Monday, November 15, 2010

My Gay Identity: Betrayal and Abandonment of Self

This is one of the most important posts I have written since starting my blog.  I have had another major realization this past week that I think will ultimately be life-changing. 

About a week ago, I wrote that “coming out” (to the extent I have) had helped me to realize that my identity has been fragmented for a very long time.  I have sensed that this fragmentation has been caused by several factors, among which were joining the church and getting married. 

In that post, I included passages from e-mails that I had recently received from my sister, describing how she felt I changed when I joined the church.  In a follow-up e-mail, my sister wrote even more poignantly and directly about her perception of what happened to me at that time:

Losing you [when you joined the church] was like a guillotine blade that beheaded the loving richness I had in my life.  [After you joined the church] I saw you withdraw from life. The relationship between your withdrawal from life and your involvement in the church appeared to be proportionally related: the more you became fervent about the church, the more withdrawn and less talkative and sadder you became.

It was surely due to the instinct for survival that you beheaded your true self, or tucked him away under the folds of your memory and heart. In order to survive and achieve a happy life that the church promised to be yours after so much trauma, guilt, shame and lack of love [in my childhood and youth], you had to get rid of your Self. As you couldn't actually kill that self, you had to pretend that it never existed.

My sister’s very astute perceptions validated very strongly what I already knew.  I sensed this even while on my mission.  But this realization was locked away a long time ago and frankly took a back seat to what I want to write about today.  For, the realization that came to me this past week concerned not what joining the church had done to my sense of self, but rather the consequences that flowed from my decision to reject my gayness and abandon much of my old self when I got married. 

I use the term “reject” deliberately.  It was – paradoxically enough – while on my mission that, for the first time in my life, I came the closest to truly accepting my gay identity and choosing to live life as a gay man.  I also felt that, toward the end of my mission, I was starting to recover some of who I was before I joined the church.

Then I came home and embarked upon an extremely tumultuous “courtship” with the woman who became my wife.  One of the reasons for the tumult was my struggle over what to do with my life:  gay or straight; active Mormon or leave the church; married or not married?

Ultimately, I made my choice:  heterosexual; married; Mormon.  I knew I was gay; my wife knew (before our wedding) of my “struggles” involving same sex attraction.  However, in getting married (and buying into everything that went along with that) I felt that I was making the “righteous” choice, i.e., the choice sanctioned by God and his church.  I would get married because it was the “right thing to do”; and, similarly, I felt I could reject my gayness and repress any homosexual inclinations because that, too, was the “right” thing to do.  I had decided that I wanted to, and could be able to, function as a righteous heterosexual priesthood holder should.

I did not then realize the toll that this choice would exact upon me and – ultimately – upon my wife as well as my children. 

I use the word “toll” deliberately, in the sense of one of its definitions:  “a grievous or ruinous price.”  Only now, in hindsight and after finally accepting who I am, am I beginning to understand the nature and extent of this price – the price I paid to deny and betray my true sexual identity, and the price I paid upon abandoning many aspects of my identity. 

In turning away from my true sexual identity, I think – subconsciously – that my gay self felt that it had been betrayed.  It had emerged to some degree on my mission, but now it was to be repressed and discarded, not only temporarily, but forever.   But one cannot deny the essence of who one is and remain healthy, mentally, emotionally and even physically.  Perhaps for a time; but not, I have learned, in the long run ... 

(To be continued …)


  1. Thanks, once again, for sharing yet more aspects of your story. My situation parallels your own. I feel validated in reading this portion and realizing that you and I and many other married, Mormon fathers who are gay or bisexual share similar paths.

    Some of us have intact marriages, some do not. Some of those marriages are happy, others are not. Some of the children from these unions are well-adjusted, high functioning individuals, some are not. Some of us have strong, traditional testimonies of the truth of the gospel, some of us take a different approach to what we believe to be true and false.

    This is an important story to document. Even given a very conservative estimate of only 1% of Mormon males who are gay, our story is shared by tens of thousands of us. Thank you for your example in beginning to do so, and for the inspiration for others of us to speak up and tell the truth about our challenges and successes and our tears of frustration and gratitude.

  2. Such a familiar note of truth. I married under similar circumstances although I didn't realize at the time I got married that I was as gay as I am. I was many years after I got married that I put it all together. Sounds kind of dumb now.

    When I did comeout to myself I was too old, it seemed, to follow a new path. It would hurt too many people. I am committed to my marriage of over 30 years. There isn't a day (or night)that goes by that I don't think about the special situation that I am in.

    I tried to explain it to my wife a few years ago but I could quickly see that it was going to create a a real problem so I just dropped it. I just keep it all to myself and sometimes I feel like I am going to burst. I wish it were different but it isn't.

    At this point in my life it isn't worth the uproar it would cause to come out to anyone else.

    Thanks for sharing your feelings with us....Adon

  3. I can only commend your honesty and sharing. Thank you.

    All I can say is that each individual is exactly that: individual and unique. Each person on this world deserves equal treatment and respect, beginning with one's self.

    We are all made up of threads that weave our intricate nature. Sexuality is one big part of that weave as are memories, values, "religion" and philosophy. They all interact and define our weave. We may have frays that are threads we don't include in the weave. But don't let those threads unravel and get lost along the way. Take the time to reintegrate them to create a new pattern. Without those threads, the weave will never be representative of you with the colors, textures and patterns you choose that ALL represent your beautiful diversity.

    ( ) hugs,

  4. I have been to Dachau, where the sign "Arbeit macht frei" stands. I do not much like the slant put here that Mormon "work makes one free"- it feels like the Mormons are being compared to the Nazis. Is this what you meant? I have VERY strong feelings about what the Nazis did- to people whom I care greatly for. I am hoping you can clarify for me what you meant? Perhaps I misinterpreted what you meant by what you posted. Thanks.

  5. recommend reading Wyatt's blog

    and especially this interview of Wyatt:

  6. To "this blog author": I knew that using this picture would be controversial to some and possibly offensive to some. I chose to use it because it illustrates the point I was trying to make, which you must understand is personal to me. I am not making any commentary comparing Mormons to Nazis. What I am saying is that the "path" (which consists of a lot of work) is intended to make one free. However, in my case, it ended up, in a sense, imprisoning me and making it that much more difficult for me to find and live my identity. Again, this is a very personal point, as is everything I write, and any wider interpretation is not intended.

  7. Thank you for explaining this. I hoped I had interpreted your use of that picture incorrectly, and it seems that I did. Thank you for giving me a clearer view of what it was you meant.

    Happy night. :)