encompasses the body, mind, brain and heart, as well as the social and cultural environment.

Over the two years we explored clients sexual issues in terms of their therapeutic meaning and potential, rather than as ‘dysfunction’. It included sexual education, information and self help tools.

It included supporting clients within a therapeutic relationship to rediscover themselves sexually and to develop a more conscious sexual self-esteem.

If you have concerns about any aspect of sex or sexuality either for yourself or within any relationship please get in contact.

The Ozanne Foundation – supporting LGBTQ+ people

This looks very interesting. Hope it leads to something positive for the LGBTQ+ community.

Pink News has a wonderful article on this:

Leaders from every major religion join forces to support LGBT community

The Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organisations around the world to support LGBT+ people, has marked the end of Pride Month by launching the UK’s first inter-religious advisory board focused on fighting discrimination.

The panel’s nine members span across the main UK and Irish religions – Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity – as well as representing the Christian denominations of Catholics, Quakers, Baptists and Methodists. 

The board will learn from the experiences of religious groups that affirm same-sex couples like the Quakers, represented by Hannah Brock Womack who was blocked last year from becoming president of Churches Together in England (CTE) because she is in a same-sex marriage, and develop strategies to promote inclusion within their own religious communities.

Wonderful series on being non-binary

I hope I’m not being preemtively too generous with praise for the Guardian today launching Genderqueer generation, a series of stories centered on, and often told by, the children and young adults who are rejecting traditional gender identities.

Their first article on being non-binary, makes the series look promising. It begins by asking four young people to describe how they realized they were non-binary.

“Well, it’s my body. It’s my identity. It’s how I feel. It’s not how you feel.”

As the article askes: Who decides your gender?

A growing number young people say it is up to them. Rejecting traditional markers of “male” or “female”, they prefer identifying as “genderqueer”, which refers to people who don’t fall squarely within the gender binary. Coming out as non-binary, using they/them pronouns.

Non-binary people feel they are widely misunderstood, facing prejudice. For example, Donald Trump, recently decreed that protections against healthcare discrimination were to be applied based exclusively on biology rather than one’s inner sense of gender.

For further information I explore gender here.

Two out of three ain’t bad? Isn’t it?

I find it interesting how my mind link things that remind me of experiences had. The other day I was thinking, I now have two out of three main Apple products – an iPod, plus an MacBook Air. Will the iPhone come later, completing the set? This led me to the song by Meat Loaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. This led me to an occasion where a friend likened this song to a relationship he had with a girlfriend.

Back in the early 1990s I was working as a computer operator in Glasgow for an oil company. For several night shifts this friend would talk to me while I listened, as he laid out his confused feelings for this lady. He said he felt his relationship with her was like the song, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. Not sure why he choose me to talk to so openly, being quite vulnerable. Perhaps knowing I was near completing an OU degree in psychology was a prompt? He later expressed appreciation for the time spent sharing. This experience, along with coming to the end of the degree in psychology was one of several that led me evetually to further train and work as counsellor/therapist, as I am today. So thanks to that friend.

The song is below for anyone who may not have ever heard it. Or perhaps you may want to listen again 😎.

iPods and therapy sessions

With the recent lockdown due to the Coronavirus all my counselling sessions are currently online using Zoom. I’ve been using my iPad with a pair of headphones. All works well. Though recently purchased a pair of iPods, to use in counselling/therapy sessions instead of the headphones. I am amazed at the difference they make. The quality of sound is wonderful. So much clearer, plus with the noise cancellation on there are no distractions. It feels more like being in a room with a client.