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Episode Summary

Host Isaac Archuleta sits with Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified sex therapist who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psycology, and author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church: Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy. They discuss the way developmental trauma affects sexuality and how it can go on to affect adult sexuality.

For information about how to become a guest, visit us at iAmClinic.org.

Embracing the Erotic: Redefining Sexuality and Relationships With Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers

In this thought-provoking podcast transcript, Dr. Tina Sellers, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist, delves deep into the subject of sexual shame and its profound impact on our lives and relationships. As she engages in a conversation with Isaac Archuleta, founder, and CEO of I Am Clinic, they explore the complexities of modern relationships, including the hook-up culture and the dynamics of open relationships. Dr. Sellers offers valuable insights on the importance of redefining sexuality and understanding it as a force that transcends physical intimacy. Her discussions emphasize the significance of connection, pleasure, and self-nourishment in fostering healthy and fulfilling relationships.

The First Shame: Unraveling Sexual Shame

Dr. Sellers begins by shedding light on how sexual shame often emerges at a very early age, deeply influenced by societal and cultural conditioning. She highlights that our earliest sexual experiences can trigger shame, which becomes embedded in our subconscious, affecting our sense of self-worth and ability to form deep connections with others. Unfortunately, society often fails to provide comprehensive sex education, leaving individuals unprepared to confront and understand their desires in a healthy way. Dr. Sellers stresses the need for inclusive sex education to empower individuals to challenge unrealistic societal standards and embrace their authentic selves.

She further discusses how sexual shame can lead to a variety of issues in adulthood, affecting intimate relationships and personal well-being. These shame-based patterns can manifest as difficulty in trusting partners, defensiveness, or an inability to receive love and affirmation. Dr. Sellers emphasizes the importance of healing and understanding these deep-rooted wounds to pave the way for healthier relationships.

Redefining Sexuality: Embracing Connection and Pleasure

Moving beyond the confines of traditional definitions, Dr. Sellers advocates for a more inclusive perspective on sexuality. She emphasizes that sexuality encompasses more than just physical actions; it represents passion and connection, a powerful life force that enriches our relationships with ourselves and others. Dr. Sellers encourages individuals to explore their desires honestly, without judgment or shame, and to recognize that sexuality is about nourishing the mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Furthermore, she highlights the importance of embracing pleasure and connection in our relationships. She discusses how many couples struggle with prioritizing pleasure and intimacy in their busy lives, often neglecting each other’s needs and desires. Dr. Sellers suggests that incorporating intentional moments of joy, playfulness, and pleasure can lead to stronger emotional bonds and more satisfying relationships.

Reclaiming Desire: Unraveling Relational Sexual Ambivalence

Dr. Sellers and Isaac delve into the concept of relational sexual ambivalence, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. Many individuals, seeking acceptance and belonging, find themselves caught between the desire for connection and the fear of rejection. The shadow of past experiences of hiding their true selves often haunts their present relationships, causing uncertainty and apprehension. Dr. Sellers offers valuable insights into navigating these complex emotions and embracing vulnerability to foster healthier and more authentic connections.

Moreover, Dr. Sellers discusses the importance of reclaiming desire in relationships. In a culture often saturated with sexualized media, individuals can become disconnected from their genuine desires. By exploring and understanding their true desires, individuals can cultivate a deeper connection with themselves and their partners. Dr. Sellers encourages open communication and vulnerability in expressing desires within relationships, promoting a more intimate and fulfilling bond.

The Hook-Up Culture and Open Relationships: Navigating Complexity

The podcast addresses the contemporary hook-up culture and the rise of open relationships. Dr. Sellers highlights that the exploration of open relationships is a relatively new area, and many individuals struggle to understand and manage the complexities that come with it. Open relationships can provide an avenue for individuals to explore their desires more freely, but they require open communication, trust, and self-awareness. Dr. Sellers suggests that individuals should seek support from therapists specializing in sex therapy to navigate these complex dynamics effectively.

Moreover, the hook-up culture is analyzed, and its implications are discussed. Dr. Sellers emphasizes that this culture often lacks meaningful connections, leaving individuals yearning for more profound intimacy. She urges individuals to prioritize authentic connections and communication over casual encounters, as true fulfillment can only be achieved through genuine emotional bonds.

Conclusion

As the podcast comes to an end, Dr. Sellers and Isaac leave the audience with a profound understanding of sexual shame and the importance of embracing sexuality as a force for connection and pleasure. Their enlightening discussions inspire individuals to challenge societal norms and embrace their authentic selves on their journey towards more satisfying and connected relationships. Dr. Sellers’ emphasis on comprehensive sex education, mindfulness, and self-nourishment serves as a beacon of hope, guiding individuals towards forming meaningful connections that enrich their lives and the lives of their partners. By adopting a more inclusive and compassionate view of sexuality, we can pave the way for healthier and more fulfilling relationships, free from the shackles of shame and judgment. Embracing the erotic as a force of connection and pleasure empowers individuals to lead more fulfilling lives, allowing love and authenticity to flourish in their relationships.

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Episode Summary

Host Isaac Archuleta sits with Kevin Garcia, life coach, content creator, queer person of faith, host of the podcast A Tiny Revolution, and author of Bad Theology Kills: Undoing Toxic Belief & Reclaiming Your Spiritual Authority. Their conversation delves into the theological trauma Kevin has experienced and how it affected his idea of himself and what it means to be a sexual being. Kevin allows his vulnerability to take us into his sex life, dating life, and mental health journey.

For information about how to become a guest, visit us at iAmClinic.org.

Embracing Queerness and Overcoming Religious Trauma With Kevin Garcia

For a long time, even after coming out, I struggled with feelings of shame and vulnerability in the bedroom. As a queer person of faith, the weight of religious trauma and societal expectations had taken a toll on my mental health. However, my journey towards self-acceptance has been transformative, and I am now able to embrace my queerness with grace and compassion. In this blog, I will share my story, along with the lessons I’ve learned, in the hope of empowering others to find their own path to self-acceptance. Learn more about faith counseling

Breaking Free from Toxic Theology

Growing up in a religious environment, I was bombarded with toxic theology surrounding sex and relationships. According to this narrative, sex was only acceptable between one man and one woman within the confines of marriage. Anything outside of this strict definition was deemed immoral and sinful. As a queer individual, I was made to feel inherently wrong and was constantly at odds with myself, torn between my desires and the expectations imposed upon me.

One-liners and Devastating Messages

The damaging messages I received during my formative years left a lasting impact on my mental health. I vividly remember my mother warning me not to have sex with a girl because it meant more to her than to me, reinforcing the belief that my desires were somehow lesser and not to be taken seriously. Additionally, the purity culture teachings further deepened my sense of shame, instilling a fear of ruining my purity and worth through sexual expression.

The Struggle with Identity and Mental Health

Growing up as a high-functioning depressive person, I coped with anxiety and depression throughout my college years. My queerness and unresolved trauma made it difficult for me to enjoy sexual experiences or be vulnerable in relationships. My mental health took a toll, leading to panic attacks, insomnia, and substance abuse as I attempted to escape the pain and shame I carried.

Navigating Relationships and Healing

The journey towards healing began when I sought professional help and found a therapist who could support me on my path. I began therapy, and my therapist prescribed medications to help stabilize my mental health. Initially, I experienced side effects like anger spikes, but as my medication was adjusted, I found a newfound sense of clarity and peace. This allowed me to explore my spirituality and emotional well-being more deeply, breaking free from the chains of toxic theology.

Coming Out and Finding Community

Embracing my queerness and finding my tribe was an empowering moment in my journey. I realized the power of finding people who could celebrate and accept me for who I am. Queerness taught me the beauty of breaking down societal binaries and embracing a wide spectrum of human experiences. The LGBTQ+ community offered a safe space where I could share my story, and in turn, provide support to others who were going through similar struggles.

Embracing Vulnerability and Grace

Through therapy, self-reflection, and the love of my community, I learned to embrace vulnerability and grace. I accepted that my desires and feelings were valid and not something to be ashamed of. Embracing my identity and accepting my body became acts of self-love and self-empowerment. I found solace in the idea that I am worthy of love, regardless of societal expectations or religious dogmas.

The Path to Self-Acceptance

My journey towards self-acceptance was not linear; it had its ups and downs. But the more I opened up about my experiences, the more healing I found. I learned to let go of the shame that had plagued me for so long and to redefine my relationship with my body, my sexuality, and my spirituality. With every step forward, I discovered new layers of self-love and compassion.

Empowering Others to Embrace Their Queerness

My experiences have led me to a place where I want to support others in their journey towards self-acceptance. To all the queer youth and individuals struggling with religious trauma, I want to say this: you are not alone. Seek out communities and spaces where you can be yourself unapologetically. Reach out for professional help if needed, and remember that it is okay to take things one step at a time.

Conclusion

Embracing my queerness and overcoming religious trauma has been a transformative process. Through therapy, self-discovery, and the support of my community, I have learned to love and accept myself unconditionally. My journey towards self-acceptance continues, and I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to find their path towards embracing their authentic selves. Remember, you are worthy of love, acceptance, and happiness, just as you are. The revolution of self-acceptance starts within, and I am grateful for every step I have taken on this journey.

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LGBTQIA+ pride is something that many of us anticipate all year long. Some of us plot the perfect outfit, while others spend hours on the elliptical, shedding a few pounds of winter fluff. As we ready ourselves for a season of celebrating, we may forget to prepare for one thing: our families. 

Although many families may celebrate Pride season,  it can be a major trigger for other families, especially religious ones.

Religious parents of LGBTQIA+ children may have preconceived notions of both Pride and LGBTQIA+ people. Stigmas surrounded the gay community of the 1970s, 80s, and beyond, leaving parents with associations and definitions of LGBTQIA+ folks that are not only inaccurate, but also negative. 

Not so long ago,  Anita Bryant embarked on a  national anti-gay tirade, and preachers claimed that the AIDS epidemic was God’s judgment. Meanwhile, religious communities saw LGBTQIA+ people as only another symptom of  the ‘sexual revolution’ that had swept Western society at large.. 

Whatever the context, parents need to learn who the LGBTQIA+ community is today. They may need an update on how they understand and categorize who we, the LGBTQIA+ community, are. 

As Pride season ends, both families and children may feel frustrated, hurt and confused. Perhaps parents have seen photos on Instagram or wonder about the intent of Facebook posts that might appear to be passive aggressive or flat out angry. 

Girl on Helsinki pride festival

In my practice, I have often seen that parents hold secret discussions about their child’s online or in-person behavior during Pride. So, here are two tips to help you proactively address family dilemmas this Pride season:

1. Avoid the Resentment Petri Dish  

Talking with children about sexual orientation, a life with a same-gender partner, or dating can be very challenging for many parents, especially those with strong religious convictions. The discomfort in broaching these topics can complicate and sometimes even poison a relationship. Like a petri dish where bacteria thrive, silence can be the perfect environment for resentment to grow and intensify.
I know this all too well as a child of two pastors. The longstanding silence between my parents and me didn’t help us stay close. In fact, it did nothing more than stabilize our preconceived biases about each other, and it forced us to live in separate corners of the relational playing field. We were only able to connect, however, once we dared to bring up our assumptions, our confusion and our pain.

I began to realize that my parents were far more loving than I had given them credit. And I believe they saw who I really am, rather than who they speculated me to be. 

Whether you’re the parent of an LGBTQIA+ child or an adult child of a religious parent, ask questions about your loved one. Parents can ask about their child’s self-discovery as a sexual or gender minority, the struggle of living closeted, and how their child finds strength—and even confidence—in who they have become. Children of religious parents can ask about what they learned of the queer community as they grew up and how they can introduce their family to future romantic partners.  

Of course, one caveat is that not every parent or child has the maturity and respect to hold a safe conversation. But should your family member prove to be trustworthy, take the bold step to break the silence. Focus on topics that will re-establish connectedness rather than lead to debate or the need to be “right.” 

Beautiful women having fun in the street

2. Become Familiar with the Language 

For many parents, the language of the LGBTQIA+ community can seem daunting and may help reinforce the ideological distance that keeps parent and child at arm’s length. Many parents who have participated in my clinic have  avoided learning the terms that distinguish sexual orientation, gender identities, relational orientations and cultural dynamics because they fear saying something incorrect or offending their child. 

Luckily, there are many resources for parents, like this one from the Human Rights Campaign website

By showing your willingness to learn and invest time in understanding your child, you will signal openness and safety, which your LGBTQIA+ child will  welcome with open arms. 

Pride season could light a major fuse or it could be a spark that leads to greater connection. Talk openly about how you feel in a safe manner. Take time to learn about one another’s experiences—key moments that shaped your understandings of the queer community—and offer one another grace as all parties involved grow alongside one another. Learn about parent support groups here!

Family work may not be easy, but plenty of resources, therapists and support systems can help. You may not resolve every tension or concern, but focusing on connectedness can leave your family more united and peaceful.. Whether or not parents and children agree, they can still live happily connected. 

Find a family therapist. Contact us for a free consultation.

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