One cool thing about the IDkit is that it highlights DVD’s, organizations, and books that shed light on common issues queer teens encounter when growing up in faith based communities. This month we have a special guest interview from author Jallen Rix, EdD, author of Ex Gay No Way. Along with being an award nominated writer (Rix is among 5 Lambda award finalists in LGBT Nonfiction) Rix is also a sexologist and he has been open in an exclusive interview about teens, faith, and sexuality. Over the span of three posts we will read his unique and encouraging words on queer-Christian issues.
Sex, Taboo, and Growing Up
Q: Crystal Cheatham
A: Jallen Rix EdD
Part 1: ON SEX
One of the things we love to talk about is sex. It’s everywhere! In the songs we listen to, in the movies we watch, and in the books we read. But what’s crazy about it is that as young adults it is difficult to get real (not sugar coated) answers from parents and even teachers. As a Christian it can get confusing about when it is OK to talk about sex and what questions to ask. From the beginning we are taught to avoid the subject of sex and sexuality until we are married, but that’s impossible unless you live in a closet (no pun intended). The truth is, we are confronted with our sexual natures every day–in friendships, in family roles, in the privacy of our rooms, and when we click around the internet. We live in a very sex-aware-world. It’s everywhere which is why it’s impossible not to be part of the conversation now. But on the other side of the argument, “sex” doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone. Popular culture has inflated “sex” to the point of exhaustion. In his book, Rix talked about something all fundamentalists grow up hearing, which is that sex (in any form) is a negative.
Q: What are your thoughts on abstinence verses exploration?
A: In general, as a sexologist, I believe that the focus on “when” to have sex is out of whack. Instead, place the focus on insuring that your first-time experiences be positive ones, and let that determination inform when you have sex. I don’t know anyone, at any age, or at anytime who wants to have a bad sexual experience. Yet, often times a lot of “bad” or regretful sex occurs because people were not give the tools to plan ahead, or they just conformed to peer pressure. If you can catch a vision of how you would like your sexuality to be experienced, then you will know when the right time comes along and design it to be a great experience.
Q: What can you say to teens who are looking for a balance between the two worlds—to teens who would like to honor their sexuality without squandering it?
A: Over and over again, research has shown that the more people are allowed to understand (and experiment with) their own solo sexuality as well as educating themselves about sexuality in general, the easier it is to make the kinds of wise decisions they want about it, rather than just following the crowd. So I suggest you become as educated about sexuality as you possibly can, and as a result, you will know when the time is right and what to do.
Q: How important is it to talk about sex, and to ask questions about it?
A: It’s not just important, it is perfectly natural to be completely curious about one’s body and how it works. However, we live in a society that is very uncomfortable having a casual conversation about sexuality. I have told many a parent that if they are waiting for the right time to have “the talk” about the birds and the bees, they have waited too late. Plain and simple, if parents do not create an accepting environment that allows their kids to ask innocent questions about their bodies and sexuality, then those kids will find the answers somewhere else. This is not to put parents down, it’s just one of those “circle of life” kind of things – it’s going to happen whether they want it to or not. To teens who feel they are at a loss or feel uncomfortable about their sexuality I say, confide in someone you can trust. Often, if you can get your parent’s attention, they will talk to you about it. If you don’t have that option, try another adult, relative, or someone that you can determine might have more wisdom about sexuality than you do. Set a time to talk and spill your beans. But realize, these people are not perfect (no one is). You can listen and take in their advise, but it is you that must decide the right course for you body and sexuality.
Q: When we look at the way the media portrays the gay and lesbian lifestyle it looks very raw and sometimes perverse. When you came out in the gay world, did you have reservations about what it meant to be gay and sexual?
A: I had been told by my church and ex-gay ministry that all those “evil and drug addicted homosexuals were sick, perverted and demon possessed,” so you can imagine that I was really petrified to see what it was like “out there.” When I did begin to meet gays and lesbians I was constantly amazed how understanding and accepting they were. Sometimes they were far more compassionate than the “christians” I knew. I realize I can’t stereotype the LGBTQ community anymore than I can pigeon-hole all Christians, but that was my experience. That’s why I wrote the song “I met Jesus Down at Stonewall” (Stonewall’s a gay bar) because my relationship with God really blossomed when I stopped putting a wall up between my spirituality and my sexuality.
*Thanks for reading! Stop by in a week for more of this exclusive interview with Jallen Rix EdD. Next up we will be discussing his thoughts on Success in professional careers and academic pursuits.
-The Team of Your IDk