You want everyone to come out. But why? Is it because you did it and you'll feel better? Misery loves company? I am married to a wonderful smart woman. I love her. Our kids are grown and still I will never tell her I have a gay side. I made that decision way before I met her. I wanted to as you say to the gay priests "do the right thing". Why should I rip it apart now. She deserves better. This is what I chose. My bed to lie in. Why can't I be respected for this?-- One of many you will never see.
Your Wife Already Knows Your Little Secret
Dear One of Many,
I do see you. I see you all the time and everywhere. Your children see you. And, I'd be willing to bet that your smart wife sees you too.
I have obviously touched a nerve in my attempt to rally all the closeted gay Catholic priests, and in my urging them to show themselves and to support the newly suspended Father Geoff. I referred to them as a "third army" in the battle raging within that church between the traditionalist bishops/pope and the free thinkers who want women, gay and married priests as well as celibate ones.
I am thinking of your letter in tandem with a painfully moving comment I received on that "third army" post on my Farmboyz blog:
Here I am, in the third army. I had bought the line, and been ordained, and surrendered my independence. In religious order vows, I have no savings, no retirement, and no recent economic track record. I have no health insurance, except that which is provided for me. If I left, I would be penniless, a couple of years shy of social security, with no hope of ever being economically viable. It is one thing to leave at 30. But, tell me, what should I and those like me do?
In your case, and his, a longterm decision was made that involved a deception. (Even if a person is never confronted about his sexual preference, subscription to a "Don't ask don't tell" way of life constitutes a sugar-coated deception. I know you won't like hearing that, but there is really no way to soften that fact.) Both of you have surely done many admirable things in the course of an inauthentic situation. You have probably treated the people in your lives with great care, but I think that in the long run, you may have short-changed them. I also would assure you that coming out does not wreck all that you have built. It may not even dismantle your marriage. As is the case with the "third army" of priests, there is a third army of married folks who have decided to keep the fact that one of them is gay entirely private, and those couples cannot be counted because they aren't talking.
I am going to keep to my premise that it is better to disclose what you quaintly call your "gay side". A priesthood or a marriage that is built on a weak foundation is not so good. As Dietrick Bonhoeffer said, "If you board the wrong train, it's no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction."
Let's say that you lost all the hair on your head at an early age. You were mortified by you baldness, so you took to wearing a baseball cap 24/7. Of course you had that cap on your head when you met your wife. She made it clear that she liked her men with thick wavy hair. Your courtship progressed and you never took off the cap when you were with her. On your wedding night, you ducked into the bathroom of your hotel room and put on a wig that you had stashed under the sink before you lowered the lights and got into bed with your new wife. Every time you made love to her over the years, you wore that wig. One night, when the two of you are in bed that wig falls off your head. You are horrified and distraught over the revelation of your smooth head, but your wife assures you that she already knows. She had it figured out on your second date. It didn't matter to her because she could see that you were a prince of a man, because you treated her with unfailing devotion, because you were a good father, because you made her the focus of your life.
Feeling a bit relaxed? Ready to sink into your golden years without the possibility of ever having the sex you really desire? Not so fast. I want you to consider the possibility that you could share with her your gay side. If she understood that your orientation is beyond your control, and if she was confident that you were not going to seek romance but only sex, she might even let you off the leash from time to time, and certainly that would be a benefit to coming out, would it not?
You might even get to the point of telling her your most private fantasies so that she could see that they are not about love but purely about sex. How threatened would she be if you told her the following:
"Honey, what I would like is to have my breathing alarmingly interrupted by an aubergine dick the length, width and density of a Louisville Slugger while a Cuban voice whispers 'Ai, Papi, take it.'"
Or, if you said,
"You know, honey, in summer, when he is wearing shorts and those sensible shoes, I would like the UPS man to ring the doorbell, tackle me, drag me inside , bind me with his package tape and use his box cutter with the embossed UPS logo to cut a wide opening in the seat of my pants and then mount me like a big brown dog. I would like a policeman (called by an observant and concerned neighbor) to break down the door, find us on the living room floor and decide to take turns with the UPS man."
"I would like to spend 48 hours in a cheap hotel room near the Jersey Turnpike with three young slender male red-headed orthodox rabbinical students who are crazed with the desire to surrender to me their 18 year old virginity together, in every way possible and repeatedly to exhaustion." (OK, so this last one might be more my fantasy than yours, but hey.)
Anyway, it is noteworthy that gay men in marriages may choose to come out just to their wives and enjoy the possibility that their wives may still love and keep them, whereas gay priests who come out to their congregation pay a huge price.
But you want me to address the fact that coming out late in life is extremely difficult and in some ways pointless and foolishly hurtful to those closest to you. I agree that it is extremely difficult but I do not agree that it is hurtful.
Men like you fear the bloodshed that goes with being truthful. You see coming out as a bloody mess but you do not understand that all surgery is bloody. All surgery involves the knife. Surgery is by nature messy but it is performed to restore the health of all concerned. The blood stops. The incision heals and life is better.
Unlike the priests of the third army, you can do this surgery at home. Talking to your wife about your gay side is like handing her the knife. Something tells me she won't use it to kill you.