Lent: My first Lent as Lutheran

Last year, on Easter Sunday, I left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). As I was walking out the door, to head to the bus stop to head to the Metro. I put in my Letter of Resignation to the LDS Church. When I put the letter in the mailbox, I felt at ease. I felt that I could be myself. Where was I headed on Easter Sunday, 2015? I was headed to Luther Place Memorial Church, in Washington D.C.

Upon my arrival at Luther Place on that Sunday morning, I didn’t know what to expect. I got there early (at least an hour and half or so before the start of the service). I met the Pastor, while I was sitting in the Sanctuary, just amazed by the church building itself. She told me, that there was breakfast that was going to be served in the Basement before church. Score, I got a meal, just before church started. It was nice too. Then, I decided after I ate, to find a good comfortable seat in the Sanctuary, and I did. I was told by a member that there would be a lot of singing (and trust me, there is a lot of singing that does go on).

Once I heard that there as a lot of singing, I instantly fell in love (I love to sing). I remember the sermon that day too, it was on “Rekindling your faith”. I was a visitor, checking out a church that I haven’t been too, and prior to my resignation from the LDS church, I was inactive. I really needed God back in my life, and sure enough, at Luther Place, the Spirit that day (and it is all the time) is alive. The messages at every Sunday sermon are amazing, and the fill the soul.

Lent 2016, just started on Wednesday, February 10, 2016. I attended my first Ash Wednesday service at Luther Place (and loved it). The theme for the Lent journey this year, is courage. What an incredible them. To top it off, the sermon on Ash Wednesday evening was amazing; it was an amazing kick off to Lent 2016, which I am excited to partake in.

I am excited to partake in Lent 2016, and as a Lutheran. I love being Lutheran. I am excited for what God has in store for me; in my journey. I am so excited to have found Luther Place. What a wonderful congregation. I am member of the Luther Place Community Choir. God really works in amazing, mysterious ways.

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Why I left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

A few days before Easter Sunday, I messaged on a Facebook Group “Queer For Christ-DC”, asking about some LGBTQ friendly churches, because I wasn’t going to go back to my LDS Singles Ward in Crystal City, Virginia. There were many reasons behind my decision on leaving. I am forever grateful that I have found Luther Place Memorial Church, and know that I am welcome there.

Your probably asking, CJ, why did you leave the Mormon church? Well, grab a chair, sit down, and relax, because it is quite the story.

I came out over Facebook, on June 27, 2014. I figured it would be the best way, because I have family on Facebook, and many friends, both inside and outside the church. After coming out, I got a welcomed response that I never expected from many friends, both old and new. Family, of course took it hard, but I knew they would slowly start to accept me.

A few days later, I get a call from my Ward Executive Secretary, stated that “the Bishop would like to see you.” So, I gladly accepted the offer to meet with Bishop (this would have been my first meeting ever with the Bishop since joining the singles ward). In my mind, I thought I was going to be offered a calling. Instead it was something else.

When I met with the Bishop, he and I talked, he mostly talked about my “public declaration that I am gay on Facebook”, and he also stated that IF I do anything not contrary I was to come to him, and we would talk about it. In my mind, I was, thinking okay, I can do this.

Instead, I went inactive. I would invite the missionaries over for dinner and we would talk.  I even invited my Home Teachers over, and we talked. I just wouldn’t go to church, because I was afraid of the Bishop. I went back one time, because I felt compelled to do so. I sat with my Home Teachers, because I felt safe. I shook hands with the Bishops counselors and completely avoided the Bishop.

During my time of inactivity, the Brethren of the church, spoke at General Conference in regards to same-sex issues, and I also got filled with anger.

I knew my time in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was coming to an end. I wanted to live my life, in a way I wanted to. I didn’t need a church, or a Bishop telling me exactly how I should live my life. I am a gay man, and should live it like any other gay man. I should be happy.

The overall factor of me leaving the LDS church, was my Bishop, and to some extent the Brethren of the Church (Apostles, Quorum of the Twelve, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, the members in my Ward (Local Congregation) were super friendly and very accepting, and to this day, I am still friends with many.

Now, I belong to Luther Place Memorial Church, in Washington DC. I feel more welcome there, and more accepted than I did with the LDS Church.

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Accepting My “Gayness”… A Year Later, and More

I remember coming out, on June 27th, well Facebook time stamped it June 28th. It was very early in the morning, probably midnight. I remember, how sacred I was when I would wake up to prepare for work, the reactions of friends, and family. Friends, still embraced me that day, as I received the countless numbers of messages, and family, slowly started to really embrace me. Also, during this time, I made some really awesome friends.

I remember really starting to dig into the “dating world” shortly thereafter, I remember how scared I was. I thought I was doing everything right at the beginning, Grindr, and then soon after I set up a Okcupid account. I learned a lot of valuable things, as I began to date. As the year unfolded I knew exactly what I was looking for.

As a kid, I was raised right. I was a good student in school, and that mimics my behaviors at work. As I started to date, I found that there were some guys that just didn’t seem mature. I feel now at the age of 27, that guy that wants to be with me, has to have maturity. What is it with the younger crowd? I still don’t get it.

I love attending Pride Festivals and anything related to the LGBTQ+ community. After-all it resembles who I am, and I love having the supporters on my side. This past year I attended, Capital Pride, and Charlottesville Pride. Next year, I plan to make it to where I’ll be attending three Pride events, from June to October. Yes, my Pride season is long, but well worth it.

How am I doing on my Spiritual journey? I left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Easter Sunday. I found Luther Place Memorial, in Washington DC thanks to several members of Queer for Christ DC, an organization in DC. I attend church off and on, when I can, its quite a hike from Lorton, VA to Logan Circle, in Washington, DC. The Washington Metrorail system is messed up to, with extremely high fare costs. I know God loves me, regardless of if I attend church or not. There really isn’t anyone telling me that I have to go to church.

How is my appearance looking? In March 2015, I traveled down to Charlottesville, Virginia to see my Momma down there. (She calls me her “Son from Another Mother”) and to me she is family, and she is a part of my family. Anyways, we went Birthday shopping for me (My birthday is in January, it just took awhile to get there because of the weather). We started off by getting me Jeans and other fabulous looking shirts, that fit. I now fit comfortably in either a 28X30 or 29X30 pant. I’d rather wear Skinny, Slim, or Slim Straight pants. I wear a small button down (or polo). I am a fan of “non-graphic tees”. So, the full button down, polo is my kinda style.

I am also one of those that loves to go out. Maybe it was something that I always caught my Mom and Dad doing. But I have decided, usually one Friday night a week, I travel up to Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, VA to hang out, and have fun. I enjoy Karaoke, and at Freddie’s they have Karaoke every night. The staff there is extremely friendly, and the food is well worth the money. I’d rather go to a Gay Bar, or maybe a club where-ever I travel too, because I think its fun, and I feel better around people (and allies) that I identify better with.

All in all, life is going well. I feel better about myself, I feel better about who I am, and if you can’t tell, I am very happy. Life is only going to get better.

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Gay-aversery: One Year Later, a Year in Review

As I begin to write this, so much is on my mind. It has been a year, since I came out, publically over social media.  I remember a year ago, at this time, I was laying on my bed, in Alexandria, VA, watching two very good friends of mine Bryan and Derek Youtube coming out videos.

Bryan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BntojRaFlk
Derek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsnBc5pf4G0

Shortly after watching Bryans YouTube Coming Out, I became very teary eyed and emotional. I knew something was weighing me down, and lets face it, it was late, and at the time, I had work the next morning. So I wrote the following 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 Sidener, am Mormon, and I am gay.” I originally limited the posting, that night to just my friends. I did however post it in several groups, including Mormons Building Bridges (which is public), and then the next morning, when I got ready for work, I decided that it was only necessary to adjust it to include family.

Now lets fast forward a bit, to today, a year later, how do I feel? I honestly feel so good about myself. I know that I can be 100% true and authentic to myself, and those around me. I have some family and a ton of friends great team at work, and even some new friends that have been super supportive of me along this journey. I have to tell you know, it hasn’t been all that easy.

Shortly after coming out, I received a wealth of love from everyone over Facebook, and the messages I received from friends via text, or even phone call was incredible. Sure some family members were not on board with me at the beginning but I only knew that it would take some well educating them, and then they’d support me. That took a lot of time. Needless to say, I have a wonderful family that is super supportive.

After coming out, within two weeks or so, I was scheduled to meet with my Bishop, all because someone took “snapshots” of my coming out. First off, the person who did that, should be very much ashamed of themselves, for I wasn’t happy when I heard “snapshots” were sent to the Bishop.

My activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, became less and less. I soon found out, the members of my congregation were well accepting of me. I just didn’t feel comfortable coming to a place of worship, with my Bishop. Hense, I knew I also wasn’t going to be able to magnify my callings. So, I went inactive. I went back to church twice between my time of coming out, and my time of leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.

I officially put in my letter of Resignation to remove my records on Easter Sunday, of this year, just two months ago. I have found a loving, accepting congregation, located in Thomas Circle in Washington, DC. I now attend Luther Place Memorial Chruch. I am a full member.

How has dating life been for me? Well, that is another story. I have learned a lot about dating, and who to trust, and well, dating in general. In one of my relationships, I was used, and have since shut this person out of my life. In one of my relationships, I was ignored for a week, with no communications. Needless to say, I have learned.

Since I have come out I have attended three Prides. My first Pride, was Charlottesville Pride, in Charlottesville, VA. My second pride was NOVA Pride, in Centerville, VA. My third pride, I attended was Capital Pride, in Washington, DC. I loved them all. Capital Pride was so much fun.

After I came out, I began to stand along the sides of my LGBTQ Brothers and Sisters and allies, and fight for marriage equality. It sure was a long, and hard fight. Virginia finally got the ability to have same sex marriages beginning on October 6, 2014. Just recently, as of June 26, 2015, the full country now has legal rights to marry for same-sex couples. Now, no matter where I go (when I end up getting married), my marriage will be recognized in all 50 states. I am so happy about that.

This has been quite the year. It feels so extremely good that, I can actually be myself. I love it. I love the people I associate with, my LGBTQ community. I love my family, without them, this journey would be very hard. I am grateful for each and everyone of my friends, they have stuck beside me, and loved me no matter.

So what’s next? I’m going to continue to be myself. I have discovered that I love Gay Bars. My favorite is Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, VA because it is rather close to my home in Lorton, VA and happy hour prices are great. Also, another added feature is Karaoke every night. Yes, I love to sing, and singing after having a few beers is wonderful.

I am so grateful for my year of learning, growing, and stepping up to be me. Here’s to many more!

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Capital Pride 2015 – Thoughts, Feelings, and Reactions

This weekend, the Nations Capital (that’s Maryland, DC, and Virginia) celebrated Capital Pride. For me, it was very, very,  very first Capital Pride. And yes, I had a fabulous time! I didn’t get a chance to make it to the Sunday events, all because I was so tired (and didn’t leave Washington DC, until 2:20 a.m.), I also tell myself, that once I leave the district, don’t come back… It’s super expensive by Metro and Bus combined. I didn’t get home until 6:20 a.m. because of the busses. So, you can imagine, very tiring.

My over-all thoughts of the Festival are amazing, and breathtaking, and speechless. Everything so well organized. Even the Parade was super well organized. They line you up by color of the rainbow, and you are dismissed by color (Red went first, then orange, then yellow, etc.). There had to of been over a hundred people Marching in the Parade itself, I volunteered to March with three groups, met up with one group (the Mormons), and then decided to March with my Lutheran Congregation (well it was many accepting Lutheran Congregations).

After the Parade, I decided, to venture around the district, and check out the Nightlife, being that it was Pride, and quite frankly, I didn’t want to go all the way back to Lorton (because I knew if I was, I wasn’t coming back). I walked all over town, I went to Cobalt, then I walked to Town, then I walked to Nellies, then I made it back to 14th Street (where the church is, hoping I was staying), to The Green Lantern. All these clubs are great, but I shortly learned, that yes I can be a social butterfly (as I am), but I also learned that DC Night-clubs are not my thing. I’ve decided I’ll stick with the various Meet-Up groups, and Freddie’s Beach Bar, in Arlington, Virginia.

After attending my very first Pride (and 100% completely sober too), I feel great. I am extremely excited for next year, and know that next year will be bigger and better than ever. I’ll march in the Parade, and Volunteer at the Booths (failed on that this year), and I most likely wont do the night-life, unless I travel back to Arlington, Virginia to Freddie’s, but that’s it. It really does stink, when you rely on Metro and the bus system to get you around, because you really have to know the times and the schedules.

Capital Pride 2015 – Flashback! Thank you so much for all the fun. I can’t wait for next year!!!

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April 28, 2015 A Day that Shall Make History Books… My Day at the United States Supreme Court – Thoughts/Feelings/Impressions

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, I was lucky enough to have a scheduled day off work so that I could attend a very history, and momentous event down at the United States Supreme Court. Yesterday, I arose that the early hour of 5:00 a.m., and left my apartment, to head to Washington, DC, around 6:30 a.m. I arrived in DC, shortly after 8:30 a.m. not knowing what to expect, or who I was going to meet.

The experience I had in front and in the US Supreme Court was pretty incredible. When I first arrived, I saw HRC, getting ready to hand out red and blue equality flags, I have one of each. I collected a few posters too, and was able to start talking with people in line. I stood with a couple (both happily married from Tennessee) and to see them in action was amazing. Love truly is love. We were in a group soon after we realized, and then the line we were in started to move a bit. We had our signs and our flags… Soon enough, we were handed little green tickets admitting us into the United States Supreme Court.

We all jumped for joy when we received our tickets, and we didn’t know what to expect. We walked up the Courtroom steps, and into the first round of security. They double screen you before entering into the courtroom. I got to witness along with my new found friends, 5 minutes of questions, from the Justices and answers from Bonauto. It was quite awesome. To say the least, I felt good about what I heard.

Coming out of the courtroom was also another neat experience, you get to walk out and see everyone. The rally itself, was pretty calm, the haters were really hating. But all the LGBTQ people there we were so loud. What I witnessed, was a ton of love. That’s pretty much all were about.

WBC was also there, I remember speaking in a nice peaceful yet loud tone so people could hear me on my side. I said “God loves everyone no matter”. I find that to be true. I know it is true.

My time yesterday, at the United States Supreme Court was incredible. I loved every minute of it. I loved meeting the new friends I made, and some old as well. One thing, I am continually going to do is keep fighting for my rights I am a gay man, I deserve the same exact rights as everyone else (and that goes for everyone LGBTQ). Everyone deserves to have the same equal protections.

Yesterday, was so much fun, and I’d do it again!

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Journey of Faith… The transition to a NEW church

As you may know, on Easter Sunday, I submitted to have my records removed from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church). Since Easter Sunday, my life has been going extremely well. Every church I have visited, has welcomed me with open arms, similar to Christ. I have met a lot of people too.

As I have been checking out churches, and deciding where I am going to “stay”, and I have made that decision. I have realized how awesome, each denomination I have been in, compared to what I have been in for four years. Don’t get me wrong, Mormons are good people, but those in other churches are really good people as well.

I recently watched a video for the church that I have been attending, “Welcoming Churches: Luther Place Memorial Church“. I like how my Pastor says “Our sexuality is a gift from God. And I agree with her, it is. No matter what our orientation is, God loves everyone. There is a place for us, in his Kingdom.

God loves everyone, and I know he loves me. I know that I am not “counterfeit” nor is anyone else.

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