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Imagine being a very young elementary school girl and liking boys.  Sounds about normal, right?  Now imagine being a very young elementary school girl, liking boys AND liking girls.  Sound a bit confusing?  Ya; that’s the understatement of a life time!  Hi, I’m Martha Saathoff Spiva; I’m a 41-year-old married mom of 3 AND I’m bisexual!  This is my story.

One of my earliest childhood memories was attending a church with my mom.  We met in a 2-story office building just off of the LBJ Freeway in Dallas, Texas.  It was made of all black glass with cement pillars.  The minister was a woman.  We met in a big, square room with a stage/podium up front.  I was 5 years old.  There was an altar call…a come to Jesus moment.  And I KNEW I was being called to start my spiritual journey.  I went.  I asked Jesus into my heart.  From that moment on, my spiritual journey was the most important thing in my life.  This was a defining moment for me!

After we stopped going to that church, we started attending the Richardson Assembly of God Church.  After that we moved to the Lakewood Assembly of God Church 30 minutes away in (almost) downtown Dallas.  This is where I spent my formative years.  This is also the time my parents put me in a Baptist private school.  Needless to say, I grew up in a very conservative, right-wing, Texas, god-fearing home.  I knew my Bible backwards and forwards.  More importantly, I had my very own spiritual walk with God.

And this is where things got confusing……….

Like I said, I liked boys.  I have always liked boys.  When I was in kindergarten, I had a HUGE crush on “Talky” the 6th grade crossing guard and friend of one of my brothers.  In 1st grade, I had a boyfriend named Tracy Lewis (not the same Tracy that I married).  As I got older, there were always crushes on new boys and those crushes grew longer and more serious as I became a tween.  All the while, my spiritual conviction grew stronger and deeper.  But all the while, I LOVED girls.  I crushed on my girlfriends.  I would rather look at the women in my brothers’ girlie mags than look at the men.  Finally, at 11 years old, I couldn’t take the confusion anymore.  I needed to talk to someone.  And I thought my mom is the person I could talk to.

This is how it went………..

The car had just pulled up and parked in front of our home.  I asked my mom if we could talk.  “Mom,” I said, “I think I’m gay.”

Her reply:  “That’s impossible!  Besides, you don’t even know what that word means!”

“Yes, Mom, I do.  It means that I like girls.”

“But, Martha, you like boys, don’t you?  You have boyfriends don’t you?”

“Yes, Mom, I do.”

“Well, see!  You aren’t gay.  Besides, It’s impossible.  You are a good Christian young woman and it’s impossible for a good Christian young woman to be gay!  It’s a sin!”

With that she opened the door, stepped out of the car, and the conversation was never brought up again.

Just because the subject wasn’t brought up again, didn’t change what I felt inside.  Only now, it was worse.  I knew I was a “good Christian young woman”.  I knew I had a spiritual calling.  At 11 years old, I had already read the Bible once all the way through.  I prayed every day..a couple times a day.  I even prayed for these “urges” to go away.  They didn’t.  But I buried these feelings and didn’t mention them again for 11 more years!!!!

What happened in those 11 years?  I  met my husband at 14 years old.  I knew the minute I saw him that I was supposed to marry him.  And when we turned 19 years old, we did get married.  The crushes I had on my girlfriends became more serious, but I never mentioned them.  They fantasies I had about women became more intense, but I never mentioned them.  I became even  more confused.  I knew I was supposed to marry Tracy.  I knew I loved him.  Yet, what do I do about these other feelings?  Who and what the heck am I?  Somewhere in there, I learned that indeed I wasn’t gay/homosexual/lesbian.  By then, my vocabulary had grown.  I was bisexual.  Talk about confusing!!!!!  Great, so I know what label to wear, but where does that leave me?  How does that reconcile with  my Christian beliefs?

I became very suicidal for a number of reasons.  I felt like I had no one to talk to.  I wanted to come out to Tracy, but what if he left me?   We were, according to my intuition, supposed to get married!  I didn’t want to screw that up!  I couldn’t tell my girlfriends; we all belonged to Baptist Schools and Assembly of God Churches, and by now and I was also attending a Seventh Day Adventist Church with my boyfriend.  There was NO WAY I could tell anyone from any of these places!  I could be expelled from school.  I was already in enough trouble with the people in the SDA church for being too affectionate and intimate with Tracy.  And my girlfriends, I thought, would feel uncomfortable undressing in the locker room when I was around if they knew (not that I was lusting after them in the locker room…I was too busy  trying to cover up my hickies from the make out session the  night before!)  I was scared with nowhere to run!  The only person I could talk to was God…and I did that all the time!  I prayed.  I read my Bible.  I asked to be normal.  I WANTED to be “normal”.  I cried myself to sleep at night while praying for God to fix me.

At the same time, I remembered a time when I was in elementary school.  I was bullied all the way through my school years…elementary through high school.  I remember feeling like a piece of trash.  And one day after praying and reading my Bible, I sat in my room and drew a picture….more of a poster really.  It said, “I’m not junk, because God don’t make junk!”  This was the message that God gave me when I was a little girl.  I am a Special Creation and I am LOVED!!!!  This is how I survived!

Finally, at 22 years old, after being married for several years and having 2 boys, I found the courage to talk to Tracy.  “Tracy, I have to tell you something.  I hope you don’t get mad.  I hope you don’t want to leave me.  But I am bisexual.”  His response?  “Martha, I could have told you that.”

I’m sure there was more conversation after that, but I don’t remember that.  I just remember feeling so loved and accepted in that moment.  He knew me (and still does) and loved me for who I was even if I wouldn’t admit who I was to myself.  He loved me for who I am long before I loved me for who I am!  My intuition, the Grace of God, that Still Knowing….it was right!  I WAS supposed to marry him!

From that point on, I only came out to a few people where I felt I was safe.  With the invention of the internet and silly role-playing games called MUD(s)…Multi User Dungeons…(kinda like Dungeons and Dragons on-line) I was able to just be myself.  It was freeing. It was anonymous for the most part, but I did make some life long friends from that silly game and they are even friends with me on Facebook now…crazy!

We left our Christian churches behind.  I knew I was made the way I am and I could NOT belong to a faith/church/dogma that said God hated me (or my actions) and that I would be sent to hell for just being me..when I KNOW (from the message I was given as a little child) that God made me just as I am and I am NOT junk!  I never let go of my spiritual faith and personal walk with God.  Finally after all of these years, my husband and I have found the perfect place for our spiritual faith and walk, and it is one that is inclusive to all walks of life: gender, orientation, religious beliefs, races, colors!  It’s a beautiful thing and EXACTLY what Jesus the Master Teacher taught about love!

Anyway at the age of  30 I started feeling the need to really live my life and be “out”.  I was out to a select group of people who were also in the LGBT community.  But I longed to be out to my every day friends who I hung out with every single day.  So, at first, I told Anne and Kim.  Our sons were in Cub Scouts together…they were in Kindergarten together…our lives intertwined.  Anne’s hubby was the Pack Master for our Cub Scouts.  She told him.  I was able to remain a Den Mom..as long as I didn’t make a big deal about it and tell the boys.  But then, when my oldest son moved to a boy scout troop and that particular troop practiced severe gay bashing, I could no longer stand by quietly and keep my boys in a program that taught them that their mom was a freak of nature.  So I wrote a letter explaining why I was pulling my boys out; I sent it to the people who needed to know (including Anne’s husband).  The next thing I knew, Anne was threatening me.  She had taken this so personally (even though her husband was NOT the one I was complaining about..he is a very good man and I totally respect him).   She threatened to out me to the principal of the elementary school our children attended.  She threatened to out me and cause a ruckus in my life and ruin my reputation at the school.  I was on the board of the Family Teacher Organization.  I was very involved in the school.  And she was going to venomously out me and cause issues in  my private life.  I was scared!

It was at that point, I felt I needed to come out to two more of my very close friends…..Beth and Annelle.  They served on the FTO board with me.  I told them EVERYTHING.  They love me…even today!  Thank you, Nell and Beth for loving me and never judging me (or if you did..for doing it quietly).  *laugh*

Shortly after the “near shoving out”, we decided that it would be better if we moved to Idaho.  My husband had a job opportunity here, and I felt like I could use the fresh start without having to look over my back all the time.  I wanted to live my life as “out”.  We moved here, and I immediately got involved with the LGBT community here.  The problem is, I am still bisexual.  Bisexuals not only get grief from the  straight, closed-minded people; but sometimes they also get it from inside their own community.  Sometimes homosexuals don’t like or accept us because they feel as if we just don’t know what we want and are just confused..we are just straight people playing around…or gays who don’t know it yet.  Yea….not so much!  After being shunned by my own community, I went back in the closet (for the most part).  I went back to feeling alone…even from within my own community.

Eventually, I got over all of this.  I was even given an award by The Community Center (the LGBT community hub I looked to when I first moved here) for being a good example of the LGBT life and my community service!  I received the award during Pride week!  FINALLY, I was being recognized  and ACCEPTED for who and what I am…and being awarded for it!!  I AM OUT!!!!!!

This year, in the after shock of 12 gay young men committing suicide because they could not stand the bullying brought on by their orientation, I am stepping up in a very public way.  I am coming out on Facebook and in my blog.  I am standing up and coming out for these 12 young men who couldn’t come out and stand up for themselves.  I am coming out and standing up for all those who are still in the closet, afraid for their lives, afraid of the rejection, afraid of the religious god-fearing haters who would tell them they are hell-bound sinners.  I am coming out LOUD and PROUD for all of those people being bullied..whether by children or adults, by the straight or the gay community…I am standing up for them!

I want those who are still hiding in their closets peeking out from behind the cracked door to know that it is okay.  It is more than possible to come out and do more than just survive out here!  Sure, there are still some haters out there, but things are so much better than they used to be.  There is a community out here that loves and supports you.  Please, if you are feeling scared and bullied, reach out to those of us who have been there..we are here for you.  We love you and want to support you.  There are so many resources for you.  You are NOT alone!

For more information and support, please check YouTube for “It Gets Better” project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IcVyvg2Qlo   and The Trevor Project http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

This is a picture of my 17 year old son Nate and I at the 2010 Boise Pride Parade!

This is me right after I was awarded the Willow Award from The Community Center…a Community Service Award given to a person of the LGBT community.

This is me and my amazing hubby, Tracy!  He loves me just the way I am!

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It’s October 7, 2010, and it seems as though everyone on Facebook is talking about the bullying that led to the suicides of 6 gay boys/young men.  Okay, I stand corrected.  Not everyone on Facebook is talking about; it’s mostly my LGBT and supportive friends.  They are outraged, as well they should be!

But shouldn’t we ALL be?

One post today said, “it makes me crazy that no one has said anything about this before “.  Another one said, “I am telling ya—Gay parents are better than straight parents any day of the week. Gays will go to the mat for rights that straights take for granted and they stand up for what they believe in.”

Okay, these are just TWO responses in a long strand of comments in a very serious conversation happening on Facebook.  Please do not get all up in arms about things and starting saying it’s stereotyping.  I actually addressed stereotyping in that post.  The important thing here is that it’s NOT a gay/straight issue.

Yes, these 6 young men were gay and that is what they were bullied for and that is why they killed themselves.  But our youth have been killing themselves for years….because of bullying and/or depression.  I remember several years ago there was a rash of suicides due to bullying/cyber bullying, and there was an out cry then to stop bullying.  Back then, those kids weren’t being bullied over their sexual orientation; it was something else.

There are several thoughts going through my head right now.

First, Suicide:  I’m 41, and I grew up in Richardson, Texas.  The next city just north of us was Plano, Texas.  If you do the math, this makes me a 14-year-old teenager in 1983 when the big news about a cluster suicide happening in Plano, Texas.  A year or so later, the boy down the street from me killed himself.  Heck, I tried killing myself several times.  Depression.  Why do our teens become depressed?  Is it because of bullying?  I remember reading a book on how to prevent your friends from committing suicide.  It was written for teens!  Even our high school teachers were sent to special training on how to recognize suicidal students and how to help them. (Not that it was great training, because I pretty much gave my teacher a suicide note and she did NOTHING!)  It can’t be up to the teachers to prevent suicide, but it would be nice if they would recognize the symptoms.  But let’s face it, in junior high and high school, these teachers have nearly 300 students a day they see and are responsible for.  And they are under paid with all the budget cuts.  Is it THEIR job to watch after each and every one of these children?

Second:  Bullying.  Kids have been bullied for a very long time.  It’s not like it just started happening.  I’m willing to bet it has been happening in one way or another since we started having children and they learned to talk.  It’s not new.  I know I was bullied for developing early, for my dad’s weight, for the condition of my house growing up, for developing early, for OVERLY developing, for the religion my parents raised me in, for being over weight, for being a virgin, for not being a virgin…for anything that made me different from someone else (and they didn’t understand it).  My children were bullied for being the youngest in the class, for not being in sports, for learning disabilities, for their religious (or not religious) beliefs, for just being different from the kid sitting next to them.

My parents didn’t stand up to my bullies.  I DID.  For my children, I am the one who went to the mat to support them and help them through their bullying issues.  I asked the teachers to help.  One teacher actually told my daughter there was nothing he could do about it, and he didn’t even respond to my emails about the situation.

The schools teach character development and along with that goes the anti-bullying segment.  Most schools have a zero tolerance program, but that doesn’t even begin to help.  Eventually, I just had to move my daughter to a different school or different class.

So again, is it the school’s responsibility to stop it?  Is it the teacher’s job to prevent it?  In a perfect would, we would like to think so.  In a perfect world, we would like to think that going to school is a safe and happy place for our children.  But in all reality, sometimes, it’s just not!  So then what???

Like sex education, it really belongs and begins at home!  We as parents need to teach our children how to make and sustain healthy relationships…starting with a relationship with themselves.  If this means sending them to a class at the Boys & Girls Club or Planned Parenthood, then do it!  We as parents need to be open, loving, accepting, supportive of our children NO MATTER what they come home and share with us.  Certainly if it’s the case of them using drugs or some other harmful situation, then step up, take a stand and help them overcome it.  But if they tell us they are different from what we had imagined them to be (sexual orientation, religious preferences, sports minded, educational decisions), then its our job to love and support them through it!  It’s our job to be a safe port in the confusion of growing up!  It’s our job to arm them with education, knowledge, love and support.

Preventing bullying & suicide starts at home!  If we teach them love, tolerance & support, they will take that into the schools.  If we teach them how to stand up for themselves and others, they will take that into the schools.  If we give them a safe place to open up at home, any issues  they may have at school can be brought home to the loving ears and arms of the family and can be taken care of as a team instead of leaving the child to feel like they are alone.  And if you have a warm, loving, accepting, tolerant home…then your child’s friend who may not experience that in their home will likely feel safe to come to yours and express their concerns and you will be able to help them!

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child.  This is so very true!  It takes a village of loving, caring, supportive adults to stand guard, hold vigil and support that young person to feel free to grow and express him/herself..to be who they will become.  Yes, it starts at home….then it spreads to the village…to the safe neighbors..churches…schools….  And it all starts with LOVE!

My heart breaks for the 6 boys who needlessly took their lives recently.  For that matter, my heart breaks for the untold numbers of youth who take their lives on a daily basis because they felt alone..like they had no one to talk to..not even their own families.  My heart breaks for the children in the schools who are being bullied on a daily basis with no one to stand up and fight for them…my heart breaks for the children being bullied who DO have people who stand up and fight for them.

There is a Budhist prayer that says, “May all beings be free from suffering…..”  This is my prayer today and everyday…

 

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