Michael Hamar

When Gays in Straight Marriages Come Out

Filed By Michael Hamar | July 22, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: anti-gay propaganda, chosen family, coming out later in life, ex-gay, internalized homophobia, married men, NARTH

Coincidentally, I have run into two individuals within the last week that are grappling with what I went through some years back and which I have discussed frequently on my blog, Michael-in-Norfolk. 11.jpgIt is also a topic addressed with somewhat surprising sensitivity in the Argentine soap "Botineras" in the context of soccer star Manuel's (played by Christian Sancho, pictured above) efforts to come to terms with his sexual orientation, the fall out it brings down on his his wife and his two children.

As in the soap, these individuals that I met are attempting to deal with coming out as gay in mid life after many years of being in a marriage to a woman and fathering children. Much as I once was, these individuals are racked with an over powering since of guilt, feelings that they have "failed" their families, and deep emotional distress. They are also being confronted with spouses who accuse them of "ruining their lives".

So who are the victims in these scenarios? The straight spouse who faces the collapse of his/her marriage? The children who find themselves in the midst of a divorce that often turns nasty through the homophobia of judges and opposing divorce attorneys? The formerly closeted gays grappling with the inability to keep playing an actor-like role? Or are all of them victims? Personally, I have come to the conclusion that the correct answer is all of them.

So who/what then is responsible for these calamities? For me, some years later after professional therapy and much soul searching, the answer is easy. Religious denominations like the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention that engage in endless homophobic religious brain-washing. Professional Christians and ex-gay charlatans like those at NARTH, Love Wins Out, and similar "ministries" who enrich themselves marketing anti-gay untruths and help keep anti-gay bigotry alive and well. Then, of course, there are the spineless politicians and elected officials who continue to allow religious-based discrimination to infect the civil laws. It's a cycle that seems to keep on recycling. Just today Wayne Besen exposed yet another ex-gay fraud demonstrating the hypocrisy of these "cure" programs.

Regardless of the causation, what does one say to these individuals who are torturing themselves, beating themselves up, and perhaps even contemplating suicide (one of the individuals truly worries me)? Obviously, suggesting that they get professional help as they try to deal with their circumstances is mandatory. In addition, I believe that it is extremely important for those of us who have made the journey to stress to them that they have done nothing wrong. Indeed, their error was trying to do everything "right" as it was indoctrinated into them. If they are guilty of anything, it is of understandingly believing the untruths disseminated to them by their churches, in some instances their families, and the larger intolerant society.

In our activism and other activities, we need to keep in mind individuals like those I've met this past week. We need to give them our friendship and keep giving them the message that they can survive the process no matter how dark the future may seem to them at times.

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I am in a mixed orientation marriage monosexual and bisexual. I have had some difficult relationships through the years with monosexuals both gay and straight.
My wife was able to "not see" the fact that I was bi when we met and it took years for her to understand what she was being told.
Another source of difficulty is the supposed authorities on gay/straight mixed orientation marriages. My wife finally got the book "The other side of the closet" it absolutely sucked and did not at all relate to a bi mono mixed orientation marriage though the author seems to claim that what has been found out about gay/straight marriages holds true with bi/mono couples also which it only seems to address in terms of bi/straight and equates bi with gay. That complete load of crap in the book very nearly destroyed my marriage because it convinced my wife that I was destined to leave her anyway so she should just get it over with. She quite honestly almost drove me away and that is when our children would have suffered.
We have to watch out for all kinds of experts who want to help. I have worked with a lot of bi people who are trying to navigate marriage and dating and the challenges are daunting sometimes. It is worse when the challenges are being increased by the experts disseminating misinformation.

Paige Listerud | July 23, 2010 2:15 AM

For marriages that contain bi and straight spouses, I recommend Barry and Alice: Portrait of a Bisexual Marriage--if you can find it. It was first published in the 1970s and tells the tale of a bisexual man, Barry, coming out to his straight wife, Alice.

Much of their struggle was having Barry acknowledge his attraction to men and still be able to convince Alice that he loved her.

Thanks I'll see if I can find it.

I was married for 18 years before coming out at age 43. I was in a deep depression and also contemplating suicide. Professional therapy helped, as did the support of many new friends who had been through a similar situation. The biggest thing to stress to your two friends is that they are not alone, and not the only ones to have ever gone through this. There is an email-based members-only support group for Spouses Out To Their Spouses (SOTTS) aimed at the gay half of a mixed-oriented marriage (http://www.sotts.net/) that has also been very helpful in getting the perspective of other who have been in their situation. Also a great place just to rant.

The biggest thing they need to remember is to take a step back and breathe. There is no decision that needs to be made right away; take the time to think things through, talk with their spouse, and then act.

I married because I wanted to be straight, have the happy family I'd not had growing up. I hadn't figured it out. I thought it would go away.

After many years and a lot of darkness, I figured it out; and made my way out. I regret the pain I caused to many. But I wouldn't trade my children for anything. Any divorce is painful.

That I didn't know, that it was painful, that I was ashamed, these are not the fault of church or state. Yes, homophobia is real and many who call themselves Christians promote it. Yes, our culture promotes it. But Scapegoating anyone is dangerous, just as we have been scapegoated.

This is a very timely article for me. I am stuggling now and have been for over a decade. It is an amazingly complicated issue with multiple victims and potential victims. And, yes, while I do not feel that way now, suicide has been through my mind many times over that period of time. The "psychology" of it is easy for me--it's my field. The pragmatic solutions are not so easy. The result is daily struggle for me between the "wonderful life" that I seem to have and my true desires/wishes. It is painful. Capturing it all in these few words is impossible and maybe I should not even try, but I wanted to speak up and say to others if possible to avoid getting into such situations or get out quickly if you find yourself here. Given the incredible power of inertia, every year makes it more and more difficult to extricate oneself.

auntie_alias auntie_alias | July 23, 2010 11:22 AM

As to "...who/what then is responsible for these calamities?", the answer for me goes far beyond "...religious denominations like the Catholic Church...", although attending 8 years of Catholic school certainly caused me to suppress for decades my supposedly abnormal feelings and attractions. Being surrounded by a staunch Republican, Italian-American family cloistered in a few tiny rural towns, who all married their high-school sweethearts and have cranked out generations of babies put enormous pressure on the odd-woman-out (that's me), especially (as an only child) being the one expected to produce grandchildren. One failed 6-month marriage produced a wonderful daughter, who's now 19 and the light of my life. My mom died two years ago and at age 51 I'm finally coming out to family and friends. All this without a lick of therapy, thank you. But as Dan Choi so aptly put it on Rachel Maddow last night, "Being in the closet is a poison."