Monday, January 3, 2011

Gay Identity Crisis (#___)

The holidays are now behind us.  One can almost hear a huge collective sigh of relief echo throughout the land.  It’s funny how we look forward to this time of the year, then many of us end up wishing they had never come and are relieved to see the backside of them.  It’s as though they are an annual rite of passage that we both dread and anticipate, hoping nervously that they’ll be “good” this year and not “bad.”  Then, we pass through them, sort of like running the gauntlet, hoping that we’ll make it out the other side without too much damage.

These holidays, in particular, caused some apprehension going into them due to the situation between my wife and me.  Christmas was frankly difficult.  New Year’s was much better (aside from the fact that I was sick) due to the conversation that my wife and I had had a couple of days before.  (See yesterday’s post.)  This conversation, and the change in tone that it brought into our home, affected me peculiarly.  I think the fact that this was our last holiday season together weighed on me a bit.  I had a sense that everything familiar was about to change, and though I have expressed a desire in the past to “bring it on,” I still found myself this weekend with peculiar (again that word) feelings.

Yesterday, as my wife took down the tree and started to pack away the ornaments that we have spent our entire married life collecting, she came and asked me which ones I would like to take.  We both commented how surreal it seemed that we were calmly discussing who should keep what ornaments, a discussion that then branched out to include various pieces of art in our house.  I was reminded of a scene following the death of a parent in which the children gather to divvy up the deceased’s personal possessions.  In my case, however, the death involved was that of a marriage.  We didn’t feel sad, we were completely amicable.  It was just – weird.

I had experienced a growing sense of weirdness throughout the weekend: a mounting feeling of unease, of malaise, of dis-connectedness.  I’m sure some of it was attributable to me being sick.  But I knew it went beyond this.  Paradoxically enough, I think some of it was attributable to the new state of civility between my wife and me.  On the one hand, it’s nice to not feel like I’m walking on egg shells with her; but on the other hand, I found her new attitude somewhat disarming.  It’s like it was easier for me to march confidently toward my gay future when I felt that my wife was being cold and distant; but her reaching out to me in love and friendship like she did totally disarmed me, and I guess I felt naked for a time, trying to regroup – not only with respect to how I feel about her, but also how I feel about me and my future as a gay man.

Layered over these emotions was an irrational sense of feeling isolated from my new gay “community” during this period of time – which was only a few days, but combined with being sick and what had just transpired with my wife, I felt it very keenly.  I suddenly felt very alone (even though I am extremely fortunate to have the support of a number of new friends).  I looked into the future and wondered whether I would find happiness on the path that had been set before me, and which I had then chosen to follow.  For perhaps the first time since beginning this journey, I seriously wondered, “What the hell am I doing?!”  “Am I really gay?”  “Is this all a big mistake?” “Could we just rewind the past three months and go back to where we were?”

Of course, my conscious mind told me to chill, that these thoughts were the product of a frenzied subconscious that was trying to wreak havoc with my life.  But, as everyone knows, the subconscious mind is often far more powerful than the conscious mind (that’s right, isn’t it?).  And even though one knows something to be one way, it can sometimes be very difficult to convince the psyche of that.

I guess that what I’ve described sort of amounts to a bit of a gay identity crisis.  I am still very much working out what it means for me to be gay, how that affects or will affect my life, the way I interact with my family members and other people, etc., etc.  I thought I knew who I was becoming, who I am, then these events of the last few days have kind of shaken that. 

All these things will probably sort themselves out in the days and weeks ahead.  For now, I’m trying to allow myself to feel what I’m feeling and to remember that this journey will undoubtedly feature many such periods of malaise and disorientation.  I’m trying to tell myself that any journey is bound to have periods of exhilaration, periods of tedium, periods of anxiety and even periods of outright fear.  All of this is normal (I tell myself), and I should never expect that I will be spared that which is normal. 

In this regard, I’d welcome any insight into this from those of you who have already walked where I am now walking.  

On a more positive note, I was greatly lifted and encouraged when I read that led off their weekly “Sunday in Outer Blogness” piece by focusing on my blog.  You can go here to read what they wrote, but suffice it to say that it was gratifying to learn that others find worthwhile what is being shared on this blog.

I was also pleased and flattered to see that my blog had been nominated for a Brodie Award for Best New Blog, and that a couple of posts had been nominated for awards in other categories.  You can go here to read all about the Brodies and how the winners will be selected.

In closing, I wanted to quote from a comment that was recently left on my post about coming out to my son.  Reading things like this help me to feel like my blogging has a purpose other than serving as a receptacle of my diarrhea of the keyboard.  The comment was obviously left by someone for whom English is not their primary language; I have quoted it just as it was written:

“Aloha! I want to says thank you very much for this post I read about relationship between father and son. I have same experiences what they have been go through. My relationship with my dad was not that great and almost never been there for me when I need him. We have not contact each others long time. My Stake President told me that I had lack relationship between father and myself. I realized that he was right along. Until my dad wanted to meet me for the first time since my late grandfather's funeral that I saw him last time. My dad asked me personal question and I knew he was going to ask me. He asked, "are you gay" and in my mind that I cannot lie to him and stand up and be brave to tell him the truth. I told him, "yes" and he told me, "you are my son no matter what and who you are. I love you and you will always my son." It shocked me. We are trying to build our restore relationship between my dad and myself to be better relationship.

Thank you! Happy New Year!”
Happy New Year to you, too!


  1. Life-change is traumatic for most humans, especially when family/family tradition is involved. We relive the trauma with each ‘first’ and each ‘last’. It seems a little bit of us dies. It was that way for me anyway; we hate to let go the familiar, the comfortable, and the secure, in our life. Now, after a year-and-a-half separation, I think I have lived through all of them. DH Lawrence uses the change/death/rebirth motif in some of his works. I guess the good news is that there can be a rebirth into a new life, where we let go of our old self and become the new person we were dying to become.

    Is it worth it? Well, for me, the rebirth is/was not without some labor pains. (Pardon the cheesy analogy.) And for a time I often doubted myself. So, that too is part of the process, along with the emotional ups and downs between my wife and me. I too found my resolve refueled by conflict and then diminish when she was understanding and conciliatory. I had to mentally/emotionally go back to the beginning – the foundation for my feelings and decisions – and ‘remember’. This helped steady me and gave me the intellectual and emotional energy needed to overcome my doubts and move ahead.

    Yes, many of us have gone/are going through these emotions but, still, for each of our psyches I think it is tantamount to feeling the way along through new, uncharted territory. It is helpful and reassuring to know that some of these emotions are common to the journey.

    One last observation from my own experience: the feeling of aloneness (not the same as loneliness) comes free of charge with the deal. Friends and community were/are for me – a person who doesn’t mind being alone – a critical part of my emotional well-being. I didn’t know how much I needed understanding, loving, supportive friends until I began my own self-imposed identity crisis/discovery.

    The fact that you are feeling all of these things is somewhat indicative that you are normal. And while that may not relieve the pain and angst, it will hopefully give you some reassurance and hope. Is it worth it? For me it has been.

    In 1650 the English theologian Thomas Fuller wrote: “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”

    Hang in there.


  2. Has it occurred to you that maybe (I'm not being cynical here) your wife is trying a new strategy to hold on to you?

  3. Trey - Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. My post was not so much a cri de coeur as an honest airing of feelings, and I appreciate so much you sharing your feelings. As you pointed out, so much of this is new, uncharted territory, and each pilgrim's journey is different, though similar in some respects. It is tremendously comforting just to have that fact validated: that this is uncharted territory. There is no map. But that's ok, because I really have felt an inner sense of guidance in this process.

    At times, however, fear, uncertainty or simply disorientation temporarily gain the upper hand, and that's when the experiences and friendship of others help me once again find my path - not "the" path, but my own individual path that is meant for me alone.

    Thanks for sharing, Trey.

  4. I really found it revealing what you shared about feeling less sure about yourself when your wife reaches out in love/friendship. And Trey confirmed it in the comments.

    I went through that too, in some limited way. But at some point, it got too much for my wife and I had to move out - it was too hard for her, I guess. In a way cutting off almost all communication may have stunted the process for me. I feel I still am going through some random times of disconnectedness, even though I had jumped into a relationship with my partner.

    It is very interesting how we each react to the process - thanks for your insight.

  5. Dear Invictus,

    I can't say that I have been exactly where you are, as I am not gay, but I have been through divorce. It is from this aspect that I want to speak with you today.

    Going through a divorce, on its own, is complex. You know something isn't working and know it's time to let go and move on. Yet, with sentimental times, such as Christmas, emotions get the best of us and we have a tendency of wanting to forget the bad and unite in hope. No one really WANTS to go through the pain of a divorce. It is exactly like you said, a death. Because it is, it does require mourning.

    But speaking of the intensity of confused feelings, doubting yourself and your decisions: My ex and I made amends over a Christmas holiday to only re-separate again afterwards. Reality sank in and reminded us of why we were divorcing. We lived in a house together but separately, which was very hard. Even up to the final day of the divorce, it was hard. I will never forget meeting him at the courthouse and the surreal feeling of walking with him into the courtroom, during the session and then out of the courtroom, and then the day I physically moved away from the town where he stayed: I cried, I was petrified. I had wanted this day when I was moving on, but there I was in the driver's seat of a moving truck, moving to another part of the country, alone with my dogs, and not knowing a soul where I was going. I had my freaky moments.

    But the issue of divorce is where it gets complex for you: you are divorcing, by what you have said, because your wife asked for it because she can't live in a MOM. So, the sexuality issue comes into play. But, if we could just put this aside for a moment, I knowo it's hard but I want to separate some things here: Had the two of you ever discussed divorce before? Had you discussed the parts that didn't work in your marriage and decided that divorce would be the best for both of you?

    Depending on you answers to the above, we can then answer some questions about your sexuality.

    Would you want to stay in a marriage and be able to live WHO YOU ARE as a person (with your gayness being a part of it) your interests in movies which are apparently different, your tastes in philosophies, clothes, etc etc? Even if you don't ACT upon your gayness, it is part of you and who you are, your past, your present: could you be transparent with your wife about this identity of who you are with your unacted upon gayness and be happy?

  6. Part 2

    I know I'm asking questions rather than providing advice, I guess it's part of my style, but consider these things. I would also consider reading a book that was very helpful to me when I was going through divorce: "Creative Divorce" that talks about traps we can easily fall into, attitudes to remember...

    Something important to remember is that your wife was so supportive of you as a respectful human being and friend BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ADMIT TO BEING: Gay. She is able to be supportive and loving because you are no longer really married. You are able to relate to her in the way you are because the two of you aren't dependent or codependent on each other.

    Feeling appartenance at these hard times is comforting: so comforting that when it comes from an ex, and all the familiarity that comes with it, can be especially inviting. But, YOU are there for you, your new friends send their support, and I am sure that your daughter, son and sister do too. Turn to them. Turn to your inner self and listen, bask in the love and let yourself feel and doubt.

    As Kiley said in her post "No map?", you are moving into unchartered territory, and this can be scary as hell. Not only are you dealing with divorce, but you are dealing with "who am I going to be" with your new identity, affirmed sexuality. There is reason to freak out! But, you know what, I am confident that you are going to know how to move in small steps forward, each day, towards who you are becoming.

    Know that many have been there too, have made it ... and are within arm's reach. Notice the people around you who suffer, who search for their way and I guarantee that these observations will fill you with empathy and a new sensitivity that will bring you love and comfort.

    bon courage Invictus, I believe in you!

  7. @BLB - Thanks for your comment. That's an interesting hypothesis, but I don't think so - at least not on a conscious level. Time will tell.

    @Paul - I think we all benefit from one another's experience and perspectives. Thanks for your comments.

    @Libellule - Whew! First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to compose such a thoughtful and thought-provoking set of comments. I really appreciate your perspective on divorce, because I definitely think it is relevant. Yes, I'm coming out as a gay man; but you're right, we were already on the edge of divorce and had been for some time. So perspectives on divorce, even without the gay factor, I think are highly relevant.

    That being said, I have seen, and will probably see even more clearly with the passage of time, how the "gay issue" has really been at the heart of a lot of our problems, in one way or another. Now that it's out in the open between us, it's almost like a wound that has been festering can finally heal. Our marriage won't be revived; it's over. But at least we - knock wood - can approach our separation and divorce in an amicable way. As some have suggested, to the extent we have problems a long the way, I suspect a lot of them will be caused by external factors, most especially the church. We need to prepare for that ...

    Once again, Libellule, thanks so much for your insights, thoughts, and experiences, which can benefit not only me but others who read what you have written.

  8. I remember going through this emotional roller-coaster when mixed signals gave me completely weird and unexpected emotions and provoked lots of 2nd guessing all along. There can be books on the subject but nothing really prepares you for the emotional turmoil and as Trey says, it only shows that you are normal.

    Also, others have not mentioned it, but there will be times when the cordial feelings will likely subside and you'll find yourselves at the gates of "the divorce is getting ugly"--it is a normal phase of emotional and marital separation and you'll have to remember that there was at least some cordiality at some point--so keep that in mind and for what is worth.

  9. I definitely relate to your identity crisis. Those thoughts still come to me occassionally, like right before and after I came out to my parents. My wife is very supportive of my being gay, as long as I don't have a relationship with a man, so that can cause some confusion as well with it being okay to be gay, but not consider a physical relationship. And my wife and I have a wonderful relationship that fulfills many of desires I have for a committed relationship and I can't really imagine a better relationship than the one I have, which adds more confusion to being gay.

  10. @Miguel and Mister Curie - Thank you both for helping me to realize that what I've been experiencing is normal and not uncommon. I'll all for being normal. :)

  11. Curie - I have a very good relationship with my wife also. Yet there is that conundrum always present between what I feel being a gay man and what I have being married to a woman, albeit a great woman. I have no illusions that I could ever find a better spouse than my wife, but it still leaves that feeling of being just a little out of step.

  12. Andy - I absolutely relate to what you have said about sometimes feeling a bit out of step.