Transgender Children and Being Terribly Politically Incorrect

Recently, the issue of transgender children has been highlighted across socia media outlets, thanks to stories such as this one, where in a family embraces the idea that their 7 year old daughter is really a boy:

While this family’s story is moving, I don’t believe that if you are born female (having two x chromosomes), that there is any way you are “really” a boy.  You are a girl, and that is that.

If adults want to identify as a gender that is different than their biological sex, cool.  If they decide to alter their hormones and genitals to look and feel more like their desired gender, fine.

But it’s not right to encourage a little boy to believe that he was meant to be a girl, or vice-versa.  Allowing your child to be administered unnatural hormones that will render them sterile for the rest of their lives should be considered criminal.  Such an event happens to Josie, an 11 year old who is administered “blockers” so that she won’t go through puberty as a boy.  Her doctor assures her than in a few years, she will get to start taking female hormones.

I was nearly in tears after watching her cry and shake while getting the blockers implanted.  Where have we gone wrong as a culture that we have so many kids thinking they are a different gender, and so many adults encouraging it?

Well- I think we have at least part of the answer- we unnecessarily gender just about everything.

Before our children are even born, we associate them with either balls and trucks, or tiaras and butterflies.  Baby showers are done in either blue or pink.  Babies very first little hospital hats are either pink or blue also.  Have you ever tried to buy gender-neutral baby clothes?  Probably not- it’s impossible to find any, with the exception of plain white onesies.  And not only our baby clothes gendered, I would even call them hyper-gendered, meaning that they serve to emphasize the gender of the wearer.  (Picture pink AND frilly AND sparkly AND lacy).  I understand that babies look pretty androgynous from the waist up, and that some parents want to keep their baby from being confused with the opposite gender, but the “girliness” and “boyishness” of clothes for young children is overdone.  Also, why should it matter if the gender of your child is not immediately obvious to strangers?  As children get older, the gendered-ness of their clothing tends to relax a little bit, but not much.

And then there’s the hyper-gendered marketing of toys.  Now, I can understand if a jewelry making kit is marketed more towards girls than boys, since women do tend to wear jewelry much more than men do.  But why does there need to be girls playing with pink and purple Legos in commercials, while boys play with the normal colored Legos.  Also, toys that relate to home-making, such as dolls, play kitchens, or easy bake ovens, are exclusively marketed towards girls.  But men care for babies and children, clean kitchens, and cook as well as women.  Why would to be strange for a young boy to role-play such behaviors by feeding a baby doll or preparing a meal in a play kitchen?

While working in preschools, I constantly found myself declaring to young children that there was no such thing as a “girl color”, a “girl toy”, or a “girl game”.  Usually such discussion would arise when a boy was last to the table and all that was left was a pink crayon or other “girly” item.  Honestly- pink is a color- there is nothing inherently masculine or feminine about any color.

I am grateful that as a young child, I spent about equal amounts of time playing with boys and girls, and that no adult ever told us we were playing a “boy” game or a “girl” game.  We played a lot of make-believe- sometime we played house, and sometimes we played cops and robbers.  It never occurred to us that boys shouldn’t pretend to have a family, or that girls shouldn’t pretend to be involved in a violent and aggressive situation.  And when I have children, I hope to minimize meaningless gender distinctions of inanimate objects and activities.  I also plan on dressing my daughters in minimally feminine outfits.  It’s not that I want them to look like boys, but I don’t want them associating their girlhood with frilliness.

Now, to be clear- it’s not that I want to un-gender my children.  I want my sons to know that they are boys and to like being boys, and my sons to know that they are girls and to like being girls.  But I want for them to decide for themselves what makes them a happy as a boy or happy as a girl.

For example, if my son like the color pink, fine!  Boys can like pink.  If my daughter wants a short haircut, fine!  Girls can have short hair.  If they like playing dress up in the clothes of the oppositely gendered parent, sound like fun!  You can be whatever you want when you play make-believe.

Think about it- if we give a young girl the idea that girls like pink, like to wear dresses and jewelry, like to play with dolls, and like Disney Princesses, then what is she going to think when she likes blue, likes wearing jeans, likes to play outside, and likes Marvel Superheros?  Surely, we’ve taught her that she is doing the whole “girl thing” wrong.  And she’ll see that the things she likes are the things boys are supposed to like…so maybe she’s “supposed” to be a boy.

We mess up children’s sense of gender when we call things male or female when they are, in fact neither.  A totally absurd example of this happens in this 20/20 special with Barbara Walters, at 4:00:

“From the moment he could speak, Jazz made it clear he wanted to wear a dress.  At only 15 months, he would unsnap his onesies to make it look like a dress.”

Barbara, that is DUMB!  Seriously, anyone who has ever cared for a toddler knows that they are just going crazy with their fine motor development, and love adjusting anything they can their little hands on.  This usually means taking off their shoes, hair accessories, or clothing, since they always have those things with them.  This little boy unsnapped his onesie because that’s what little kids do (and the do it over and over and over- moms and dads, am I right?).  He was trying to get more comfortable- not trying to wear a dress.  And ever if he was trying to wear a dress, men wore outfits that resemble dresses for hundreds of year- there is nothing inherently female about wearing a piece of clothing without two separate leg holes.  The only reason he would think he was doing something girly is if we tell him that what he is doing is girly.

Do you see what I mean here?  Boys think they’re girls and girls think they’re boys because we fill our cultural definitions of maleness and femaleness with meaningless crap.

If my son likes to play with dolls, great.  If he wants to wear a My Little Pony backpack to school I will warn him that people may comment since they are used to only seeing girls with such an item, but that if he wants to wear it, he can wear it.  And if he loves other men, I will tell him that men usually love women, and women usually love men, but that he is allowed to love men and still be a man himself.  Also, loving men doesn’t make one any less “of a man”.

I cannot imagine how challenging it would be to feel like you needed to allow their child to switch their gender in order to make them happy.  While I don’t agree with parents who do so, it is a given that I don’t understand their position or struggle fully.  Also, I understand that there are children who are born with ambiguous gender, meaning that their genitals or even chromosomes do not define them clearly as a male or female.  These situations are not what I’ve been talking about- I’ve been talking about cases where they are born definitely a boy or definitely a girl.

For the sake of the mental and physical health of our children, let’s please stop encouraging crazy gender norms.  Kids are confused, and I’m pretty sure it’s our fault.

 

 

 

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Being Honest About the “Gay Problem”

Upon joining the Church, I quickly learned that one of the people who had been most influential in my conversion was gay.  He was very active in the Church, coming from a very active, large, mostly typical LDS family.

We bonded over our different marginalizations- me being so new, and him being gay.  We both had a deep and sincere desire to be faithful and believing, and we both struggled at times to be so.  His friendship was a great blessing to me- I felt that I could tell him anything.  I hope that my friendship was a blessing to him as well.

But it’s a tricky course to navigate.  I knew that I believed in the Church, which taught that homosexual actions were unequivocally wrong.  I knew that I believed in the importance of the family and that gay couplehood did not fit into my picture of ideal familial life.  But I also knew that my friend was honestly attracted to men, and I knew that he didn’t choose to be so.  I knew that he tried for years to “pray the gay away” (it doesn’t work, FYI).  I knew that he was doing just about everything one is “supposed to” when attempting to rid themselves of an affliction or temptation.  And, although I professed to believe the opposite, I knew those things would never work.  The atonement can heal us physically and spiritually, give us strength, and refine our natures.  But it does not turn gay people straight.

I campaigned for California Proposition 8 in 2008.  I don’t really care if gay marriage is legal or not, and I didn’t really care then either.  But we received a letter from the First Presidency asking us to donate our means and our time to help it pass, and I did what i was asked.  For me it was about following the prophet, not about the “sanctity” of marriage.  When the Proposition passed, I felt relieved- not because it had been successful, but because then I would be free to go back to not caring about the issue.  I don’t feel bad about my involvement in that campaign, but I don’t feel good about it either.

My friend cut ties from the Church a few years out of high school.  This was a hard revelation for me, as he had been so paramount in the early development of my testimony.  I didn’t want to be Mormon without the support of one of my very dearest friends.  It is shaking when people stop believing, or when people stop pretending to believe.

I was, at first, uninterested in knowing about his “gay” life.  I still loved him, enjoyed him, and wanted him to be happy, but I didn’t feel like I could love the “gay” part of him.  I felt that it wasn’t part of who he really was, and the last thing I wanted to do was encourage it.  I found out that he had a steady boyfriend and did not want to know anything about him or about their relationship.

I don’t know what prompted it, but I can still remember the moment that I decided that I was okay with him being gay.  I realized that his boyfriend at the time was not the enemy- I realized that there was no “enemy”.  I wanted to know about their life together- not because I was in support of their relationship exactly- but because one of them was my friend, and anyone who mattered to him should matter to me.  Once I stopped feeling like I had to oppose their relationship in thought, word, and deed, I finally felt like I could just relax.

Even if I believe that homosexuality is immoral, what does it have to do with me if other people are active in a gay lifestyle?  If I know a couple who is having premarital sex, I don’t avoid acknowledging the entirety of their relationship, even though I may not support certain aspects of it.  And here is, in my opinion, one of our big cultural flaws when it comes to how we see homosexuality- given that homosexuality is sinful (for the sake of argument), we tend to define people who partake in it by that sin, as opposed to other sins, where we see people just as “dealing” with something.  For example, if I broke the word of wisdom by smoking pot, I don’t think people would label me as a “pothead”, destined to a life of munching and being mellow.  Smoking pot would be seen as a choice, not as a natural result of my very nature.  But in the LDS culture, we tend to act as if people who are gay are only gay- that it defines them, and that when thinking of them, the fact that they like other people of their same gender, should be the basis of our attitude towards them.  Being gay does not define anybody any more than being straight does.

So I learned about his boyfriend, and then their break-up, and then his new boyfriend.  I never was interested in their sex life…but I’m not interested in anybody’s sex life.

I always pictured, though, that my friend would come to me one day and invite me to his gay wedding.  I would then be obligated to express love for him, and good-will towards his partner, but decline the invitation.  it’s one thing to support people, it is another thing to support a ceremony that is directly symbolic of sin, after all.

Last year I met the man he planned on marrying.  And he is so wonderful- his fiance was kind, down-to-earth, grounded, and genuine.  He seemed to be not only a great complement for my friend, but someone who would be a great blessing to him.  I am grateful that they have found each other.

They were married in July.  I didn’t go.  I didn’t go because I was broke and was already obligated to take a few different our of state trips.  But I very much wanted to be there.  After all the years of preparing myself to tell him I didn’t want to be at his wedding, when it came down to it, I found myself tired of “standing up” for something that I didn’t even understand.  And my love for him and his now husband had a much greater pull on my heart than my allegiance to the idea of the traditional family.

This is not a proclamation that the LDS Church should redact it’s teachings on homosexuality.  It is also not a statement that homosexual actions are morally acceptable.

I do believe whole-hardheartedly in the teachings of the Church.  I do believe that God is very serious about the Law of Chastity and that one cannot keep that law while leading a gay lifestyle.  I do believe that families are meant to be our source of greatest happiness and that they cannot be formed or maintained with a homosexual couple the way they can be maintained with a heterosexual couple.

But I know that people don’t choose to be gay.  And asking them to live a complete life of celibacy seems like an order too tall for anybody to reasonably expect.

So this is my problem- I know what I believe, but the things I believe don’t quite match up right.  I think that most compassionate, thinking members of the church have this same problem to some degree- not supporting homosexuality, but also not feeling right away denying the opportunity to find love to those who are gay.

There really are no “good” options for a gay member of the church.  Life-long celibacy is not a good option.   Marrying a woman for the sake of having a family is not a good option.  Living a life of sin is also not a good option.

Whenever I declare that I support the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, I do it with a pang of “I’m so sorry” in my soul.

I have a handful of gay friends who grew up in the church.  I have a handful of other friends who I suspect are gay but have not yet admitted it.  One thing I want to apologize publicly for is if I have ever made any of these friends (or anybody else) feel like being gay made them less loved, less important, or less valuable to God or to the Church.  I don’t want any young man (or woman) to EVER feel “defective” for any reason, including being gay.

All I know is that I have a problem, a “gay problem”, and that I have no answers.  I want to do right by God, and I want to do right by my fellow man, and this is the only issue wherein I feel like I can’t quite do both.  Help me feel know how to feel like a good Christian and a good person at the same time.

 

 

 

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Putting Away Childish Things and Quitting Selfies

I am finished with taking, retaking, editing, filtering, deleting, and posting selfies.

Just a few years ago, I would have been appalled at the idea of taking a picture of myself, with my own camera/phone, and posting it to my own social media account.

I mean, really, how conceited does that sound?

Conceited, immodest, vain, prideful, distracted- all words I would use to describe our selfie culture.

In criticizing the selfie, I am really criticizing myself, because inasmuch as I was tempted, I partook.  I always knew that the selfie was a show of vanity, but I dismissed it because, and oh dear Jesus forgive me for saying this, “everybody else was doing it”.  Older relatives whom I respected, pretty women, less-pretty women, mission friends, LDS friends, non-LDS friends, moms, teachers, business women…everyone.

So I jumped on the bandwagon- I curled my hair, glued fake eyelashes to my face, stuck my neck out, put my chin down, tilted my head, pouted just enough to make my lips look bigger and my cheeks look thinner and took the picture.  And then took another, and another, until I captured one I saw fit to share.  I then spent a few minutes trying to find the perfect filter- something that would make my hair look shiny, my skin look clear, and my lips look red.  Finally, I would post it to Instagram, and Facebook via Instagram, with some comment to try to justify the need to post yet another picture of myself and attach ridiculous hashtags.  Then I would wait for the validation.

I am usually a pretty low maintenance girl- make-up is not a part of my daily routine and my hair and jewelry are usually pretty simple.  Except for Sundays, that is.  Sunday is my “go all out day”- I use velcro rollers to make my hair big and spanx to make my waist small.  I like getting gussied up sometimes…and plus, this makes Sunday morning, right before I leave for church, the perfect time for a selfie.

What I am about to admit is so very embarrassing.

I have spent many sacrament meetings with my nose in my phone waiting for notifications of people liking the picture of my face.  I have partaken of the sacrament with my hands while, with my heart, I devoutly worshiped myself.

When I take selfies, there ends up being a whole lot of unused ones (my forehead looks too big, my eyes look to small, that curl is curling the wrong way) on my camera roll.  Maybe I am the only one who takes multiples to try and get the right one- but, I doubt it.

I’ve had instances where I’ve been sharing my photos with a friend and we get to a host of selfies.  I usually make some kind of joke, but I have always felt awkward about it.  It’s one thing to take ONE picture of yourself to share, it’s an entirely different thing to take 15, that differ only by the slightest of angels and expressions.

Really girls, really.

I’m reminded of 2 Timothy 3:6, which refers to the “silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts”.  I have a hard time accepting that a woman who is fully engaged in the cause of Christ even has the time or energy to think about taking her own picture to show off to the world.  How silly would that be?

I took selfies because I wanted people to think I was pretty.  More so, I wanted people to tell me I was pretty.

You can insert your own lecture on how we are all beautiful and should find our worth first as daughters of God right about here.  All I’m going to say is that grown women feeling good about themselves because a slew of acquaintances gave them a thumbs up is totally ludicrous.

If you are a selfie-taker who only snaps one picture, doesn’t use filters, doesn’t monitor the likes or comments, and only posts them so that your out-of-state relatives can see how much you’ve grown, then please understand that none of this applies to you. I think it is entirely possible that my relationship with the selfie was more dysfunctional and harmful than most.

Sometimes the selfie helps me feel good about myself- but it is a shallow and fleeting “good about myself”.  And more often, it makes me feel bad about myself- hypercritical and ultimately disappointed.

I find my flaws forgivable when I see myself in pictures taken spontaneously with people I love or while doing something cool or standing in front of something beautiful.  Who cares that my hair is crazy when I’m having so much fun?  Who cares that I look tired when I’ve been on a 22 hour road trip?  Who cares that I have a double chin when I am cuddled up to the people in my life who bring me joy?  Real life shows us the insignificance of our flaws (which really, we don’t have flaws- God makes no mistakes).

But a selfies is all about us- it’s all about the way we look.  There is nothing to redeem us from our perceived imperfections.

Nothing monumental happened to turn me off from selfies- I just happened to see one I had posted to facebook one day while looking for something unrelated when I thought to myself, “I don’t need selfies anymore.  I don’t want them either.”

To me, the selfie was like a pacifier, a teddy bear, a blankie, or a number of other “childish things”- things that really serve no practical purpose, but imitate the things we want on an instinctive level.  Children part ways with their trinkets when they realize that they are just occupying the space meant for something real.

So now that I’m a woman, I’ve decided to put away childish things.

I want to give a thank you to the women I know who have been an example to me by not taking part in the selfie craze, particularly my sister, Megan.  Thank you for representing to me that to be female does not mean to be seen, and to be beautiful does not mean to be approved of.

 

 

 

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Gravy, Grilling, and Why I Love Mormon Men

Shortly after my baptism, a Young Women’s leader invited me to her home to view my very first general conference with her family (herself, her husband, and three young children).  She told me they would be having a big breakfast and watching church in their pajamas- my very first introduction to the custom I would participate in for the rest of my life.

Upon arriving at her home, she answered the door and we engaged in a few moments of polite conversation about her house, my Friday night, you know, the usual.  But something seemed amiss.  I could smell breakfast cooking (I still remember that scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits and gravy had been on the menu- and it smelled delicious) and kept anticipating her needing to scoot back to her kitchen to keep something from burning.  The sound of clanking kitchen tools then caught my attention- she wasn’t needing to worry about the eggs getting rubbery because someone else was doing the cooking.  “That’s strange,”  I thought, “She’s right here, her kids are too young to be in charge of a meal, and I didn’t think anyone else had been invited.”

After a few more moments, we migrated enough that the kitchen and it’s workings became visible, and what  I saw shocked me enough that I couldn’t keep from expressing my surprise.

“I didn’t know Mormon men cooked!”

There was her husband, with a towel over his shoulder, perhaps in an apron, stirring the gravy.

I am a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I really didn’t think Mormon men cooked, or cleaned, or cared much to help with the children in any kind of “housewife” way.  You may be surprised that I was willing to join a church where (I thought) the men were so unwilling to deviate from gender roles, but maybe we can just take it as a sign that I really did join the church for God, and not for guys.

The couple giggled at my surprise and the conversation moved on.  I have since learned that Mormon men do, in fact, cook.  And they fold the laundry, and take the noisy babies out of sacrament meeting, and do any other imaginable thing that needs to be done.

Now I don’t consider cooking, cleaning, or caring for children to be actions that make a man extra-special.  I expect any good man to be completely willing to do anything that needs to be done to help care for his home or his family, and I was raised with a father who, while being the primary breadwinner, cleaned and cooked regularly, without expectation of recognition or applause.

The thing that I love so much about Mormon men is not that they are willing to cook meals for their family- it is that they seem to be willing to do just about anything that needs to be done for anybody.  And they don’t do it to be self-serving- they simply do it because it needs to be done.

There are a lot of common positive attributes shared by LDS men- they’re hard-working, they’re kind, they’re self-regulating, they’re ambitious, and they’re valiant.  But the attribute of being willing to take personal responsibility in a broad spectrum of situations is what endears them most to me.

I once attended a “Linger Longer” at a singles ward in Utah- basically, an excuse to talk, eat, and generally not go home after church ends.  That day we were eating burgers, and they were delicious.  As I was walking to my car, I noticed the two young men standing at the grill, wearing suits and aprons, flipping burgers so that everyone inside could enjoy the fruits of their labors.  I remember there being snow on the ground and that it was cold- much too cold for them to be comfortable.  I’m sure these boys were thanked for their work (I certainly did), but I also know that many people enjoyed those burgers without acknowledging them or even being aware of what they were doing.  And that’s okay- they weren’t standing outside in the cold making our food for praise- they were just doing it because it needed to be done.  And they were doing it happily.

I had a vision of sorts in that parking lot that day.  I pictured them standing in front of a grill, in the cold, in their suits, with everyone else in the warm church building filling their bellies, for the rest of their lives.  Or maybe they are cleaning cheerios off of pews, or giving the young man in an other-wise inactive family rides to church for years and years, or jumping up to pass out the hymnbooks, or scraping the ice off of their wife’s car before she is even awake.

Maybe this characteristic of personal responsibility is so impressive to me because it stands on stark contrast to what the media tells us we should expect of men- that they are carnal, lazy, and only take care of business when they grow tired of the naggings of their wife.  I hope that no woman has accepted this as what she should expect of her man, and I hope no man has accepted this as what he should expect of himself.

Now, I know that there are LDS men who are complete jerks, to whom my admiration is not applied.  I also understand that I am being extremely general in describing a large and diverse population.  And maybe at some time in the future I will highlight one of the general flaws I’ve observed among Mormon men.  But with all of my women-centered ranting and raving, I need to make sure that people know that not only am I not a “man-hater”, but that I am a “man-lover”, in every sense of the word.  I love them, I admire them, and in total candidness, I need them.

I know that there are good men of every faith and of no faith at all, but my experience is with the Mormon ones, and I’ve never witnessed evidence that there is any better collective group.

I want to send a special message to the young single men of the Church: Please continue in faith and in devotion.  Your goodness and your efforts are being noticed.  Romantically, you are not “needed” by women, but you are so, so very wanted by them.  Nothing inspires me to be obedient, gentle, or devoted like the influence of a priesthood holder who is serious about the gospel.

Thanks, boys.  You’re amazing.

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Not Just to Young Men Only: On Being a Girl With a Porn Problem

On October 2, 1976, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the men and young men of the Church in the the priesthood session of general conference.  That talk, titled “To Young Men Only” would gain a permanence in the church, being printed and distributed to young men in leaflet form for years to come.  The topic was chastity, with a specific call to abstain from the sins of masturbation and homosexuality.

This address has come under criticism from members and non-members, and surely the language used is different than what we would hear from the pulpit in the present day.  My aim, however, is not to disagree with the content of the talk but to call into question the prevalent attitude reflected in the very title- that issues of a sexual nature are of a concern for men, and for men only.

Pornography has been a hot topic for the past several years, as it should be.  Pornography is as evil as it is ensnaring.  It plays on the most sensitive human vulnerabilities and pollutes one’s self-control, self-worth, and self-confidence.  It dissolves familial trust and can cause the building blocks of a marriage to tumble.  Also, the treatment of women in the porn industry is positively deplorable.  (Can you imagine showing up to a regular day of work to be told how and with whom you are going to have sex with?)

They say that men are more responsive to images than women, and I am willing to accept that as generally true.  I am also willing to accept the idea that men are generally more sexually driven then women.  What I am not willing to accept though, in fact, what I know to not be true, is that women are sexless beings, so filled to the brim with virtue that sexual temptation only comes when it is to feel the love of a man, and never because women are themselves sexual.  Sexual feelings and temptations are normal for people in general, and shouldn’t they be?  If choosing chastity is one of the greatest signs of spiritual strength and self-mastery, then wouldn’t we all need to find ourselves at a place where that choice is not an easy one?

Why then, do we teach young men about pornography so differently than we teach young women?  Young men are frequently spoken to about pornography.  Most, if not all, of church-produced media on the issue choose males as the people with the struggle, and females who are influenced only indirectly, through the sins of their husbands and fathers.  Young men are typically given, along with the warning against sin, the affirmation that sexuality is in their nature, and that it is normal and acceptable to feel tempted.  On the other hand, young women (youth and YSA groups alike) sit in lessons that teach us how to deal with our boyfriend’s use of porn, not our own.  (I fully support the former, as a woman who is not addicted to porn but has dated porn users, but I am sure there have been girls in those classes who could have greatly benefited from a discussion on the latter.)  There has never been a general Relief Society or Young Women’s general talk on pornography, and sex is typically danced around very generally, with the seeming assumption that our goodness makes us immune to such things.

Some personal examples of how I’ve witnessed this attitude in other Latter-day Saints:

  • When I posted a request over social media to talk to women for whom this is an issue, a male friend replied that women didn’t struggle with porn, unless it was because of their husband’s or boyfriends struggle.
  • Once, at the inference that only boys wanted to look at porn, I piped up with, “or girls, they can struggle too.”  A young teenage girl in the room looked at me, bewildered and said, “girls can get addicted to porn?!”
  • I had a roommate in college who didn’t even know that women were ABLE to masturbate.

So imagine then, if you are a young woman who struggles with a pornography addiction (any kind of sinful sexual habit, really).   Here are two accounts of young women in the church who have struggled.

Jakilynne’s* Story:

The first time I saw pornography I was in 7th grade, so 12 or 13 when a male friend I was chatting with online showed it to me.  The transition from this first incident to it becoming a major issue in my life is kind of a blur, but once I saw it, it was like I “had” to see it again.  I had never felt those feelings or excitement in my body/brain before, and I liked the way it felt.  It was captivating, in a completely overpowering way.I thought I was the only one [the only woman with a porn habit].  I felt very alone, and honestly like I was a freak, I mean, I had my first orgasm before I had my first kiss.

I think church members could be a little bit more understanding, and remember that sin is not gender specific.
I think people in general are pretty uncomfortable talking about porn.  Any time there is a lesson on chastity, it’s like, “let’s just mention this porn thing because we should.”  I guess it’s just that people are uncomfortable, and I’m not about to raise my hand and share my personal experience on the topic.

I think people in general are more open to the idea that women struggle with this issue.  But maybe not that it’s anyone they know.

I have told very few people about this struggle.  I’ve thought about telling friends, but I have been in conversations with friends (girlfriends) and heard comments like “I just don’t understand how someone can be addicted to porn, it’s just so nasty, I just don’t get it.”

My bishop was the first person I ever told.  It took several years before I confessed because I had felt too ashamed. I had held a calling in my ward, been to the temple, and had been taking the sacrament, and I was extremely fearful of what would happen if I confessed. And at that time, there wasn’t much talk of women having issues with porn.

Telling your male bishop that you have this struggle with pornography, you kind of think, “how is this man going to understand where I’m coming from?” or “he is going to think I am some sort of sex heathen since I have this problem that ‘only men’ struggle with…that women aren’t supposed to have this problem.”  But none of my bishops have acted that way- they have all been extremely sympathetic in their understanding of how addictive it can be.

When I decided to confess it was because I saw it as an opportunity to see if the atonement was real and if it could really work in my life, like I had heard people testify of for my entire life.  I took a leap of faith and found that the Atonement does work and can enable you to change.   It still requires my best effort, and just because I might slip up, it doesn’t mean the atonement doesn’t work.

To other women who are struggling my advice is that there is no need to try and overcome this on your own.  There is nothing weak about seeking help.  Seek help immediately, do not procrastinate.  If you procrastinate, more than likely you will become engulfed in pornography, which is what Satan wants.  Don’t lose sight that you are His precious daughter and that you are of great worth.

 

Khristyna’s* Story:

I was with some friends and we followed a pop up when I was 12 or 13.  It would come and go it wasn’t like I would watch everyday.I like to pretend like I had some sort f control but I totally would isolate myself and volunteer to stay home alone so I could watch porn.  It is the most addictive thing in the world in my opinion. I didn’t think it was a big deal until it escalated things. It lead to a desire for promiscuity and the breaking of the law of chastity further

I would hear about it in church all the time, but I would just brush it off and justify it, making it seem like it was the same thing as how some members choose not to drink caffeine and some do. I blocked It out for the most part, to be completely honest. Someone at church brings up porn and my ears just shut off.

I was still in my teens when my mom caught me.  She was totally shocked, disappointed and confrontational.

I’ve only told 2 friends and my bishop. Bringing it up and talking to my bishop was horrendous…. Like not only was it embarrassing but it wasn’t exactly something I ever even thought women struggled with!  I thought I was a weirdo for watching porn. I feel like there is such a heavy burden on a woman’s virtue and not so much a man’s… that the attitude is definitely kind of  like “oh you’re a whore stop watching that” and then when it’s boys “boys will be boys”. People should realize that porn isn’t just a boy or mans issue that it effects women… and don’t alienate people that share.

I first talked to my bishop just last year, when I decided that I really wanted to be temple worthy.  That meeting consisted of a lot of cry and feeling like the most useless human being ever.  I felt this way because I wasn’t the cookie cutter I didn’t fit the mold and I didn’t ever think to apply the atonement But my bishop was amazing.  He helped me utilize the atonement and I regained a lot of my self-worth.  I have been porn-free for several months now.

 

There are (at least) three negative consequences that come when we do not acknowledge that women have issues with porn:

  1. The women who do struggle feel especially embarrassed and overwhelmed, often feeling like they are some kind of a freak.
  2. This feeling of embarrassment keeps them from seeking out the help they need, perpetuating the cycle
  3. Because they tend not to be vocal, people are generally less aware that it is an issue, and resources are not provided for women in the same way they are provided for men.
  4. Women, especially young women, even those who are not trapped in any kind of sinful sexual habit, associate sexual urges with feelings of guilt, since we do not validate sexual temptation in young women.

It is kind of a cycle- women are not open about their situations because they think they are the only one.  And they think they are the only one because nobody else is being open.  I am  not suggesting that anybody should advertise their addiction over Twitter, but nobody should feel so ashamed of a sin that they are not willing to be open with those who are absolutely closest to them, and certainly not with their priesthood leaders.

I’ve heard talk lately about how “pornography is even a problem for women these days.”  While this is a step in the right direction, it is still problematic for two reasons.  The first is that women have been struggling with porn for years.  The only difference is that now people are talking about it.  But it is not a new temptation.  The second is the implication that pornography has become so evil and so widespread that even the previously-immune gender is now taking part in it.  As I said earlier, I am willing to concede that women are less sexually driven than men, but is not as if we have a stone fortress built around our cerebral reward system.

My topic has been pornography in the narrow sense- porn you look at.  However, other kinds of pornography can be as addictive while seeming to be more innocent.  The sole purpose of romance novels is to be sexually exciting (if you don’t believe me, read up on some of their ghastly story lines).  Even the magazines placed at eye-level in the grocery stores contain graphic and detailed descriptions of sexual acts.  We should also be careful with how we use our social media- especially SnapChat, which I like to call “Satan’s App of Teenage Sin”.  It can be awfully tempting to send and receive exciting fleeting images that can’t be saved. (And we all know that they actually can be saved).

The difference between visual porn and these other types is that visual porn always involves other people committing sin (the people you are watching).  Also, visual porn often ventures into the extreme and even depraved, ruining a person’s healthy sexual expectations.  Still, anything that is filmed, photographed, drawn, or written that is intended to be sexually erotic or arousing, and even some things that are not intended to be so, can be addictive.  We need to broaden our perspective on what counts as pornography, be wary of it in all of it’s forms, and teach our young people to do the same.  There are many young women who have no interest in visual pornography, but would have a very hard time putting down a book that encourages sexual fantasy.

I have had a lot of male friends confide in me the details of their pornography habits, usually calling it an addiction.  Many of these men have been returned missionaries, active in the church, and absolutely respectful in their actions towards the women in their lives.  As difficult as the struggle is for them, I always knew it would be harder for a girl.  I’m not trying to play a game of one-upping, and I am not saying that it is at all easy to be a man with a porn addiction, but I am asserting that our cultural attitudes toward it complicates a woman’s position in ways that it would not complicate a man’s position.

So what is the solution?  Well, for once, I have some ideas.  Here are some ways we can de-gender the concept of porn addiction:

  • Don’t make generalizations about porn users. (ex. they’re perverts, they’re all horny little boys)
  • Don’t assume that you know whether or not a person struggles with it.
  • In lessons on chastity, acknowledge that nobody is immune.  Do not imply that a woman being addicted to porn would be the exception to an otherwise male issue.
  • Teach young women and as well as young men that sexual feelings are normal and healthy in both genders.
  • Never dismiss sexual sin in males as being expected or excusable.
  • Be open to using females in hypothetical examples or discussions. (ex. “One day Susie was on the internet when she saw a pornographic pop-up.  What should Susie do next?)

Here are some ways we can minimize the effect porn has on our lives:

  • Educate our children about their bodies, about sex, and about pornography as early as they are able to understand.
  • Generally be honest with ourselves in regards to our vulnerabilities, and set up defenses accordingly.
  • Trust our priesthood leaders and be willing to talk to them.
  • Strive to be honest with our families.
  • Be understanding of those we love who do struggle.
  • Educate ourselves.

If you are a young woman, or a young man, or anybody who is struggling with an addiction to pornography in any form, please know that there is hope!  You do not have to overcome this on your own- Christ can help you, because, through his atonement, he has overcome it already.  Your porn habit has already been defeated…the only thing you need to do is attach yourself to Christ so that you can taste of that victory.  I know that this is as hard to do as it is easy to say, but I know it’s true.

And for the rest of us, let’s just try to be a little bit more sensitive with our language and with our assumptions.  We can’t know for sure who is and who is not struggling, but we can make sure that those around us know that we will love them and support them regardless of their sins.  And please, the next time porn comes up, don’t point to the boys automatically, as there may be a shameful and lonely girl in your midst.

 

(*Overly-spelled UT names used in place of actual names.)

Some resources:

Overcoming Pornography (official LDS website)

Combating Pornography (official LDS website)

Fight the New Drug (lots of great educational resources)

By The Light of Grace (the blog of an LDS woman struggling with pornography)

Beggar’s Daughter (the blog of a Christian woman who is a former porn addict)

Dirty Girl Ministries (Christian ministry, specifically for women with porn and other sexual addiction issues)

r/pornfree (Very supportive, anonymous, non-religious community for those trying to quit porn)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taking the Sin Out of Eating

I love Trader Joe’s- enough that I do almost all of my grocery shopping there.  I will sing their praises all the day long for their delicious food and manageable prices.  Hopefully, they will forgive me for the nuclear blast I am about to put them on.  Observe the following food package from my dear TJs:

reducedguilt mac n cheese

Mac & Cheese!  Yum!  Hey look, it has less fat and fewer calories than some other mac and cheese!  Well that’s cool and everything…but why does that make it “reduced guilt”?  Are you telling me that eating macaroni and cheese is an action worthy of our guilt, and that eating this special kind will reduce that guilt enough so that my soul will only have to do a little bit of pining with regret?

I have done many wrong things in my life, but eating a gooey mix of dairy and grain does not get a place on that list.  Nothing I eat get’s place on that list.  

But food companies tell me they should.

Chili’s has “Guiltless Grill” options.

BJ’s has “Enlightened Entrees”.

On the Border has a “Border Smart” menu.

And that’s just to name a few.  The main criteria for these menus is being under a certain calorie limit (usually around 600 or so).  The implication is that eating a low number of calories makes a person intelligent, advanced, and morally good.  It also implies that if you eat something off of their normal menu, you have done something morally wrong.

But it’s not just the food industry that perpetuates the idea of food choices being moral.  Here are some statements one might hear at a gathering of food-conscious friends:

“Don’t tempt me with that chocolate.”

“I was so bad last night- I ate three slices of pepperoni pizza.”

“I’ve been so good on my diet; I haven’t messed up once!”

“I can’t wait for my cheat meal Saturday night.”

“Cheese is my weakness!”

“That chocolate cake was sinfully delicious!”

All of these phrases imply that there is a moral value attached to food- that those who eat “well” are good and deserving of veneration, and that those who eat “poorly” should feel guilty and repent with a few extra miles on the treadmill.

One might say, “Don’t you believe your body is sacred?  Shouldn’t you take care of it?”  Well yes, as a latter-day saint I believe that our bodies are sacred, and that we have a responsibility to care of them just like we have a responsibility to care for our minds and our spirits.  But the laws that govern what we should eat are very general, and, for the most part, God allows us to govern ourselves.  We should expect ourselves to eat for our health and vitality, and as in all areas of our life, we should always strive to improve.  

Morality is, in my opinion, objective.  Things that have a moral value are either right or wrong.   However, there is no food that has an inherent moral value.  It is not evil to eat candy, and it is not righteous to eat vegetables.  Your attitude towards your body may be evil or righteous, but the act of eating is never in and of itself wrong, no matter what it is you are consuming.  Different diets and health programs tell us differently things about what is good for us and what is bad for us.  On top of that, every body is different and requires slightly different nutrition to function at it’s optimum.  The difference between a “good food” and a “bad food” is so subjective that there is no way to say that our food choices are a reflection of our morality, since morality is objective.

I see women around me every day (and sometimes men, too) who either beat themselves up for their food choices, or are swollen with pride and vanity because of their food choices. (I am guilty of both myself.)  Neither reactions are appropriate, and neither are mentally or spiritually healthy.  And they usually distract us from more important ways of improving.

The biggest problem with feeling guilt for eating is that there is no good way out of that guilt.  Legitimate sins can be washed away through the atonement, but I don’t think that Christ ever suffered for me exceeding my calorie goal in a given day.

If you like sticking to a strict diet, then I totally support that.  I admire your motivation to be the master of your physical body.  Feel free to ignore the haters who are critical of your own physical aims.  Just don’t judge others because they eat differently (don’t worry, I’m telling them the same thing about you).

 We don’t have to answer to anybody and we don’t have to use our food choices to prove ourselves worthy to the bikini-body gods. We get to be the bosses of our own bodies.  Let’s own our decisions and own the consequences of those decisions.

Tonight I made a guilt-free macaroni and cheese, a Paula Dean crock pot recipe.  It didn’t call for bacon, but I put it in anyway.  And it’s totally guilt-free.

Because when it comes to food, I’m guilt-free, period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Did The Salad Decide to Leave The Church?

Why did the salad decide to leave the church?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because it was a pasta salad!

Periods and Power: Why I Wish I Had Known About “The Camp Gyno” When I was 9

When i was in fourth grade, a fifth grade boy sitting a few rows behind me on the bus hollered to me, “Hey, have you had sex yet?”  I gave him either words or just a look of bewilderment.  He then exclaimed, “‘Cuz you have big boobs!”  I got my first bra in the second grade, began wearing one regularly in the third, and was probably a full B-cup by the time this incident occurred.  

I also started my period when I was in the fourth grade.  I turned 9 in October, and got it the following January.  I was the first girl in my grade to get it by almost a full year. (Luckily, the next girl to get it happened to be my very best friend.  I very much appreciated the camaraderie.

Experiencing puberty at such a young age wasn’t traumatic.  I didn’t cry, I wasn’t afraid of the blood, I didn’t curse Mother Eve’s hankering for sucrose.  

I didn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, but I felt secretive and self-conscious.  Elementary school bathroom stalls don’t have disposal units (little girls don’t menstruate, so why would they?), so I would have to put my pad in my lunchbox and change it in the one stall in the bathroom outside the cafeteria that was commonly used by adults as well as children.  I didn’t feel burdened or angry about my period, I just felt like it mad me different in  a way that couldn’t be celebrated.

A few of my friends had their periods in the sixth grade, and by the end of seventh, it had become the norm rather than the exception.  It was nice to begin to feel that my body was doing something that made me like other girls, instead of something that made me different from them. But I wish it wouldn’t have taken so long.  

But, with the exception of one, I never knew when any of the girls in my grade began to menstruate.  I got the feeling that, for everybody, the sexual maturation of one’s body was something that we felt we were supposed to keep quiet.  It may not have been something to be ashamed of, but it wasn’t something to be proud of.  You didn’t have to cry, but you certainly wouldn’t be happy…you certainly wouldn’t act anything like this boss of a little girl:

This self-proclaimed “camp gyno” is more than okay with getting her period- she’s excited, confident, and empowered. She is anxious to share with others what she knows and is comfortable shouting the word “vagina”.  One should never act or speak for the sole purpose of shock value, but “vagina” is not a crass word, and mention of one’s cycle is not uncivilized.  

This advertisement for Hello Flo, a period supply company, doesn’t portray the onset of menses as unnerving or awkward, like it has been in every other media form I can think of.  It portrays it light-heartedly, with humor and practicality.  This portrayal is empowering for not just pre-teen girls, but for all women. The internet is full of videos making fun of every-day life, why shouldn’t we as women take time to make fun of ourselves?  

 I’m not negating the reality of the discomfort that can come from PMS, camping, and other effects of hormonal changes, but we don’t need to be miserable, complaining victims of the natural processes of our own bodies.  The upcoming generation of both girls and boys would benefit from a shift in the way we as a culture view and explain puberty.

One of my favorite interactions portrayed is when one young girl hands another young girl a tampon and a handheld-mirror, calling them her “sword” and her “shield”. Those are powerful descriptors- and there is power in knowing, understanding, and accepting your body.  

And we don’t need to be so uptight about it.  A little blood never killed anybody.

 

QotD: “Note the empowerment and celebration of women’s sexuality”

thepreppypanda:

Your Fair Warning: Since these are descriptions of porn videos, deplorable language is used and totally appalling situations are described.

Many of my readers know that they don’t like porn to be a part of their personal lives, but a lot of us don’t really have a sense of what porn does to those involved in the industry (especially the women), or what it does to our societies view of sex and women in general.

Shutting down the porn industry is SUCH a worthy cause. Thanks to Anti-Porn Feminists for blogging this.

EDIT: I realize that the image is very blurry- basically unreadable.  I am not sure how to remedy this problem, except to direct you to the “view original” link at the bottom of the post to go to the original posting.  

Originally posted on Anti-Porn Feminists:

View original

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The 8 Actual Reasons I Dress Modestly (And Only 1 of Them Has to Do With Boys)

salt-lake-temple-772737-gallery

My body is a temple, after all! I know that pictures of the Salt Lake temple are all over everywhere, but it is my honestly my favorite one.

Since joining the church, I have always dressed modestly.  By “dressed modestly”, I mean I dress according to the cookie-cutter standards of covering one’s body- shorts and skirts to the knee, shoulders covered, no midriff, and no cleavage.  I’ve taught many EFY, mission, relief society, and seminary lessons on the topic, and, honestly, many of those lessons were probably at least a little bit misguided.

My vocalized reasons for being modest were usually that it “showed respect to God” and “showed respect to myself”, but these reasons are problematic because I feel just as much respect for God and for myself when I am wearing a bathing suit, a running tank, and even nothing at all.  I had a “come to Jesus” moment with myself and got down to the real reasons I am modest.  Here they are, first being most compelling, last being least compelling.

Number 1: I am modest because, to me, not wearing the temple garment would be a symbol of me denouncing my faith.  I am not going to denounce my faith.

Number 2: I am modest because my body is sacred and I don’t seek after the approving eyes of others to call it acceptable or desirable.  I know that it is both.

Number 3: I am modest because I want young men to identify me as chaste and obedient.

Number 4: I am modest because I want to be an example to other women, especially younger women, by showing them that modesty is enjoyable.

Number 5: I am modest because I want people to know me by my kindness and my mind, and not my body (as bangin’ as it may be).

Number 6: I am modest because my thighs won’t chafe if my shorts are long and I don’t have to try to manipulate this rack into a strapless bra if my shoulders are covered.

Number 7: I am modest because I want my husband to feel like he’s getting to see something special, not something that has been seen by every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  

Number 8: I am modest because I don’t want my body to be a source of unnecessary distraction.

You will probably notice that I said nothing about keeping the thoughts of young men “clean”.  Boys will be boys, men will be men.  They are going to look at women, notice their bodies, and desire them.  I feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to keep this from happening. And I don’t think that desire is dirty, and therefor is not in need of cleaning up.  If we really thought that the sight of a thigh would ruin a man’s moral fiber, would we ever approve of him taking a trip to the beach?

I am very impressed by the men I know who actively try to be masters of their minds and emotions by not inappropriately dwelling on things of a sexual nature (by the way, this is a struggle had by women as well as men).  I don’t want to imply that I think that men should see whatever jiggling body part piques their interest, and I don’t want to imply that women should recklessly display their bodies out of a lack of respect for men who are trying to do the right thing.  If I purposely expose my body to a man in an attempt to make him lose his self-control, I am clearly guilty of sin.  

But I am not going to base what I wear on a guessing game of who’s thinking what about whatever it is I’m wearing.

Some of my reasons are good, and some are less good.  This isn’t about the right reason to be modest, or the reason why you should be modest, or even what I want to be the reason that I’m modest.  It’s just the truth- and an exercise in investigating my motives.

Why do you choose to be or not be “modest”?  How do you even define that?  Please feel free to comment on anything on my list.

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