Gay. Mormon. Unicorn.
Via reader DeeAnn, here’s an amazing post by a Mormon therapist who comes out as a happily married gay man. Happily married — to a woman. Excerpts:
3. When did you know you were gay?
I knew I was gay when I was 11 or 12. That’s the onset of puberty, when humans begin to feel sexual attractions. For a little while I was waiting for the attraction to girls to set in because that’s what everyone said would happen, but then there was a sinking moment of realization—a thought like “oh, this thing for guys is its replacement.” I told my parents shortly thereafter, when it seemed pretty clear that my sexuality wasn’t playing a trick on me, and the girl thing wasn’t going to happen, but the guy thing was totally happening. I was 13 when I told my dad (a member of the Stake Presidency—which is a lay leader in the Mormon church—at the time). My parents were incredibly loving and supportive, which is part of why I believe I’m so well adjusted today. They deserve serious props for being so loving and accepting—I never felt judged or unwanted or that they wished to change anything about me. That’s part of why I have never been ashamed about this part of myself. (I feel plenty of shame about other irrational things, like the fact that I can’t catch a ball or change a tire (as you may have noticed on the blog)—and I’m working on that stuff because toxic shame isn’t a good thing. But I’ve never been shameful about who I am, or about this feature of me as a critical part of my person, which it is in the same way that sexuality is a critical part of any person.)
4. If you’re married to a woman, how can you really be gay?
This is a really good question and I can see how people can be confused about it. Some might assume that because I’m married to a woman, I must be bisexual. This would be true if sexual orientation was defined by sexual experience. Heck, if sexual orientation were defined by sexual experience, I would be as straight as the day is long even though I’ve never been turned on by a Victoria’s Secret commercial in my entire life. Sexual orientation is defined by attraction, not by experience. In my case, I am attracted sexually to men. Period. Yet my marriage is wonderful, and Lolly and I have an extremely healthy and robust sex life. How can this be?
The truth is, what people are really asking with the above question is “how can you be gay if your primary sex partner is a girl?” I didn’t fully understand the answer to this question until I was doing research on sexuality in grad school even though I had been happily married for almost five years at that point. I knew that I was gay, and I also knew that sex with my wife was enjoyable. But I didn’t understand how that was happening. Here is the basic reality that I actually think many people could use a lesson in: sex is about more than just visual attraction and lust and it is about more than just passion and infatuation. I won’t get into the boring details of the research here, but basically when sex is done right, at its deepest level it is about intimacy. It is about one human being connecting with another human being they love. It is a beautiful physical manifestation of two people being connected in a truly vulnerable, intimate manner because they love each other profoundly. It is bodies connecting and souls connecting. It is beautiful and rich and fulfilling and spiritual and amazing. Many people never get to this point in their sex lives because it requires incredible communication, trust, vulnerability, and connection. And Lolly and I have had that from day one, mostly because we weren’t distracted by the powerful chemicals of infatuation and obsession that usually bring a couple together (which dwindle dramatically after the first few years of marriage anyway). So, in a weird way, the circumstances of our marriage allowed us to build a sexual relationship that is based on everything partners should want in their sex-life: intimacy, communication, genuine love and affection. This has resulted in us having a better sex life than most people I personally know. Most of whom are straight. Go fig.
He came out to his wife when they were teenagers, on their first date. Why did she marry a gay man? She says, in part:
Months passed and I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine. I said to her, “I can find someone else like Josh, right? Someone else to love like I love him?” She said, “You could find someone else to love, sure. But you will never have what you and Josh have with someone else. Because no one else is Josh.” When she said that, and I thought of loving someone else, I knew the answer to his question “Am I worth it?”
I knew that I loved Josh. I loved All of him. I wanted to marry him. I wanted to marry Josh Weed because I loved the man that he was. I loved everything that made him him. I didn’t want anyone else. I knew that we had the kind of relationship that could work through hard trials and circumstances. I had faith in him and I had faith in our love. I did not choose to marry someone who is gay. I chose to marry Josh Weed, the man that I love, and to accept all of him. I have never regretted it.
This, from Josh Weed, is quite a moment:
I find that when I think of what alternative lifestyles could offer me, they pale in comparison to the full, joyous, bounteous life I live. Thus, I believe that to live my life this way is being true to myself, and to go down any other path would be egregiously inauthentic and self-deceptive.
About two years ago, I saw a psychologist to get medication for my ADHD-I. She was a lesbian, and when I told her that I was a gay man in a heterosexual marriage, she spent an entire session hammering me with questions about my situation in a genuine effort to make sure I was happy. I didn’t love that she did this, but as a clinician myself, I understood where she was coming from.
During our conversation, she told me about her life with her partner. She spoke of a girl, whom she considered her daughter, who is the biological child of her ex-lover, with whom she lived for only three years. She told me of how much she loved her daughter, but how infrequently she got to see her. And eventually, when talking about my sex life, she said “well, that’s good you enjoy sex with your wife, but I think it’s sad that you have to settle for something that is counterfeit.”
I was a little taken aback by this idea—I don’t consider my sex-life to be counterfeit. In response, I jokingly said “and I’m sorry that you have to settle for a counterfeit family.” She immediately saw my point and apologized for that comment. Obviously, I don’t actually think a family with non-biological members is counterfeit in any way. I also don’t feel that my sex-life is counterfeit. They are both examples of something that is different than the ideal. I made that joke to illustrate a point. If you are gay, you will have to choose to fill in the gaps somewhere. She chose to have a family in a way that is different than the ideal. I choose to enjoy sex in a way that is different than the ideal for a gay man. It all comes down to what you choose and why, and knowing what you want for yourself and why you want it. That’s basically what life is all about.
He doesn’t say all same-sex-attracted Mormons and Christians should seek to marry someone of the opposite sex. He says he only wants people to know that this is the path he chose, and it has brought him a great deal of joy. He says he’s like a unicorn: he’s not supposed to exist, but he does.
Perhaps most interesting of all, he says that the love and acceptance he got from his parents and from others as a gay teenager helped him make the choice he did to be faithful to his religion, and ultimately to have a happy traditional marriage — this, as opposed to being filled with self-hatred and shame. He is a faithful Mormon, and believes that acting on same-sex desire is sinful. But then this:
If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse. Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.
This is really a great post, and that part at the end pretty much sums up the way I try to be, and hope to be, with my gay friends. Read the whole thing. I can’t imagine the courage it took for this couple to write this. God bless them.
UPDATE: From the comments below:
Josh’s comment has helped me identify what I find so annoying about the typical media reaction to gay men who come out after decades of their marriage and insist on leaving their wife because they’ve finally come to grips with who they really are (one garners additional points of course if one happens to be an Episcopal bishop): It privileges a reductionist view of sex over a more holistic one, suggesting that any frustration of the ability to have sexual relations with one’s ideal sexual partner is a tragedy and that sexual attraction cannot be the fruit of anything but raw appetite and certainly not the product of a life lived together. (That’s not to say that this is true for everybody, but the typical media reaction to such stories suggests that it is true for nobody.)