This blog is from the heart, informed by having been married to a closeted gay man and understanding how that experience changed the trajectory of my life, both as a woman and as a psychotherapist. Please add to the conversation and "Follow" if you're so inclined; all voices are welcome!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Question: What's funny about this picture?

So I attended a wedding yesterday. The son of a lifelong friend and his girlfriend of 6 years, both in their mid-20s. After the priest asked if anyone in the congregation knew of any reason why the couple shouldn't marry, he then asked the couple the same thing. "Do either of you know of a reason why you shouldn't marry? If so, please confess it now." In the silence that followed the question, I felt like I'd been stabbed in the heart.

I've felt an unshakable sadness for the rest of the weekend, and even now as I write this. Would my ex really have come clean? Would anyone? I asked my ex-husband directly before we ever became engaged, and he said no. Not gay. Nope. Nada.  Would it have been harder to lie to God, in front of witnesses? Or is the lie the most important thing?"

("Hey, ha ha, if I can't marry my boyfriend, then I'll marry your daughter!")

You know what, laughing guy? You SHOULD be able to marry your boyfriend. Absolutely. Let's all work towards that. It's only fair and it's just. Everyone should have equal rights under the law. In fact, many of us would (and have) marched right next to you.

But to take such a cavalier attitude about all of the broken hearts of those unsuspecting daughters who you gleefully suggest gay men marry? So you ask for respect -- but think it's funny to shatter other people's lives? 

Here are some of the responses to my Facebook post, edited for anonymity and privacy. They are from both men and women who have been on the receiving end of your taunt. Put your sign down and have a listen. Pretend it's your mom, your sister, your best friend speaking:

"My sorrow is that the priest who married us knew my ex had same-sex attractions, but told him to marry me and they'd go away. All these years later, I've lost my faith. And I'm still not healed from all the levels of betrayal."

"That's the moment I've run through my head so so many times. I always fantasize someone from the back shouting out 'He's gay and gonna dump you when you're [in your fifties]!'"

"It appears the lie was the most important thing."

"His father, brothers, his ex, and probably many others knew."

"Exactly. There were people in the crowd that knew. The guy from [another state] who showed up unannounced, for one."

"This hit too close to home. My husband admitted when confronted last year that he knew the truth even as we were meeting with the priest prior to our marriage. So no, he would have kept quiet if that had been asked at our wedding. Instead, I have lived an entire marriage based on a lie. Even found out he had been having sex with men in my home. I told him he had the chance to call off our wedding. I had already been divorced once and lived through it. I certainly could have done it a second time. Instead, I have to start my life over at [this age]."

"After months of lies and manipulation after he came out, he finally admitted that he knew since ever he could remember. I stumbled onto the fact that he'd had sex with men in high school and college, and all throughout our marriage. I clearly remember my wedding day knowing this was the best and right thing, and that we loved each other. I had known him and his family for years."

"My ex hit on one of our groomsmen, [who] told me only after I filed for divorce 30 years later. I'm not sure I will ever get over [those betrayals]." 

"When we were at the altar the priest's first words [to me] were, 'This is your last chance,' with a grin on his face. My ex looked me right in the eyes and said 'Go for it.'"

"I am not a religious [person]. I find the universe, creation, almighty in its own rights, and dogmatic storytelling a distraction that gets in the way. So when I stand before and give my word to my concept of God and before my fellow Man, it means a lot to me. It did.

And then it all washed away."


So, Laughing Guys, here's the answer to the question, "What's funny about this picture?"

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

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Anonymous said...

I recognize this is not the central tenet of the column, but support of same-sex marriage (which I am fine with) must come packaged with defined same-sex divorce and, in states which still have at-fault divorce, same-sex infidelity must be a valid reason. Make sure the "full monty" is legislated.

TwoLives said...

I see the pictures in a slightly different way. The signs themselves are not funny. The men and women who made them know that, that's the whole point. Many gays and lesbians who have always been out look upon closeted, straight-married people with contempt, largely because they know their marriages are a sham. They see married closet cases as they are - selfish cowards, liars and cheats. [You should read the comments on a recent Huffpost article wherein a formerly married guy "apologizes" to his straight ex-wife.]

The fact that the men are smiling in the pictures is a major disconnect from the signs they're holding. I don't think that's intentional. Someone is taking their photo so they do what we're all trained to do, they smile. They're not thinking about how their smile contradicts the sign their holding. The smiles are thoughtless (though painful) mistakes.

I encourage you to be pleased to see the signs. Their message is critically important and they're intended to shock people and get them to think. That's what matters, not the goofballs holding the signs.

The Straightforward Project™ said...

Thank you, TwoLives, for your very thoughtful response. I hope you're right. From our vantage point, pictures like that serve as triggers for a lot of grief and anger for straight spouses. Voices like yours and those in the LGBT community who "get it" would be so healing. But I'm at a loss as to how to make that happen. I am developing a program called Kintsukuroi to try to heal and educate all sides...the straight spouses, the kids of these marriages, and the out spouses. I would love to have a conversation with like-minded folks about how to make that happen. Thank you again for your very measured and wise response. KBM

TwoLives said...

I like your ambition!

Off the cuff I'd say the best place to begin for healing is to work with the Straight Spouse Network. As far as I know, that is, by far, the go-to place for straight spouses who learn their partner has been hiding their true selves.

Education is more difficult. Who most needs to be educated, the young, to avoid this tragic situation? Or established and friends of straight spouses? If it's the former, I suggest starting a Youtube channel. It's a powerful medium and very popular among young people. If it's the latter, I'd opine that (unfortunately) straight spouses need to have the confidence and support to educate those around them. No one pays attention to this issue unless it happens to someone important in their lives. The educational burden therefore rests with straight spouses. You must speak up and ask, "How would you feel if you were in my position?" True understanding and empathy come from feeling the pain involved, even if for a minute, as a hypothetical.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and think they should be taken within the context in which they were presented. I thought the messages were powerful, especially when aimed, as I assume they were, at those who are against same-sex marriage, NOT at straight spouses who had actually married LGBT people. As a straight spouse myself, I understand that there are triggers that remind us of what we went through, but this was not one for me. In fact, I chuckled... if only my ex had had such a sign and the courage to show it 30 years ago!

The Straightforward Project™ said...

Thanks for your comment, Anon. I know that a large part of my strong response comes from seeing the distress and grief in my therapy office every day of folks whose spouses came out. Intellectually I can see the humor and the irony in the signs, but on a very personal level it makes my heart ache for my clients who are devastated, some who may never recover. I support LGBT rights as strongly as anyone, but there's nothing funny about the fallout for innocent straights. And believe me, I know the fallout for the LGBT community has been just as horrific; one only has to think of Matthew Shepherd. But we have to work TOGETHER on equality, not ridicule or marginalize each other.

The Straightforward Project™ said...

TwoLives, I actually served on the Board of the Straight Spouse Network. They offer a wonderful first connection to other straight spouses, but not much beyond that. What I'm trying to create is real healing and real societal change. We (straight spouses) have told our sad stories over and over again in all sorts of venues. My hope is to collaborate with the LGBT community; THOSE are the voices we need to join with us, not just hearing our own stories over and over. We already understand the damage. And maybe together we could educate those who are so rabidly against same-sex marriage. For the most part, we're all on the same side here!