Tuesday, September 30, 2008


My attempts to clarify so often make things worse that I will just say that my first reaction to Jen's post was visceral. Once I had finished writing, and began fussing with the pictures and the settings, it occurred to me that I had not been entirely honest. As long-time readers will know, that is [a] a problem because it happens all the time, and [b] a problem because it means I have to recognize it and wrest something like truth out of the clutches of my first attempt. So, with apologies to those who find this even less comprehensible than what went before, here goes:

Jen asks why these marriages still happen; I responded that people may just have fallen in love. But that is only half the answer. It is clear that the women have no reason not to fall in love, especially if they have been mistreated by some more "real" guy; the question is why the men enter such marriages. I still feel that most of them fall in love, but of course that is too simple. Jen would respond: why are they looking for a woman to love when they know it is men they desire? And that is the $64,000 question.

I can only speak for myself, and speak of what others have told me. It seems clear from the agony of the GMM blogs [and I am still wondering why there were so many right around the time I started, and then so few--something in the water in 2005?] that many of us married in hope. We had all been told that having feelings for another man was normal, many people went through a "phase" like that--all we have to do is let ourselves be persuaded that we are among the 7-25% of men who go through such a phase rather than the 3-10% who remain attracted to men. Our own desire to be who we want to be lines up with what others want us to be, and presto: the rationale for something that may or may not last.

I certainly knew I was "different" at a very young age, but sexuality was sort of the least of it, and of course even people who say they "knew" they were gay from the age of three are projecting their later knowledge of what their entirely incomprehensible feelings meant onto the age when they had them. I can look back now and see all kinds of things that fall into place; but so can everyone from any point of view, or point in their lives. Divorcing people go through a nasty stretch when they look back and can only see the half-emptiness of the glass; when things are going well, we tend to look back and see the half-fullness of exactly the same glass. All that has shifted is our point of view.
Is it possible that gay men think they can really repress their urges to have sex with a male and have a fulfilling sexual relationship with a woman? It's is one thing to try and fool yourself but quite another to fool another person. Marrying a person who presumes you to be straight when in fact you have doubts is fraud plain and simple.
We are not just what we are born as; we are also who we are made, both by the love [and other input] of others, and by the things life [or fate, if you will] throws at us. I could easily have decided to stay married; I could even have easily lied to stay married--played both sides of the street as some 25% of husbands do. For years I understood that my nature was my cross, and that as a husband, I was only subject to slightly different temptations than most. That is all true, and yet Jen is also right to say that there is an element of self-deception in it. But I am sure that I am not alone in never having intended to lie to my wife [to the extent that I did]; it was a natural and secondary consequence of having lied to myself.

You have to have had a "fulfilling sexual relation" with a man in order to feel that you may not have one with a woman, so previous experience plays a huge role. In my own case, I can say on the whole that I desired men but found sex with women much more satisfying. Where does that leave me in Jen's view of the world? Should I not have allied myself with anybody, ever? No, I listened to the part of me that enjoyed sex and married the woman I fell in love with. In retrospect, which is to say, apres-Goat, I have to say that if my current sexual experiences had happened thirty years ago, I probably would not have married. But they didn't. They don't for lots of people.

You have only to look as far down the page as the quote from Frank's blog about the purpose of monogamy, and see that there are things about "the gay life-style" [in reality, kids, not rhetoric] which can be off-putting for someone who is looking to find sex within a love relationship. I still am. I have never been able to separate the two, and where it has been separated, I suffered terribly--one reason why I turned my back on the experiences I had had with men. Now I can say that it was circumstance, but how was I, how is anyone, to know that? You can't. I wasn't surprised when the Goat propositioned me on our date; I was sort of expecting it, at some point, if not quite as early on as it happened. But I won't pretend that I wasn't blind-sided by a speeding freight-train when I found that sexual encounter came with love in its wake.

Everything Jen says may be true of some married gay husbands--many, maybe even most, of them, of us, married to hide what they were. For us, hiding who we were may have become second nature to the point that we were no longer actively lying to anyone--the lie had become too big to doubt. That was more or less Goebbels' idea, after all: repeat anything often enough and people will believe it.

My response was, as I said, visceral. But the same idolatry of "truth" that made me tell my bride-to-be all [or just about all] the sordid details of my working both sides of the street, has had me mulling that response ever since. And I have to admit that, much as I claim that many things led to my divorce, there is a point of view in which all of them stem either from my well-developed selfishness [and you'll just have to take my word on that one] or from the fact of my sexual ambiguity.

Yes, it's true: I was "out," even to my parents and many of my siblings, and there was sort of a general sigh of relief when I brought my bride home to meet them, not least from me. I of course wished I had not been quite so open before, but it was too late for that. As I think I have said, at least one of my sisters tried to enlist the others in getting our parents to derail the wedding--so there were some people who were convinced by one set of actions on my part but not the other. Why should one set of actions weigh any more than the other? Well, my life in the last four or five years answers that question one way, though with slightly different events and external pressures, the answer might have been different.

What I was no longer able to survive was the silence. After years of carefully maintaining the silence for our sake, I found myself maintaining it only for her sake alone; to some extent, maintaining it only became truly untenable, as opposed to merely unbearable, when it was imposed by decree rather than maintained for any reason of my own. Now, was Isis' inability to bear my speaking the truth about myself rooted in my sexuality? to some extent, yes, but there are surely other things at that root as well. She has gone so far as to deny to my children that I ever offered to stay faithful to her in deed as long as she allowed me to speak the truth about myself. I even understand that; the shaming is profound, no matter how the marriage itself works out.

So, let me say to Jen: I thought of nothing and no one but my wife and myself, and our happiness, when I married her. Many years later, I could see, when I first tried to tell her "the truth" I had rediscovered--that what lasted thirty years was no "phase," that leather was hard-wired in at a profoundly reptilian level--how profoundly it pained her, and I swore myself to silence. For twelve long years after it became abundantly clear that I was not only as gay as ever, but as attracted to things which I found as repellent as I found them attractive, I maintained the silence for her sake. Then I reached the point where the silence was killing me. And she was reaching the point where she saw the silence that made her life bearable slowly eroding as first one, and then another, of our friends, became aware of what was going on. Not that there was anything "going on," of course, I was far too high on my own rectitude to live on the "down low." I am after all the man who took his marriage vows so seriously he ended his marriage...

I'll close with the words of Frank's debate partner:
I was rather taken aback by one person's response to me. He said that the mistake that a lot of ex-married men make is to try and have a monogamous relationship with a man. It's generally the kiss of death in such relationships and he advised that I seek an open or semi-open relationship. After all, he opined, the real reason for a monogamous relationship is so that you can "bareback."
If that is what the gay world has shown you, perhaps you may be forgiven for seeeking out happiness elsewhere... and yet, the weird thing is that, having re-entered Gay Life as the Piece on the Side, only to find myself ousting the RBF from his nest, I know I can 't have the expectations of fidelity I took for granted for twenty-five years, from and for both of us. In some respects, this side of the Looking Glass is profoundly different, for all its similarities.

And I am beginning to understand why Andrew Sullivan [click here] describes some of those differences as "honesty." I can't, but I begin to see his point... There is less evidence of Mrs. Grundy and other phantasms of rectitude, and less pretence that humans are ideal. creatures, or can hope to act like them. The sufferings are no less over here, but at least they are not weighed down by unrealistic expectations. Perhaps there would be less suffering on this side of the Glass if they were: the moral expectations are, in some ways, real mirror images, though the suffering is much the same...

Hang in there, all.


  1. First off I like Jen's blog, it is an interesting take, her being a child of a gay parent.
    I understood that it probably touched a nerve since you went through being married to a woman. I never went that route because I felt I could never pretend well enough to get away with it. However to be honest I did think about it, and the older I got the more I thought of trying it. I thought if I could find a woman that felt like a really good friend to me, then maybe it would work. I could not deal with the dishonesty of it and so never even tried to date a woman after highschool. Canada is more open to gay people and yet I still had these ideas to hide, so I fully understand how in an area where it is preached against 24/7, would be almost impossible for a gay person to understand and accept themselves.

  2. Sometimes it is obviously best to remain silent.

    But it drives me crazy that so many gay men assume that there is necessarily an element of "pretend" about a man's marriage to a woman if he is also attracted to other men.

    Why is one half of me any more a pretense than the other?

    And if I haven't made clear by now that my choice to live as more or less openly gay had as much to do with religion as my subsequent decision not to do so, I begin to wonder what I can say to get the point across.

    "Religion" can be anything people make of it, but what the Naz actually said was that the truth would set us free.

    My truth is just a little more complicated than most people want to admit.

    Now for silence.

  3. Oh, Troll.
    If you ask me (and I know, nobody did) the reasons that mixed orientation marriages are as various as the people who enter into them. What was true for me certainly wasn't true for you, and I don't think Jen's dad did it for the same reason as either one of us.
    Don't let a tempest in the blogpot get you down, Troll. You're still hanging in there, and that's what counts.
    Say hey to the Goat for me!

  4. Biggo:

    it's not the tempest in the teapot [what a great way to picture my brain when its one synapse actually fires!] that gets me down.

    It's the idea that I can talk for pages on end and still be misunderstood. That is what Joe Cocker famously asked NOT to be. Me, too. In fact, I suspect that the major impetus for this blog [or at least for continuing it] was just that prayer.

    Hey, some of us are just made that way.


  5. Ooops! Maybe let me clarify! When I said "pretend" I meant for 'me' I never meant 'you' or that I thought your marriage was fake. I don't know you so I would never judge your marriage or think that I knew your feelings, intentions, love etc. If you took it that way then a big sorry from me as that is not what I meant. Just for 'me' I always knew I was gay 100% so for 'me' to get into a marriage I would have been pretending. The gay person not accepting themselves statement was just a general statement not directed at you personally, again I don't know you so I can't assume your thoughts. I have spoken with guys at all levels of relationships and I understand there are guys that may have thought they were 100% gay and yet fell in love with and married a woman, then the reverse where a guy who only liked woman fell in love with a man, so I understand it is not as simple as just being gay or straight. Sorry to make you feel frustrated with your post.

    Now for silence from me!

  6. Whoa, Nellie, and everyone else out there. Just because I fly off the handle doesn't mean everyone else needs to get their knickers in a knot.

    It's just that when you cozy up to a porcupine, you are bound to come away with a reminder or two...

    Pax vobiscum, as our Catholic friends used to say... and may be saying again, now that Vatican II seems to be being spelled backwards...

    Let's all take a deep breath.
    I know I should do it more often...