Sunday night was a cornucopia of LGBT television. First came the Golden Globes with a full offering of heartwarming equality affirmations from wins for Transparent ,including a call out for Leelah Alcorn, to a win for Matt Bomer in which he again asserted his standing as a proud gay dad in the world, to the hint of a host-ship next year for LGBT icon Margaret Cho, who was hilarious as a North Korean journalist/general invading this years show. LGBT euphoria turned to LGBT dismay as, with a turn of the channel, I landed on The Learning Channel’s My Husband is Not Gay reality TV special.
My biggest question after watching that train wreck was, “What exactly are we supposed to learn from this Learning Channel?”
Reality TV is not an area in which I have much comfort. I don’t know what a Kardasian is, and I am not clear on the point of real housewives or bridezillas. There seems to be a pre-occupation in this “reality” world with the breadth of “traditional marriages” from Bachelor mating rituals, which are tacky at best, to extreme retro “traditional” with multiple wives or 19 kids. Again, I am not quite clear on what the learning curve is here. Possibly the point is that those who are screaming to only have “traditional” marriages allowed in society need to be careful for which they pray.
Judge Judy is my one “reality television” guilty pleasure. On the trials on her show “the cases are REAL, the people are REAL” and the viewer gets to watch as these participants come on and lie their pants off. Judge Judy suffers the fools only so far as she quizzes them on specifics while working her personal vendetta to determine the real truth. Once she is satisfied at finding it, she has no restraint in bending forward and screaming out to the disingenuous “YOU”RE A LIAR!” Some might find the judge’s loud candor abusive. I find it actually a bit refreshing.
They needed Judge Judy on “My Husband’s Not Gay”, where some real dishonesty and psychological abuse is happening.
There has been much legitimate concern about the show and its ties to harmful “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy. Although undisclosed, most of the participants on the show have supported organizations behind such pseudo-“science” that all the major American and Canadian mental health organizations have condemned. The premise of the show, three gay, oh, I’m sorry, “same sex attracted” men are married to straight women and raising families. The show tries not to present this as a “gay men SHOULD do this” but it definitely tries to raise the question “CAN” gay men do this?
On the journey of this show, the men and their wives testify as to how their lives are wonderful, rewarding, desirable to them, even if they fall short of being perfectly ideal. Through out, at several junctures, I was dying for Judge Judy to come popping out screaming “YOU’RE A LIAR!”
The men on the show hold all the cards in the situation. They have constructed their lives in such a way that they get everything they want between being openly ga— sorry, same sex attracted, and living up to the rigid and specific family design of the Mormon Church. (The Mormon Church itself no longer recommends their choice, however. On its site, mormonsandgays.com , it states “Unlike in times past, the Church does not necessarily advise those with same-sex attraction to marry those of the opposite sex. “)
The men have laid down the terms of their lives, and found women who agree to support those terms. The concept of what is needed and required around “same sex attraction” has been taught by the men to their wives who then move forward with a sensitive “understanding.” Most of the “knowledge” and “ssa facts” are fabricated. It reminded me of a fictional story about vampires where the author has to craft all the “rules” for the beings’ survival. This ignorance is understandable given that the people involved come from a world in which one of their straight friends first observations when the same sex attraction topic comes up is, “ oh yeah, there is a big problem with SSA in Argentina.” Say what? Argentina? Cue Judge Judy. What these wives have been given as the foundation to their marriages is a crock.
The men have set the stage with the premise that while they each are very “same sex attracted” — it is described by one as “out of 10 attractions, 9 are men, 1 is a woman” to another saying that he is “super into dudes sometimes.,” that they are also attracted to the women in their lives. This is a claim made through out the show, and one that the women cling to fiercely. One wife has memorized a phrase for herself hinging on the idea, “He loves me so much, he picked me over all the other men AND the women.” She has repeated this not only on the show, but on other videos, seeming to hope that through repetition like the Coca Cola branding, that she will be convinced that it is “the real thing.”
It is not the real thing. That may be a ridiculously bold and inappropriate statement by me, a stranger, to make, but the fact is obviously true. If these men were truly “also” attracted to their women, they would be simply bisexual. Like real bisexuals, the concern about other people regardless of gender with whom they have attraction, would have no bearing on their primary relationship. I may be attracted to furry white men, and also to tall African American men, but when partnered with one of the other, I do not need a whole system to deal with my other attractions.
Hold off on Judge Judy, however. Are these men lying? They seem to be skating into a loop hole, ala Bill Clinton. Where Bill needed to dissect what the definition of “is” is, these men need to clarify what their definition of “attracted to” is. They never really do, but another couple, Mikeal and Mandi, who are in the same situation, have delved into a far clearer discussion of this. Their video is here. They describe an attraction that is functional and mechanical, but not the same as the intimate innate attraction most other couples experience.
Who they are attracted to, how they are attracted, and what happens with the objects of their attraction, rules the world of the men in “My Husband is Not Gay.” It appears to be a complete and total obsession of their lives. The word “object” is key. Their wives are objects—the women willing to sacrifice lovers who are truly passionate about them for best friends and a family structure; and the men they ogle constantly are sexual toys that they are permitted to gaze at, place it on a rating scale, but are not allowed to touch (or at least, touch certain parts of…the terms are unclear.) The core of their concern is their own perceived sacrifice and not being able to exercise the part of themselves that calls out frequently.
In my opinion, these men should not be the focus of whether or not this practice is harmful. Certainly, they are victims of the church, homophobia and fallacies as to how limited family roles need to be. I understand what they are trying to do. I was not Mormon, but I am one of these men. I remember the dilemma of realizing my instinctual self and the life I predetermined I must lead did not match. I listen to how they prayed, and the peace they got in the answer back “ to be themselves.” We only differed in how we moved forward. They molded them into the dogmatic system and have attempted to play by its rules. I stepped out and fought for the right to have an equal system that allowed me a spouse, a family and home, that fits who I am, rather than is forced to accommodate me.
I have a partner who is not made to feel like a life compromise. I have two magnificent sons that I adore. I am the dad I have always wanted to be. Like the men in this television show, I feel my life is the one destiny wanted me to have.
Their wives here are the real victims, in my opinion. The wives are vulnerable to what they are being told on all sides. They are told by the church that they will ultimately be rewarded for their sacrifices. They are told by their husbands that they must put up with behaviors that are mandated in their particular situation. Here is where I can hear Judge Judy swooping in, yet again, in the face of both the Church and the husbands declaring “You’re a LIAR!”
The men have somehow convinced their wives that it is completely appropriate for men in their type relationship to discuss their sexual attractions to others constantly. They have convinced their wives that it is a healthy thing to hang out only with other couples who have a spouse who similarly wants to display their outside interests. The wives have been placated to believe that their men going on overnight camping trips with the objects of such attraction is just a normal thing that should be accepted, otherwise trust will be called into question. I wonder how many straight women would support their husbands’ needs to go camping with a bunch of other women, so he can get “girl time.”
The women’s buy-in on this set up is so complete that when in a dinner party situation where a friend is trying to keep the topic of “same sex attraction” quiet, they cannot keep themselves away from the topic. It is the constant elephant in their living rooms.
Despite protestations to the contrary, each woman displays a sadness, a wound, in her eyes that is unavoidable. Mandi addresses the sadness in her video, but the women of “My Husband is Not Gay” do not. They do not bring up the fact that while their husband might have to give up the ideal sex life he desires, they are forced to live with THE man they desire and every day of their lives be reminded that he is not attracted to them, not really. It is this fact that gives their eyes this slightly hopeless sadness, the kind you might expect from a woman trapped in a home plagued by spousal abuse and cannot bring herself to leave.
I thought the most poignant, ironic moment of “My Husband is Not Gay” came at a dinner party as the group endeavored to match up “same sex attracted” Tom with a single young woman. Tom discussed his passion, musical theater, and specifically the play Les Miserables. She had never heard of it. “It is just this musical where a girl loves a guy and he doesn’t love her back.”
“Oh, that’s the WORST!” she exclaims.
An hour later, Tom is telling her that he is same sex attracted, but wants to see her again anyway. He is essentially offering her, what she had described earlier as “the worst.” He softens that offer with the fib, “But of course, I am attracted to YOU too.”
Cue Judge Judy.
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All I see here is just a web of lies, lies upon lies to cover lies, until their life nothing short of a lie itself.
Their same-sex marrige, nothing short of a front, ‘a display’. People can’t lie about who they are; Sure for so long, but never forever. The truth has a habit of rising…
and when it does, at what cost?
Sorry not Same-sex marriage, their marriage as man and wife, I can’t edit that x
Also, you assert that these women have been “duped” or conned somehow into this situation as you assert them as the “true victims”. You have judged that these men are not either truly attracted to their wives because of their attraction to men or, as you suggest at the end of your piece, they really don’t love them. As a straight man, I love my wife and am unbelievably attracted to her. Just because there are other attractive women out there and just because I find other women attractive who are not my wife does not mean I want to be with them, it does not mean I am not in love with my wife, and it does not mean I am not being true to myself by not trying to pursue those other women I find attractive. Even if I turn my head and admire an attractive woman (which I try and not do out of respect for my wife), it does not mean I have made the wrong decision in committing to her.
Also, me going on a camping trip with other women is not the same as these SSA men spending time with other men. It is innate in men to want to have community with other men, to be included by other men, and to be affirmed and approved of by other men. These are basic needs of any man. These SSA men have the same needs and desires as straight men do for masculine relationships and connection… because they are men. They also want to fulfill – rather than suppress – these core needs as men. Fulfilling these needs does not mean they are cheating or fibbing to their wives. Although I’m sure they would have to be more aware of their boundaries than do straight men. However, their masculine relationships, their male communities, and their desire to be a man among men does not have to be confused with romance or sex.
You have created several strawmen arguments that are not in the piece. I did not say most of what you have asserted in your comment at all – you have extrapolated different points. I never said the men did not love their wives— that is your assertion. No, I never said the women were duped into the marriages, but they have been “duped” into what they have had to accept in their husbands behaviors. Unlike you showing your respect to your wife by not parading your extramarital attractions in front of her, these men not only parade them in front of their wives they have made them a part of the fabric of their relationship. The assertion that these men NEED to go on sleepovers with other SSA men for male bonding is absurd especially since they could do so with straight men instead — so yes, it is exactly comparable to you going on a sleepover with other women, and how much respect you would be paying your wife in doing so. They could easily be “men among men” in situations where their lust for the other men is not the front and center focus.
Your eagerness to WANT for this to be a healthy situation when it clearly is not, is intriguing.
It’s not about you.
You are talking about people you don’t even know. If anything, she holds the cards. Tanya is much more put together and stronger than you give her credit for. And yes, these marriages can work….not all of them. All it takes is 2 people dedicated to each other just like in a heterosexual relationship, a homosexual relationship, or any relationship. I’m a woman, I’m attracted to men, but I only want the man I’m married to, just like Tanya, Megan, and Tera. And the same is true for their husbands, they are attracted to men but only want the woman they are married to.
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Rob, another wonderfully written, compassionate piece, I am always in awe. I watched the video link of the couple, Mandi and Mikael, and couldn’t help feeling extremely sad,( and tearing up) for both of them. There is a significant bond and connection that comes from the physical part of a relationship, ( and the feeling of being desired in that way) that cannot be denied, and much in the same way that an affair will affect your relationship, I believe this does as well, for both people. I believe part of it is the very simple feeling that in everyday life people have access in almost every part of your being and that physical connection and intimacy is reserved just for each other, it’s the one place that is theirs alone that no one else can be a part of. But in the case of these couples,( much like an affair) someone has invaded that personal, private connection and made it less than because it isn’t that one special place that is reserved for just the two in the relationship. The one thing I see as different is, as in an affair when one person has no knowledge that this is happening, if that is the case with these couples that is devastating, but if both people in the relationship have complete knowledge of who their partner is, they have made the decision to accept this and live this way. Is it wrong? Probably, but again, who are we to judge if it is what they have accepted and gone into together. Should there be a television show heralding this? Who knows, if it causes harm trying to suggest that this is an alternative to just being able to be who we are, of course not. But if somewhere it offers some kind of help to a couple in a similar situation, maybe they see themselves in this and come to realize just how damaging, for both people, in can be, than some good has come from it. In any case, my point being, if all parties involved know where they stand, who are we to judge?
Reblogged this on Signs Of A Gay Husband By Debra Sutton.
I am a straight spouse. I was unknowingly married to a gay man for 22 years. I want to thank you for speaking out. I think these marriages are harmful to the straight spouse, the spouse with SSA, and the children. I watched the video of the couple being interviewed, at one point the wife started crying. It was heartbreaking for me to watch.
Thanks so much for the tweet! I just re-posted your article on straight spouse support group on Facebook, they have a tendency to pass things like this around. Hopefully you get a nice spike in readership because of it!
I know I tweeted you about your article already, but I read it again after watching the show. It was like a car crash to me. I wanted to look away and just couldn’t. I was so sad for the men, having to deny who they are, who God created them to be. And I was so sad for the women being taught by their church that this life was “good enough”for them. How could anyone believe this is the best life God had to offer them? I guess that’s all I really wanted to say. Loved your article. And yeah, Judge Judy would have a field day with these people.
I’ve written a lot about this topic, but I wanted to send you think link. I hope that one day, these marriages will be a thing of the past. http://julietjeskeblog.com/2014/01/straight-spouses-homophobia-an-equal-opportunity-destroyer/
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I am a straight spouse. My ex-husband lied to me from the first day he met me. Our entire marriage was a fraud, and I look back on the nine years we were together as a complete waste. I always wanted to have children, but five years after my divorce I’m still not able to have a relationship with anyone. I have difficulty bonding with an intimate partner and major trust issues. I’m now 41 and just accept that I’ll never be a mother. I feel completely cheated. I’ve written about this extensively on my own blog, and for the Huffington Post. Thank you for acknowledging that the wife is deeply damaged in these situations. Most of the press surrounding this show honestly hasn’t even mentioned the plight of the wives. Everything has been about how these marriages are abusive to the closeted husbands, and we are either completely ignored, or it’s assumed we bounce right back. Most of these couples have children, who then have to be dragged through custody battles and contentious divorces. I completely support same sex marriage and the entire LGTB community. If we’re ever going to move forward, we have to face the reality of homophobia. It doesn’t just harm the LGTB person but splitters out and hurts so many others around them. Reparative therapy is abuse plain and simple.
Thank you so much for speaking out Juliet. I totally teared up reading your note, and I am angry that you had to endure what you did. It was brutally unfair.
I hope you re-consider your backing away from your desire to be a mom. You sound like you would be a great one. I obviously don’t know your life situation, so you can take this advice with an avalanche of salt, but I was 45 when both my sons were born (babies adopted through foster care). There a pluses and minuses of being a parent at an older age, but I would not miss this adventure for anything.
BIG hugs to you, and thank you so much, again, for sharing your experience here. I want you and I to be of the last generation to feel the brunt of harm due to such dishonesty and homophobia. Sincerely wish you the best….
I am the spouse that eventually came out if the closet. I loved my husband, with all of me, but after our divorce, which happened for other reasons other than the SSA issue, I came out. I had a fulfilling sexual relationship with my husband but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with our first baby that I knew I was missing something that wasn’t going to be fulfilled in my RealAudio with my husband. I was told it was my “challenge to overcome” by the bishop of the Mormon church. We believed him. There was an emotional connection I had with women, that was not the same with my husband. I would have stayed married had we not had these other issues, but I’m not sure that would have been fair to either of us. I desired my husband sexually, which these couples don’t have but the fact remains, we were holding one another back from fulfilling a life of who we truly were and what we desired. I desired something he could not give me. So, to stay married would have been harmful for both of us because he deserved a wife that didn’t have these feelings towards women. What confuses me is that we had a great and fulfilling sex life! In fact, that is likely what allowed us to be married for 7 years because we bonded so well in the bedroom. It was outside the bedroom where our problems would surface.. but once that door closed to the bedroom.. We were ONE!!! Does that make me bisexual? I don’t know because I have never been with another man since him. I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for 18 years and raised our three children together, but I don’t look at men and think… hmmmm! I’m attracted to women, period. So even after all these years I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t come down to gender so much as it comes down to the spirit of the person. My ex husband told me that him and his second wife didn’t have sexually, what him and I had together, and it was something he wanted. So, again, I believe that it doesn’t come down to gender so much as it really comes down to a spiritual bond you have with another person. If something happened and I was left single, I don’t believe I could ever be with another man so yes, I identify as a lesbian but how can a lesbian have such an emotional and spiritual sex life with a man for 7 years. I think there is nothing wrong with me or him, I think what’s wrong is that we always trying to put things in nice neat packages with labels… but not everyone fits so perfectly under the limits of those labels. These poor couples have the LDS church giving them advice, guidence and even explainations on how to handle this and why it’s an issue, from men who are NOT qualified to counsel them. My husband and I were Mormon, and given advice and guidance from men in the church, that brought us more harm then help, by far. We didn’t know it at the time but looking back, it was horrible advice.. but because he was the bishop of our ward, we believed he was qualified. We trusted him!!! I was forced to read a book called The Miracle of Forgiveness, written by a president of the church, which states that homosexuality is the sin next to MURDER! I was in counseling with the bishop once a week for a year. They told us that this was our challenge to overcome, as God gives them to everyone, this was ours!! Never once did they counsel us to even consider that maybe we should divorce in order to release one another to find someone who completed us!! Not once did the bishop reach out to experts in the field of therapy who could have guided or directed us. They just assume and believe God will give them the knowledge they need to make our marriage whole. If we would have reached out adove and beyond the LDS church for guidance and support, I believe it would have saved us a lot of heartache and pain. I feel sorry for both the husbands and the wives. The husband are taught to suppress who the really are and remain in a relationship where they’re not fulfilled and the women are taught to submit to a man who doesn’t desire them the way they deserve to be desired. No marriage is perfect, but not feeling desired and knowing your husband doesn’t have a natural attraction and sexual chemistry with you, should be a red flag that he isn’t the ONE! My advice would be for them to release one another from this marriage and expectations of the church, in order for them to truly be fulfilled and happy. They are just really great friends that love one another… why force a sexual relationship? I feel that does more damage than divorce, but the church doesn’t see it that way so these couples are being told to stay in a passionless marriage.. and they do it for the sake of their churches expectation and their religious beliefs!! That breaks as my heart for them!!
After 23 years I would have thought or hoped that the LDS church would take a different approach to counseling couples such as these but they’re still teaching these people to believe that God wants them to just cope with it and stay together!! It’s sad and almost pathetic!! I mean, look at the sadness in Megan. Look at the heartbreak she is suffering all these years because she is not fulfilled in her marriage or desired by her husband sexually. Not to mention the guilt Mikael has endured for putting her through that and the sacrifices he makes by being married to a woman when he is truly gay. The church hasn’t grown a bit in all these years! I cannot even begin to imagine how many couples have been damaged by the churches inability to grow in those 23 yrs since my exhusband and I were counseled. How many of those couples have had their relationship with God damaged or destroyed by the advice given to them by church officials? My heart goes out to these souls, because it nearly destroyed my relationship with God after being taught that my feelings, that love that I felt toward women was as sinful as me taking another person’s life!! May God release them from these outdated and harmful beliefs and may they each find true peace, true fulfillment and true happiness!!
I can hope as a result of this show, that people will see that they don’t have to go through such lies and can say “sorry, but I AM gay, and there’s a whole world out there who doesn’t hate me for it. I don’t need you at all.”
Reblogged this on Fairy JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
A gay dad’s perspective on the dishonesty behind the show “My Husband is Not Gay…”
As always Rob, your passion to weave personal insights based on first-hand experience with common-sense observations helps us re-frame perspectives.
While TLC created a coup in free media advertising ala all the hoopla over this show, the Mormon journey now must deal with this exposure in ways they never dreamed of! Granted, some souls may view this show with unhealthy wide-eyed ‘pray-the-gay-away’ optimism. Also true, more Mormon women will wake-up to the abuse of these featured relationships. Mormon women who marry gay Mormon men will most likely end in divorce as evidenced in this recent post . . .
Equally likely, more souls will more clearly see the Mormon journey for what it truly is. Should these souls follow the Mormon structure, they teach us all how to be unconditionally loving. Loving someone with no conditions (to include what they practice as a faith or belief), is a powerful teacher!
In gratitude I bow to all who passionately live life as eager students!
Why does religion cling so desperately to this repression of sexuality? I wonder how much of it is related to control. If you can control people’s sexuality to the point that they will make themselves deny themselves a life, they will live for the church and do as they are told rather than living for themselves and questioning authority. They turn all their energy inwards to repress themselves and fit in. Obedience over happiness. The Mormon church is a closed community. This life is about the best these men can hope for if they want to stay Mormon. You are right about their partners just being props. For them to live honest lives they would have to give up everything they have grown up with. This includes their social status and community, probably even their business interests. So long as they play by the rules they get to keep it all. I guess it looks to them like a reasonable trade off. The women do deserve better, but the problem is that they have been taught all their lives to obey men and the Church. They don’t know that they are allowed to value their own happiness.
You have to wonder what the point of a show like this is?
Ummmm– money, power and dominion?
Just the usual stuff
Great article. THREE VERY important points here.
A study came out today of mixed orientation marriages among Mormons. It’s not a perfect study by any means, given the difficulty of finding randomly distributed subjects. (By comparison to the regenerus study, which also had a difficult time finding subjects, so they decided to study something else and pretend they were studying what they claimed to study). But the study basically shows that while first marriages in the heterosexual world end about 25% of the time in divorce, in the mixed-orientation world, the figure is about 70%. This does not speak well for the chances of success of these marriages. Thus, rather than contributing to a “marriage culture”, and all of the bullbleep touted by the Mormon church in its prop.8 attack on gay people, mixed -orientation marriages contribute ot the overall decline of marriage.
Ironic, ain’t it?
Speaking of Regnerus, his much touted study, paid for in full by the anti-ex-gay industry, was intended to show that gay people make bad parents. Of course, they didn’t study gay parents, they studied gay people in mixed orientation marriages. (regnerus claimed he couldn’t find any children raised by same sex couples, so he just went for the jugular instead.) For once, I’m going to agree that this Regnerus study IS JUST THE VERY BEST STUDY EVER– and it shows that these mixed orientation marriages are harmful to children. It’s a really good reason to ban them, and should be used in Court.
ironic, ain’t it? WON’T NO ONE TIHNK OF THE POOR INNOCENT CHILLUNS?
and then there is this little problem. Jesus: “If a man looks at a woman with lust, he has committed adultery with her in his heart.” Letting my own personal opinions about what the bible says determine what it actually says is a favorite conservative Christian past-time. So these men and their wives, by together cruising other men neither are married to, are committing adultery EACH AND EVERY TIME. They not only seem to not be repenting of their evil sins, they are reveling in their evil sins, think its a good idea, and are publicizing it. AND NO CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN, QUICK AND READY TO ATTACK GAY PEOPLE FOR THE ISN OF EXISTING, even think any of this is worth commenting on.
IRONIC, AIN’T IT?
But not a surprise, because when it comes to gay people, hypocrisy from conservative Christians is pretty much the only dish served up at the banquet.
” Of course, they didn’t study gay parents, they studied gay people in mixed orientation marriages.” I should have qualified that. They studied people who had had, at any time in the course of their lives, a same-sex encounter, according to the memories of their CHILDREN. But it’s all the same. Stray once and you’re gay. Stray again and again and again from the path of righteousness, promise never to do it again*, and you’re a conservative Christian.
*until the next time
Completely agree Ben, except that ‘SSA’, or having a gay relationship when married to the opposite sex is not Adultery under the law and cannot be used as grounds for divorce. (I know, I tried to divorce my lesbian wife on these grounds)
I have to believe you, because I’ve done no research on the topic. but if that’s true, it wou;ld seem to be very, very odd to me.
Unless, of course, you were in the troglodyte South. then it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, because according to Official Southern Bible Babble, gay people don’t exist.
Not sure what ‘law’ you’re referring to cuz my ex-wife sued me in VA for ‘adultery’ after learning of one encounter with a man she had no proof of – and it was accepted by the court.