Coming Out to Your Spouse: Coming to Terms With Your True Sexuality & How to Talk to Your Spouse

She was so sincere in wanting to help and understand her coming out husband. She took time to meet with me one-on-one. Wanting nothing more than for her husband to be happy and for their children to go through any transition smoothly, she was eager to learn and love. It took her husband quite some time to make it in to our sessions. He was terrified of any painful outcome.

For a variety of legitimate reasons, coming out to your spouse can be a very scary and challenging process, to say the least. You’ve built a life with someone, and the idea of unraveling and abandoning that history can leave your central nervous system paralyzed. Perhaps you are considering if the benefits of coming out really outweigh the costs.

To help create peace of mind and find resolution, let me explain a couple of moving parts to help you determine if you want to come out.

Self-discovery

1. What language is mine?

Sexual orientation describes what happens in your central and autonomic nervous systems—the various involuntary ways your body respond to visual stimuli (like another person’s body or personality), emotional intimacy and sexual pleasure. Sexual identity, however, is the name with which you label your sexual orientation. Although your sexual orientation could be, let’s say gay, you could publicly claim that you are bisexual. In this scenario, your private sexual identity would be gay (because it matches your sexual orientation), but your public sexual identity would be bisexual. Your sexual orientation does not have to match your sexual identity, at least until we come out honestly.

Some sexual orientations are lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, demisexual, gay, asexual, etc.

Gender identity is the felt sense or internal knowing of one’s gender, regardless of the physical body with which they/she/he is born.

Some gender identities are transgender, gender nonconforming, gender non-binary, trans non-binary, and trans binary, to name a few.

2. My Internal Truth

I encourage my clients to ask a very simple, yet illuminating question: What is true about my gender identity, as well as my sexuality, both physically and emotionally?

Asking this question as you walk down the street, see an attractive person, interact with coworkers, fall asleep at night and pleasure yourself sexually will help you make peace with the physiological and involuntary mechanisms of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I also strongly encourage you to discover which personality types you are drawn to and what yearnings they provoke. We are emotionally aroused when we feel seen, special, sexy and wanted.

Taking a thorough inventory of what brings you comfort and pleasure––from the inside out––will contribute to a comprehensive picture of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity and all their components. Self-understanding is the best catalyst for deeply rooted confidence.

3. Necessary Closets

As you make peace with your sexuality, coming out may be too emotionally or relationally threatening. And for this reason, you may reach clarity and identify exactly why your closet has been necessary. Acknowledging any imminent or assumed rejection, isolation, or derogation will help you prepare for the initial blow and aftermath. Laying a stable foundation––like a trustworthy support system, for example––will give you the emotional and physical stamina to withstand challenging relational storms.

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

“My sexual orientation was socialized, and I can change it”
Thankfully, we now have scientific data that proves we were born with both a pre-established sexual orientation and gender identity set in place by in utero bathings during weeks 6 and twelve.

Although there are no genes for homosexuality or gender identity, it is easy to understand our sexual orientations and gender identities were installed by hormone bathings that wire our brains for sexual preferences and a felt sense of gender. The software, if you will, that encodes our sexuality will remain somewhat unactivated until puberty, whereas that which encodes our gender will be activated as early as 2 years old.

(Kerstin – is there a way to make a journal article available to readers via link…maybe to a dropbox file?)

“I’ll be alone forever”
Many of my clients who contemplate coming out assume their lives will completely fall apart or that they’ll be seen as the world’s biggest jerk for causing so much pain in their loved ones’ lives.

There is a major range of reactions in those who hear the news for the first time. A significant percentage of my coming out clients face a short-term season of relational discord where time and space help everyone involved establish a new normal.

Another noteworthy percentage of clients face the transition as a team, creating a new normal side-by-side. Families and couples who do this have well-developed abilities to communicate, to be vulnerable and to practice unconditional love.

It is rare, but worth mentioning, that for bisexual clients––who are in some capacity attracted to their opposite gendered spouse and the same gender––remaining in their marriage is possible. Again, these mixed orientation marriages are stabilized by mature communication and thorough understanding of both their sexual orientation, sexual desires and deep emotional intimacy.

Coming out can change your life dramatically, possibly leading to utter rejection. But in ten year’s worth of clinical experience, working with couples and families, complete rejection is very, very rare. If being ostracized from your loved ones is possible, take every step necessary to create a safety net of trustworthy friendships before coming out.

Coming Out

As you plan your coming out, identify the triggers your spouse might experience and how you may be prone to feel responsible for their reactions. Remember, you cannot cause another’s reaction; they do! Amidst their triggers, for which you are not responsible, implement a sophisticated boundary so that you can stay in your truth, while your spouse or loved one experiences theirs.

One major element to a successful coming out is your story—the tale of your lived experience as you felt your sexual orientation or gender identity blossom. Share with your loved ones when you first discovered what your sexual orientation or gender identity are and how you knew. Tell them what it felt like as you held this secret and all the assumptions (and painful realities) that made your closet so necessary.

Your coming out will be the very beginning of a long process, but with the internal inventory you’ve completed and the confidence you’ve built, hold to your inner knowing, which is where freedom lives—for both you and your loved ones.

And remember, you don’t have to go at it alone.

Posted on September 13, 2019 .

4 Ways Counseling Can Help Improve Your Connection to Yourself and Your Loved Ones

As a graduate student studying healthy relationships, I felt ashamed at how badly my relationships looked on paper. My friendships and love life were disintegrating like the petals of a plucked rose. I was full of shame. . . and vodka.

To figure out how I could get my wayward boat back on track, I booked a European vacation. The beach, a big journal and lots of fresh air would get me there!

As I sat on the beach in southern Spain, I realized that I had no idea who I was, what I was passionate about or what made me happy. Investing all of my energy in criticizing my partner and festering over old familial wounds had really zapped my flourishing.

I decided that if I was going to be a clinician someday, I better get my life in order. So I put down the vodka, drank my own medicine and found a reputable therapist.

During my time in therapy, I began to experience major epiphanies and changes that set my life and relationships right-side up. Over time I realized that my therapist was helping me awakened my numb, hollow body. It felt incredible to say, “I remember who I am!”

Counseling for us in the LGBTQ+ community can be scary, but there are several benefits to counseling. My favorites are the ways it helps us connect to others and ourselves. Here are my top 4 ways:

1. Communication

Many LGBTQ people experience anger that keeps them from connecting; counseling allows you to identify the source of anger and to talk about other primary emotions like sadness, embarrassment, failure that live beneath anger. Thus, rather than exploding in anger, you can communicate your primary emotions, leading to greater trust and cohesion.

Another major communication tool that counseling can offer is finding the best terms to describe yourself. My therapeutic journey led me to come out as a queer, gender non-conforming person, and without my therapist, I would not have found the words to accurately described who I was and what I needed from my loved ones.

2. Ending Repeating Arguments

Let’s face it, whether two people double down on opposing positions or a back-and-forth simply cycles repeatedly in our heads, some arguments keep repeating.

Counseling gave me new remedies for recurring arguments surrounding emotions or frustrations that popped up in my day-to-day life. I realized that the context of the argument mattered less than the desire behind it.

3. Changing Unwanted Patterns

As my relationships stabilized and the arguing died down, I could finally tackle my long-standing, shaming behavioral patterns. I realized that I kept soothing my shame with tactics, food and substances that, to be honest, reinforced my shame. I was stuck in a serious loop of hurting, medicating my pain, feeling shamed for meager attempts at relief, all which landed me back at hurting again.

Instead of drinking too much, never-ending, compulsive episodes on Grindr, or sleeping with temporary hunks for a flash of acceptance, I became conscious of my patterns and found a way to break them.

My counselor allowed me to talk about the details of the embarrassing things I had done. His non-judgmental stance and caring posture allowed me to talk about and resolve my biggest hurdles. I love therapy for this very reason, among many others!

4. Clarity & Self-acceptance

Before counseling I had determined that I was dirty for being a queer, gender non-conforming person. My default setting was fixed on the belief that I was inferior to other men and a burden to my religious family and friends. But as I walked out of that room, time after time, I slowly left all of those false messages on the couch where I had just sat.

As a result, my relationships began to feel more comfortable because I could understand their internal mechanisms. I felt like I had control of my ship, something I had never experienced before.

Walking with pride as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and embracing life with a partner has helped me reach levels of life-satisfaction that only existed in my dreams.

I encourage you—if you want to experience these four benefits—to give therapy a try. It could be a life-changing process. Take the plunge! You won’t regret it!

Posted on September 13, 2019 .

Recovering from Cheating | Identifying the Underlying Causes of Infidelity in Gay Relationship

I”ll admit it—I was a novice at dating, but I tried my hardest to love the man who showered me with gifts. He provided me with European vacations, cars and an offer of lifetime commitment, but I couldn’t fully settle into our relationship. I was too wide-eyed and curious. I wanted to know what it would feel like to sleep with other people and date other personality types.

Without being fully conscious of it, I lived under the assumption that the perfect man was out there waiting for me. Even though my boyfriend of the time was enamored with me and my personality, his love was no match for my wild and unrestrained curiosity, I’m sad to say.

I was caught in perpetual ambivalence: I wanted him so desperately, but I couldn’t commit. I loved him, but I didn’t know with certainty if I would be happy. I was ready to set down roots but leary that I might regret a permanent decision.

The poor chap. He made every attempt to convince me of his love, and yet, he could feel the energy of my rowdy desires. It was in this emotionally dry spell that he was deployed for 18 months as and Army reservist.

My unacknowledged ambivalence and our massive, yet unmentioned emotional distance was unstable, moving ground. Iit grew in pressure and heat like an unerupted volcano during our time apart. When he came home, it finally blew.

The day he walked in our apartment, returned from Iraq, I knew we had hit an all-time low. He was cold, seemingly bored by my presence. Within 24 hours, he asked me to move out. He needed the room so that his new boyfriend could move in.

Needless to say, I spent months reeling with the facts. He had cheated on me. He had slept with someone else. It had been going on for over a year. I spent a season of my life walking with a haze of confusion, pangs of floor-dropping anxiety and gut wrenching grief. After five years, I was not only let go, I was kicked out, and not just because it wasn’t working, but because he had found, what felt like, my replacement.

In the aftermath, I felt as though I was sitting in a crater where our home once stood. It was one of the darkest seasons of my life. The debilitating sorrow, however, forced me to reckon with the truth.

I realized that we had lived in a relationally dry climate for too long, and we alone were responsible for letting it get there.

Our vulnerability was too low, our passion had diminished, and we had begun living separate lives. His healthy emotional desires had gone unseen, unacknowledged and unmet for too long. He had been emotionally starving with no sustenance in sight.

Sadly, this type of emotional hunger is all-too common for and often catalyzes those who cheat.

The alarms of emotional hunger may not come all at once. But when important desires—belonging, love, thrill, satisfaction, joy, and romance—go unmet for long, however, partners try to find emotional resources. Some reach for close relatives, best friends or co-workers. Doing so may work for any period of time or it could be the first step of the cheater’s trajectory.

Other partners may begin to scan for another lover who might be able to meet their emotional needs ‘perfectly.’ They often fantasize about the ideal partner and project that fantasy outside of their relationship. At the end of the day, they’re simply looking for someone who can fill up their emotional buckets.

Feeling ashamed of their heightened emotional or sexual yearnings or hopeless than anything will change, partners may be afraid to voice their true desires and needs. As a result of this concealing, they often meet their needs in secret—thus, cheating. In other words, discussing unmet needs with a partner is often much more difficult than seeking to meet them outside the relationship.

A new sexual partner—for a person in a dry emotional environment—is like an IV drip for a drastically dehydrated person. Sex is a major source of emotional connectedness and exciting vulnerability. Because emotional connectedness and sex often go hand in hand, it is no wonder an emotionally starved partner might reach for deeply satisfying and thrilling sexual encounters. Playing out our emotional fantasies with a new sexual partner will reap short-term benefits because we feel immediately worthy, desired, and special, especially when someone is excited to sleep with us. If, for an emotionally hungry person, fantasizing is a medication, having sex is the buffet table.

Obviously, this type of emotional replenishing causes major damage to our stability and trust.

If you are currently seeking to repair damage caused from cheating, here are things to consider:

1. Create a safe environment for one hell of an apology.

Your partner will need to understand that your apology is sincere and not just an empty gesture to return things to normal. To set the mood and create a healthy repair, emotional responsibility and empathy should always be part of the formula. Here are the thought prompts to my 5-Step Apology:

  • This what I did that hurt you. (Describe the boundary violations so that they know you mean what you say and that your grief and regret have merit.)

  • This is how it affected you. (Describe how your actions affected your partner and what they might be feeling, emotions like unsafe, stupid, angry, hurt, untrusting, etc.)

  • This is how I got to the point of hurting you. (Don’t make excuses! Own your shit, take responsibility, and tell your partner(s) about how you ended up making your decisions. Be honest and authentic.)

  • This is what I am willing to do to protect you, myself and us from this happening again. (Tell your partner about the precautions and boundaries you will put in place, as well as the work you will do to repair your own emotional environment. You may need to be vulnerable. Ask your partner to work on their fair share to repair any stale emotional environment, but save requests for a later time.)

  • Apologize with sincerity.

Although an apology is only a beginning step, it is a major way to bring resolution. You may have to run through the 5-Step Apology over and over again because your partner may need to hear it several times as they process your betrayal and learn to trust you again.

2. Practice Trusting

Trusting a partner who has cheated can be scary and utterly challenging. The practice of trusting your partner involves setting proper and stable boundaries, accepting the 5-Step Apology and allowing time to pass to heal. Trust must be earned, but if your partner has earned it, practice giving it back. This is possibly the most challenging step in the recovery process.

3. Practice Vulnerability and Create Safety

Without vulnerability relationships will be dry. They will not be able to reach the satisfaction and passion they once had. Although one person may have cheated, all involved are responsible for creating a safe and trustworthy space where any partner can share what they need and feel comfortable to do so. Contrastingly, judgement and criticism will shut down vulnerability over time. Vulnerability is a practice of showing up with even the most disdained parts of yourself and trusting your partner to see and care for them. When romantic partners do this for one another, they reestablish their safety, connection and passion. In such a relational context, emotional satisfaction can abound.

Even If you wonder, “How can I move on after cheating?” you can reestablish a healthy, thriving relationship. Counseling professionals have walked through this process with other couples and can support you on your journey toward healing. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need. It will take work, but our closest relationships are worth the fight.

Posted on September 13, 2019 .

My Partner Says, “We Need Therapy” | Is Gay Couples Therapy Worth the Cost?

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For the first 15 years of my dating life, playing the role of a committed partner always led me to feel obligated and controlled. Frustrated, I couldn’t understand why I was losing myself, my dreams and my individuality. Dating was a vacuum that seemed to suck out everything that made me, me.

I always felt like my partners were nagging at me to do things another way or to become someone else. In this context, I would never be enough to keep the man-of-the-moment happy.

Back in 2005 when I started dating, I thought couples therapy was for married folks. It wasn’t for boyfriends who were dating with serious intentions.

As I pushed toward my 30th birthday, however, I realized that I was also pushing men away from me—really good men! Fear of growing old was rattling my internal cage, but not nearly as much as the fear of being a crappy partner who might die alone.

I finally realized that I needed professional help.

When I took my first steps into a counseling office, I was a wreck. My relational home was a mess!

Over time, I began simplifying my habits, organizing my identity, and reassembling my gifts. Right away, I implemented boundary setting and healthy expectations. I grew in confidence that I was a healthy person. Although I had done major work to know who I was, I hadn’t yet plunged into the depths of who I was in relationships.

After ensuring I could take care of myself, it was time for me to take care of my relationship.

Before couple’s therapy I assumed that to be in a relationship meant keeping my partner pleased. I would compromise my desires, stuff my dreams and shut down my opinion. And when I wasn’t busy camouflaging my personality, I was trying to be spectacular. I figured a fancy car, a shiny career and expensive clothes would keep my man proud of me. I wanted to be the mysterious arm candy that everyone wanted to taste.

Needless to say, couples counseling helped me see just how much I had turned relational intimacy into a performance.

In our therapist’s office, my boyfriend and I sat eager and nervous. There, I learned to acknowledge that the behaviors I had called controlling were actually my partner’s requests—that I grow in maturity, communicate effectively and offer my uninhibited opinion. I began to shed the layers that kept me protected from changing and those that kept me from seeing the liberating truth of relational intimacy.

I noticed something for the first time on my therapist’s couch; now as a couple’s counselor, I see it in many of my clients: many of us in the LGBTQ+ community fear that the perfect person could be just around the corner, even while we’re madly in love with someone else. We have trained ourselves to imagine that another person—with a better smile, a more tender heart, a vibrant personality or a perfect body—is out there waiting for us. Ultimately, we fear commitment because we might lose an opportunity to find this imaginary ideal, someone better who never quite materializes.

Bottom line: all relationships are messy, hard and challenging. We will never find a partner(s) with a perfect personality or a spotless track record. We are all perfectly imperfect.

In spite of our imperfections, I believe we grow most in a relationship, especially intimate ones, because our full selves are on display. Relationships provoke our deepest yearnings, our biggest insecurities, our long-standing resentments and our biggest dreams. Relationships are the arenas where we sharpen our skills sets, build our stamina, and eventually become masterful gladiators. Our relational prowess may be on display to an entire arena of friends and family spectators, but our partners occupy the front row seats. You didn’t think you were fighting your partner, did you? In the relationship arena, we face ourselves.

My partner has heard me voice my internal narratives of shame, inadequacy and self-doubt. As I grew to repair these voices, he grew so that he could affirm me, not just with his words, but his actions. To know that my partner has watched me wage the most deeply rooted internal battles AND then has intentionally grown in his own right—so that I might feel utterly safe, completely accepted, and unconditionally loved by him—that makes him irreplaceable!

I hope I have done the same for him.

For us, couples counseling wasn’t just about working through arguments and learning to communicate. It was about growing in emotional and relational stability so that together we could create the relational home that allows us to live in full authenticity and belonging side-by-side. Now, several years later, our time in couple’s therapy has proven to be worth every ounce of energy.

If you need help with your relationships or being a healthy partner, it’s never too late to get help, and it’s never too early to start building a relational home. Trust me!

Posted on September 13, 2019 .

3 Common Fears of Coming Out as a Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child

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In the 1920s, Freudian psychology was in fashion. With provocative claims and bold statements, Freud had made himself an authority on human psychology and sexuality. With no scientific research, however, Freud guessed that homosexuality was a socialized phenomenon that stemmed from an overbearing mother and aloof father. That was a mistake with long term consequences.

Freud’s 1920s assertion made two assumptions about sexual orientation that have since been debunked: 1) sexual orientation is established through socialization (meaning through interactions with other humans) and 2) that parents influence sexual orientation more than any other human. 

Thankfully, clinical  psychologists applied the scientific method, allowing researchers to better understand where homosexuality comes from. But unfortunately, we still have to live with Freud’s guesses in our culture, particularly in Christian Churches. 

Many religious institutions and parents use Sigmund Freud’s false notions to explain how homosexuality develops.. It’s an easy blame game. If LGBTQ+ children are disordered, then their parents must be neglectful, harsh or codependent, just to name a few. Do you see how Freud’s claims not only mischaracterize LGBTQ+ children, but also place unfounded blame on parents?

Peer reviewed research hasn’t trace the etiology (the cause) of homosexuality to socialization, parental input, or choice. Instead, researchers have linked (for access to this research, contact our office) sexuality to an in utero hormone bathing that occurs between  weeks 6–12. 

Why bring up this science? Telling the truth about sexuality’s origins helps us to dismantle the shame and fear that many parents carry simply because they have LGBTQ+ children. 

 

Here are the three most common fears that I encounter in parents when their children come out of the closet: 

 

1. I will be judged by my peers

Many parents, especially those closely tied to church families, worry what their friends, priests, and family will think. When you atribute homosexuality to  poor parenting, acknowledging that a child is queer is like admitting to being an over-bearing or neglectful parent. For some parents, such a social admission inspires anger at the child. These parents often subconsciously feel that if they can shame or scare their child into being straight, they’ll save face. It is common to see these parents cling even tighter to their religious ideologies, which many times reinforces the separation between them and their children. 

Parents who love and accept their children, however, are often ostracized from their churches and families. Because they align with their children more than their religious community, these parents confront a major fear: rejection. As a parent’s place with a social group comes into question, they often need guidance in being an ally to their children, but also grieving the loss of historic support systems for the sake of their children. 

Working through the fear of rejection allows parents to recognize their own emotions about having a queer child. It gives them awareness and newfound stamina to make decisions that are best for their family, rather than succumb to fear-based, reactionary decisions. 

2. What if I say or do something wrong?

Many parents ask, “Am I doing this right?” They’re fearful of saying something offensive or doing anything to counteract their loving intentions.

These parents understand that the coming out process and the LGBTQ+ community are highly evolved and utterly complex. Not only should you learn the specific language that your child uses to label themselves, but you should also survey the subtle ways that homophobia, transphobia, or biphobia may shape your preconceived notions of your LGBTQ+ child.

As a counselor, I help parents learn about their child’s story—how they discovered their sexual orientation. This process helps the child feel safe, and it helps parents gain confidence to approach their child’s reality. Parents can facilitate reparative conversations with questions like:

When did you know you were _______ ?

What did if feel like for you to carry this all by yourself?

What are the important things about your identity that you would like me to know?

I also find it incredibly helpful when parents and children to make a plan about how they will initiate challenging conversations. Doing so gives each party time to prepare and initiate boundaries that allow listening to happen without getting defensive. 

3. Who is my child and who will they become? 

The coming out process may feel like major whiplash for some parents. After years of dreaming and planning for their child’s future, many parents must grieve their hopes and dreams for their children.

Traditional grief will include acceptance, anger, bargaining, denial, and depression, all of which spring up like popcorn with no rhyme or reason. Grief is an important process, however. As with grief, no matter the context, we must let our hopes and dreams die so that we can open up to the life that is. Accepting reality, however, is no easy feat. 

Of course, religious parents may have  major concerns about their child’s life after death. They may want to express their fears to help their children make a well-informed decision. In my observations, these conversations can be highly inflammatory yet, at the same time, important for both the parents and their children as they make sense of their beliefs. I recommend approaching these conversations with a healthy dose of respect for your child’s spiritual and personal autonomy. Instead of trying to preach at your children, learn about what their belief systems look like. They may not be similar, but in all of religion it is very rare that two people will completely align. Honor this fact in your child’s self-determination. It may be hard, but it can be done. 

The coming out process is challenging and nuanced for children, parents, and the family bond. Each child presents a unique set of circumstances, and every family will have their own communication challenges and sore spots. But the more you know about your child as a loving and caring parent, the better off you and your family can navigate the road toward health. 

Posted on September 12, 2019 .

Pride Is A Verb

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I went to my first Pride parade like a closeted gay boy walking through the underwear section at Target—pretending to have a calm, collected countenance, but also so desperately wanting to oogle at the beautiful models. At that parade it was important to me that people assume I was a supportive outsider, so I tried to appear as though I was a simple community member doing my civic, neighborly duty, politely waving a rainbow flag. I walked around Pride as a subdued supporter of my local LGBTQ+ community.

During that hot June in Colorado, I had already told a smattering of close friends that I had “same-sex attractions.” But as you can tell, I wasn’t yet fully okay with myself. I was teetering on the fence: could I embrace myself or simply live as a straight person, inconspicuously window shopping the LGBTQ+ life?

Then, I fully believed that to come out was to admit that I was a sexual deviant. I thought that my body—its cravings, yearnings and involuntary reactions—were a mistake for which I’d pay the price by living alone, forever.

As you can infer, I hadn’t quite yet fully understood the premise of Pride. Many of us haven’t.

A lot of us LGBTQ+ people have lived in a context that trained us to stay small, filter our personalities, question our desires, and conform, all for the sake of belonging. We have subtly swallowed messages that teach us that we are safer in our closets or hiding behind facades, and more successful when people are pleased with our personality-altering decorations and costume changes.eas

Some have become so skilled at managing the facade they are known for that authenticity feels either awkward or selfish.

But as Pride swells, I like to remember who I have become and the true potential of LGBTQ+ people.

Now, as an out Bisexual gender non-conforming person—a far reach from that 26 year-old ‘supportive community member’—I have learned to embrace my choices and my lifestyle. And this, to me, is the essence of Pride.

Choice and lifestyle have often been trigger words, weaponized language used against the LGBTQ+ community to demean and shame us. But in my world, they have become the pillars of my Pride.

Now that I fully love who I am, I want to shout from the mountain tops that I am proud of my choice to accept who I am; my choice to let myself visit a gay bar, my choice to ask God what God thought of me; my choice to say, “Its none of my business what homophobes think of me.” You better believe that I chose to fall in love with an my queer, gender non-conforming self. And dang it, I earned the ability to do so! I spent years in therapy, choosing to fight against the voices of shame and self-hatred that left me trembling in fear. For me, embracing Pride has been a long-fought-for choice.

And better yet, I created a lifestyle of which I am utterly proud. I love the home I created with my partner, Joe. I love the way we go for runs after work, the way he loves my niece and nephew. I love my career, one in which I have taken the harmful messages of transphobia and homophobia and turned them on their heads to liberate all members of the LGBTQ+ community. I love the lifestyle that I’ve found working with the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for us, and building bridges, making LGBTQ+ equality more of a day-to-day reality. Do I have a queer lifestyle? You bet! And I LOVE it!

When we embrace who we are and take up the courage to express that openly, we make one hell of a choice. When we choose to be happy, healthy, and successful we create lifestyles that lead to greater life satisfaction.

Outwardly expressing the choices and lifestyle that tell the world just how beautiful LGBTQ+ life and love can be is incredibly rewarding. In this light, coming out didn’t just mean that I told people about my sexual orientation. Coming out meant internalizing and demonstrating LGBTQ+ self-acceptance as though Pride were a verb, an action, a way of living energetically, authentically, openly, vivaciously, from the inside out.

Pride is not only telling someone about how you feel, love, or express your gender. Pride is the confidence and excitement to let others see your authenticity lived out in your everyday life. Pride rids the inclination to guess at your position in relationships because it stabilizes our identities in self-confidence and relational esteem, the roots that hold us knowing our relational value.

Walking through the booths, streets, bars, and parades at Pride celebrations are no longer events I simply window shop. I am proud to be myself. Pride is not only an event I attend once a year; it is a way of being. In this light, I want to wish you the best Pride ever!  

Posted on June 18, 2019 .

Do Open Relationships work? P1. | Navigating the Common Challenges of Polyamorous Relationships

One client said, “If I could not make it work with one, what made me think I could make it work with multiple?” After doing some profound work on his attachments and attachment style, that client found a lot of happiness, stability, and success in his open relationship.

One client said, “If I could not make it work with one, what made me think I could make it work with multiple?” After doing some profound work on his attachments and attachment style, that client found a lot of happiness, stability, and success in his open relationship.


Open relationships require major consideration. As one member of a couple, or as a couple, there are many factors to think about when considering opening up your relationship and/or becoming polyamorous, such as attachments and emotional cravings. In part two of this blog series, we will consider life dynamics, long-term safety, and rules of engagement.

Attachment Styles & Emotional Cravings

Attachment styles are created within the first year of life, and the type we develop largely depends on the manner in which our primary care providers interact with us as infants. There are various types of attachment styles, such as secure (the one we are looking to create in adulthood), insecure, avoidant, anxious, and defensive detachment. These dynamics—or attachment styles—become our relational software. With little self-awareness, we will recreate our first attachment style over and over again. 

Opening up a relationship will have the highest chance of being healthy if you have a secure attachment style. A secure attachment style is comprised of an internal knowing that does not, never-ever, waiver in security. People with a secure attachment style do not become anxious or fearful at the thought of breaking up, nor when relational challenges rock their boat. In fact, the thought of breaking up isn’t characteristic of secure attachment styles. 

In the variety of attachment styles other than the secure attachment style, there is a lot of fear, doubt, mistrust, insecurity, and little faith in the stability of the relationship. These factors can plague any person who might wish to enter an open or poly relationship. 

When we do not have a secure attachment style, we can feel lonely, exhausted, resentful, or relationally empty. Because we are hungry to deeply connect, we can search for someone who will make us feel seen, thrill, and passion. We can begin to imagine what it would feel like to have a refreshing, titillating sexual experience or a connection with someone new who can leave us feeling full. This can often be a motivator: opening the relationship to other emotionally satisfying resources, people who can fill our emotional reservoirs. 

As a clinician, it is important to address the motivation when partners advocate for open or poly relationships solely because they are emotionally hungry. Before they open the gate to allow others in, I encourage the emotionally hungry to take a comprehensive assessment to ensure they are not seeking more people as a way of medicating a painful attachment style. Trying to achieve fulfillment by engaging new people can easily lead to jealousy, resentment, sexual challenges, and, dare I say, the end of an otherwise healthy relationship. 

One client said, “If I could not make it work with one, what made me think I could make it work with multiple?” After doing some profound work on his attachments and attachment style, that client found a lot of happiness, stability, and success in his open relationship. 

Attachment psychology has grown over the years, now offering an in-depth and research-based perspective that can help individuals ensure they are healthily connected, full of relational resilience, and capable of carrying the emotional weight of multiple relationships. 

Can open or polyamorous relationships work? Of course. Maybe not for everyone, but for certain people, open or poly relationships are deeply satisfying. To make one work, you might need to prepare the emotional context with consideration, wisdom, and a ton of communication. Create the attachment structure you need to make your open or poly relationships work.


Posted on June 12, 2019 .

Let's Talk About Sex | Healthy Communication Tips for Gay Couples Struggling With Sexual Issues

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Many of us are comfortable talking about sex with friends. We divulge details, share tips and tricks, and even get advice on aspects of our strained sex lives. Talking openly and honestly with our sexual partners, however, comes with a higher level of discomfort. Talking with transparency comes with the risk of hurting our partners’ feelings, embarrassing ourselves, and asking for things that feel selfish, and it forces us to be vulnerable about the parts of ourselves many of us try to hide: our naked, sexual bodies.

Psychological research shows that couples who talk openly about sex report higher levels of relational satisfaction. How, though, do couples talk about sex so easily?

Tip #1: Spend time destigmatizing sex, sexual activity, and sexual body parts.

One of the best ways to work through the discomfort of sexuality is to pick up a sex guidebook that can help you learn more about your body, sex, and sexuality in general. Some of my personal favorite books on this topic are Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity and Janet Hardy’s The Ethical Slut. Books like these will help you feel versed in sexual language, destigmatize sex language, and experience confidence talking about sex with your partner(s).

I once taught a master’s-level course called Sexuality and Counseling. It astonished me how many graduate students felt either scared to talk about sex or ashamed that they had never masturbated. What surprised me more than anything was that these students had a very hard time identifying parts of their sexual organs on a fill-in-the-blank chart.

Learning about our bodies from an academic perspective will help you become comfortable talking about your sex and sexual cravings, allowing them to become a natural part of who you are and how your autonomic nervous system (neurology in charge of sex) functions.

Tip #2: Embrace self-exploration

Learning about how your body functions, what you like, what turns you on, what is uncomfortable, and what fantasies you might have can help you make peace with your sexual cravings, and it can also give you the confidence to speak your truth to your sexual lover(s).

Even if they needs to be your personal secret at first, sex toys can help you discover the innocence of what feels good. Masturbating with sex toys and/or the insights of books can help you fully understand your body and inspire confidence to ask for the things you like and stop the things you don’t. This will also help you ask your partner what they like and don’t like, making your self-exploration quite the guide for an under-the-sheets exploration with your partner(s).

Tip #3: Talk about your sexual ethic and cravings

Sexual activity exists on a massive spectrum. Some mate for life, and some are polyamorous; some enjoy little exploration, while others dive head-first into kink or puppy play. To better assist you and your sexual partner(s) as you approach sex or resolve sexual issues, understanding what is off limits and how you agree to keep one another safe is going to be a great way to set the stage to talk about and have great sex.

The autonomic nervous system, where sex and orgasm live in the neurological body, heavily rely on a felt sense of safety. With safety, the body can sexually function rather well. Without safety, however, the autonomic nervous system will easily and quickly shutdown.

In this light, talking about your sexual ethics and finding agreement will help the nervous system find ease and comfort, which will inspire great passion and sustained satisfaction. You can read more about sex, the body, resentment, and safety here.

Tip #4: Practice vulnerability & emotional intimacy

If you are having a hard time talking about sex with your lover(s), you might want to start with non-sexual emotional vulnerability and intimacy. Talk about your fears, your dreams, your insecurities, and your passions that have nothing to do with sex. Doing so will help you realize that vulnerability is a very rewarding and safety-building process. Log some time experiencing just how safe vulnerability can be and how much emotional intimacy it can create. In this context, you will create an exciting climate and will learn to trust the process of healthy vulnerability, which will lead to meaningful talks about sex. Pave the way to talking about sex by being vulnerable in other areas.

Talking about sex is very different than slipping right into it. However, having these conversations will not only boost your sex life, but also fortify your connections.



Posted on May 31, 2019 .

Faith & Sexual Identity | Using Your Spirituality to Strengthen Your Confidence

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It was Halloween. I stood in a Scooby Doo outfit made from random pieces of clothing and garments I found in the dusty corners of my closet. We walked into a massive, gay party, me and my queer friends from seminary. I stood talking with a guy who might as well have been a model—his muscles filled what could be extra fabric of his costume. He asked what I do for a living and I told him that I was a counselor for the LGBTQ+ community, one who also works with religious parents of queer children. I told him about my time in seminary, where I reconciled my sexual orientation with my faith. 

With confusion in his brow, he interrupted me to ask, “Wait, you can be gay and Christian?” 

Many queer people are confused not only that some would call themselves both queer and Christian, but also that the combination itself is a sheer possibility. 

Faith and sexual identity go hand in hand, in my book. To prove similar claims, many reach for theological academic resources, diving head-deep into biblical commentaries, historical languages, and archeology to understand what was penned in Scripture centuries before us. 

Sure, the biblical texts have helped many come to a place of self-acceptance, but as a trained psychotherapist, I am certain that there is no better way to understand one’s inherent value than to experience love, relationships, change, and growth. 

Let me begin by stating that, as a seminary student, I hated who I was, who I was becoming, and the fact that I was completely powerless to change the unwanted attraction that involuntarily occurred within my body. To be honest, relying on old biblical texts that referred to sexual behavior seemed like a bad mistake—not because they would tell me something I didn’t want to hear, but because too many smart people disagree too much. I couldn’t trust the manner in which we didn’t agree. 

I stopped reading the Bible for a while. In seminary, I had learned that the Bible was assembled by men who voted on which books should and should not be included. These men voted by throwing colored, marble-like stones into the center of their meeting table. When I learned this, I was like, “What the heck?” I seriously began to doubt the credibility of the Bible. 

So I set off on a different path, a truly experiential one. I didn’t just want to read about God; I wanted to experience God. I didn’t just want to hear what people thought about God; I wanted to know what God thought about me. 

Here are some important things I learned on that journey: 

1. God does not care about our behavior.

God cares about the motivation that underscores the behavior. As I started treating clients for sexual addictions, explosive anger, and compulsive habits, I began to realize that the behavior (which is what most therapists would focus on) was only a symptom of what my clients were emotionally experiencing. I realized the same thing of my own motives and desires; they, too, were initiating my behaviors. It does no good to change behaviors if the desire is still missing the mark. I believe Jesus was stating the same point when he conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well. And this leads me to my second revelation…

2. Once we make peace with our desires, we take back the power from shame.

Shame is a sneaky force that convinces us that desire itself is wrong. The moment we are persuaded by shame, we will start to hide our emotional yearnings and cravings, thus limiting our options for satisfaction to occur only in the silent, secretive moments when no one is looking. But when we strip shame away from our desires, allowing them to be seen as pure and innocent, we are able to behave in a way that leaves us demonstrating integrity and pride! This is a powerful transition for those trying to reconcile sexuality and spirituality.

3. Trusting God has nothing to do with what we do.

Trusting God means that we do not worry about who we are in God’s eyes. It does not mean we have to keep an eye on God’s emotions, or feel afraid when we make a mistake. For example, if I were to trust a babysitter with a newborn, I wouldn’t spend my time away worrying, calling to check in, or texting to feel comforted by the sitter’s responses, and I wouldn’t end my night early to dash home to feel relief. Trusting the babysitter with the child means that I do not worry because I intrinsically believe the child is safe in the care of a competent person.

Learning to truly trust God with who I am was a revolutionary lesson. It was not only a cognitive thought that left me with some cool insight; it was a physical experience of relief that convinced me I was safe…forever. I could feel comforted by my behavior to keep God happy, but this is not trusting God; it is trusting myself and my actions. Practice trusting God with who you are, not yourself by what you do.

4. I am inherently valuable.

As I began living life as one connected to God, not religion, I discovered that I was inherently valuable. No matter what mistake I made, my God-given value could not diminish, and no matter how perfectly I behaved, my value could not increase. I was perfect to God, even when I messed up and even when I was trying too hard. Our inherent value does not excuse unhealthy or immoral behavior, but it does help us live tied to our worth. And when we know our true worth, we begin to honor it with the actions of our life.

Can you be queer and Christian? Of course. Some may want to rely on religion as a way of finding confidence. I find, however, that the combination of theology and spirituality is a dynamic duo. Reconciling sexuality and spirituality is no easy feat. There is no one answer that fits all personalities, belief systems, and religious backgrounds. That’s why it’s important to rely on what works best for you. A therapist, a pastor, a loving parent, and a best friend can all give you advice because they love you to pieces. All of their words of wisdom could, however, be dramatically contradictory. 

An experiential season of spirituality might just help you discover what you believe and why you believe it.

Need help making peace with your faith and sexual identity?

Posted on May 7, 2019 .

4 Signs of an Unhealthy Sex Life in Gay Relationships

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As a clinician who specializes in working with the LGBTQ+ community, I often have conversations around healthy sex. Growing up, many of us had the “birds and the bees” talk, but not many had “birds and birds” or “bees and bees” talks.

Like we all know, healthy sex can be an incredibly emotional event, and it can be an experience of pure physical pleasure. In my office, however, one of the most frequent conversations I have is around unhealthy sex lives. After specializing in the field for nearly 10 years, I have identified four common signs that your sex life may be unhealthy.

1.     Obligation & Guilt

Many clients, who are looking for love and so hopeful they’ll find it, tell me that they are fierce in their flirtation. After creating too much emotional momentum and hinting at things they only wanted in their fantasies, my clients often feel guilty for luring someone with tempting words. They can’t shut down the sexual momentum, even when things start to feel uncomfortable, because they feel responsible for creating it in the first place. Whatever the context, whether it be a game of flirtation, a long-standing relationship, or a short-term hookup, going through with a sexual act out of obligation will lead to guilt at least and shame at most, for you and your sexual partner(s).

A major component of creating a healthy sex life is presenting the authentic self and being willing to say, “No.” Speak honestly about what you really want and don’t want right from the beginning. This will set a tone of honesty and authenticity for your relationships.

2.     Resentment

For many of us, sex and emotional intimacy are deeply tied. In fact, the same neural system that houses the sexual orgasm also hosts anxiety, anger, aggression, and trauma. In other words, relational pain and resentment towards your partner can override your neural system, making sensuality, sex, and the sexual orgasm nearly impossible.

Resentment builds when we bottle up feelings of being unsatisfied, isolated, unimportant, or when we tolerate unfairness for too long. These relational pain points will grow into full-blown resentment, and this, in my opinion, is the number one agent that will shut down anybody’s sex life. So, whatever your pain may be, your one job is to talk about it constructively with your partner(s). Then and only then will your sex life have the option of returning to hot passion. I always tell my clients, “You have to protect your relationship from your resentment,” and I mean it.

3.     The silent transaction

Being held, feeling valued, and getting affirmation during sex can often mimic true safety. In the heated moments of sexual passion, we tell ourselves that our sexual partner will forever be the one who will provide relational security. In fact, hormones are released and areas in the brain are activated during sex specifically to deliver the message of belonging to the body, but because many of us perpetually crave to feel connected, we may prematurely ‘give’ our sense of belonging, security, and value to our sexual partner(s) in a silent transaction that happens [unknowingly] during sex.

If this transaction has happened in an unhealthy way, it leaves one partner feeling too tied, too needy, or too dependent. Their partner won’t engage emotionally at the same depth or intensity, because they have no clue that they now hold the other’s safety and security. As a result, many wonder why sex “always ruins the relationship.” To avoid the unhealthy passing of your emotional stability, It doesn’t mean you need to be monogamous, committed, or married; it just means you need to understand the emotional depths to which all people involved are ready and wanting to go. Before you hand over your heart, make sure your partner(s) are ready to hold it.

4.     Self-esteem booster

Sex is often a nice little elixir that medicates our loneliness or insecurities. And many of us feel a whoosh of self-esteem when we can get someone ‘like that’ to sleep with us. Placing emphasis on sex, we often confuse sexual acceptance for relational belonging. The confusion will leave us hunting for sex because it helps us believe we are truly worthy. For many of us, this hunt persists for years. It can even be our default setting if gone unchecked. We may have a glorious and adventurous sex life, capturing the trophy types and the model-esque, and yet we can remain confused as to why we can’t find true, long-lasting love.

But when we start by cultivating self-esteem, we don’t need others in the same way; we know how beautiful we are and what we’re worth without needing someone to prove it to us.


Obviously, sex is a beautiful thing—but it can very easily ruin relationships. Let sex be something that adds joy and satisfaction to your relationship, not the pillar that sustains you or your self-esteem.




Posted on May 3, 2019 .