Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ending The Silence

I think one of the greatest causalities of being gay are those men and women, so afraid of accepting who they are, so fearful of what their friends and families might say, so ashamed at being gay because of the religious upbringing, that they shove themselves to a deep dark corner of the closet and stay there. And then they get married to prove to themselves and the world that they are "normal."

But what of the unsuspecting spouses who marry these deeply closeted gay men and women. What must they go through in dealing with a spouse whose secret is revealed? How must they feel about love, what it is and what it means, if the one person you chose to love "until death us do part" tells you that he or she is gay?

If anyone could have talked himself out of being gay, Kimberly Brooks said, it was her husband.
He wanted to be straight; she wanted him to be straight. She once followed his gaze across the beach to another man but quickly dismissed the thought. No, he couldn't be. Then he started spending more time with one particular friend, and an unease pushed Brooks to ask the question that ultimately confirmed her fears: Was that friend gay?
"He said, 'I don't know.' And in that moment, I knew," said Brooks, who is a therapist in Falls Church. "That day, the marriage was over."

Many of these former spouses are speaking out now, in favor of marriage equality, after living lives married to closeted men and women. They understand, first-hand, loving someone who isn't true to themselves, and, as men and women who endured these "marriages of convenience" they are now showing their support because, as they will tell you, marriage equality will not only help the LGBT community, but also heterosexuals. If homosexuality was more accepted, they say, they might have been spared doomed marriages followed by years of self-doubt.

Carolyn Sega Lowengart calls it "retroactive humiliation." It's that embarrassment that washes over her when she looks back at photographs or is struck by a memory and wonders what, if anything, from that time was real. Did he ever love her?
"I'm 61 years old," said Lowengart, who lives in Chevy Chase. "Will I ever know what it's like to be loved passionately? Probably not."
She gave her husband 31 years, just a little less than she gave the State Department. Because of her job, she bought a home computer, and on that computer she got the first hints that her husband was gay. Once, she said, she glimpsed gay pornography on the screen; another time, she found a printout of an e-mail about a rendezvous.
In 2002, she said, she asked her husband for the truth. He told her. They separated that year.
"I said, 'When did you know?' " Lowengart recalled. "He said, 'When I was a teenager.' I said, 'Why did you marry me?' He said, 'Because I didn't want to be.' "

Such shame many gay men and women feel for being who they are, and how can we expect them to feel any different? Sure, a lot of us are open and out there, because we struggled with that decision and made the conscious choice of coming out. But what about those who feel such fear and shame at simply being themselves that they can never tell anyone; that they marry and live a life of lies and deceit because they cannot love the person they believe they should?

He was her first love and promised to be her last, Joy Parker said. They had met in high school but had lost touch for decades, until she received a message from him through Classmates.com. It came a day after she'd been looking nostalgically at prom photos of the two of them.
"It was like we were meant to be together," Parker said. In 2004, at 43, she traveled across the country, from California to Virginia, to move in with him. By the end of that year, they were married. "He seemed like the perfect husband, buying flowers, gifts."
Then, as she tells it, came the night she decided to check her husband's voice mail. "There were two messages from a guy calling him 'Baby' and telling him how good he looked," Parker said. She says she woke him up to confront him. "His eyes got huge, and he said, 'You're going to try to destroy me.' I said: "Destroy you? What about me?' "

Now, these men and women are sharing their stories, and making us all aware of how and why things need to change. imagine growing up in a world as a young gay man or woman and knowing you could marry the person of your choice; knowing you could live anywhere,m work anywhere, be anything, without fear of recrimination. Imagine knowing that if your spouse was hospitalized you wouldn't need a briefcase of documents just to visit him or her in the hospital, that you would be updated on the condition of your loved one, that you could simply visit them in their room. Imagine a world where you don't need lawyers and living wills just to make sure your wishes are carried out upon your death. Imagine a world where the government benefits, the rights and privileges guaranteed every American are given to every American; that no one feels left behind, or less than.

Imagine that.

Now, imagine growing up knowing that none of that is true everywhere in the United Sates. Imagine growing up knowing that you will be taunted and picked on and, perhaps, battered, for being who you are. Imagine a church leader telling you that you will go to Hell for being yourself. Imagine getting fired because someone talked; imagine getting evicted because of neighborhood gossip over who came to your house late last night. That's how, and why, many gay men and women, lie to themselves, and find themselves married to the wrong gender. They cannot imagine any other life.

Now imagine you are the unsuspecting spouse of that closeted man or woman. You meet, and fall in love, and choose to spend your life together. But then there are signals and signs that maybe your husband or wife isn't exactly what you thought. And there is a confrontation and an accusation and an admission. What would you do? Hold on to that anger? Feel betrayed or tricked? Or would you feel compassion for the spouse that saw no other option than to live a lie? and then, would you speak out for marriage equality? Would you realize that, had society been more open and understanding of what it is to be gay, what it means to be gay, that perhaps this might never have happened to you?

They are the silent victims of homophobia and discrimination and self-loathing, but many of them are speaking up, and many of them are on our side ion the fight for equality.

Imagine that.

The story is HERE

4 comments:

Mark in DE said...

Very good point: fewer straight folks would be married to gay folks if the gay folks felt/knew it was normal for them to be gay.

frogponder said...

After all this time I can't understand the notion that people think this is a *choice*.

Wonder Man said...

Good post, Bob

SteveA said...

Bob - this post is amazing. I have a few friends in a situation like this - it's sad!