family


Well, it’s been a while again since I’ve posted.

Lots has happened since June/July, when I last was posting regularly. I hope to get to detail some of it in the coming weeks.

The big things include:

  • a conversation with a pastor, which I alluded to in my last post
  • my wife’s conversations with her sister-in-law and brother about my sexual orientation
  • another conversation with John from New Direction
  • attending a youth event with my 12 year old daughter at which Brian Pengelly was speaking
  • being challenged by family members for reading The Audacity of Hope who seem to think reading anything by that mega-abortionist Barack Obama is a sin

Of course, the other big thing is our plans to move to Australia or visit for nine months. (I guess nine months is a time period pregnant with possibilities!) My wife is still not excited about moving to another continent with her gay husband who a year ago was asking her for a divorce. I can’t blame her. So, we go for nine months, and next July we’ll make a decision. In the meantime, we’ll be able to attend my niece’s wedding there. And there’s also the high probability that we’ll attend my sister’s funeral, unless a miracle happens.

Having written this, I guess it would be no surprise to you to hear that things are tense around here. We wait, and we wait. We are waiting for a visa for my wife so she can work while we’re in Australia. We wait for news about my sister’s health. We’re waiting for news about her first granddaughter, whose birth due date was now three days ago. We wait for the results of the Canadian election on October 14th (This is also significant because I’m working for Elections Canada at the moment… on the 14th I’ll be out of a job.) The economic news does nothing to help the atmosphere either (although I am hoping that lower commodity prices might translate into lower airfares!)

So, that’s it for now. It’s hard to trust God right now. Harder than ever. My wife (an ordained minister) is really struggling with what she believes. I’m struggling with all sorts of doubts and temptations, too. I must say that leaving her for a relationship with a man is the farthest thing from my mind right now. We need each other, and our kids need us too.

Pray for me, if you can.

And I’ll try to be “back” soon.

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It’s been way too long since I’ve posted. The summer has been busy, and I’ve had lots of conversations both with my wife and others on this issue of sexuality. I’ve been challenged to take down this blog… I’m reluctant to do that, though. I feel like this blog has contributed greatly to my processing on this journey, and I believe it can help other men and women on similar paths. It also stands as a reminder for myself of where I have been, what changes have taken place in my thinking, what has challenged me. If this storm ever settles, I don’t want to forget what it was like to be in the middle of it. I want others to know that it is okay to be in this storm.

 

Why is it okay to be in this storm? Firstly, because there is nothing wrong with questioning what I believe. There is nothing wrong with speaking the truth about what I feel and experience on a daily basis. Whatever the outcome, in many ways I believe that this storm has been the right place for me to be.

 

It has been hard, oh so hard, on my wife and on our relationship. But I believe that ultimately this is good too. I feel like I no longer need to hide the struggles I go through as a gay man married to a straight woman, and one seeking to do it in the most honest and faithful way possible. I ache some days over the pain she is experiencing, but I know that in the end there will be good that comes out of it. And I feel no guilt over it, because I’ve only resolved to be honest with myself and with my wife. I also believe that eventually my children will understand that, just as it is important to know and understand what one believes and why, there will come times when the experiences of life will severely challenge those beliefs. They need to know that it is okay – healthy, in fact – to be honest about their feelings, and it is okay to wonder about the nature of truth and how we find it. I don’t want my journey and my struggle to be a secret known only by myself and a few close friends. I often think that my journey would have been easier had I known some of the struggles my father and grandfathers had gone through. Maybe knowing about my experiences and struggles will help my children on their sojourns here.

 

Why have I been encouraged to quit this blog? Well, for starters there have been some things on here that my wife may not appreciate the whole world knowing. For that reason, I may go back and edit or hide some of the more personal posts. Secondly, there are also some posts that contain links to other sites that do contain some porn or other material that I do not wish to be associated with. These links were made to illustrate the different paths individuals choose to take on their journeys with same-sex attraction. I will remove some of these links, not for the sake of censorship – everybody has the right to express their views, their loves, themselves – but out of deference and respect for the men and women in my life who are journeying most closely with me through this storm.

 

I have done a lot of reading over recent weeks, and I hope in the coming weeks to post more about what I have read.

 

In the meantime, let me recommend to you D.S. Reade’s memoir, Superheroes, Saviors, and Sinners Without Secrets. While our stories are vastly different, I also find I have much in common with David Reade, and there are parts of this book I think I could have written myself.

 

 

 

Fathers’ Day happened to also be our 17th Anniversary. I guess we kind of avoided celebrating. It helped to have other things to focus on, like going to work, going to church, and then having to take one of my kids to emergency after a minor accident.

 

It’s days like these that make me wonder what the future really holds … am I really on the right path? … will it really be easier when I am “out” to everyone? … life was so much easier when I was in denial … or was it?

I have written the following lengthy comments in response to Jay’s latest post, and thought it would be useful to post if here as well.

Jay,

When I started work on my MA in psychology, the first paper I wrote was on the etiology (causes and development) of homosexuality. I think doing this research was one of the things that eventually led me to give up on my quest to become straight.

No one really has any idea what causes homosexuality. As with most psychological phenomena, research shows that BOTH environmental factors (nurture) AND biological factors (nature) influence the development of homosexuality. Most research also suggests that it is fixed in early childhood, and that it is more or less immutable (cannot be changed).

For me, the most interesting research into whether it is environmental or biological has been work with twins. A well-known longitudinal twin study looked at twins separated at birth. If one twin was gay, there was a 52% chance that the other twin was gay. Since in the general population, most research suggests that less than 5% of men are gay, the chances then of both twins becoming gay because of environmental factors should be 5% of 5% – or 1 in 400. Therefore, this was pretty strong evidence for biological factors causing homosexuality. Of course, the question of the other 48% of twins where one is gay and one is straight is still an important question. Obviously there is something going in the environment as well as in biology. Because of this, many people have compared homosexuality to alcoholism. Alcoholism runs in families, and has been shown to be influenced by genetics. However, some people with the gene that would make them likely to become alcoholics do not become alcoholics: there have been environmental (familial, societal, or religious) influences that stop them from becoming alcoholics. A similar thing is probably going in with homosexuality. I say this guardedly, for a couple of reasons: (1) There really is no substantial evidence of a “gay gene,” so the comparison to alcoholism breaks down right there. Most current researchers claiming a biological cause for homosexuality in humans believe it will be found in a hormonal process that takes place in the womb. (2) Psychological research has repeatedly run into dead ends when trying to identify the environmental factors that contribute to homosexuality. It is popular among ex-gay Christian ministries to talk about an absent father and domineering mother (for gay men), or an inadequate relationship with the same-sex parent, or childhood sexual abuse (all seen as types of emotional trauma) as causes of homosexuality. However, empirical research in these areas has proved inconclusive.

Of course, there have been many Christians who claim to have been healed of homosexuality. Their journeys have been long and difficult, even though they say it has been worth it. But their motivating factors have been fear of displeasing God, fear of displeasing their families, and possibly even fear of going to hell. (I guess I could put this in more positive terms: their motivating factors have been a desire to please God and their families, and their goal of going to heaven.) I understand it in terms of repentance – repentance meaning, literally, “changing your mind.” So, when you change your mind about your sexuality, you become straight. This seems to be another way of saying “fake it ‘til you make it.” I tried to do this until it became untenable to fake it anymore. As much as I believed God wanted me to be straight, I couldn’t make myself think that I was when my desires towards men were so powerful. However, from stories I have heard, some individuals have been able to convince themselves that their homosexual desires are evil, and that thinking that they are gay is a lie from the devil, and that the truth is that God made us all straight. They have repented, or “changed their minds.” And every time they inadvertently find themselves attracted sexually to someone of their own gender, they remind themselves of God’s decree against homosexual behaviour, and of the “truth” that they are straight, and somehow succeed in ignoring or having victory over the attraction/temptation. To me, this is simply being dishonest with one’s self, and I have decided I cannot live like this any more.

Sorry for how academic this comment is sounding, but your post struck a chord with me and I feel I need to be detailed about how empirical (scientific) research has helped me work through these questions.

The other issue for me was that none of the environmental factors really applied. While my father was not perfect, we had a good relationship most of my life. I never experienced abuse of any kind. My mother was/is strong emotionally, but I could never describe her as domineering. The model just didn’t fit for me.

Jay, I have been where you are at. You want to be a faithful, loving husband and father. You want to experience the full pleasure of heterosex. You want it to be satisfying for you, because that would make your life and the decisions you face so much easier. I feel the same way. If you want it “bad enough”, you might be able to do it. But there are many stories out there of many who have tried (for example, Peterson Toscano, Anthony Venn-Brown, Mel White) and eventually gave up in order to keep their sanity and self-respect.

That being said, I also want to say that you are in a good place. You are being honest, you are being true to your marriage vows. You are choosing to live in a way that seems right to you, in spite of your sexual desires. These are important and honourable decisions you have made – I have made similar ones, for similar reasons. But I find that the longer I live accepting myself as a gay man, the more I come to realize that my current situation must change. And ultimately I get to decide how to change it. Of course, our wives could make some decisions that force us to make some changes sooner than we might wish; we will still have choices to make if and when that happens.

Keep living each day with integrity, brother, and one day you will know what you need to do, whether it’s seeking to change your orientation or to embrace it.

This weekend has been a difficult one. We are planning on going to Australia in October – my sister has liver cancer, and I am simply homesick. I get SAD during these Canadian winters… I also think there are better work opportunities for me there.

 

Of course, this is really hard for my wife, who does not want to leave her home, her family, to go to the other side of the world to live with her gay husband who can’t make up his mind what he wants most of all. She has agreed to go for nine months on a trial basis, so we are packing up the house, and will be back in Ontario in the summer of 2009.

 

So, Friday evening we had a big blow-up. I guess I haven’t been taking much leadership in the family to get ready, and I kind of expected my wife to happily work on sorting through the 40-years-worth of stuff she has collected… at one point I “lost it” and threw the hand-held electronic Sudoku game I had been playing at her. I am extremely ashamed to admit this… after all, I am a Christian, a committed husband and father, and I am a counsellor with an agency whose goal is to end men’s violence against women. I really am more messed up than I thought.

 

Of course, this experience has left me shaken. I really didn’t think I had that in me. I thought I was the epitome of a self-controlled man (well, not counting all the times I acted out sexually in the past, of course). Should I take this as a cue that this relationship really is over? Should I take it as a cue to do some serious reconsiderations of my values and my choices? I thought of all the things I might have said to a man who was sent to me for counselling after he assaulted his wife. Wow. I think I would be telling this guy that he needs to consider if the stress of living in a straight marriage was too much for him. That taking some “time-out” from the relationship might be useful. That he needs to find other ways to express himself, than resorting to violence. That it was good that he was getting help the first time this has happened. I guess I need to talk to my boss… and then I worry if that would put my job at risk…

 

That night, while at my other night job, I was able to speak to ME on the phone. He helped me at least figure out a plan to work towards getting my family to Australia, without expecting my wife to take the major responsibility towards it. After all, it really is something I want to do, not her. So for now, we are still working towards that plan.

 

I pray for God to help me be the man I ought to be.

 

And I can feel a few more posts coming on!

 

I have been reading Amity Pierce Buxton’s The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families.

 

Amity Buxton’s first husband came out in 1983, and she has since devoted much of her life and career to doing research and helping the straight spouses and children of gay men and lesbians come to terms with their situation.

 

I really like the way the book is set up. Each section starts with personal stories about specific families, which is followed with information and practical help for dealing with the issues raised. The sections cover the experiences of the gay spouses, the experiences of the straight spouses, the experiences of the children, challenges to traditional marriage styles, and dealing with the deception and the feeling of having lived a lie.

 

It’s hard to say who this book is designed for – I have found it helpful in coming to terms with what my coming out my mean for my children, and understanding the feelings my wife is currently going through. However, it seems to be designed more for the spouses and adult children of gays and lesbians, and for counselling professionals who might be working with them. Having said that, I think this book might instill more fear into many spouses and children than it would courage. It is very realistic, and the personal stories are very emotionally raw. From the gay husband whose wife and children totally reject him because of their fundamentalist religious beliefs, the wife whose gay husband becomes physically abusive towards their children while suing for custody after he leaves, to the children who talk about the bullying they experience when their whole community finds out that dad is gay, this book leaves little to the imagination.

 

While the forthrightness of this book has meant that it has taken me some time to get through it, I recommend it for the following reasons:

·        This book is totally accepting of any sexual orientation. While painful stories are told, the blame for the pain is placed where it belongs. Sometimes that is on the coming-out parent/spouse, where he or she has been abusive or deceptive. Sometimes it’s on the homophobic attitudes that prevail in our communities and churches. Hence, this book both affirms my sexuality and makes me soberly consider how to be respectful and honest as I work towards living a life of authenticity.

·        This book has helped me consider some of the reactions my children may have when I come out to them. It’s helped me realized that ‘sooner’ is better than ‘later’. But it’s helped me think about how it can be done gently.

·        This book has helped me understand and consider the feelings my wife is going through as she begins to stop denying the fact that she is married to a gay man (not that I feel any better equipped to support her!).

·        This book has helped me understand the source of much of the homophobia in our society. LBGT men and women have been very deceptive (sometimes for good reason), but that very deceptiveness leads others to distrust us. They see the pain that happens to others when we come out, and then want to blame us for causing that pain.

 

On the negative side, this book has increased my fears about coming out, and the impact that will have on my children. So far, I am only out to close family members and church friends, and some of my professional colleagues. This has been affirming enough to reduce my fears about coming-out to others. But I realize that my wife and my children will their own coming-out to do, as they tell others about their spouse/dad. They will need my support if I make them go through this process.

 

This book was first published in 1991. I wonder, if a similar book were written to do, would the stories be much different? I think our society is much more accepting of homosexuality today than it was then, and the stories of spouses coming out in the current decade would likely be different than those of the twenty years ago. Nonetheless, this book is strongly recommended for men and women who need to be prepared for what coming-out means for their families.

What do I want?

That hardly seems the right question… but it is.

I am tempted to go on tangents. Tangents that take me away from this question, but eventually back again.

Here are some tangents:

Freedom:

  • What did Paul really mean when he said “all things are permissible…”?
  • Discuss freedom in terms of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics.
  • I really do believe that we are free. Salvation is by grace, through faith. Period. No lifestyle choices of mine can nullify that fact.
  • (Ward Schumaker, from http://www.illustrationfriday.com/interviews/wardschumaker.php)
  • When we are free, we have lots of choices. We get to decide how we shall live.

The nature of the debate:

  • Indeed, the “just war” analogy used by Craig Nessan seems to be appropriate for the homosexuality debate. The church can, if we are willing, agree to disagree on this.
  • The nature of the authority of the Bible is important… the only argument conservatives have going for them is their interpretation of the Bible.

Responsibility:

  • What does it mean to take responsibility as a father? As a husband?
  • For my own choices?
  • For my sexual orientation?

Change:

  • To what extent am I responsible for change?
  • How do I co-labour with Christ towards this end?
  • I really do not believe change is possible. (Is that a “sin” of unbelief?) My sexual orientation was not a choice. It is an intrinsic part of who I am.

So, now that I have those tangents out of the way, what was the question? Oh yes, what do I want?

1. I want to embrace who I am. I want to be able to pursue a fulfilling life as a gay man. What would that look like? Having the freedom to seek out a man to be my partner in life – sexually, spiritually, emotionally. To choose to be faithful to that one man, together to demonstrate the love and grace of God to a world in turmoil.

2. I want my family, and I want to be faithful. To my wife, to the vows we made. I want a “happy home.”

I don’t want to be seen to be letting my wife down, to be letting my children down, to be letting my family down. I don’t want to be seen as abandoning my faith, or abandoning orthodoxy. But really, should I care about how I am seen by others? Or am I really saying, should I care about how I am seen by God?

3. Most of all, I don’t want to abandon my faith:

I feel I’m not ready to decide which way to go. Even though in some ways it is now impossible to go back to being the happy family we once thought we were. Is there really a way to remove this elephant from under our rug?

It has been dangerous to come to this place of loving and accepting myself. I hope the journey through this storm will prove worthwhile.

 

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