Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Gay Identity: Betrayal and Abandonment of Self – Part 2

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 over an extended period of time.

Though consciously I felt like I was willingly making this choice, I have only recently begun to realize how deeply that betrayal of my gay self affected me subconsciously.   It created a tension in the very core of my being that gradually built up resentment and anger, continually being added to and hardening like the dome on a volcano.  In retrospect, I now clearly see the presence of constant pressure, which made day-to-day life a challenge, difficult, frustrating, void of happiness, full of stress.  This pressure would also build up and erupt from time to time, expressing itself in anger that, combined with the after-effects of child abuse, made for a toxic mix.

The situation might have been different if I had not been on the “priesthood path” – if there had not this constant pressure to be a model husband, a model father, a model provider, and a model priesthood leader, i.e., if I had had just a little more freedom to be me.   But I was determined to do everything expected of me, everything asked of me, in order to prove (to myself, ironically) that I could overcome my “same sex attraction” and be a “faithful” “worthy” priesthood holder, a successful Mormon husband and father.  I became my own worst enemy.

As it was, my rejection of my gayness was virtually complete and total as I steered clear of any “distractions” (i.e., any situation that would in the remotest degree entice or tempt me to indulge to the slightest extent my gay self).  Meanwhile, the subconscious pressure created by the truly existential bind I had put myself in manifested itself in migraine headaches, irritability and a general sense of deep unhappiness.

However, in addition to this “existential bind” resulting from a betrayal of my gay self, I now see that I also abandoned many other aspects of my identity at the time of my marriage.  Because I felt the need to commit myself heart and soul to the marriage, I felt that I not only needed to repress the gay me, but I also had to abandon many other aspects of what had been my identity. 

Why?  Because the old me – the one who loved music, drama, art, literature, history – was tainted with homosexuality.  The presence of the old me would only have been an embarrassment; he would have been a third wheel in our marriage, out of place in the “new order of things.”

How a third wheel?  Well, letting go of my old identity, I embraced a new one.  My wife and I really have very few things in common; our interests are quite different, even divergent.  The one thing we had in common when we got married was a belief that we were “supposed” to get married to each other, along with a belief that as long as we remained faithful in the church, everything would work out. 

Beyond this, however, we had virtually no common interests.  Over time, I simply adopted or adapted her interests as my own.  I listened to the kind of music she wanted to listen to; we did the things she wanted to do; we socialized primarily with her family, etc., etc.  We never went to movies, we never went to the theatre, we never went to concerts; what held us together and united us was our growing family, and all our time, attention and effort went into that family (i.e., what time and attention was already taken up with my career and church responsibilities).

The situation might have been different had my wife been interested in the same things I was, but she was not.  If I had not been determined to do practically whatever it took to make my marriage a success (partly because of my parents’ failed marriage, but also to “overcome” the “gay factor”), if I had not had the specter of my homosexuality always in the background, threatening to “out” me and destroy my celestial marriage (perhaps it was my gay self, seeking revenge), then I never would have subjected myself to this abandonment of my old self.

I now realize the toll that this abandonment exacted.  Subconsciously, it created another huge conflict that only added to the conflict I felt after betraying my gay self. 

Looking back on it, I can see how much I subconsciously raged against this abandonment.  I had abandoned my “core,” but yet I raged against feeling that I had to adopt someone else’s core as my own.  I raged against feeling like I had to be a certain way in order to be accepted, to be true to the path I had chosen.  Yet I had to be accepted in order to fulfill the path I had chosen.  It was a hopeless conflict that played itself out day after day, month after month, year after year, adding to my sense of unhappiness, alienation and lack of fulfillment, exacting a terrible toll.

Let me state plainly that I am not blaming my wife for any of this.  No.  This was my problem, my fault.  And I am not prepared to say that getting married was a mistake, nor am I saying that my marriage has been all bad; far from it.  But, in terms of my identity, my psyche and, as a result, the mental and emotional health of me and my family and children – in terms of all this, my decision to get married took a dreadful toll.

So, where do I go from here?  I begin.  I began by deciding to affirm my sexual identity instead of continuing to try to repress and deny it.  Perhaps I also need to apologize to my gay self for betraying it those years ago. 

I then began the process of trying to recover my identity – the person I was before my marriage (and then the person I was before I joined the church, and then the person I was or might have been, but for the abuse I suffered as a child).  I have started, beginning with something as simple as compiling a list of my favorite movies.  This may seem silly.  But it has been instructive, for as I have gone back and watched movies that were favorites of mine, I have had to do so alone; my wife is not interested in the movies I enjoy.  But rather than fear the fact that I am different from her, I have embraced and affirmed this difference; and this has been empowering.  Rather than fear a growing space between us as I separate and affirm myself, I accept this as healthy and, ultimately, inevitable.

A couple of nights ago, I went out to the video store to rent a movie for my son.  On the way back, I decided to call my sister.  I pulled over to the side of the road.  It was dark, and the lights of the valley spread out before me below.  We talked of what I have written here.  We both cried. 

Near the end of the conversation, she told me that she wished she was closer so that she could be with me, so that I wouldn’t have to be alone.  I responded without thinking:  “I am not alone.  I have my old self here with me now; he is with me.”  I then realized what I had said, and tears of happiness and hope coursed down my cheeks.


  1. How I love reading your blog! Thank you for sharing these depths of your heart and soul.

    The first thing that struck me from your blog is the existential bind. Being caught in what Sartre coined as existentialism is what he believed an inevitable human fate. I am going to attempt to explain this as simply as I can without, hopefully, losing you to boredom or "what in the ---- is this person talking about!"

    The tension results from varying levels of "self" that varied due to the tension between one's self and the Other: the self for one's self, the self inside one's self and the self for the Other. The two inner selves are interesting here to consider because he believed that one was the one that came into this natural world at birth (l'être en soi) and that the other self (l'être pour soi) is one that develops for one's self throughout the process of existence, which is very important to understand that life is a process here as is the human. In French, as you may know, there is a difference between 'être' and étant: it is preferable to see one's self as étant: continually in the process of becoming.

    Ok, so two inner selves: one "original" self and one that evolves for one's self to survive in life.

    Then, there is the self for others. This self develops because of expectations from the outer world: how they want to see us, how they want us to act, etc.

    Being caught in this bind, can be like being torn on a medieval torture contraption: being torn, literally, in 3 different directions!

    How to integrate these? This is what you are asking yourself now.

    I think that the key here is to know that they CAN be integrated. Your "selves" do not have to live compartmentalized. They can coexist, perhaps quite awkwardly at the beginning and not harmoniously, but they, hopefully, will soon find a way to harmoniously relate. I don't want to say "learn" because it can be an organic process if the selves are forgiving and can trust each other: i.e.,
    - your gay self will know that you will take care of him/her,
    - your self that has learned to function privately between the folds and tensions of your inner desires and doubts and the outside world
    - and finally the self for the outside world can be open and listen to the other two.

    If they can establish a healthy relationship and not dysfunctional based on acceptance, trust, freedom and all the other values that you hold, then you will be able to weave a harmonious, integrated self who will not need to make such leaps and bounds when interacting with the outside world and your inner world. There will always be some opaqueness, our lives are private, but there isn't friction or disconnects between the selves or interactions.

    I hope that my rambling hasn't bored you or taken you on a dizzying philosophical journey!

    On a last and funny note: Do you know who is in the first picture on your blog? Chase! from my favorite series: House! He is beautiful and Australian!

    Wishing you a beautiful day, ( )

  2. and finally:

    Writing this helps me along my own process of dealing with disjointedness and trauma that has affected my life. I see that by associating these experiences into myself as part of me, I no longer feel dissociated from memories or my self. Most importantly, my greatest dilemma was living in the now and thinking about the future. I was totally in anguish about the future: which me would win? It paralysed me. I now make my decisions for my "now" and feel myself open up and feel happiness like never before. I am living my present and am accepting of my past. My past no longer seems to haunt me anymore. It's not a shadow or a twin following me around, but it is part of me and no longer preoccupies me or bothers my existence.

    I still don't know where I will end up, but I'm not so worried about that anymore because I know that if I am this fulfilled and happy now then I will make decisions that will be harmonious with who I AM and who I AM BECOMING.

  3. I also married someone who does not have many of the same tastes as I do AND who always felt compelled to inform me about what he liked and disliked. It has taken years, but I have carved out a place in my life for classical and country music, I go to the theatre occassionally by myself or with kids or friends, and, by golly I have finally convinced him to shut up about how HE doesn't like chocolate ice cream (why on earth when he has a non-chocoate choice do any of the rest of us, have to hear over and over about his personal preference-must we agree with him?).

    Good for you, for taking back your interests! Marriage does not have to submerge a person's separate identity and should be more of a blending and assortment of the separate parts. I wonder if there are things she feels that she gave up and whether she would like to get them back? Or worse, yet, if she was doing any of the things she does because she thinks its really expected of her, for example, is she really a closet metal fan?

  4. You wrote: "I simply adopted or adapted her interests as my own. I listened to the kind of music she wanted to listen to; we did the things she wanted to do; we socialized primarily with her family, etc., etc. We never went to movies, we never went to the theatre, we never went to concerts"

    Wow, this has resonated with me as I went through the same exact thing, all in the name of keeping the peace and working on my marriage but this brought nothing but resentment down the years and those quirky differences that brought us together at first became the biggest wedge once we started realizing that we had nothing in common and held no glue to keep us together in the long run...

  5. Libellule - Thanks for your "dissertation." :) A lot to think about and digest. I appreciate you taking the time and mental effort to post such a comment!

    Quiet Song - I didn't realize there was anyone on the PLANET who doesn't like chocolate ice cream. :) My wife began her own journey a couple of years ago. I'm playing catch up, only my journey is, um, a little different than hers. She has always been very self-confident, which has driven me to distraction at times. Now, it's my turn; but I've got to work on it.

    Miguel - Thanks for your comment. I hear you about "resentment." To paraphrase a comment Steven Fales left on FB the other day, resentment is like pissing in your pants: the only person who becomes uncomfortable is you. I've spent too long pissing in my own pants!

  6. I could have written this as well... I took a year and caught up on all the Rated R movies I'd missed that I actually wanted to see!!

    It's so liberating to like things because I truly like them rather than how liking them will endear me to others!

    Another description of resentment I've heard is "Drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

    Still envious of your relationship with your sister.