Friday, July 30, 2010

Closeted Married Men

A kind and thoughtful reader, A Guy Stuck in the Aerospace World, recently made the following comment:

"Being out...is the only way to live otherwise, yes you are wasting your time. You said youre doing it for your kids, why? You said its because you hope maybe your relationship with your wife will improve, it won't. Maintaining a status quo to protect the happiness of someone else isn't living or even self sacrifice, I would compare it to self destruction. ... Even tho you may not end up with an ideal adonis type mate you will find someone and if not, well you lived your life honestly in the end and that's the way we enter this world. Naked and Honest."

The comment was directed to me but I think the sentiment represents how many out gay men feel about closeted married men: the only way to be happy is to be out.

For the typical out gay man, his sexuality defines him. His self-image, his day-to-day activities, his friends, his thoughts - all of those things are intimately and inexorably tied to his sexuality.

For the typical closeted man, his sexuality does not define him. Instead he is defined by other roles and priorities. Many closeted married men are not gay men in waiting. They are men who have decided to make other parts of themselves priorities instead of their sexuality.

Most closeted married men are bisexual. Many grew up with an image of themselves as straight men. When they come to recognize and accept their attraction to men it is an add-on to their sexual attraction to women. One does not replace the other. The idea of fundamentally changing their self-image based on an additional sexual attraction is not a priority. The attraction to women, and all the other choices in life that flow from that, cannot be instantly and irreparably changed. Nor is there a desire to do so.

A smaller number of closeted married men are gay. Many of those are closeted because of fear. They fear being rejected by their friends and families.

Others are closeted for the same reason bisexual married men are closeted - other parts of themselves and their lives are more important priorities than their sexuality. The two primary ones are career and parenthood. In my case it's parenthood.

Whole books are written about parenting but to greatly simplify the subject I will say that there are at least two levels of parenting. There's the caregiver level where you are involved in all or most of the daily activities of the child and there's the provider level where you're not nearly involved with day-to-day activities but you still have an on-going commitment. Many men play the provider role and that level is quite challenging and rewarding on its own. However, the intensity is no where near the caregiver level. A caregiver parent lives in a world of selfless sacrifice and humility - that's what it takes to raise a child.

Being the primary caregiver is one of those experiences where you cannot truly understand what it is like until you actually do it yourself, full-time, for an extended period.

As a caregiver parent you spend most of your life tending to the basic needs of your children. When you are not feeding them or cleaning up after them you are tending to their minute-by-minute needs. It's neither fun nor glamorous work. And throughout each day, week, month and year, you have to strive to raise your children. You have to instill values, a work ethic, empathy for others. You have to help them help themselves by encouraging them to be independent, to be open to acquiring new skills, and to take responsibility for themselves and what they do.

I could go on and on, in a vain attempt to explain the tremendous responsibility involved in being the go-to parent. There are plenty of joys - the greatest joys of life - but mostly, being a caregiver requires that you give of yourself until you know of no other way to live.

I have spent more than 16 years caring for my children. They are not spoiled with material things but they are spoiled by their carefree lives. In recent years I have been coaching my oldest in an attempt to get him ready for real-life responsibilities. He has a long way yet to go. The two younger ones spend most of their day acting silly, as children their age should.

Unless you have cared for your own children, I don't think you can realize how fundamentally wrong it feels to contemplate a selfish action that would shatter the world of innocent, playful children.

Coming out may seem like the best answer for every closeted married man but often it's just not that simple. More than happiness, it's a matter of responsibility.

Timing and circumstances can make all the difference. Two bloggers with school-age children who have come out to their wives within the past year are Jim of Conflicting Clarity and NewLeaf of My Travels Out of the Closet. I know that both of these men are fantastic fathers. I also know that both of them have amazing, supportive wives. The children may be vaguely aware of the change in the relationship between their parents but their worlds have not been turned upside down and their innocence remains in tact. Only NewLeaf and Jim can answer but I wonder if either of them would have come out at this time if they felt that doing so would be traumatic for their kids.

As extremely supportive as their wives have been, both men are changing their day-to-day lives very gradually. I think both families serve as good examples of how to positively transition from a traditional marriage to something more evolved.

I don't know what I want to do for myself. But I do know that I MUST do the right thing by my children. And like most aspects of parenting, that means putting their welfare ahead of my own.

23 comments:

  1. Can´t you get divorced and still be the main caregiver of your children??? Because you divorce your wife, not your children.
    You can be out as a gay man while being the best father for your children. Both things are compatible.

    A lot of gay closeted married men use children as logical excuse to keep in the closet. But it is just that: an excuse.

    The big amount of closeted married men aren´t really bisexual. They are gay in denial. They only cheat with men. They fantasize with men. They truly fall in love with men. Just because they are with a woman doesn´t mean they are not gay.

    Fear is a powerful thing. And its name is internalized homophobia. These men can be in company of out gay men...but they don´t want to be gay. They don´t accept being gay. They don´t want to be identified by others as gay.

    So,how to live with that cognitive dissonance of being attracted sexually and sentimentally to men; while living with the only woman they became interested in ??? Calling themselves "bisexual".
    But they cannot be fullfilled just being with a woman. They cannot feel love and passion at its fullest. They don´t enjoy sex with their wives as much as they would enjoy it with another man.

    They need a man. Why? Because they are gay.

    And what partner do they choose when they got divorced? A man.
    They only look for another man. They focus only on men. So, if they are bisexual, why they don´t look for another woman again??? And those men are the ones who finally are honest with themselves about his true sexual orientation.
    There are others who continue to pursue relationships with women, to prove themselves they are not gay. That they are going to find the right woman who will make them forget about men.
    And then, when they got a new wife, it begins again. Men, men, men. Lies, lies, lies.

    Bisexual means you don´t care if you´re with a man or a woman (because you like both). That you can be fullfilled by any gender, no matter what.
    If you already are with a woman, then why to look for a man? Why to risk all to be with another man? And why they only cheat with men??

    Bisexual doesn´t mean you need both genders at the same time. The men who claim to need both genders is because they are afraid of living as out gay men, so they need a woman to avoid being seen as gay; and another man to keep going on with their straight marriage, so they can enjoy their true sexual orientation without getting a divorce.

    As the old saying goes: "Bi now, gay later".

    Denial and self-dellusion are the key factors.

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  2. I have 2 comments about this.

    Last December I wrote about what I call living on the fence (http://conflictingclarity.blogspot.com/2009/12/life-on-fence.html)

    In this post I explored how I let other priorities define me. As a result I was not part of the gay world and I did not feel at home in the straight world either. I was stuck in this odd limbo. While I love my family more than anything I was in a place where I was miserable. Now if it was just me, I could have sucked it up and gone on, but I was also making K miserable. Because I did not have the feeling for her I was supposed to have and because the loneliness was eating at me, she felt like furniture (her word) in her own house.

    Today, I live honestly with K. She is WAY more supportive than I have any right to expect and we are in a really good place. It was a long slog to get there. There was anguish for both of us as we moved slowly (very slowly) through the process, but we did move. Now that I am on the other side, and can look back It was totally worth the trip.

    While I am sure K would prefer it if I was straight, one this was certain: Me pretending to be straight was not working for anyone.

    Secondly about the kids. Again we have an unusual situation. We have told the kids that we are not going to remain married. We also told them, that we were all still a family and I would continue to live in the house with them. My 3 older kids have friends with divorced parents and they understand the implications. My 8 year old cried that evening, and was unsure the next day. He has a friend who parents are openly hostile so that upset him. Now that he sees that we are still a family and his life has not changed he has been fine ever since.

    What I have not done yet is tell the kids I'm gay. I suspect that will happen some time in the next year, but I don't know how I will do it yet.

    I used to think that coming out and ending my marriage was selfish, and I think K thought that too for a while. Now I don't think she feels that way, especially now that she has found someone that is capable of loving her with the passion she deserves.

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  4. Jean Claude you are really a straight man but because of lies you have believed you have allowed yourself to become homosexual. You have deluded yourself into accepting the Gay Lie because you refuse to accept that it is an abnormality and buy into the lie that you were "born this way," You were not born this way... you accepted the homosexual lies and deep down you know that this is so. If only you would not live in denial!

    NO THIS IS NOT THE WAY I ACTUALLY THINK... but it is to make my point. I find it appalling that a gay man is going to tell me what it is like to live and think as a bisexual man. Has not the gay community learned enough of their own lessons trying to find their place of acceptace in the straight world and all of their conlusions on homosexuality that you cannot make a place for people that are different from you? Do you honestly think YOU as a GAY man are able to tell me what it is like to be a BISEXUAL MAN?

    Jean Claude you actually reach the point of offensive. It is such mindsets that truly have hindered me and the bisexual community, in our own personal growth... and once again it comes from the gay community. I find it incredibly strange that my straight friends seem to totally understand where I come from where so much of the gay community must fling out dogmatic slurs. I am convinced it is a political need to strengthen your own position.

    DO us all a favour and keep your mouth shut around Bi married men. They have enough challenegs without your crap.

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  5. With regards to the REAL point of the posting (which is a great one Cameron), I have also learned the power of “coming out.” For my wife and I this did NOT mean divorce.

    I often feel like I have done the process in reverse. I knew of my desires always. I faced them, talked about them and did the appropriate introspective work. Still I wasn’t “gay” enough to simply desire all that that world offered me. I did have desires for females.
    They were real and I wasn’t in denial.

    In my 20’s my life responded to the natural heterosexual desires in me. I met a beautiful girl, fell in love with her and married her. I TOLD her of my other side before we married so that she could understand who I am. As I aged... I have found the elements of my straight developed, grew and manifested with all of the blessings that are afforded that.
    Still there was a part of me that was unfulfilled. As I explored and delved deeper into my same sex needs, THESE DID NOT DIMINSH my opposite sex needs. It was NOT as though opening one door closed the other. It has not been an “either or” but rather an “and”!

    Yes surely there are some gay men that marry and then later realize they are truly gay. But I am convinced that an even larger percentage respond to their internal heterosexual needs (perhaps at the expense of their homosexual needs) only to find the need still there later in life.

    Responding to these needs later in life does NOT mean that you were and are in denial. It means that it is probably time to address yourself as a fuller being that is not as simply defined as the straight or gay world would like of us.

    If I were to offer any advice to other bi married men... it would be this. You are NOT necessarily in denial. Having desires for other men DOES NOT mean that you are a GAY man living in hiding. Coming out does NOT mean that you HAVE to leave your spouse and family setting. Frankly more and more there are options that are being openly explored in spite of the taunts from the straight and gay communities. Above all be STRONG enough to be who you are.

    Bi-gnetleman at: http://bimarriedandhonest.blogspot.com/

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  6. A MESSAGE FOR BI_GENTLEMAN:

    I respect your opinion. I gave mine too. If you don´t like it, then don´t read it.
    But don´t tell me to shut up, because I didn´t tell you to read my opinion.

    Being straight hasn´t got a negative stigma in our society. Being gay has. Since childhood we are taught gay is wrong, straight is right.
    As we are gay, we don´t wanna be perceived as wrong. So, we have to develop a way of handling with the fact that we are gay; but we want to be straight at the same time. Fact VS wish.
    So what to do? Bisexuality is the answer. I did it too, before coming out as gay.

    Of course, I am not going to tell you about how to live your life (and I am not interested either). But your offensive reaction means something. We only get angry because of fear. Fear of what we don´t like, what we don´t want to face. Fear of reality.

    And now, I won´t tell you to shut up. Why? Because I have nothing to fear.

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  7. Again you do what you tell others not to do. You tell us that we live in fear, because "thats the way YOU did it."

    Bud you come across like the ex smokers... they become anti smoker activists based on their own experiences and assume they have the answers for everyone else "because they were that way too."

    You may have been a gay man married and living in denial. You do NOT speak for Bisexual married men.

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  8. Bi_Gentleman:

    Again I keep seeing fear in your message. Fear of "you´re gay, but that doesn´t mean I am gay too". Ok, go on. You can keep calling yourself bisexual if you want. I don´t care about it. I don´t get angry about it.

    I give my opinion not only based on what I lived; but also in what I´ve seen in other men so far. There are several bloggers who also labelled themselves as bisexual. They got angry as hell if you dared to call them otherwise. And you know what? They finished accepting they are gay...

    I don´t write this to hurt you or other men. I do it to try to help (in a tough way, but help anyway). Why? Because my father is a gay in denial, I was a gay in denial; and I had a relationship with a married gay man in denial. And also I have gay friends who were also in denial.

    I know it is a process which takes time. I know it is hard.

    And I am also a non-smoker activist! ;-)

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    1. Wow, you had a relationship with a married gay in denial?? Did you know you were an accomplice in your partner's infidelity? Shame on you for being involved on that! Let me label you as dishonest. Do you like it? So that's what you are forever and ever. It's hard to assume and it takes time.

      You are so closeted in your gay world as any of the bi, ex-bi, gay, gay-married and whoever around this blog could be. So let's refer to what unites us rather than what divides us.

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  9. Glad you have your father, ex lover and friends all nailed... just like yourself.... Gay men in denial! Thank goodness that is all figured out.

    Guess its just a matter of time until I can learn to deny who I am and become what such would have me be in order to fit into their little world of understanding!!

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  10. Personally I do not think a person's sexuality is static. The labels try to make it sound as if it is static and hence fail. Granted most people will be near one extreme or another in their sexuality but some are not so fixed and they tend to wander about sexually. One can label them bisexual but that label still seems too static to me.

    Some may use the term bisexual to cover up the fact that they are gay in a mostly world that strives to pretend most are str8 but I know several bi guys who seem to fluxuate from period of more gay action to periods of more hetero action but that may just be because of the effect having a semi permanent partner causes. I doubt they lose their other urges when they are with a person of either sex.

    It is clear that gay people do not like bi people since they feel as pure hetero people feel that you must be one or the other. I think this is just narrow sighted thinking which causes a lot of problems in this world. People do not have to be with or against you in this world even if that means their sexuality. The fluid nature of sexuality is not an on/off switch or a switch stuck in one position only forever.

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  11. "For the typical out gay man, his sexuality defines him. His self-image, his day-to-day activities, his friends, his thoughts - all of those things are intimately and inexorably tied to his sexuality."

    This has not been my experience. My focus, my sense of self, my community connections, didn't get turned up-side down between the 10 years of marriage and the 15 years since. I remained active in a mainstream church for several years, I kept doing ordinary stuff with my kids when we were together. I dated, while being cautious and careful about bringing my partner and my kids together, in the same fashion that divorced straight parents do.

    The friendships that have mattered to me haven't been limited to gay or straight folks. It has often been easiest to connect with like-minded formerly married guys who you might describe as "straight-acting" (although I don't care for that term). It's not that they were trying to act in any specific way, it was just organic for them to be low-key, easy-going, maybe not traditionally masculine in every way, but comfortable in their own skin. (For that matter, I've also known a few wonderfully flashy, dramatic, and/or effeminate men who were 100% straight.)

    The generalization about gay men having highly gay-focused or highly sexualized lives bothers me because of the long history of people using it to try to hurt us. Anyone who seeks out folks who fit the stereotypes will probably find them. But, if you're more interested in family-friendly communities with a mix of gays and straights, or groups of gay men with well-rounded lives, they can be found as well.

    Take care...

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  12. Bi_gentleman:

    I never asked you to join our "little world of understanding". And I won´t.

    Time will tell...

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  14. I have to say that this has been a lively and heated debate.

    I believe that bisexual is a legitimate and distinct sexual orientation that many people deal with. I also know (not just believe) that many gay men label themselves bisexual as a way of acknowledging (even if just to themselves) they are not straight, but not committing to being gay. Speaking only for my own experience, I did not want to be gay. Gay was like Jack on "Will & Grace" I was not like that.

    Besides, I love my wife and I don't really care for Cher. So I could not possibly be gay. On the other hand I cannot stop ogling the hot guy working the produce department of the local grocery store. I would always take much longer picking out the perfect onion when he was stocking carrots. So I can't be straight. I must be bi. And bi is almost normal right?

    For me, and at least 2 other guys I know personally, "bisexual" was a lie we told ourselves because we could not bear to admit to ourselves were are gay. I don't know for sure, but my guess is for every true bisexual, there are 4 or 5 total homos, pretending to be bi because the just can't stomach being true to who they are. Gay.

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  15. Sexual intimacy with a person I find attractive - well, it transcends genders. Seriously. I don't give a damn what equipment someone has - or what size it is - because I find the whole person attractive.

    My long-term relationships have tended to be with women because the ones I have met have been better at working together to keep a long-term relationship going. My most serious relationship with another man foundered on the same shoals as my relationships with women: he wanted a white picket fence and 2.4 kids.

    Most porn does nothing for me. I don't know those people. I don't know how they smell, what they think, whether or not my raspberry pie would bring a smile to their face. Sure, I can tell you whether or not I find them attractive - but most of the women I have seen featured in porn are SO not my type!

    We don't have a choice: in Canada we can only marry one person at a time. So that means if marriage is going to be your big commitment, the bi man has to choose only one public face to his sexuality. But don't assume his marriage is either deceitful, closeted, or delusional. My wife and I shared a lover for quite some time, and he is still in my life as a friend. My wife is far more sexually and socially adventurous than I am, but the way our society works means I have more opportunity to be sexual without consequences.

    I have my playmates. She knows this, and has met some of them. She has had her playmates - including one who became a housemate. No big deal. We communicate, talk out what we are feeling, how we are reacting, and we always keep in mind that our relationships are about US and the people we choose to be intimate with; they are not about what other people think about us.

    I have my codes of ethics. I don't tell intimate details - because it's not a competition. I never complain about my spouse to my lover or vice versa - that would be bad form. And my wife comes first because she has shared 19 years with me, good and bad, and you can't expect me to throw away that kind of depth of commitment and learning just because someone else has perkier tits, chest hair, or is a functional she-male with everything I could want in one package.

    I crave balance in my life. When I am not having much sex with my wife, I am not craving much with anyone. When our sex life is terrific, I like the balance of having an ongoing thing with a guy too. (Weirdly enough, I am usually the top in all these situations. I don't seem to crave a top/bottom balance. The past couple of years when I have been dealing with the injured cock have seen me understand and appreciate the bottom role to a greater degree, but I am looking forward to returning to my former role.)

    I don't know what it's like for guys who come out AFTER they get married. I have known a few - and generally they have been so blinded by their own need that they have not treated any of their relationships well. Sometimes they completely negate those years of commitment from their spouse; sometimes they negate the love of the man who has awakened their emotions. It takes a man of extraordinary complexity and grace to manage the transition from closeted to out without doing a lot of damage to other people.

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  16. Jim:

    I totally agree with you!

    I love this sentence:

    "And bi is almost normal right?" That´s it! That´s the point!

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  17. I believe that bi-sexual does exist. However, regardless of whether one is gay or bi-sexual, once he/she commits to a relationship, if he/she seeks to have sexual relations or intimacy from another person, he/she is a cheat...no excuse. Justifying one's need/attraction to stray away from your marriage is not right. That makes him/her a CHEAT. A straight married man who has sex with another woman or man is a CHEAT. A gay man in a committed relationship who has sex with another woman or man is a CHEAT. A bi man who has sex with another woman or man is a CHEAT. Another thing I see often in these blogs that makes me laugh is that a number of the so-called bi personalities keep making generalized statements about gay men that are wrong, but when another person says something about bi that might be wrong, they explode. What's up with that?

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  18. Let me attempt to answer the question you asked me in your post. I was miserable in my marriage, and that was being reflected in my parenting skills. I found myself having less and less patience for my daughter. I was frequently short with her - and for the most ridiculous reasons. So it's hard for me to imaging how in my case getting divorced and coming out could be worse than continuing on the path i was on. Since I've come out, I've developed a new attitude. Things that once irritated me no longer do. Also - I think my wife is a more content person - since we're not at each others throats anymore.

    But if I thought that coming out and leaving my wife would have caused harm to my daughter - I wouldn't have done it.

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  19. I do believe bi-sexuals exist. They marry guys and have affairs with women and keep those affairs secret and deprive the women of any emotional affirmation. These dudes (now are they not all over the place?) are not afraid of being known that they are bisexual, they just get the women to answer their needs and sacrifice for them because...well, they do not let their sexuality define them. Surely everyone knows 75 examples of this pattern. Besides, these dudes often raise children with their man-mates, and who needs a sex-toy woman to traumatize their children. And stop calling these guys STRAIGHT--never mind they have not had sex with their man-mate for three years and take every chance to screw a "beetch". These guys are discreetly bi just to stabalize their lives--PREACHERS, WOMEN, STRAIGHTS AND OTHERS SHOULD NOT TELL THESE BISEXUAL DUDES WHO THEY ARE, they are NOT straight. AND, they are not afraid, shaking cowards. No they are not.
    While I am talking, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you can by from a 'bisexual' guy!

    N O T!!!!

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  20. This is completely selfish. Your are ruining a woman's life and leading her to live a lie that one day, when you grow a pair, will destroy her. You obviously only care about yourself and your image. I understand being gay can be an emotional struggle, but it doesn't justify jerking everyone else around so that YOU can feel ok. Staying married is not the NICE thing to do, it is the opposite. Screw all the men who do what you do.

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  21. I don't believe you're putting your kids first. Firstly, because you talk a lot about your ego. Secondly, kids need to learn tough truths in life. Don't you think when you tell them the truth when they are older, they'll feel that you've been a liar this whole time? You obviously have no respect or care for your wife and her life AT ALL. You are using your kids to justify what you are doing to your wife. You should have never married her in the first place!

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