Thursday, February 18, 2010

Conclusions drawn after being married to a gay man

Yesterday I ran into an old friend, and for this blog I will call her Ellie. I should say, "a friend I've known for some time." She's not old, even if we both qualify for the senior discount at the movies! Maybe I have a bad memory, because Ellie recalled that the last time we ran into each other, I told her I was dating someone I described as, "Definitely NOT GAY." Back when I dated that guy, I was too consumed with him to remember that fleeting conversation, but when prompted about it, I did remember. (Honest, my memory runs worse and worse - just ask my kids, but I'm STILL claiming the "not old" designation, got that?)

One of our mutual friends had let me know that Ellie was once married to a gay man. For some reason, even though it seems everyone in our town (with our church connections) certainly knows about Ray (my former husband) coming out, Ellie had never mentioned it, even when we have connected at get-togethers when she could have.

As for myself, I really wanted to talk about her experience, compare a note or two, and possibly connect with another ally. That motivation led me to ask Ellie, "Did you know?" She proceeded to tell me that at least once before they were married, a friend had stated, "Well, you know he's gay, don't you?" But, like others before and since, she blew that off in ignorance because she was in love.

Ellie went on to say that the subject came up again, later, but her then-husband waved away the question so that he didn't have to answer. And, finally, there was the evidence: phone calls, trips, letters, and ultimately there was proof. Yes, her husband was gay. Because he'd been unfaithful, they soon divorced after having been married less than 5 years.

Of course I sympathized. She'd lost her love, her hopes, her future with him. I was sad for them both, and wished Ellie had not had to live with this hurt. To myself I wondered what ever happened to him - in our talk he was nameless. It made me sad to think of the hopes dashed, the questions of "why?" and how we go forward, smiling, yet explaining to ourselves in ways that make sense.

She asked me about my life, "What about you? Did you know?" "How long did you know?" And she also asked, "Did Ray ever go to Exodus?" I know I must have frowned and said, "No, and I'm so glad he didn't...It would only have made him feel worse...I don't think it would have helped, since change isn't possible. If it were, Ray would have changed."

Soon we got to the point where she and I no longer had things in common...It was when she said, "...But if someone really wants to change, I believe God will change them." And, "Haven't you heard of Dennis Jernigan? He has 9 kids."

Oh, my, gosh. Just the day before I had been writing an entry about how I am NOT convinced that by Dennis Jernigan's marriage and his 9 kids, that he is any way straight. I stopped writing and then didn't publish what I had, because I don't feel it's in anyone's best interest to comment on his personal life. Ellie was surprised at my reaction. She actually believes he's not gay.

You may be asking, Why does this interaction bear mentioning in Carol's blog?

It's because I keep wondering: How can a former wife of a gay man, having married him with love and commitment, logically come to the conclusion that he would be drawn to men rather than oneself? Wouldn't you rather realize that it was an inherent attraction to something OTHER than anything you can be? Isn't it more reasonable to understand that you are NOT the problem? Or, rather than being "not the problem," doesn't it feel better to know that you can't possibly be the solution?

I really hesitate to write more about Gayle Haggard, (wife of Ted Haggard) who is on a book tour to promote her book, "Why I stayed." I don't really want to write about whether or not Dennis Jernigan is straight or gay, or about anyone else who has a personal life that they deserve to preserve and protect. (Mr. Jernigan is a Christian worship song-writer, who claims he was healed from being gay, says he was "called to marry" his wife, and has fathered nine children.) Those two are just a fraction of mixed-orientation couples holding out false hopes of change, or at the least are living in denial. In those cases, in obscure blogs, such as Robert's "thearchitectsgarage" some claim to have overcome same-sex-attraction. (I still can't figure what he's trying to say or convince others of.) I just don't buy those claims. HOWEVER, when I see Ms. Haggard on the Today show, or read a published "testimonial" online, and when they go public, write blogs (or weird narratives) for other people in the same situation, I DO feel like I have the obligation to speak out on the conclusions that I have made.

Today I cried thinking about the families who have established themselves upon the doomed foundation of mixed-orientation couples, expecting change to occur. Some live monogamously, for long periods of time, abstaining from gay connections, and they declare that they are "cured." It is NOT my intention to break up these families! However I feel strongly that the right thing to do is to admit that the "gay-ness" or the same-sex-attraction, or whatever you want to call it, doesn't go away.

It seems redundant to keep saying it, but just don't claim to have prayed it away. Willing yourself to live a straight life is NOT the same as being straight. Remember, it's not what you do, it's about who you ARE.

What am I trying to say? If you are married, live with integrity. Honor your spouse, raise your kids. Be truthful. Don't lie. Be faithful. Live honestly.

And if you know (or are coming to terms with the fact that) you are gay and are NOT yet married to someone of the opposite sex, please do the same things: Live with integrity. Be truthful. Don't lie. Live honestly. And don't think that marrying a straight partner will solve or change your sexual orientation.

Can I be any clearer?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Post-Valentine's Day report

Today's entry has NOTHING to do with the normal subjects, but is simply how I spent Valentine's Day...

I spent yesterday driving for 993* odometer-verified miles from New Hampshire to Indiana! What a way to spend Valentine's Day! While I was genuinely upset to leave my daughter/new-Mommy-herself, Liz, and new granddaughter, "Chuck," (a psuedonym to make her more anonymous online) and son-in-law, Ben, in their cozy, warm, apartment, I was also genuinely excited to have myself a little road trip!

The start of day was sunny, and I got off only a half-hour late from my plan. I interrupted myself several times that morning for potty breaks (It was nearly as bad as traveling with kids). I could also swear that New England hides both gas stations and McDonalds when you get off the interstate! Driving through those little towns to FIND needed stops take a LOT of time, even though it's a historical gold mine. Taking all this time did nothing for making time, and by 3:00, I'd only driven 296 miles! My goal for the day was 963! (Thanks, GoogleMaps!) How was I ever going to make it?

Did I mention that I have neither a speedometer or a GPS? Luckily, Pennsylvania has a unique system where they post tenth-mile markers along the highway. Using my own "unique" system, I used my cell phone and called my genius daughter, Karen. I asked, "If in one minute you drive 1.2 miles, how fast are you going?" "You are going 72 miles per hour," and from that I was satisfied that my cruise control would keep me going up and down the mountains at a safe and legal speed. (Doesn't "legal speed" mean 5+ mph above the speed limit?)

Another part of my plan for the day was to meet up with HILLSIDE SLIDE/Tina a fellow blogger and even a commenter on this very blog! Tina and I made acquaintance via the blog and several e-mails, and I was so glad to get to meet her. Fortunately, the snow that began about 5 P.M. was not too heavy, and I had plenty of window-washer fluid to keep a clear view after the semis passed me. I couldn't use the cruise, and I just kept in contact via cell phones. Tina and I had a wonderful meeting, and thanks to her dad, we were both treated to dinner. Thanks, Mr. C.!

By then it was 9 P.M., and I had another 350 miles to go, give or take a few. As long as it wasn't bad weather, and I didn't get tired, I was going to keep driving. What I didn't expect was the TERRIBLE freezing fog that occurred near Celina, Ohio! I noticed that my car showed it was 2* - a drop from 37* that had registered earlier in the day, back in New Hampshire. There were times I could see NOTHING but the white line along the side of the road. Thank goodness that it wasn't snowing and I DIDN'T get tired (which I usually do quite easily - just ask someone who knows me. I sometimes think I'm narcoleptic.) There was about 45-60 minutes where the fog was so dense, I wondered if I'd have to stop in a farmer's driveway, or pull in to a Wal-Mart parking lot - IF I could see it ahead of time - to spend the night. I wondered what I was supposed to do, and also thought of all the pile-ups I've heard about in fog. It was scary. I prayed, "Help me, Jesus." Then, by the time I got to Bryant, Indiana, it suddenly cleared and I was able to drive the remaining way home. "Thank you, Jesus!"

I was so glad, at about 2:30, to pull into my snow-cleared driveway. I had called from New Hampshire to my "snow-man" making sure he included me on his list of clients. With a "winter weather advisory" posted for today, I wanted to be sure I prepared, so, just in case, I backed into my garage. (I drive a big Suburban, so this can be tricky.) Because of the snow piled in front of the garage door, I had to shift to 4-wheel drive for the first time of my trip.

Once I pulled into the garage, backwards, and closed the door, I sat there and texted all my family, with a cell phone photo of the inside of that wonderful garage door - MINE. And some people (some who are even younger than I am) say, "What good is texting?" I must remember to tell them: So you don't have to wake everyone up at 2:30 A.M., just to say, "I made it!"

So much for thinking the New Hampshire winter experience was going to be rough. Nope, it was Indiana fog and new snow that gave me any trouble, and I was so glad to be home. A long, challenging, fun, road trip that took 16 hours to complete - and Valentine's Day, to boot!

*a little "off" due to one missed turn and the back-track required.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Those who try to understand

On this blog I sometimes talk about those who get it as "us," and "we," while all the rest of the readers are "those who don't." As much as I can, I want to bring those two groups to the US of it all. No, I don't want to be too critical of "the Others," because I was once one of them. Oh, I suppose I could go off on a LOST reference, but as much as I like that show, I don't think I can explain the physics or the time travel story lines. It does make me wonder if you can change non-Lost fans into true Lost fans, but the analogy would fail somewhere, so I won't try. I'll just assume that it's easier to become gay-supporting/affirming, than it is to undertand LOST!

I once heard from a GLAAD staff member (and have referred to it in the blog) about the "moveable middle." I was asked what that is, and how I got past that, coming to understand (and advocate for) gay people. But how can I describe how I made that change?

Yesterday, I sat thinking about that when a new reader wrote:
I have read, Goodbye I Love You, twice and Mel White's book twice and I still don't get it...but I want to. I want to understand. In addition to these books I have read about every other book written by gay persons that I could find. I realize that one does not need to understand something, either a person or a concept to be accepting of that right to exist within the confines of that situation. But.....I still don't get it. I am still struggling, still trying....

Acknowledging that it's not easy to change, this reader is sharing that she's genuinely TRYING to learn and understand. Reading material, talking to others who are affirming, and writing to bloggers (like me) whom she doesn't know - those things all show honest determination to "get it." Being honest enough to say, "I want to understand," will go far to help this person grow, change, and become accepting of the sexual orientation of others.

I talked to my daughter about it, and she's the one who came up with this, a very simple explanation: "There's no difference." Isn't that genius? Of course it is, because Liz is smart, insightful, and inclusive (and I love her for those and so many other reasons!).

I remembered back to an e-mail that I got from Kathy, another straight spouse of a gay man. Kathy was so helpful to me, even though we have never met, even yet, face-to-face. I found her profile on the yahoo group, Wives of gay/bi husbands, and it stood out to me because she had been married a long time (over 30 years) when her husband came out to her. The two of us exchanged several e-mails, and even though I can't find the original story she shared, I will paraphrase it here:

...Imagine if you were stranded on a desert island, occupied with only other women like yourself. Years pass, and there are no men around. After a long, long time, you become close with a woman who is your best friend. The two of you gradually spend exclusive time together, build a hut, gather food, grow a garden, and fish for your meals. For warmth you sleep together, and sometimes there are intimacies shared. After all, you are closer to this woman than any other, and you love each other like family. The two of you are committed, 100%, and you expect to spend your entire lives together.

Then, one day when you are looking for food on the island, you come across another village, and much to your surprise, it is filled with only MEN! As you approach the top of a hill, you crawl to the top and "spy" down to this wondrous sight! Men! Men, men, men, men, men! Your imagination goes wild! How you miss MEN! Then you think...oh, no, what about your partner? You better go back...

...For days it is all you can think about: Oh, if only you could get close enough to see them closer, maybe talk to one. What if I could smell what a man smells like! What if I could touch one! And you know that if you could, you would.

So, what do you do with your woman partner? How is it that these men have probably been there as long as you and your group of women? And how could you possibly have settled for partnering with a woman, when all of your being, all of your soul, only, ever wanted to be with ... a MAN?

My story probably isn't as detailed as the e-mail that Kathy sent me over 5 years ago, but it helped me see that what someone is truly attracted to doesn't change. Just like I would be the spy on the men, so would a gay person who "settled" into a straight marriage.

Most times, analogies break down, yet there are many that you can draw from, and some of them might help bring insight into understanding sexual orientation that is different from one's own.

If you are a straight person who is trying to understand gay attractions, imagine all the attractions you have to the opposite sex in general: the way they move, the smells that are so sensual and GOOD, sounds of their voices, how they sound when they laugh. Whether they are smooth or rough, tall, short, slim or plump, however they feel when you touch them - how they think, walk, or smile - ALL these things make up attraction. And for gay people, it is JUST THE SAME. No difference! Try to wrap your head around that, and it's not so hard.