Just recently my Accountability Partner, Mary Bryan, asked, “Why did you get married?” We both laughed, but underneath that question came the inspiration for this Blog.
Imagine having the people who love you the most, your parents, appear to be your greatest abusers. It’s not that they abused you physically or even emotionally, but nonetheless you felt abused. That’s how I felt as a little gay boy each time my parents ‘told’ me of the girl I would marry and the children I would have when I grew up.
They were relentless in their discourse about having me buy into the life that absolutely scared me to death. The part that frightened me the most was that I had no idea how to tell them I was a fag, a queer or a gearbox as my older brother described gays. It was tough to find any room to tell them my truth.
So instead of telling them my truth, I made up a story. The story was very simple. If I ever told them the truth, they wouldn’t love me. On top of that the Catholic Church would put a permanent hold on my reserved seat, in First Class, to hell and there would be no place for me, as gay, amongst a family of high performance and professional athletes. I learned silence was golden; actually deadly.
On July 14, 1984, my wedding day, I walked down the aisle of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary. What straight man do you know walks down the aisle at his wedding? I’m sure some guests muttered, “Is he gay?” No one said a word to me.
There’s a part of me that for the longest time did not have a clue why I married Wendy. In fact, even after not seeing her for a year, having come out to her I still was not clear why I created such heartache for myself and most certainly for Wendy.
As I spoke to a therapist one day, attempting to manage the loss of my entire life because I spoke the truth and came out, it suddenly dawned on me why I got married. The funny thing is that there was more than one reason.
Firstly, I loved Wendy. She was my best friend. Many people marry for love. Secondly, I could suddenly see the enormous heterosexist pressure that existed to buy into the ‘dream life’. The wife and kids, the white picket fence, the station wagon and the dog. Why would someone not want that? Plus, the myth was that it would make me happy.
The real reason for this gay man to get married was to escape the insanity of his family. Wendy would be my road to freedom; my ticket to loving someone who was not an addict, dysfunctional, co-dependent, or someone who would not bring a full set of luggage to my life and insist that I take care of it.
At the time I had no idea that was the reason. If there was an avenue for me to safely explore my sexuality, perhaps a less pervasive sense of heterosexism, I might not have used Wendy as my ticket to freedom. It was wrong for me to have done what I did, but at the time it was the best thing I could do. Plus, it is one of the biggest and best lessons I have learned in my life
We were amazing together. She was my best friend, and my most powerful teacher. I loved her with all my heart; all my gay heart. I hurt her in ways I will never be able to comprehend. I was so willing to hide who I was. I lied in front of God, my family and friends, my future wife. But I can now see the wisdom; the gold in the dark.
I did say, “Till death do us part”. I didn’t realize the death I was going to experience was the death of my false self, my ‘straight’ self, but that’s what died. So in a way, perhaps through justification, we did part after that part of me died.
What I find almost ironic is that I’ve never shared this realization with Wendy. I’ve never thanked her for helping me to set myself free from my family. She has never heard what she taught me; what gifts have flowed in my life because of her presence.
We did gather together one year after I shared with her that I was gay. We both asked for forgiveness. We both freely gave forgiveness. Our hearts healed from the place of love that joined us. To this day I often hear myself saying, out loud, “I love you, Wendell.” Her heart hears mine.
I did ask her if she ever had a clue that I was gay. She laughed. I loved her laughter. After settling down she said, “How could I? You baked bread, cleaned the house, you treated me with such respect. Plus, all my girlfriends were jealous because you were so handsome.” I giggled, no doubt a gay giggle, and said, “I’ll take that as a no.”
There is no straight (pardon the pun) answer why gay men get married. Yet as long as language does not include ‘partner’, ‘loved one’, ‘a special someone’, and continues to espouse opposite gender attraction as the norm, our children may not be able to find themselves in that world.
Wendy did tell me her Mom was not surprised I was gay and shared the ‘sooner of later’ ultimatum Lyn had given me. I smiled and thought from a gay man’s vantage point, Moms always know.