An interesting post on Feminist Mormon Housewives stirred up quite a bit of discussion in the gay Mormon world a couple of weeks ago.
Dear fmH: I don’t know if my husband is gay and I don’t know what to do.
By Call me Sarah
A few days ago, I grabbed the family laptop to check my email, but, when the screen came to life, I found that the browser was on a gay (male-male) pornography site. It was an “anonymous” browser—one that doesn’t keep a history, I guess? I didn’t even know we had a browser like that.
When my husband— (let’s call him Jay) —got home later that night, I brought it up. “Could it be a virus?” I asked. (I have never heard of a “porn-spraying” virus, but I didn’t want to sound like I was on a witch hunt and, honestly, I think I wanted an out—a reason to just dismiss it.)
“Maybe it was a pop-up thing?” I continued when he didn’t answer. “Maybe [our 9yo, who we’ll call… Junior?] accidentally clicked something?”
“It wasn’t Junior,” was all Jay said at first. He was looking at his feet, trying to avoid looking at me as much as I had tried to avoid looking at him. I recognized something immediately in his stance: shame. It hit me with that strange feeling you get when you’re in a car crash—how time slows down, how you see everything in slow-motion, frame-by-frame and somehow notice tiny nuances you didn’t know where there. Like, his shoes were scuffed at the toes. His tie hung loose and crooked. There was stray thread hanging from one of his buttons, a small stain of something red he ate for lunch. And he leaned against the doorway, as if suddenly unable to support his own weight.
The silence started to go on so long that it said something itself.
On my end: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to say something. It just wouldn’t… come out. I was surprised, in fact, at how hard it had just become to talk to my husband. We’ve been married 15 years and have three children together. I wouldn’t call us “wordy” people, but we’ve always been able to talk. Words should come more easily, shouldn’t they?
But they didn’t.
Finally Jay said, “Were you hoping it was a virus?”
After another very long, very telling, silence, I asked, “Do you want to talk about this later?”
“I’d like to talk about this never,” he said…
One night, my Gay ex-husband posted a beautiful response on his blog. It made me cry. I wanted to share it here:
[NOTE: No, this isn't to my ex-wife Sarah. Rather, it's my reply to "Call Me Sarah", who wrote a post on Feminist Mormon Housewives after catching her husband viewing gay pornography. I'm posting it here as well because that's kind of what this blog is for—to collect my random musings from Facebook, blogs, etc. I've made very minor corrections to grammar and spelling, but not to content.]
I’ve only skimmed the comments. It’s possible that anything I might have to say will already have been said. But I wanted to respond anyway, even if it’s just to provide another perspective to add to the flood you’ve already received.
I came out to my wife (named Sarah, coincidentally) about four and a half years ago. I told her I was gay a mere two or three weeks after figuring it out myself, and only about six months after I even began to consider the possibility that I might be anything other than straight.
I was thirty-four; we had been married fifteen years and had four kids. For thirty-three years and change I believed, completely and entirely, that I was straight, and in a relatively short period of time I came to understand—and to accept, completely and entirely—that I was gay.
So much of what you write about Jay is so familiar to me… The lack of interest in sex; the guilt and shame; the fear of losing my wife and children; even the denial (“I don’t think I’m gay”)—I specifically and directly told my Sarah that I was not gay at least twice (and I wasn’t lying when I said it—or I was lying to myself as much as to her).
My take, for what it’s worth: Jay is gay.
Some people will reassure you that he’s probably bisexual, and this is a comforting thought to hold on to because it gives some hope that you can fulfill him and complete him; that he can sublimate the gay part and focus on the straight and be happy… But he’s been doing that for fifteen years now, hasn’t he? Is he happy?
Jay is gay, and the sooner he acknowledges that and accepts it the better it will be for all of you. The conflict and struggle inherent in denying such an integral part of one’s self can’t not affect his ability to be a kind and loving father and husband. You’ve seen evidence of that when “R.J.” takes over. R.J. isn’t his gay side—it’s his conflicted, self-denying side; it’s a symptom of the emotional scarring that such conflict and self-denial causes.
Let me continue my story…
I came out to my Sarah. She cried for a week over the uncertainty and the loss of something she thought she had. But she also understood, and loved, and accepted, and I honored her for that by doing everything within my power to find a way to make our marriage work.
For two years we tried to find a way, and for most of those two years I never so much as held hands with another man. Eventually I came to understand that while I could continue in my marriage, repress my attractions, ignore any need for intimacy (both emotional and physical) and live a basically straight life, it wasn’t fair to me or my family for me to do so. My own “R.J.” revealed himself more and more frequently. My patience with the kids grew thinner. My relationship with Sarah grew more strained.
I finally told her, two years after coming out, that I couldn’t do it anymore. I could not sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of a marriage, and attempting to do so would ultimately destroy the very thing I was trying to save.
We separated. I moved into the basement for a year, and then got my own apartment.
A few years ago I would have thought that to be a tragic ending. But you know what? I’m happy, in a way that I never dreamed I could be. I’m at peace. I’m complete. And not only that, our “family” is stronger than it’s ever been. Sarah and I are better friends than ever. We talk daily. We share parenting responsibilities. We love the kids. We still love each other in almost all the ways we ever did. Life is good.
Sure, there have been struggles and challenges, and it’s possible that, if I was allowed to write the stories of our lives, I might write a few things a little differently. But then again I might not.
Your story won’t necessarily mirror mine. But from all I’ve read in your post and in your responses to some of the comments I’m absolutely and entirely convinced that your story will be a happy one. Your family structure might change. You’ll have ups and downs. But you love Jay, and he loves you, and that doesn’t need to change no matter what else does.
My advice? Encourage Jay to find a therapist who is gay-affirming. Someone who can help him work through his attractions and discover what they mean. Someone who isn’t beholden to current LDS policies on homosexuality—who won’t in any way suggest that Jay is broken and needs fixed.
Consider finding a therapist yourself. Maybe someone you and Jay can see together now and then, who can help you lay out your choices and make the best ones.
If and when Jay decides that he is indeed gay or bisexual, please tell the kids. They deserve to know, so that they aren’t confused by the subtle hints of confusion that they will pick up on. We told our kids just a couple of weeks after I came out to Sarah, and they’ve been incredibly accepting and supportive.
In addition to therapy, encourage Jay to find a support system. When I came out there was a thriving gay Mormon blogging community that played a vital part in my journey. These days much of that support has moved to Facebook.
Find support for yourself, too. Holly provided a link to “Supportive Straight Spouses” (straightspouses.org), which is an excellent group (started by my Sarah, coincidentally) that is more about building and growing and healing than about blame and victimhood.
You said you’d leave the church if you had a gay child. That may not be necessary, but please, at the very least, turn your back on the church’s views of homosexuality. They are, quite frankly, wrong, and they cause far too much unnecessary struggle and suffering.
I’ve gone on far longer than I attended. Thank you for writing this post. Thank you for approaching the question from a perspective of love and understanding and acceptance. No matter where things go from here, Jay is lucky to have you.