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.