Life is full of unexpected happenings and today our guest author, Tim, shares what for some will be a biggie. For others, they can find acceptance quite easily. So, why is that?
It’s a dilemma, is sexual orientation. Unless you are heterosexual and conform to the heteronormative society we live in, that is. Then it isn’t a dilemma at all. The rest of us either conform, or we don’t. So, the question “How do you react to the unexpected?” needs to be asked.
Actually, it needs to be answered.
If you’re a people person then a surprise party held for you won’t worry you… or will it?
- Unexpected inheritance beyond the dreams of avarice, that’s great, isn’t it… or are you not so sure?
- Fred, the chap who’s the lifeblood of the office is going out with Mary, they look so good together, but they’ve kept it a secret forever.
- The company is downsizing, and I’m afraid your job is one of those that is being removed. We’ll give you outplacement consultancy.
- Alan, happily married for the last 15 years with a couple of really sweet children, one 12, one 10, long term friend, guest at your wedding with his wife Andrea, tells you he is gay.
Unexpected things happen all the time. Some are, probably, excellent. Others may be less so. The list could have included shock material, negative shock material, but you can imagine those things without my help, (so I didn’t). They make the heart pound, especially the redundancy. Mind you, you knew the redundancy was coming, didn’t you?
That last one, though, how do you react to that? “You can’t be gay, Alan. You’re married to Andrea!”
Is that defensive? Is is disparaging? Does your reaction demean Alan?
So, that’s set the scene. I’m Alan. Well, patently not, I’m Tim, and I’ve been married and in love with the same woman since 1979. I’m as gay as an Easter parade, but we still have a son, produced in the usual way, flown in by the stork and left under a gooseberry bush after a nine month flight.
That’s what this article is about, having a sexual orientation that is not expected, the more so since we, you and I, are in a quasi-social situation and one where you expect me to be heterosexual. And I’ve just given you a privilege, though you don’t quite see it that way right now. You now know more about me than you have in the entire umptythree years I’m pretending for this article that we’ve known each other and been friends.
Telling you this cost me a lot of myself. Even now I’m not sure if you will hit me, spurn me, question me minutely, talk about me behind my back in disparaging terms or, simply, treat everything as knowing me but having an additional piece of information about me. Even today, now I’m comfortable with my sexuality, social situations like this cause me emotional distress.
That’s what this is about, the emotional distress. It’s caused me to be abrasive, arrogant, dismissive of others, sarcastic, angry – lordy how angry – about trivial slights which probably never happened. You see I’m just an ordinary bloke, who happens to be homosexual, who married a woman out of true love and rejects any idea that he is bisexual. I know what I am, and you, you do not. That’s addressed to the person who’s going to be clever and say that I am , in the comments. I’m not even going to reply and I recommend the moderator doesn’t either. Fight that one out among yourselves, I say!
But that’s the thing. You, all of you, need me in a pigeonhole, filed away neatly. I happen not to fit. I suspect that’s true of pretty much any awkward fact that anyone goes to a counsellor to discuss. Someone else has decided that everyone in life must fit into a pigeonhole. And we just plain don’t.
See, this is what happens to those of us who don’t fit into pigeonholes. We get our retaliation in first. I’m already retaliating and I don’t even know you well enough to know what your reaction is about to be. That’s one of the reasons why I’m visiting a therapist in a men’s group in my home county. I’m working on my ability to interact socially when under the pressure I put myself under. That’s why a group setting is important, too.
Tonight I put myself under pressure in the group. It’s a safe place to do so. Our facilitator ensures that we members feel safe and can expose as much or as little as we wish to people. I am probably the only homosexual man there. The others express heterosexuality, exude it, even, but who knows for sure? We have a new member and, tonight, I came out to him. I’m getting more and more used to doing this, though there feels as if there is a risk each time.
Our contract with each other is clear. The group is confidential. I am being careful to reveal only my own ‘stuff’ here, so I’m recording impressions I received from the others, not their words. I’m italicising the impressions:
- Being homosexual is ok. I like that. I’m not sure how much credence I put on it in a non group therapy situation, but these are not people I will meet outside the group
- Being married to a woman and homosexual is kind of not ok, whether I act on my nature or not. I expected that, though was somewhat disappointed at having to explain, yet again, marrying for love, love being no respecter of sex or sexuality, and so much else. At least I didn’t have to explain that I am homosexual, not Bisexual! That happens often. Pigeonholes again!
- Because I wish to stay married to the woman I love we are both people to be sad for. Sure, we have our problems, but they are related to my arrogance, anger. I mentioned those before.
So, in the nicest possible way and in a safe group, I have received the message that I would be fine if homosexual and single, but am really not fine being married to a woman. I distilled this on the way home. I can live with that analysis, though I don’t like it.
What was good, though, what is good, is that it hasn’t caused anger. What’s poor is that it has created in me a spirit of resignation to my… Hmm, is ‘fate’ the right word? I am where I am today because of the decisions I’ve made in my life, and, while I’ve made bad ones, I never set out to make a bad decision on purpose.
There is an effect on my wife, of course. That came out of the blue, didn’t it? There was no easy lead into that thought. She and I love each other very much. We’ve been together a long time. We fight. She hates it that I am not her perfect man, that I’m gay. She hates the way I’m abrasive, arrogant, egotistical. I show that side to her and to others. It’s hurt her a lot. It hurts her a lot.
She’s been supportive, angry, livid with rage, scared, and even happy. Imagine making love to someone who loves all of you by just wishes you had different physical attributes to make the picture perfect. Actually, we don’t do that any more. And that hurts both of us badly. We’ve constructed a world where we’ve made sex impossible and even holding each other for a hug is somehow strained. I wonder, often, how true this is of genuine heterosexual marriages, but how would I know?
So, what is this article achieving?
What I hope it’s doing is reaching two audiences.
The first is the majority in society. That’s all of you who are happy to be heterosexual, and had no real clue before reading this that some of us who are not heterosexual appear to you as though we are. We aren’t living a lie, certainly we’re not lying to you, even if we may be doing so a little to ourselves. When we’re brave enough to give you a little extra information about ourselves because we trust you enough to do so I hope you have, now, more information, will be better prepared to listen, and will not, even without meaning to, make us more distressed than we are.
The second audience is the bloke like me. Until I met other homosexual men in heterosexual marriages I felt alone. I know, now, that I’m not. I hope you do, too, now.
I started this article thinking about an unexpected sexual orientation in a social setting. I wonder if I’ve done it justice. That’s what the comments section is for. Now, you don’t know me, I don’t know you, so you could let fly with a diatribe about how disgusting you think I am to have married a sweet girl despite being, well, choose your epithet wisely. You could express sympathy, empathy, pity, sorrow. Or you could write something about how your own thinking has been affected, positively, negatively, in some other way, by what you’ve read. Or, I suppose, you could just say “Hi!”, which would work, too.
Helpful Resource: Stonewall
To find out more about 13-year-old Tim, his older self has published Queer Me! Halfway between Flying and Crying