Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Late Transgender Day of Remembrance Post

Hello Everyone,

      I have been incredibly busy with school recently and I just now found the time to write another blog post.  This post is kind of my tribute to all my transgender friends.  Nowhere else have I seen such strong and courageous people.  You all are a beacon of light to me.  You amaze me with your example of how to live a life that is authentic to your God given identity.  More and more society is realizing the falsehood of the gender binary.  Science has already discovered that just as sexuality is on a continuum, gender too is not on polar ends of male and female.  Sexuality and gender are not determined based on the genitalia a person is born with.  Gender and Sexuality come from the mind and reach out from the deepest and most human parts of ourselves.  Those parts I believe are the most eternal.  They color our perceptions and truly help us to become entwined with the identity of the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, hopefully into the eternities.

      These identities should not be repressed or held back.  Everyone was meant to be here, everyone is a beautiful and wonderful child of God who has unique and incredible attributes to share.  Every single person has the ability to truly make this world a better place.  I truly believe God is filled with joy as we express ourselves in a way that is truly authentic to ourselves.  As we serve others and let people know they are not alone.  We represent a piece of who God is and what Jesus Christ himself would do.  Every son, daughter, cisgender, transgender, intersex, gender queer, heterosexual, and homosexual child of God is a beautiful image of who our heavenly parents are and their infinite and divine capacity to love and embrace every single one of us.  The world needs more love not more misunderstanding.  You all bring the world closer to a Zion-like society as you expand everyone's capacity to love and support one another.  There is still a lot of work to do, let us all work hard to lift up the heavy hand.  To give of our substance to those in need.  Instead of quibbling over how a person should dress or how a person should live their life let's try expound love instead of judgement. In the end we are all trying our best to live a life that holds no regrets.

I added this video because it is a fun song about letting out what truly makes you amazing!  (I do believe most of the people in this video are transgender although there is also a drag queen)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Joy: A Tale of Love and Marriage

      On July 1st 2014 I legally married the man of my dreams, on July 2nd we committed to support one another both spiritually and physically the rest of our lives and hopefully into the eternities.

       I met James during February of 2013.  When I met him, I was just starting to come out to close friends and people at school.  Previously, I had come to accept that I would stay in the closet forever and just work to remain celibate in all ways including any romantic relationships.  It wasn't until receiving very specific promptings that I decided to start coming out. I wrote a little bit about this first coming out and my experiences in the LGBT community here. I came out to some very specific close friends.  This initial coming out eventually led me to coming out publicly January of this year, which you can read here.

       During the first stages of my coming out, I met a lot of different people.  Including someone very special to me.  We met when I first walked into the office of the LGBTQ organization on my campus.  He was tall, good looking, and couldn't get enough of me.  When we met I was not looking for any relationships.  In fact, I made it a point to tell everyone who asked that I was not interested.

       One Friday night we had a movie night at the school.  The whole time James was flirting with me and I am not going lie I really enjoyed it.  It wasn't like when I attempted to flirt with girls.  This one felt natural, fun, and a little thrilling as well.   He told me that night that he wanted to date me.  He at the time was leaving a very bad relationship and was looking to fill the void left in him.

      What he wanted was for me to say yes.  The answer he got was something he didn't expect and one that would have one of the greatest impacts on both of our lives.  I bore my testimony and told him no.

      That same morning I was driving back home from the school.  While I was driving, I had an incredibly powerful experience, one that I can only describe as indescribable and sacred.  I knew that God was pleased with me and that I had done what God had been preparing me to do.

One week later, while James was out with a friend he felt prompted to go to church.  James had been baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost a decade before.  He ended up falling away due to misunderstandings and painful experiences caused by members.  He had almost no support and  no other members of his family were in the church.  He struggled and eventually became distant from God.  Although there were specific moments that he remembers where God continued to guide him.

      When I first met him, he was at the lowest point in his life.  He was leaving an eight year relationship and he felt that God couldn't hear him or wouldn't hear him.  In his loneliness and despair he cried out to God for help.  A week later I came into his life.

      We became close friends, we even fell in love but we wouldn't admit it.  James was working through a lot of problems and I was trying to figure out who I was at the time.  This growing we both were going through in hindsight needed to happen with us just being friends.

So we kept moving along.  James progressed tremendously at this time.  He became closer to God and happier.  This went on until the late fall of 2013.

At this time we both felt stuck spiritually, I felt that God knew how I could progress.  I knew there was something important ahead of me, but I couldn't figure out what it was.  This was the same for James.

Right before Thanksgiving, I was praying to God,  I was seeking fervently to find the way he wanted me to go.  Once again, I had to give up all my preconceptions and notions about God's will.  I had to put my will on the alter before him and accept whatever it was he wanted me to do.  Only then did I feel a new prompting, one that brought me peace but also apprehension.  I felt the spirit move me to begin a deeper relationship with James.  I didn't know where it would take me, but once again I knew I needed to trust in my Heavenly Father and in the promptings from the Holy Ghost.

We started dating and a few days later I knew I was progressing again.  The spirit began to return and peace entered into my heart where it had been missing.

A few weeks after that, we both felt prompted that God would give his permission for both of us to marry.  James was the one who proposed.   He couldn't afford a ring but that didn't matter to me.  I accepted his proposal with a heart full of joy and a spirit full of peace.

         After a 7 month engagement we got married at the courthouse in Somerset, Maryland.  The courthouse was beautiful and I remember looking into James' eyes as the magistrate read out the words.  I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness at what we were about to commit too, but it was all washed away by a wonderful feeling of happiness that the day had finally come.

        The next day was the wedding celebration on Yorktown Beach.  It was a busy day but in the end when I got to stand up in front of my family and friends and make a commitment to the love of my life, everything became worth it.  All the struggles, the heartaches, the wrestles with the spirit.  The pain of growing up gay in the LDS church and in the United States.  The loneliness and terror of the possibility of being found out.  It all became worth it as I said I do.  Happiness and peace poured through me and settled deep into my heart.  I still do not understand many things and I do not know God's purposes, but what I do know is that if we trust in Him we need not fear.  We don't need to know everything.  I know that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.  For now I walk with faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement.  I have faith that the Holy Ghost will continue to guide my husband and I as we trust in his will.  Life is a journey and I am grateful to God for helping me find my best friend to take the journey with me.

                                                 Both of our families on the York River.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hopeful Signs and More to Come!

To all my readers,

I am currently writing two posts that are very personal and describe where I am now.  Those posts will hopefully be finished by the end of this month.  It has been about 7 months since I publicly came out of the closet and about a year and a half since I first started telling people about it.  It has been quite the adventure, since then both of discovering myself and learning about God's will for me.  It is really cool to see good news from many LGBT people that I have had the privilege to communicate with and become acquainted with.  It is great to see how life is starting to turn around for them.  Even with an uncertain future, I see the courage that these young, and sometimes old, pioneers are taking into the unknown wilderness and it gives me hope.  Who knows what lies ahead, what I do know that God loves each and everyone of us and that there is a bright future in store!  Keep up the good fight everyone and know that there are a multitude of people cheering you on!  Also if you are a certain point in your life where you may not believe in God.  Still know about the love all of us have for you!  Keep moving forward!


P.S. I saw this video from Mormon Messages and I thought about writing an accompanying blog post about it.  I think it speaks for itself.   Through all my experiences, I have learned about the importance to have hope that God's light will continue to illuminate a path forward even if it is only for a few steps and even if those steps seem uncertain.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why are Some People Homosexual?

I wanted to share a paper that I think some of my readers would be interested in.  I wrote this paper for my Physiological Psychology class this past semester.  (Warning, some of the information below is dense and technical.)

  I have heard many discussion on where homosexuality might come from.  Many of these discussions focus around personal experiences and opinions, these kind of discussions, I have found, are a great way to learn and grow.  In these discussions, there seems to be a recurring argument around whether a person chooses to be homosexual or whether they are born that way.  

For this post, I wanted to provide a summary of what is known about the origins of homosexuality and a little on gender identity, as well as potential new research that is being done around the world in order to discover, biologically, how homosexuality occurs and why it exists.  I included references at the bottom if anyone wants to do further research.  

Homosexuality: What is Known and The Role of Epigenetics

1)    Abstract
Over the past few decades more and more research has been done to try to determine the root cause of homosexuality within the animal and human population.  .  Homosexuality seems to be a very complex and complicated phenomenon because it has been found to have more than one system involved with the development of this phenotype.  Research has found differences in brain structure between homosexuals and heterosexuals.  These differing brain structures are found to be affected by androgens on the developing prenatal brain.  Genetics has also been found to influence the development of homosexuality.  The way in which structure, hormones, and genetics interacts is very complex and had mostly been studied separately.  An overarching explanation that could unite these different areas of study is epigenetics.  It has been found that epigenetics may play a significant role in homosexuality.  Not only can epigenetics influence the expression of genes regarding androgen signaling, they can also play a role in determining how certain structures are created in the brain and how the body reacts to certain stressors in utero.  This paper seeks to better explain how all this ties together and what we know and what we may need to find out further, based on a review of current research in regards to this topic. 
2)    Introduction
            This paper is seeking to compile the evidence that has been found for epigenetic links to homosexuality within the human population, and what is known about the difference between homosexuals and heterosexual people.  Epigenetics broadly concerns gene expression, although not entirely, through the manipulation of chromatin structure and function in both non-dividing and dividing cells.  Epigenetic markings within the nucleus include the regulation of histones that effect how DNA is packaged and DNA methylation, which is the addition of methyl groups onto DNA nucleotides that affect gene expression.  These regulatory mechanisms work together to help determine the three dimensional genome structure of DNA, which in turn effect gene expression.  They do this by acting as the connection between environmental factors and internal factors within the peripheral tissues and brain, which then become molded and shaped based on these factors (Akbarian & Nestler, 2013).  Epigenetics is the latest in recent studies on homosexuality which previously was controversial to research.
Until recently, homosexuality had been underrepresented within the animal population, this lack of reporting has been typically “associated with a historical reluctance to publish socially and religiously controversial information” (Rice, Friberg & Gavrilets, 2013).  This practice has been reversed as more evidence has surfaced of the commonality and relative consistency of homosexuality amongst animals, including sheep at “about 8% strictly homosexual males” (Rice, Friberg & Gavrilets, 2013).  This consistency is also translated over to humans.  In the United States the percentage of the population who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender also known by the abbreviation, LGBT, was 3.5% as of February 2013 (Gallup, 2013).  So what is the cause of homosexuality in the human population? 
It has been found through research that there are physical differences in brain structure between heterosexual and homosexual people; these physical differences appear to be affected by hormones during prenatal development. There is evidence, from genetic testing that homosexuality is heritable; epigenetics has been found to significantly affect the way embryos interact with androgens through androgen signaling and the expression of genes that are involved in masculine behavior and phenotype, finally, through all this a new epigenetic model is starting to be used that could better explain what still needs to be done in order to find out the role of epigenetics in homosexuality.
3)    Structural Differences
Differences between structure and the interaction of the brain and environment have been found to exist between heterosexual and homosexual men.  One of the first differences in brain structure discovered between homosexuals and heterosexuals was that of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is used to “generate and coordinate hormonal, physiological, and behavioral circadian rhythms” (Swaab & Hofman, 1990).  Swaab and Hofman (1990) also state that the SCN has also been linked to reproduction.  Swaab and Hofman (1990) found that the SCN in “homosexual males were 1.73 times larger, and contained 2.09 times as many cells” than the heterosexual male reference group (Swaab & Hofman, 1990).  Not only were there structural differences, other differences were found in how the brains of homosexuals react to the environment. 
One difference that has been found is the way homosexual men and women’s anterior hypothalamus is activated compared to heterosexuals.  It has been found that the anterior hypothalamus of heterosexuals has a certain sex-differentiated activation; this activation is almost reversed in homosexuals, making it sex atypical (Swaab, 2008).  It has been found that in many areas of the brain homosexuals demonstrate a sex atypical reaction to many stimuli that cause a sexual differentiated response in heterosexuals.  Deeper studies into the reasons why this happens have found that it is due to hormonal events that occur during fetal and prenatal development. 
4)    Hormonal Effects
            When a fetus is developing in the uterus, fetal gonads develop between 6 and 12 weeks in boys because of the sex-determining gene on the Y-Chromosome. Females develop mainly because of the absence of androgens during development.  After the development of the gonads, sexual differentiation then occurs in the developing brain (Bao & Swaab, 2011).  There are two time periods between gonad development, the first two months of development, and brain development in the last half of pregnancy, the separateness of these two developmental time periods can cause independent development between the two that can lead to the rare possibility for genitalia and brain structure to not develop coherently. 
One of the causes of sex difference in gender roles, gender identity, and sexual orientation is sex hormones in the developing brain.  The main mechanism for this sex differentiation in the developing brain responsible for sexual identity and orientation is testosterone (Garcia-Falgueras & Swaab , 2010).  Research has found that the fetal brain develops in a female direction if there is a lack of activity in regards to testosterone, and the fetal brain develops in a male direction if there is a direct effect involving testosterone on the developing brain (Garcia-Falgueras & Swaab , 2010). 
            There are specific examples of phenomena that have been found to be linked to the probability of a person being homosexual.  In male children there are two significant periods of development where testosterone is higher than in girls.  These developmental periods are mid-pregnancy and the first three months after birth.  These peaks in testosterone are believed to affect the programming of a boy’s brain for his entire lifetime (Bao & Swaab, 2011).  Changes and differences in these peaks could lead to a sexual differentiation of the brain that is atypical with the genital development of the child.  Other examples of effects on the fetus while in the womb include the “fraternal birth order effect” which explains why, in boys, the possibility that a boy will be homosexual increases based on the number of brothers that were born before him.  The theory of why this happens is thought to be “the progressive immunizations of some mothers to Y-linked minor histocompatibility antigens by each successive male fetus” (Bao & Swaab, 2011).  This means that the mother starts to reject the male fetus as a foreign body and develops antigens to fight against it.  These antigens can cause changes on how the fetus develops, creating a greater chance for the child to develop a homosexual orientation.  Studies have also shown that exposure to thyroid gland hormone, nicotine, or amphetamines increases the chances of a mother to have a lesbian daughter (Bao & Swaab, 2011).  It seems that there are postulated to be many different effects and factors surrounding sexual orientation development. 
Evidence has been shown that hormones are insufficient to determine the actual cause of sexual orientation.  This has been shown in studies that manipulate the gender and sex chromosome karyotype through the translocating of a gene that is responsible for male sex determination.  This research has found that aspects of brain anatomy and sexually dimorphic behavior are strongly influenced by karyotype along with fetal androgen exposure (Rice, Friberg & Gabrilets, 2012).  However, with this evidence it is still affirmed that androgen signaling is still the predominant factor.  The reason that this is not the complete determinant is as follows.  Through various studies on rats and humans it has been found that fetal androgen levels between both XX and XY fetuses overlap across all developmental stages.  It has even been found that some XX fetuses have higher testosterone levels than other XY fetuses (Rice, Friberg & Gabrilets, 2012).    These findings show that although androgens may play an important role, but they do not play a complete role. 
Epigenetic marks that are dimorphic between XY and XX embryos are known to be produced during the genome-wide reprogramming of the embryonic stem cell stage.  This stage is during the early development.  The production of epigenetic marks have been found to greatly influence gene expression in later stages of development as well as have the ability to carry over across generations.  These proliferations of epigenetic marks in the early stages are all but erased in the later stages of development except for a few, which include imprinted genes and active transposons (Rice, Friberg & Gabrilets, 2012).  After this erasure there is once again another sequence of epi-marking known as “de novo epi-marking.”  These are gene promoters that have been changed through DNA methylation and histone modification (Rice, Friberg & Gabrilets, 2012).  This proliferation of epigenetic markings, erasure, and more epigenetic markings can have a profound effect on androgen signaling in both XY and XX fetuses during early development and later during perinatal development. 
During the earliest stages of mammalian development there is clear evidence of epigenetic differences between XX and XY embryos.  This includes differences in gene expression in hundreds of genes and how the embryos react to the environment.  Also, prior to secretion of androgens by the testes, studies have shown that up to 51 genes in the brains of XY and XX embryos have differential expressions on their autosomes (Rice, Friberg & Gabrilets, 2012).  Using this evidence, scientists have theorized that homosexuality could be caused by the heritable proliferation of epigenetic marks in the stem cell and not covered over by a de novo epigenetic mark later in development.  This can explain the heredity of homosexuality, or if it was a de novo epigenetic mark it can explain why identical twins tend to have low concordance of sexual orientation (Rice, Friberg & Gabrilets, 2012).  This topic will be discussed more in the next section.  Even though hormones and epigenetic marks play a very important role in determining sex, gender, and sexual orientation, genetics has the capability of generating more information on the causation of homosexuality. 
5)    Genetics and Pedigree
Another important area of research into the causation of homosexuality within the human population is genetics.  There have been a large amount of studies done in regards to this subject.  Family and twin studies have found a possible genetic role in homosexuality.  One such study examined the linkage between the X chromosome and homosexuality. The study performed by Hamer, Hu, et al.(1993), investigated genetic determinants in male sexual orientation, by using linkage analyses and pedigree on 114 families of homosexual men.  One of the main results of this study was the discovery of a linkage between “homosexual orientation and markers in the distal portion of Xq28” (Hamer, Hu et al., 1993).  This indicated the presence of a genetic predisposition to homosexuality coming from the inherited X chromosome.  It however is important to note that due to the complexity of gender identity and sexual orientation more than one gene is probably affecting the occurrence of homosexuality.  Other evidence of genetic factors involved in homosexuality was found in the first genome-wide scan of male homosexuals.  In this study, three regions of genetic interest were found.   The strongest of these genes was a gene located on “7q36” (Mustanski, Dupree, Nievergelt et al., 2004).  There is found around this specific gene area a coding for a vasoactive intestinal peptide.  This peptide has been found to be linked to the development of the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus in mice.  As mentioned above this part of the brain has been found to be larger in homosexual men (Mustanski, Dupree, Nievergelt et al., 2004).  This then shows a promising area to continue to study in order to find out more about how genetics affects homosexuality and whether an epigenetic activation of this certain gene increases the chance of a homosexual phenotype. 
Studies using twin pairs to research empirical evidence of the heritability of homosexuality have been performed as well as gene analysis.  These studies have sought to find whether there is a genetic or environmental connection on the causation of homosexuality.  In the study done by Kendler, Thornton et al.(2000), they used a nationally represented sample of twins in the United States and found information on the sexual orientation of both members of the twin pair.  In this sample, it was found that homosexual sexual orientation in identical twins was 31.6%.  In another twin sample study, done in Australia by Bailey, Dunne and Martin (2000), consistent data was found that supports familial factors influencing sexual orientation, continuous gender identity, and childhood gender non-conformity.  These different factors have been found to be genetically based with the finding that homosexuality tends to run in families.  This study also found that homosexual orientation in identical twins was 20% for men and 24% for women.  The study only found moderate to large heritability in regards to both female and male sexual orientation.  This leads to the idea that there are still more factors involved than just genetics in the determination of sexual orientation (Bailey, Dunne & Martin, 2000).  This has lead to current studies being done to determine the role of epigenetics in homosexuality. 
6)    Epigenetic Model
There are many reasons why scientists now believe that an epigenetic model for homosexuality can lead to a more overarching answer in regards to its prevalence in nature.  One reason is how inconclusive many studies have shown to be when studying homosexuality.  Studies have been able to find links to homosexuality in brain structure, prenatal hormone levels, and genetic markers, and have found heritability of homosexuality amongst families.  These studies have sought to make sense of a phenomenon that occurs throughout nature.  It has been found that homosexuality has been recorded to occur in 93 species of birds and many more animals (Rice, Friberg & Gavrilets, 2013).  If a specific gene caused homosexuality, it would make sense that through natural selection the gene would be removed because only heterosexual intercourse can lead to procreation, so the gene could not be passed down.  This reality requires another model in order to explain this, and the epigenetic model seems to be the best candidate to do so.
One idea that is currently being studied is prenatal stress in dysmasculinization of male mice in phenotypical expression involving behavior and physiological stress measures.  The researchers examined the F2 generation (two generations down from original ancestor) that are descended from these prenatally stressed male mice to see if this epigenetic phenotype could be transmitted across generations.  Using specialized equipment that study genes during neurodevelopment, they discovered a change in the mice’s gene expression to a female-typical pattern from a male-typical pattern in the F2 offspring of males that were prenatally stressed (Morgan & Bale, 2011).  Changes were not only found at the level of observable behavior but also at the cellular and molecular level.  As stated above, testosterone is essential in the masculinization and feminization of the brain.  The researchers studied if a change was found in this process that could explain the male rats changed phenotype.  It was found that the estrogen receptors “ERα and ERβ appeared upregulated, an effect suggestive of reduced ligand availability supporting a hypothesis for decreased perinatal testosterone in F2-S males” (Morgan & Bale, 2011). 
The researchers continued to look for other differences and found that three miRNA’s (that help to regulate gene families in early neurodevelopment) expression seemed to be dysmasculinized including two that were significantly affected by the parental paternal prenatal stress.  All three of the effected miRNA had β-glycan as a target.  β-glycan is involved in regulating gonadal hormones like testosterone within the Leydig cells and pituitary gonadotrophs which can affect the dysmasculinization of the brain during development leading to sexually atypical behavior (Morgan & Bale, 2011).  The study also looked at how miRNA expression affected sexual differentiation in the perinatal brain. 
This was found through the use of an aromatase inhibitor, which prevented the testosterone from being converted to estradiol, which dysmasculinized the environment around the miRNA.  After these males underwent testing, it was found that the male miRNA;s were not distinguishable from the control females.  This data indicates a strong ability of organizational hormones on the expression of brain miRNA during the perinatal period.  Along with the evidence of the effect of epigenetic mechanisms on gonadal hormones that influence sexual differentiation during development.  (Morgan & Bale, 2011).  This study helps strengthen the epigenetic argument of homosexuality because of the effect that was found from stress in previous generations and gene expression in subsequent generations in regards to dysmasculinization of behaviors.  Despite these advances, there is still future research that needs to be done. 
7)    Future Research
In their paper titled “Homosexuality via Canalized Sexual Development: A Testing Protocol for a New Epigenetic Model,” Rice, Friberg, and Gavrilets (2013) explain several observations that they have made while combing through studies on homosexuality, that can be explained better through an epigenetic model rather than a genetic model.  First, these observations conclude that homosexuality has a substantial heritability; however it has a low concordance when studied with both sexes of identical  twins.  Also, genetic markers are found in high density, but they don’t significantly associate with homosexuality.  Second, homosexuality has too high of an occurrence among animal populations to be caused by a mutation, and homosexuality is not affected by natural selection.  Third, genetic mutations involving androgen levels don’t seem to affect the sexual orientation of these individuals.  The authors of this article then discuss how these different problems can be tested to find epigenetic underpinnings.
            The first hypothesis that the authors suggest involves the inheritance of homosexuality and how it can be tested via an epigenetic model.  The authors Rice, Friberg, and Gavrilets (2013) predict that an epigenetic model can be tested by studying and comparing the epigenetic profiles of “human embryonic stem cells” between heterosexual females and males and their homosexual counterparts.  They predict that there will be a possibility of consistent differences in these epigenetic profiles in regards to sexual dimorphic epigenetic marks, which then would make the best candidates for finding those marks that cause the homosexual phenotype.  The authors then say if this does not work, it can be narrowed down to focus around epigenetic androgen signaling.  This model could help determine where these epigenetic marks are, or could lead to finding greater correlations between various systems that could help with the understanding of homosexuality. 
            The second hypothesis speaks on how homosexuality does not fit with natural selection and is too high and consistent to justify a mutation and therefore may be explained through an epigenetic model.  The authors suggest that the best way to study this would be to use adult stem cells from homosexuals and heterosexuals and compare them to determine the difference in epigenetic marks that could help explain how they developed prenatally.  This would have to be done with deceased individuals that have been preserved and prepared properly.  An alternative to this would be to use hair follicle stem cells which can be differentiated into stem cells of the three embryonic layers.  The stem cells will then have to be tested to see if they indeed do contain the needed information of epigenetic markings.  If these stem cells make good candidates, then the stem cells of homosexual and heterosexual people of the same sex can be compared.  The difference that the research can search for is the presence of “gonad-discordant epigenetic marks.”  The authors say that failure to find these marks would prove this specific hypothesis wrong, because it would mean that no differences were found between homosexual and heterosexual people in regards to these specific epigenetic markings (Rice, Friberg, & Gavrilets, 2013). If these marks were found the third hypothesis could then be studied using the same technique as above.  In order to determine the reason why mutations do not affect sexual orientation of the individual in regards to androgen signaling. 
8)    Conclusion
Scientists have continued to seek out the cause of homosexuality within the human and animal population and have found great success.  The research however does not completely explain how all of the systems and chemicals in the body work together to create this phenotype.  Much is already known about homosexuality, but new research that is focused around the role of epigenetics in homosexuality is beginning to help explain this phenomenon in greater detail.  Scientists discovered physical differences in the structure of the brain between homosexuals and heterosexuals.  More studies are linking hormonal effects, which are considered one of the single most important determinants of homosexuality, with epigenetic controls on hormone signaling.  Genetics has also been found to play a role through the study of genome sequencing, multiple twin studies, and familial pedigrees.  Significantly, scientists have discovered the effect of dysmasculinization on mice via various different epigenetic triggers that are created by stressful events during the development of the male parent.  Even with all of this research, there is still room for future studies that can help explain the complex intersection between gender, sexual orientation, behavior, and physical characteristics. 


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Swaab, D. F., & Hofman, M. A. (1990). An enlarged suprachiasmatic nucleus in homosexual men. Brain Research, 537, 141-148. Retrieved from

Swaab, D. F. (2008). Sexual orientation and its basis in brain structure and function. Proceedings of The National Academy of Science, 105(30), 10273-10274. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805542105

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Far Between Movie

When I was in the first stages of coming out I was a mess of emotions.  These emotions included fear, dread, and hope that somehow everything will get better.  I felt lonely and I wasn't sure who to turn too.  It was then that I found a series of videos on YouTube that were done by Far Between that I started feeling less alone and more hopeful.  One of the first ones was the BYU It Gets Better video.

I found out later that this video was done by the makers of Far Between.  But when I was watching it over two years ago.  I felt hopeful, I finally knew there were other people like me and that maybe, just maybe, I would get through this and figure out who I was and who God wanted me to become.

This next video is a compilation of LDS Family members and allies of LGBT people.  It too helped me during many dark times when I was still closeted and scared of other people knowing about me.

As I watched more of these videos, they continued to help me understand myself as I learned about other people's experiences both similar and different from mine.  All in all, I received a lot of support and help through the Far Between Project.  I have grown and continue to grow each and everyday, and I have the many people in these videos to thank for their courage and love in sharing their stories.  I am incredibly grateful and indebted to each and everyone of you.

The culmination of these years of videos and work have come down to a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make the Far Between Movie.  The Kickstarter video is below.

I hope with all my heart that this new documentary can help change the discussion about Mormonism and being LGBTQIA.  I hope that through these unfiltered views and experiences which come from all sides that a conversation can be started.  The conversation is already starting and in a lot of cases it has devolved into shouting matches between two camps.  This animosity has left a lot of the vulnerable in the middle and very sadly has led to many not being here today.  It is my hope that this new documentary can help bring people together and hopefully bring us closer to where God wants all of us to be in regards to loving and understanding one another.

If you can donate, please do!  If not, please share this Kickstarter campaign and together we may be able to catalyze a compassionate conversation that is so desperately needed.  This is the link for the Kickstarter campaign  and Far Between's website.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Help Mormons Building Bridges Virginia

Hello Everyone!

To those who read my blog, this is a little bit of a change to what I usually write about.  Over the past year, I have been working with the Mormons Building Bridges steering committee to help MBB get better organized on the East Coast.  This past summer we joined with other Mormon groups such as Mormons for Equality in the Capitol Pride Parade.

This parade was a wonderful success and we hope to have an even bigger contingent next year.  In addition to the parade, Mormons Building Bridges in Virginia is trying to set up Hug-a-Mormon Booths at as much Pride Festivals as we possibly can this Fall.  These Pride Fests include Virginia Pride, Charlottsville Pride, and Northern Virginia Pride along with others.  Unfortunately, hosting a booth comes with an average cost of $100.

This is where you come in.  Your donation of even as little as $5 can help MBB pay for registration fees and supplies for our booths.  If you want to donate please click on the link below to the gofundme site.  If you don't have the money right now, please share our fundraiser.   Help us reach out to members of the LGBTQIA community and the LDS community as we work to build bridges of understanding and compassion.

Mormons Building Bridges Virginia GoFundMe

Thank you,

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I'm a Gay Mormon

Three people recently came out publicly over these past two days one on Facebook, the other two on Youtube.  Knowing how hard this is myself, I wanted to share their experiences in their own words.

The first is from a friend of mine who just came out on Facebook.

Something about life that I like, is that I can be myself, and I can express myself in my CJ kinda way. Everyone knows, that CJ is weird, and CJ will always be weird. I love my life, I love my friends, I am so blessed with my talents (one of being a talented musician, and conductor, since the very young age), one who loves working with animals, and educating every customer on proper pet care and nutrition, I am one that enjoys to cook, and bake (and I have loved this since I ever looked to cook and bake). I love the outdoors, and mother nature, and being able to smell the clean fresh rain on a nice rainy day. I am grateful for the many friends that I continue to make, and that I have made. I CJ, am Mormon, and I am gay.

My name is Derek and I'm a Gay Mormon:

And I'm a Gay Mormon:

For LGBTQIA people, coming out can be one of the hardest and most transformative experiences.  Not only is it a way to be more authentic with yourself and to others.  It is also, in my opinion, a way to express the trust and love a person has for God.  Making vulnerable a part of yourself that you have tried to keep hidden for so long can bring a plethora of emotions and uncertainties.  I applaud these three for sharing their stories with all of us.  I know with their words the world has become a kinder, more sincere, and better place.  Thank you CJ, Derek, and Bryan!

Thank you for having love to show,
allowing my soul to grow.
I'll be your friend if you don't have any,
you are not a gift to one,
but a gift for many
(Author unknown)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Recognizing the Other's Reality

It seems the Mormon bloggernacle and social media have exploded over the past few weeks.  This explosion has sent shock-waves through newsstands and onto the dinner tables of many LDS and non-LDS homes.  The subsequent chaos has been a debate between two sides both claiming to be right and with many  people saying incredibly hurtful and insensitive things.  The amount of vitriol and ill will has left me depressed in my heart and soul, as well as sick to my stomach.

The purpose of this post is not to take a side in this debate but to relate something that I have come to understand as I have interacted with many different people both outside and inside the church.  What I have learned is the importance of realizing and recognizing the "Other's Reality."

Who is this "Other."  The Other in this context is someone who disagrees with a certain group over a certain subject.  The Other can also be someone who looks different, acts different, or may identify differently than the group with which the Other also interacts.  These people are portrayed as the Other of the group in order to subsequently discredit and shame the Other, as a way to defend the beliefs of the group, whether they be right or wrong, in which it is felt that the Other does not belong.

In my Priesthood Class this past Sunday we had a lesson about "Encouraging someone to do good vs. Respecting Agency."  Both of these topics are scripturally supported but in some contexts seem to be complete opposites.  The following discussion in my class made me realize something in regards to how we all should treat those who may disagree with us or may be seen as the Other by a group or society.

The way these interactions should be done is through recognizing another person's reality.  A person's reality is their unique experience in this life that no one else has.  It is a place where a person's beliefs and worldview are built  and I believe it is something that can be traced back to the pre-existence.  Every person has their own reality.  A person's reality may be influenced by the shared experiences of a group's reality making it much easier to join that group than other people.  Most humans seek to belong in a group, it offers protection and stability.  A person's reality can be shaped and molded by those around them but ultimately only one other person has walked by our side through it all, our savior Jesus Christ Himself.  Which is how only He can be the true and righteous judge through the atonement.  He alone with us has seen and experienced our reality and knows how our lives are shaped along with our ideas, beliefs, and passions.

So how do we respect someone's agency but also seek to help them choose what we believe to be right.  It all comes down to "Mourn with those who mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort."  Instead of preaching to someone, judging them based on our own realities, telling people how righteous we are are, and many other things Jesus condemned the Pharisees for doing.  We are not only commanded, we also covenant with our Heavenly Father to comfort and uplift everyone we meet.  This can only be done if the two sides can sit down together and talk without any preconceived notions about the person on the other end of their words.  No judgement, just the understanding of the worth and value of the person on the other side of you and how important their personal journey is.  The Holy Ghost will take care of the rest.

A friend of mine told me a story about his mission that illustrated this point.  He said he noticed that the missionaries who were so focused on baptism and getting people to immediately say they believed in the church usually got frustrated and were met with little success.  However, those who went out in the spirit of service, and that didn't see people as just another number to check off their list were happier and much more successful.

This friend of mine told me that by doing this he allowed himself to not only teach the investigators but to taught by them as well, both sides benefited as both grew together in the gospel.  This can also and must also be done with other members of the church.  There is a reason why the church has a deplorable activity rate among it's members, it's not because of the gospel of Christ, it's because of judgement and ostracism felt by those that are different.  These differences could be in their opinions and beliefs, to skin color, to sexual orientation.

So before you place judgement on someone else, even if what they are professing to believe seems far-fetched to you.  Realize that their beliefs and convictions are usually not based on whims but have resulted in many years of pondering, studying, and prayer. Before you say something think about the precious soul on the other end and how your words will either build them up or tear them down.

All people are generally good and honest and are seeking to come back to God at the end of this life.  There is already too much heartache in the world without us adding more to it even if we feel it is done with our best intentions.  Love should always come first from our mouths, filled with the humble understanding that we do not know everything, not even a fraction of a fraction of God's infinite wisdom or what God has in store for his children.

God works in the hearts of people both inside and outside of the church.  Truth can be found almost anywhere where people's hearts are open to the whispering of the spirit.  But always remember that God will never reveal something to us that we are not willing to receive.  This is true for both sides of an argument.  So on that note, why don't we all step back, take a deep breath, and realize we are all Sons and Daughters of God, we all believe in the church, we just may have different ideas and different convictions when it comes to certain points and that is ok.  In fact most of the Doctrine and Covenants came about because of questions asked by both men and women.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf one of my favorite apostles stated in a 2012 world-wide LDS leadership training:

"If we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the spirit.  Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things...
How often  has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know, but couldn't get past the massive, iron  gate of what we thought we already knew?"

Brothers and Sisters I implore each and every one of you to unlock and open wide that Iron Gate of our minds and hearts.  Even if things that other people say may lead you to question your previous beliefs.  That's ok, not only can we potentially learn something new that God wants us to know, but we can also grow in our own faith.  Doubts can be constructive in helping us know the will of God as we grow closer to Him in our journeys.  I personally have faced a lot of doubt in my life, but through many nights of prayer and study I personally grew in my testimony of the gospel, the priesthood, and the restoration. I love it so much and I know that my faith would have never been as strong today if my beliefs weren't challenged, reevaluated, and then strengthened by the people I've interacted with and the ideas that I have considered.

Three Articles of faith help illustrate this point.
9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

In closing, I hope we all come to realize that there are still many things that God will yet reveal to each and everyone of us as well as the church as a whole. We are all given the opportunity and privilege to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  Finally, I know that as we strive to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous we will have the strength and courage to seek after those things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy in all times, in all places, amongst all people.  By doing this, The Church of Jesus Christ will be strengthened, all people will feel welcomed into the fold of God, and we will all move forward in the glorious work of building Zion.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Face of God

                                                Come with me
                                   Where chains will never bind you
All your grief
At last, at last behind you
Lord in Heaven
Look down on him in mercy.

Forgive me all my trespasses
And take me to your glory.

Take my hand
I'll lead you to salvation
Take my love
For love is everlasting
And remember
The truth that once was spoken
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.
"Les Miserables"

These are a couple of lyrics from the Epilogue from the play Les Miserables.  In the story a man was sentenced to many years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread in order to feed those who starved.  The punishment far outweighed the crime and Justice chased him for the rest of his life with no mercy.  Desperate and alone, filled with bitterness and hatred for the unjust nature of the system that sought to forever oppress him.  He found himself in a monastery one day and the person who was the head of the monastery gave him a place to sleep and a meal to eat.  

That night he grabbed all he could of value from the monastery and ran off with it into the night.  Apprehended on the road by officers of the peace he was brought back to the monastery, beaten and on the cusp of being sentenced to many more years of hard labor.  The head of the monastery seeing this man broken on the ground, the objects of his crime strewn next to him, had compassion on him.  He lifted the man up and told the officers that he had given the man the silver and gold and in fact in the man's haste to leave had forgotten the best and most precious he had.  

The head of the Monastery could have fulfilled justice by allowing the man to be arrested and his riches brought back to the monastery.  He would have been justified in doing this and most people would probably have agreed with the verdict.  Instead what is glimpsed is this man's example of Christ like love toward a total stranger, who stole from him after he showed him kindness.  He gave him the best he had and encouraged him to not let this act of kindness end with him.  This man who once was in depths of despair and one of the least on earth was given a second chance, and not only that but a way that provided him the ability to accomplish good works for others.

This man changed the life of a young girl by fulfilling a promise to a desperate mother on her death bed.  He saved the lives of others and touched the poor and needy.  He taught by example what it meant to live a life of Christ like service to others.

As the man died in the same monastery where he was given a second chance the mother who he kept his promise to was the one to first meet him, and the man who led the monastery all those years ago was waiting to welcome him into his rest.

This beautiful story, that I left vague on purpose, can probably be played out thousands of times across human history in many different religions and cultural traditions.  It represents the power of Charity and it's ability to affect the lives of many from a single act.  As I pondered this, I realized that the history of the world is filled with stories of people who are trodden down and oppressed. Stories of people who try their best and ultimately to not accomplish their goals. There is certainly never enough love in the world.

I am humbled to be standing on the shoulders of giants both famous and nameless who have worked so hard so that my life today can be better than the trials they had to endure.  What sets these people apart.  They represented the best of humanity because of the love they had for those around them.

The head of the monastery became an example of Christ as he gave the man all he had and refused to condemn him.  Even if you don't believe in Christ all people can recognize the power that comes from love and service.

We ourselves can be examples of Christ.  We become examples as we serve others and love those around us unconditionally.  Not only can they see Christ in our lives, we will also be able to "See the face of God" in their countenances.  Christ truly did suffer and die for us.  He paid the ultimate price in order for us to receive the ultimate gift, which is the foundation of love and service that will continue with us into the eternities.  "To love another person is to see the face of God," and in this I feel is life Celestial.

Thank you everyone who marched in the Pride Parades these past few days.  Not only do you bring me hope and joy.  I know you all touched the lives of thousands as you proclaimed Christ's love for all.  I am grateful to be among so much amazing saints of God.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gay/SSA and Mormon? Some Advice

      Are you gay, lesbian / experience same-sex attraction and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  If you are, I know the dissonance and pain you may feel between how you feel towards people of the same sex and your faith.  It may seem almost insurmountable the disconnect between the two.  How can I be a Mormon and gay.  Do I have to give up the church and it's teachings and eventually be with someone of the same-sex or can I just work really hard and be the best I can be and my same sex attraction will go away and I will be heterosexual, be married in the temple, and have a great life.  Do I need to go the celibate route, live alone the rest of my life, and God will reward me in the eternities?  These questions I hope to address in this blog post.

      Growing up gay and Mormon all of us knew and know that ultimately we would have to make a very important choice in our lives. This choice would be one where we would either trust in our leaders and live a a celibate life or, God willing, have a mixed-orientation marriage.   These choices both seemed bleak but for me I felt that if it was God's will it would all work out.  So I suppressed my feelings and would not accept their reality.  I had low self-esteem and I had a fear of being outed.  I was afraid that this dirty secret that I had hidden up would somehow surface expose me and destroy my life and my relationships.  This I can imagine happened to many of you or is currently happening to you.  For me it lead to a very dark time one where suicide seemed the only option to my pain and anguish.  For many of us sadly that became their end in this journey of mortality.  So what are we to do.  I have seen people reject the church and it's teachings completely.  I have seen people try there best and be miserable in the process, and people who are actually quite successful and happy.

      The advice I give is my own and may not work for everyone.  Ultimately everyone needs to work with God to find their own unique way through mortality.  I offer four steps in the process of accepting your reality and moving in the direction God would have you go.

1. Come out to yourself and to God.
2. Come out to close family and friends when the time seems right.
3.  With the help of God, learn about all possible paths in your life.  Even ones you may be extremely uncomfortable with.
4. Make a decision with God on how to proceed with your life.  It may be for a short time it may be for a lifetime but commit to God and remain prayerful and trusting in His guidance.

1. Come out to yourself and to God.  

      Using my own experience I hope to convey what it is that helped me.  Starting from puberty I felt a desperate struggle inside of me of what I presented to the world and what I felt.  The months and years went on and through my trials I began to realize something.  I had never asked God about what he felt about me.  Truthfully, I had just assumed from what I implied from my priesthood leaders and society in general.  One day, I decided I would find out for myself.  I wrote about the experience in my coming out story which at the beginning of this blog.

      "I kneeled down one night and prayed to my Heavenly Father.  I asked him if these feelings were acceptable in his eyes and whether or not he still loved me even if I was attracted to the same gender.  What followed would change my life.  A wonderful, indescribable warmth filled my chest and spread to the rest of my body.  I knew at once it was the spirit and that God accepted me for who I was and would always love me.  All my life I had not only lived in fear of others rejection but God's rejection.  I found out, beyond a shadow of doubt, that God loved me and accepted me for who I was.  I came out of that spiritual experience with the knowledge that God accepted me."

      So my first piece of advice is not to assume how God feels about your attractions.  Ask him yourself, develop that relationship with him and find out that he loves you unconditionally.  This changed my life and led me down a path of healing and I know it can change yours.  Even with God's acceptance, it still does not answer many of the other questions, but it can provide a foundation to build one's life off of.

2. Come out to close family and friends when the time seems right.

      The next step I would recommend is one that could take a very long time.  This step involves, with the help of God, learning to accept yourself and then ultimately coming out to your family or close friends.  Research has found that the process of coming out is beneficial for the man or woman who does so.  Not only will it strengthen your self-esteem it will also make the relationships you have with others more genuine.  When you have a core group of family or friends you have come out to it can then help stabilize you not only emotionally and personally, but also spiritually as well.  I understand that for almost everybody this is something that is very difficult and terrifying.  Sharing something you have kept secret for so long and that has negative connotations in Mormon culture lays bare to everyone a place that is raw and can be easily used to harm you.  But this is a necessary step.

      If now does not feel like the right time, wait.  Ask God what he thinks and be patient.  If you do not feel safe sharing this part of yourself with family, colleagues, friends, or church members.  I would recommend some support groups such as Mormons Building Bridges, USGA at BYU, Affirmation, NorthStar, etc.  It's important to find someone that you can share with who won't judge you or put you down.  Mormons Building Bridges has been building a roster of LGBT friendly people in wards throughout the country that also might be a good place to check.

      Ultimately do what is most comfortable to you and come out in a safe environment.  I promise that although it may be the scariest thing you may ever do.  It will also be one of the most freeing experiences that you will ever have.  Trust me, a weight will be lifted off of your shoulders.  Even if others do not take it well.  You will feel much more genuine and much more true to yourself and God.

3. With the help of God, learn about all possible paths in your life Even the ones you may be uncomfortable with.  

      The third  recommendation that I give is to find out what to do next.  I have seen two polarized sides when it comes to this and not very much people in the middle.  Although there are some.  One side talks of the importance of following the Prophets, Apostles, and the official policy of the church whether it be through a mixed-orientation marriage, which is no longer recommended because of the negative consequences of the decision, or celibacy for the rest of your life.    The other side tells you to be true to yourself and have a same-sex relationship and get married if you are able.  What I see as a problem is that sometimes people on  both sides see each other as enemies or lacking in one respect or the other.  Some on each side say that they are right and everyone else is wrong.  But what does God say to you on this matter.  If our hearts and desires are pure he says, "Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh receiveth;and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened." 3 Nephi 27: 29.

      My advice is to go to our Heavenly Father and ask Him yourself.  I encourage everyone to learn from both sides, learn of the struggles and failures but also the triumphs and successes.  One can do this successfully using a computer but also personal experience.  Some websites to check out are and

      I grew up thinking that LGBT people were immoral deviants who I should never associate with.  Come to find out after following many promptings from God.  They were actually just normal people.  Just as moral or immoral as straight people.  Learn in safe environments about either side.  I encourage you as you go on this journey of learning and growing to not hold anything back from Him.  Do not put qualifiers or exceptions,  trust in Him and let Him teach you and lead you anywhere He sees fit.  Follow the Law of Chastity when learning about this and always seek to have the spirit with you.

4. Make a decision with God on how to proceed with your life.  It may be for a short time, it may be for a lifetime, but commit to God and remain prayerful and trusting in His guidance.  

      The answer might be one you felt like you should do all along.  It might be completely different.  It might bring fear, it might bring hope and joy.  If it be from God he will provide a way, he promises this, the fruit will be good and God will sustain you.  If ultimately it is not the way God wants you to go, you will have confusion, a loss of clarity, and the fruits of those actions will be bad.  Ultimately I encourage you to have faith in God and know that He has a plan for you that will bring you happiness and that God will provide a way for you to accomplish it.  Follow the law of chastity as it applies to all members and relationships, God is not a respecter of persons.  Maybe if it is God's will you will marry a person of the same-sex and have a deep and loving relationship with them, and build a family together, or you may be asked to go the opposite route.  He even may ask you to wait and remain celibate.  Remember to trust in God's will for you.

      Some people may say that God will never say anything against what the prophets and apostles have said. However we know in the scriptures that this is not the case.  When Nephi was told to kill Laban in the Book of Mormon.  This action was murder, plain and simple, something that all prophets have said is a grievous sin.  But God had Nephi do it because he had a greater plan in the action.  Ultimately, God is the place from where all truth flows.  Christ due to the atonement is the light of truth.  The Apostles and Prophets are men, which means that they are imperfect and they may use their own understanding until a new revelation from God comes.  Although they are called of God they ultimately are not the source of all truth.  You all are entitled to personal revelation for yourself.  God will guide you as you pray on the words of the leaders of the church.

      This process will take time.  It has taken me many years and each step was long and filled with ups and downs.  I promise you that those trials will strengthen you. Looking back on my life now I realize and have grown to understand through my trials what Peter spoke about in 1 Peter 1:3-10

3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, through now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.
7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, through it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
9) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
10) Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

      The trials of my faith have been more precious than gold.  I have grown closer to God and I have gained greater insight and understanding in my life through those trials.  I know that God loves each and everyone of us and that he seeks that best for each of you.  This decision is between you and Him.  I can't tell you which direction is best for you because I don't know your reality.  There is one person who does and that is Jesus Christ.

      That decade of my life between puberty and when I turned twenty years old was a definite trial of my faith in God.  Whether He knew me and whether He actually cared was my struggle.  Peter writes "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth"  My trials are much more precious to me than anything I have ever experienced and they have led me to a place of love, happiness, and joy that I would never have imagined just two years ago.  I found my joy in a place I never expected that I would. Whatever trials lie ahead of you I know that God will be with each and everyone of you as you work out where He wants you and where your happiness in his Kingdom is.  I encourage you all to remain active in the church.  Whether your path leads to celibacy or a loving relationship with the man or woman of your dreams, whether they be of the same sex or not.  You have many people cheering for you on earth and in heaven and I know God will never fail you.