Some of the most moving scenes for me in Brokeback Mountain were the parts of Ennis and his wife Alma. As I watched them, it took me to a place I had never considered before. What must it have been like for my father and mother when they were still married?
If you’d asked me to recall a memory from my childhood, a vivid one that always comes to mind is when I was standing next to my dad near the stairs as he yelled out profanities towards my mom across the house in the kitchen. I was ten years old.
I held a lot of bitterness in my heart towards my dad after the divorce. It was tough. But once I found out that my dad is gay, things started to make sense . . . .
I used to think back to those times in Hawaii and wonder what the real reason was why they got divorced. Was it really my fault? After all, I was gay and they had to know, right? They argued because of me, they were disappointed in me, right? Or was it really my dad’s fault? He just was never happy with anything, right? He constantly found fault with everything my mom did, right? Or was it really my mom’s fault? She just wasn’t good enough, right? She wasn’t pleasing to my dad, right?
It’s crazy to think back on the kinds of things that go through a child’s mind. I know it wasn’t my fault that my parents got divorced. I know it wasn’t my dad’s fault. I know it wasn’t my mom’s fault. I figured out that it was my brother’s fault – the jerk! *smirk* (LOL, I’m absolutely kidding, really, I love my brother! Hehe).
I’ve spoken to both my parents separately and they would both accuse the other of infidelity. Hmm. Alright, who’s telling the truth? Perhaps both of them were. I don’t know. But I’ve now got a glimpse of how complicated their marriage must have been. Now that I know that my dad is gay, in the closet, and at the time was in the U.S. Air Force, I can somewhat understand the dynamic that must have been going on between my mom and dad romantically and sexually. I know what it’s like to be in the closet. It’s frustrating and lonely. How much more must it have been that way for my dad in a marriage?
If (and I emphasize the “IF”) it’s true that my mom was unfaithful, I don’t exactly blame my mom for it. And I can also imagine that along with the anger that my dad must have been feeling, whether he knew for sure that she was doing that or even if he only suspected it, my dad must have felt jealous – envious even – because he wanted to be with a man and couldn’t (or at least, he made the choice to deny himself). I used to have those same feelings when my female friends got boyfriends. I was so jealous because I wanted to be with her boyfriend instead of her.
If (and I emphasize the “IF”) it’s true that my dad was unfaithful, I don’t exactly blame him either because I understand what it’s like to burn with passion for another guy. The frustration of never being socially allowed to embrace a man in such a way is absolutely overwhelming. I can imagine the mix of anger, confusion, and sorrow that my mom must have been feeling knowing that my dad was (or may be) with another man. She must have felt betrayed and used. (My mom implied to me once that she felt like my dad used her just to make kids – I’ve got three other siblings, I’m the youngest.) She must have felt so inadequate sexually as a woman thinking that she wasn’t good enough and so he had to go to a man to be pleased. She must have felt so lonely because she couldn’t tell anyone and she must have been too ashamed to let anyone know. I used to have those same feelings when a male friend of whom I was crushing on got a girlfriend. I’d feel so inadequate because he didn’t desire me the way I desired him. Of course, he was straight, but still. I envied the girl because I wanted to be with my friend instead of her.
Whether or not infidelity is right or wrong is not the issue. I’m not implying that it’s acceptable. But what I am saying is that understanding the context of their marriage helps me to be more compassionate towards them for making the decision to get divorced. I can understand why they argued so much. I can understand why they never seemed happy. I can understand how they might have taken their frustrations out on us kids, at times.
Of anything it makes me value marriage all the more. It makes me grateful that I am out of the closet. I no longer have to put on the charade of looking straight – entertaining the idea of marrying a woman just so that people wouldn’t suspect that I am gay. I no longer have to worry about having a marriage that could potentially end in divorce – like my mom and dad’s or even like Ennis and Alma’s. I no longer have to worry about putting my wife through the hell of lying to her, not telling her why I’m not completely satisfied, and making her feel guilty or unattractive.
Instead, I can engage in relationships honestly. And in the context of a serious romantic relationship, I can entertain the idea of marriage knowing that I actually do love him and that we’ll enjoy each other’s company for the rest of our lives.
Here’s a side note (more like a soapbox) but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now: what is it exactly that opponents of gay marriage would have me do? Marry a woman while sacrificing both of our happiness and ultimately ending up divorcing each other anyway. Yeah, that’ll preserve the institution of marriage. I think it’s just easier for them to close their eyes, wave their finger in the air back and forth, and yell out “no, no, no” while denying me the same legal right that my other fellow American citizens have. They refuse to see that two men happy together for the rest of their lives who KEEP their marriage vows is better than a man and a woman unhappy together who ultimately BREAK their marriage vows. Yeah, I know, they would rather insist that I not marry at all! Who are THEY to insist that upon me? (I’ll stop there because I can already tell I’m starting to get worked up about it).
Anyway, where was I?
I love my parents. I don’t blame them anymore. They both did the best they could at the time. Regardless of what happened in the past, today things are better. My family knows that I’m gay and they do not reject me for it. They know that some day I’ll have a boyfriend and ultimately a husband – yes, husband. (Although, I think my mom is still holding out for me to marry a nice Filipino girl.) Both my parents now live in Southern California and for the second holiday family gathering in a row, the entire family has been present – both parents, all my siblings and all the kids. It’s great! Sure my parents have residual issues but at least they can be (somewhat) civil with each other in the same room. I’m thankful for the way God has redeemed the relationships in my family because there were some pretty tough times.
Today, I discovered two blogs that I thought were interesting. The first is Accidental Christian – a blog by Eddy, a gay man in the closet who is a pastor and has come out to his wife. The other is Sh-out – a blog by Bea, Eddy’s wife, who was dragged into the closet that Eddy has been in. I read both of their blogs at the same time from the beginning – switching back and forth as the days chronologically progressed – and it was interesting to read about similar events from each of their perspectives, baggage, and pain. They both definitely talk about colliding worlds and so I decided to add a new section at the bottom of the left column of this blog. It’s called “Well, My Spouse Is Gay. Where Does That Leave Me?” Be sure to check them all out!
Update: See follow up post here - "A Community Familiar With Rejection"
Thoughtful stuff, Eric...
I've got experience from both sides, my parents' divorce and later my own after I came out. The healthiest place for me, which took a while to reach, was accepting that people are flawed and gifted and complex, and relationships tend to be the same. My only task is to be a loving presence to whatever extent I can be and cherish my loved ones while I've got the chance.
It's hard, though, that various degrees of distance and tension remain between me and my kids. I know it has not been easy for them and that I'm as flawed as anyone... I just hope for a day when they're open to more.
The irony is that my dad was not capable of making himself available no matter how much I wanted something more or different between us.
This whole "marriage protection amendment" BS makes me crazy. You getting married in no way affects my marriage or my family (except that we'd all be thrilled for you!)
As always, your insight is so profound and mature. Your parents are blessed to have you for a son!
I enjoy your blog Eric, but man, the font size is several sizes TOO SMALL. It is a major effort to see it(and yes, I do have my contacts in, and the RX is newly updated).
Please go back to the more standard font size!
Thanks and God Bless!
Sorry about that Anonymous. I didn't realize the font was super small for IE. On my desktop, it looked fine with IE but on my laptop with IE I saw the super small font. I apologize.
How's this? Better?
I appreciate you continuing to come by TWC!
AWESOME - thanks!
Thank you for your kind words, Eric. Love your blog!
This marriage protection ammendment thing is maddening -- completely absurd. Can culture be legislated? Really?!
Great post & Blog! Your post is very timely as I just posted on my Blog about how common it is for married men to come out later in life. My current was once married for 12 years and has a 14 y/o child. Unfortunately when the truth comes out the bitterness and resentment lives a lot longer.
it's really painful for kids to see how their family slowly breaks apart before their eyes. i've been a product of divorced parents and i don't want it to happen with my future family. i'm dating a guy from webdatedotcom and i'm taking things slowly with him. i don't want to force anything. i'm thinking of my future as early as now.
Hey Eric, your blog is like reading about my life (kind of through my kid’s eyes). I am a 38-year-old married man with 4 children. My wife was my best friend and knew about a brief gay relationship I had prior to us dating and eventually marrying. I have never been unfaithful to my wife, but have been tempted over and over again. My wife and I are slowing growing apart and it is killing me. We have recently discussed divorce, and both want something amicable that will be the easiest on the kids (if that is ever possible). I want all of them to continue to be in my life just as much as they are now – including my wife. I'd like to rebuild my friendship with her and give each of us the opportunity to truly be happy in life with other lovers. It sounds so easy while I type this, but it is SO hard. My kids have no idea about me. Only my wife, and now two gay friends, knows about my real feelings. I really think divorce is the best course of action for everyone involved. It's going to be a hard road ahead, but one worth taking. I am open to anyone's feedback and suggestions. Thanks for making me feel like I'm not the only guy on the earth in this difficult situation. God bless.
I have been looking for sites like this for a long time. Thank you!
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