I've been reading a lot about how ex-wives feel 'betrayed' when a gay husband outs himself, particularly where the outing has happened after the marriage has ended or been irrevocably damaged. What concerns me is some people’s attitude that the woman has somehow been victimized by the news. While this may be true in some cases, I don’t believe the fault needs to always be laid at the door of the closet the husband came through.
Here is my story.
I grew up in a time where gay was 'abnormal', 'wrong', 'curable', and 'a Satan loving choice of the depraved'. Hmmm... I still hear those comments from the homophobically unenlighted but they don't bother me now because I now know I am 'normal', 'right', 'not ill' and 'a God made gay man who is more Christian in nature than those judgmental fools who call themselves Capital C Christians'! I reserve a different Capital C word for those people...
I had one thing in common with most closeted men: I was terrified about coming out. While plotting what life I would have as a closeted gay man, I encountered a particularly attractive woman who was interested in me. A woman interested in me? Was there a closeted hetero waiting inside of me trying to get out? I had had sex with a woman before, so I knew about the ‘husbandly duty’ in advance. I was 30 years old and thought I would live a happier, better life as a straight man. Perhaps there was admiration for musical theatre, Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnellli in the hetero world!
So how did I meet this woman?
I was taking acting classes in my late 20's and one day a very attractive woman showed up. I may have been closeted gay, but I can (and still do) appreciate beauty when I see it. Apparently, she had seen me in a play and decided she wanted to meet me. Instead of being suspicious and calling it for what it was (weird), I was flattered. She started calling me at home. In those days, it was "you lucky dog", today it would be "stalking". Eventually, we started dating and one thing lead to another and within a year we were married. Looking back, it was faster than a speeding bullet, but then, what the hell did I know about how hetero relationships were supposed to develop?
We were married to 10 years or 70 dog years. I felt somewhat content because I had children and I had a wife. You know, the things a man is supposed to have. What could possibly go wrong?
One day my wife and her best girlfriend went to a lecture on Tibet. Apparently, the lecture included the struggles of the Dalai Lama and how many American film stars had come to his aid, including Richard Gere. Now the wife was totally into saving Tibet. I couldn’t argue, it seemed like a good cause.
One day when she was dropping me off at work, she had a video that she was going to return to the Video Store. As we hadn’t watched a video together in the previous week, I was curious which one it was. Now she started acting strange, telling me that it didn’t matter which video it was, just one that she wanted to watch. Totally perplexed, I grabbed the video to see what it was. Maybe she was watching porn instead of daytime TV. I had to know. When I looked at it, I saw that it was “Sommersby” starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster. Get the connection yet? I didn’t. I said, “Sommersby! We hated that movie”. Which was a true statement, because we did when we had watched it previously. She rather sheepishly said, “I just wanted to see if it was as bad as we first thought.” I walked into my work building thinking “women! Can’t figure ‘em out!” and that was the end of that. Until….
It’s months later. The video incident is forgotten. One day, I’m putting away the laundry. Yes, dear readers, I worked full time, did most of the cooking, cleaned the house AND did the laundry. Her? She was so busy trying to save Tibet that she didn’t have time for mundane things like laundry.
So, I’m trying to fit her panties in her underwear drawer and they won’t fit. This is odd. So I pushed a little harder and felt something hard. You can take a breath, I didn’t find one of those self pleasing battery operated cylinders. What I found was a stack of videos. Again I thought, is she into porn? I pulled them out and looked at them. The one thing they all had in common: they all starred Richard Gere. Now you have to admit: this IS weird. Why would you hide videos? If they were in the living room with the other videos, I would never have noticed. It was so bizarre that I put them back, put the panties in a different drawer and carried on with my household chores.
It was sometime later that she announced she was going to India for 3 months to meet with the Dalai Lama. Yes, she ‘announced’. Didn’t ask. Didn’t discuss. Just announced. I then had my first taste of being a single father. I had to take care of the children (who were then 9 and 6), work full time and take care of the house. I’m not beatifying myself. I did what I had to do.
When she returned, she related how she met Richard Gere in India. Hmm… what a coincidence!!! She was there the same time as him! Poor guy….
Up to her becoming the Dalai Mama, our relationship was fine. Our sex life was good. However, once she got back from her trip, things rapidly declined. It wasn’t long after that, we were driving to town when she made the proclamation: “I’ve looked at my future and I don’t see you as part of it.” One day I came home and she had moved me out of the master bedroom into the laundry room. When she openly watched Richard Gere movies, I knew it was over.
We divorced almost 10 years to the day we were married.
Being a modern woman, she wanted to remain friends. She wanted to know how I was doing, who I was seeing. I felt such a failure because I couldn’t keep my marriage together that I wasn’t interested in meeting or seeing anyone. What kind of a loser was I anyway?
Two years later, I was doing a play and one night I got hit on by a man in the cast. I felt attractive again. I thought, “Maybe I can be the gay ex-husband and all will be well.” In my dreams, that is…
She sensed I was seeing someone, so I finally told her it was a man. Her reaction? C’mon get your surprise masks out! She was BETRAYED and I RUINED the marriage. Whoa, Dalai Mama!!! Hold your Tibetan prayer beads just one cotton pickin’ minute!!! It’s been two years since YOU divorced me. You were chasing Richard Gere, remember? How did this factor into betrayal? She told me that being gay was something I always was. Ok, so she admits I was born this way – it’s a start. But, I shouldn’t have married her if I knew I was gay. Keep holdin’ those beads, sister. My sexuality NEVER came into play during our decade together. I never acted upon it and I was prepared to spend the rest of my life with her. She even asked, “our sex life was good, wasn’t it?”. I said “yes it was. But that was then, this is now”.
She died of cancer a year and a half after that. Before she died, she came to me and said – in the most hateful, spiteful, guilt inducing tone I’d ever heard her speak, “You may be happy in your new found revelations about your life, but you are NOT to tell our son about it. It will destroy him.” I don't know which was worse: the guilt trip or the fact she announced it in a restaurant where every patron could hear it ...
Great… she dies, I’m a single dad… I’m back in the closet before I can even fully come out….. for another 13 years….
So you see, the dissolution of our marriage had nothing to do with me being gay. However, the information allowed the ex-wife to rationalize and justify her ending the marriage. Oh yes, she tried to make the fault mine and a bigger fault than the San Andreas.
But I’m not buying it. And that same goes for other guys who did nothing until after the marriage had dissolved. It goes hand-in-hand with a no fault divorce…