Archive for May, 2014
Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
I’m writing a series of biographical reflections on my life and experience with having been in two mixed orientation marriages. There are so many men and women that struggle with these matters that I believe it may be helpful for me to expose my own heart and life journey in order that some may realize they are not alone in the angst and struggles with being gay and yet married to a straight women.
I Was Just A Teenager
Over forty years ago, I was a young teenager who was gay but really didn’t know it. I have vivid memories of a male fifth grade teacher that I was very attracted to. I always got along with the teachers who were females. I was intimidated by competition and social interaction with other guys. I was always a different, creative, and spunky young boy.
I was very sexually naïve and had not had any sexual experiences with another person. I had a couple of neighborhood friends and we joked about our bodies and other kid stuff, but when it came to girls, I excused myself from the conversation. I was very timid in life and just didn’t try to engage in sex. Internally I just told myself that sex before marriage was wrong according to my Catholic upbringing. So I used the excuse that I was moral to not think about it.
I had dated a few girls in high school. I wanted to be like the other guys and have someone that was special in my life. Socially, I was very distant from other guys. I hated Physical Education classes and skipped them a lot because I was so disconnected from the mindset of sports. So, I hung out with a group of girls and had a friend, Shelly, that was my closest friend through high school. We were never interested in dating one another and actually on one prom event, we took pictures of the other friends who were going to prom.
After trying to find a girl that I was connected to, there was one in particular that became my first love so to speak. Beth was much taller than I was but that didn’t matter to me. I loved being around her. She was caring, nurturing, and loved to laugh. We had a couple of dates, but most of our time was spent together at school in our common interest of art class. After a few months dating, her parents cautioned her about our relationship and suggested she break off the serious nature of our connection. When she told me, I was broken hearted.
Soon afterward I began to date a girl named Kristy. She was fun loving, but she seemed to be emotionally closed off. Her friends would talk about her emotional isolation and that they didn’t know how to reach into her heart. I took on the challenge and began to try to get to know her. We dated for a while and then we broke up. Once again, we got together and began dating. Although our relationship had many valleys, we remained in a dating relationship through graduation. I believe I remained with her rather than to be alone.
After graduation I began to work for a department store where I got really close to a young guy named Tom who worked with me in my department. I was infatuated with him. He was edgy. He had long hair and seemed to enjoy talking with me. I loved to follow in his footsteps almost like he was my older brother. As I grew closer to him I was pretty consumed with our friendship.
After several months Tom told me that he would be moving to Chicago. He had a girlfriend there who was in college and they were going to live together. I was devastated. The fear of not having Tom close by brought me to a lower point than I had experienced in any other relationship that separated. I remember one evening talking with a lady who was like a second mom to me and I was crying on the phone with her. It truly was as though we were breaking up. But, we were able to remain in contact through letters after he moved.
At one point I chose to take my first driving trip alone and go see Tom. I took a long weekend and went to Chicago. When I saw Tom and his girlfriend, Ellen, I could see how much they enjoyed one another. I felt like a third wheel and didn’t really enjoy the weekend. Tom didn’t have a lot of time to spend with me alone and this was unsettling. On the drive back I felt lonely and the pain was so uncomfortable that I didn’t want to go through that again. It felt like I was in a relationship of unrequited love. Tom didn’t love me like I loved him. I went on in life to experience more of these. But it was with a man! That didn’t resonate with the culture around me of straight people. But I understood the feelings.
When I got home I remember going out with Kristy one evening. While we were sitting alone in her house I said, “Maybe we should get married.” I believed Kristy would be a good homemaker and I knew she loved children. I also felt as though she understood my crazy childhood and life experiences. She had a very similar family history and siblings. In my mind at the time, those were good reasons to marry her.
She agreed and the planning began for a wedding a few months later. I really had no interest in a sexual life with her. I knew I’d not be alone any more, but romance and intimacy were not something I focused on. Actually I was afraid of sex with her. I felt so naïve about sex and feared I’d not know what I was doing and fail. I figured I’d just pour my life into marriage and family so that the whole dating thing, and potential for future break ups was less likely.
One month before our wedding, Kristy told me that she had been sexually active with one of the guys she dated in high school. I was completely devastated. Even though I wasn’t sexually interested in her, I prided myself in holding a high value of sexual morality. I felt double-crossed. In a fleeting second after her disclosure she could see my intense reaction and said she really hadn’t done anything but just wanted to see what I would say. Regardless, my head was swirling and my heart pounding. What would I do? I realized that the wedding plans were solidly in place and believed we couldn’t change them. So, with immediacy, I made the decision to ignore what I had heard and go ahead with the wedding. I really believed I had no option. I think if I had thought it through and talked with someone about it I may have broken off the marriage. But I didn’t know how to talk about it all.
We proceeded with our wedding. Interestingly, we failed to get a marriage license in time for the Nebraska standard two day waiting period. We were thrown into a tizzy and the priest suggested we might consider having our official marriage performed in Iowa since they didn’t have a waiting period. This was the answer and we had a casual official wedding the morning of our formal wedding in the evening.
Among our good friends taking the roles of bridesmaids and groomsmen, I asked my friend Tom to stand with me. Even in the challenges of my emotionally needy relationship with him, it was good to have him there. He was a person of security. But as I reflect on this, it was as though he were more important than Kristy was. I felt so emotionally vulnerable seemingly knowing I was headed for a marriage that was not a proper fit for me. Our wedding was fairly traditional and took place in our home church, which was Catholic.
We didn’t go on a honeymoon. We were seriously lacking in funds due to a lay off from my job, so that just wasn’t in the picture. But underneath I think I felt relieved. As I look back, it seems more like I didn’t want to have any time away with Kristy alone. I know underneath I was beginning to feel the pressure of being in a relationship with a woman. I sure would have loved to be alone with Tom!
Due to the lack of sexual interest or romantic feelings towards Kristy, our relationship felt more like roommates than intimate lovers. We were sexually active and subsequently we had two daughters. I loved having the kids. Our family life mostly surrounded extended family and maintaining our home. We didn’t have any close friends that we socialized with. I had done several remodeling projects on our house, which kept me busy. I also worked part time jobs so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about how emotionally separated I felt from her.
I had a life goal that had been in my heart for some time. It was to have a brand new custom built home, brand new furniture, a new family car and all of the things that go along with my dream of a suburban family life. So, through a series of events, I worked to obtain those goals. We got the new house, the car, and all of the extras by the time I was 24 years old. I distanced myself from the anxieties and discomfort of my opposite sex marriage and same gender attractions through focusing on those things. It seemed to work for a while.
After we had been married for about five years I began to realize how much I was enamored by the good looking men that I saw each day. But I also recognized that I felt distant from them too. I felt alone and disconnected. I focused on some of them that I saw more often than others. I was drawn to their bodies and fanaticized what it might be like to be emotionally close to them. I rode a commuter bus to work and back for a season and I would look forward to seeing certain men each day during the 30-minute commute.
One day while engaged in listening to a conversation among friends someone used the word “homosexual”. I don’t remember the context it was in, but it was like a flashing red light went off in my head! Yes! That’s me. I’ve finally figured out what this is all about. These attractions and emotional struggles now made sense.
I knew a guy at work that most of us in our office knew was gay. I believed he would be someone I could talk with about my revelation. So, after arranging a time to meet, I sat down with him and told him what I was going through. His response was a little shocking. He said, “John, I knew all along that you were gay.”
Our discussion led to some drinking and further lengthy discussion. He then offered to take me to a place where we pursued engaging in a sexual encounter. It felt so natural for me. It was like I had always believed a sexual encounter would feel like but I had never done this with a man. Yes, I was married, but at that moment I threw caution to the wind and went with something I had wondered about for very long time. I didn’t know what I desired because I didn’t have any preconceptions of what sex with a man might be like. But when I experienced it, it was the physical experience that related to the emotional desires I had always had. My life changed forever that evening.
I went home very late and the next few days were full of all kinds of emotions and thoughts. Kristy knew something was different about my countenance. Finally she asked me what was wrong. My response shocked me as much as I’m sure it did her.
I’M GAY AND I WANT A DIVORCE
I had already become seriously discouraged in our relationship. We had come close to breaking up a couple of years earlier but I just shut down and moved forward. The next months were very painful for both of us. I became completely closed off from her and she continued to try her hardest to get me to open up. I was unwilling to even talk about anything. She suggested I might want to talk with my dad.
I agreed and sat down with my dad and told him that I was going to get a divorce and I told him why. He wept and said he was very concerned that I was going to pursue a divorce. He really said nothing about me being gay. My dad was more concerned that our family was going to break up than he was worried about the fact that I was gay.
During the next couple of months Kristy told my family as well as hers that I had announced that I was gay. This opened up the door for several discussions where people tried to talk me out of the decision I was making. But for me, I was unwilling to go back to living hidden behind my circumstances. I had begun to meet other gay men and I found such camaraderie with them and for the first time in my life I was able to relate to a community. I followed through with the divorce and came out completely. But this wasn’t the end of my story.
(more to come)
Friday, May 16th, 2014
There’s sure been a lot of hoopla around about Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend in celebration of being drafted on to play on the NFL. Now I’ve been seeing rebuttals showing men kissing women saying they are exhibiting their sexual orientation. What is it about a kiss that has drawn so much attention?
Recently I was looking through some photos and I found a picture of my dad kissing his wife. My dad married Monica when he was close to seventy years old. He had been single for twenty five years after my mother divorced him. He remained faithful to his religious convictions that a marriage was not acceptable after being divorced. He had dated Monica when he was just out of high school. They were engaged to be married when he went into the Army Air Corp to serve in the military during WWII. But when he returned to the United States after being in India, in his recollection, Monica said she didn’t want to be married so they broke up.
Fifty years later they reconnected. Monica was a widow and they had not spoken in all of those years. But when my dad saw her again, his life lit up and he would have it no other way but to marry his first love. Monica clarified for him that she didn’t say she didn’t want to get married, only that she didn’t feel the time was right for her to marry him. None the less, it seemed the time had become right for the two of them to come together. He went through all the proper channels within his church to gain their blessing on the marriage and off they went into a relationship that was full of love, sacrifice, and completion.
When this picture of my dad kissing Monica came up today, all I could think of is what my dad endured in his life before he was free to kiss the love of his life. He lived alone, sacrificed his natural desires due to the convictions of his soul. But when the opportunity rose up in his heart, he decided to choose freedom in pursuing a relationship that was full of the love he had longed for, for so many years. Just to look at this picture, no one would know how much this kiss meant to the two of them after being separated for all those years. It looks like it is their fiftieth anniversary!
We may have no idea what is behind the human kiss. When a father kisses his daughter, or his son for that matter, we have no idea what lies behind their relationship that would bring them to kiss one another. It could be a reuniting, or a long history with loving kisses.
We may assume it is a natural thing for grandmother to kiss her new little grandchild and that it simply said she enjoyed this new little on in her life. But it could be something else. It could be a grandmother who lost one of her own children early in life and she is kissing the new life of a child with the memories of what she had lost. How could one know that all of this was lingering in her heart.
As Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend, did we see something that challenged our social norms, or were we willing to look beyond the surface? In the videos of the kiss we saw a room full of friends rejoicing along with Michael even in the kiss. Maybe his friends knew what was all involved as the kiss took place. When I saw the video of his kiss, it followed deep tears of joy and release. His kiss reflected the deep passion of life, desire, and hope which he turned and shared with someone he loved through a kiss. I found it endearing and honest..
When my partner and I first kissed, it was a kiss like none other. It came from a life long desire in each of us to connect with someone freely, intimately, and with the deep passion of life that was so natural it just came from our hearts with such satisfaction. Each of us in our own way had separated ourselves from any possibility of experiencing this kind of depth of connection and embrace. But through our life journey, we found each other and after being so dry, lingering in desire this kiss reflected all of those years of life coming to this place, this point in amazing joy Much like my dad who had waited for so many years for the time in his life when he could experience love that is so fulfilling and natural, the same was true for Larry and me.
Sometimes a kiss is full of regret, or maybe even distance and only done out of obligation. I think we can tell the difference if we see one of those kisses. In any event, a kiss opens up a place in the heart deep with revelation. There are those obligatory kisses that occur. A resentful teenager who is asked to kiss their uncle, or their grandfather. Then there are those kisses of grief when a loved one enters the airport for a long journey away from those they love. Or what about the kissing of one that has passed away, The kiss on the hand or forehead of grief can carry with it tremendously deep emotion and human experience.
Then there’s a kiss of deceit. When Judas kissed Jesus it was a kiss to inform his killers of the one they had set out to arrest. What was in that kiss for Judas? Did the others around him know what was in his heart or the intended purpose of that kiss? Likely not, but it may have seemed natural for someone close to Jesus at the time to kiss him. Or his friends may have saw what happened and been challenged by the sight.
I think we can honestly say, A Kiss is NOT just a Kiss! But when we find ourselves uncomfortable about seeing one man kiss another please, let’s not make assumptions about the surface of what we have seen. We must try to open our hearts to look deeper for what may lie beneath the surface. It could be far more than you would imagine. Can we allow a kiss to be whatever it is to the one kissing, or being kissed?
Let the KISSES continue!!! There’s nothing sweeter than a kiss between two people who love each other, which is obviously the case with Michael Sam and his boyfriend.
A wonderful song about “The Kiss” by Matt Alber. Here are the lyrics:
Love rising from the mists,
Promise me this and only this,
Holy breath touching me, like a wind song
Sweet communion of a kiss
Sun sifting through the grey
Enter in, reach me with a ray
Silently swooping down, just to show me
How to give my heart away
Once a crystal choir
Appeared while I was sleeping
And called my name
And when they came down nearer
Saying, “Dying is done,”
Then a new song was sung
Until somewhere we breathed as one
And still I hear their whisper
Stars bursting in the sky
Hear the sad nova’s dying cry
Shimmering memory, come and hold me
While you show me how to fly
Sun sifting through the grey
Enter in, reach me with a ray
Silently swooping down, just to show me
How to give my heart away
Lately sparkling hosts
Come fill my dreams, descending
On fiery beams
I’ve seen ‘em come clear down
Where our poor bodies lay,
Soothe us gently and say,
“Gonna wipe all your teas away.”
And still I hear their whisper…
Love, rising from the mists
Promise me this and only this,
Holy breath touching me, like a wind song
Sweet communion of a kiss
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
I’ve become quite fond of a weekly primetime series called “Nashville.” The drama is high; the musical components are something I enjoy. As I watched with great interest each week, all of a sudden a young man named Will Lexington was shocked as his good friend, Gunner, rejected his sexual approach. This began a secondary plot line of a young man who is attracted to men and yet ashamed of his orientation and really confused as to how to process it..
As Will entered into a professional career of country music, Gunner knew he was a gay man from their experience. There was quite a bit of conflict between them most of which was fueled by Will’s shame. The country music culture he was entering into had no idea he was gay. He found himself to be fond of a young lady, also in the country music business. As they began to get close, Will experienced an anxious conflict. He wanted to be straight and attracted to this lady but his soul was blocked due to the lack of real sexual attraction to her. The inner conflict came out in extra heavy drinking and bouts of rage.
As he moved further into his career he felt a desire to be the normal straight guy and yet he knew he couldn’t measure up to the identity. He pressed further into his relationship with the young lady. She appeared to be clearly unaware of Will’s sexual dilemma. When he was experiencing his sexual conflicts the most he would dive into a sexually dominating experience with her.
Gunner found out that Will had actually asked his girlfriend to marry him. Gunner was overtly concerned about Will’s decision and remarked, “Will, why would you drag an innocent woman into this with you. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Gunner understood that complexity of the situation and warned Will of the impending challenges and potential for pain and grief for this woman.
It was at this point when I realized that this national television program was about to open the door to dealing even further with issues pertaining to mixed orientation marriages where one partner is gay, the other straight.
While Will and his girlfriend planned a wedding off into the future, Will became impatient and frustrated with all of the surrounding anxiety and pushed into foregoing the distant plans and pursuing marriage by eloping. He began to publicize his marriage and Gunner was shocked that he’d actually gone through with it so quickly. It was clear that Will did so to prove a point, stuff his anxiety and further hide his sexuality through the appearance of a heterosexual marriage.
It wasn’t long before Will’s record label producer began to pick up on Will’s sexuality and asked Gunner if he knew anything about it. But he didn’t get any concrete answers from Gunner. Will and his new wife were approached by a reality television producer to do a show based on their life behind the scenes of their country music popularity. The producers believed this could become a gold mine. But soon, The producers began to pressure Will into presenting an image and Will began to emotionally crash out of his fear that someone was going to discover that he is actually gay and using his marriage to cover up the reality of his struggle with homosexuality. This particular episode clearly showed Will’s confusion, anxiety and his deeply seated fear that he would be discovered. With anger and rage present, Will crashed out of the scene appearing to cancel the reality show.
Soon after that, Will was working out at a local gym attempting to release the pent up tension and was approached by a personal trainer. It became clear that the trainer was interested in more than just training. He received a business card from him that was clearly given with a hidden agenda. After Will got home he went through with calling him for a private session. By the way he looked during the phone call, it was pretty clear that he knew there was the potential of a sexual encounter ahead. The rest of the story remains to be broadcast but it is clear there are more conflicts ahead for this young confused man and his wife.
I am amazed that this television program is going so far into the plot of a mixed orientation marriage. I am also interested to see that the writers of the script really seem to understand the struggle and the unhealthy consequences that can occur when a gay man marries a straight woman. It is my hope that someone watching this television show will learn from the story of Will and his battle with shame and grasp on to the reality of many gay men who have married straight women and the painful consequences for their wives and families.
I have been reading an autobiography by my friend, Tim Rymel, whom I’ve known for many years who also experienced a mixed orientation marriage. In his soon-to-be released book entitled “Going Gay” (2014, TimRymel.com), he wrote quite a bit from the core of his heart about what this was like for him. I’ve excerpted a couple of paragraphs from his book to share a little bit of his story.
“The lies I told to get by in the straight world became such a part of my life that I believed them myself. I’m a bold communicator in business, but when it came to personal relationships and creating intimacy, I said what I thought the other person wanted to hear without any regard to whether or not it’s what I felt. I believed I was telling the truth. A lot of anxiety gripped my mind with ferocious fervor. Years of counseling and medication made no difference.”
“I loved my wife, but couldn’t fess up to the fact that a huge emotional wall separated us. I was not wired to be in a relationship with her on that intimate of a level. I said and did all the right things, but there was no feeling behind it. No matter how much I prayed or believed that I just had to fake my devotion until it became real didn’t change the truth. She knew it. I couldn’t bring myself to admit it, or even say it out loud, until the day she was moving out. At that point, it only confirmed what she already knew: I was a gay man trying to live up to an ideal that simply wasn’t authentic.”
In my own life, I believed that my marriage to a woman would work. It seemed people around me were saying that God would honor my obedience and that I would find the intimacy I desired. I thought if I did what I was supposed to do, had faith, and practiced faithful commitment, I would eventually find the marriage that I hoped I would. I was blind to the potential of harm and grief that could come in our future.
I knew that I was anxious within the relationship, just like I could see in Will’s situation. I also knew that I was shut down to emotionally opening up to my wife. Just after we began a dating relationship I could feel the walls coming up but I truly didn’t understand what they were coming from. There were times when the walls would drop for a little while, but eventually they would climb back to become a barrier to receiving love or intimacy from the relationship.
As I watch Will Lexington on Nashville, and as I read what my friend has written I can see my own life so clearly. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my wife, or that I didn’t practice faithfulness with her and in our marriage. I did everything I knew how to do, to try to pry open my heart towards her. I wanted so desperately to give her what I believed she deserved as a woman, and as my wife. But to no avail. My sexual orientation remained firmly in place no matter what. The struggles as a result never diminished and only became worse.
I find it quite interesting that the writers of Nashville really understand the struggle, the anxiety, and plight of those who are wrestling with the culture, religion, and mixed orientation marriage. There really is a lot we can learn from movies, television and modern media that reflects our culture back into our living rooms.