This may come as a shock, but I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm gay. Also, I used to be married to a woman. A pretty awesome woman, in fact, who goes by the blogonym of FoxyJ. Back when we were married, I was very open about being gay and heterosexually married. I blogged about it regularly. I published a couple of personal essays about it. FoxyJ and I were featured in a Salt Lake Tribune article about it, and then on a Fox 13 news segment. Recently, I've watched my friends Josh and Lolly Weed do more or less the same thing, except like a hundred times bigger. (FYI, I was a member of Club Unicorn before it was cool.) This post is not a rebuttal to the Weeds. They've made no arguments for me or anyone else to rebut. They've simply shared their experience, and I'm glad that they have--for their sake and for the sake of others in their situation. This post, rather, is me sharing my experience.
As you already know if you know me (and I don't pretend that people who don't know me read this blog), in the past few years my life has taken a very different direction from where the Weeds are. I also took a two-year break from blogging during that time, so I haven't really told the story of how I went from gay and heterosexually married to just gay. FoxyJ has shared some of her thoughts on our divorce, and I would encourage you to read her perspective. I remember and interpret some details differently from how she does, but that's natural for any two people sharing their own accounts of the same event, particularly two ex-spouses telling the story of their marriage and divorce.
Basically, it comes down to this: I love FoxyJ now as much as I ever did. The love I have for her is very much like the love I have for my sisters. I enjoy spending time with her, I feel a connection to her due to our shared history and common interests, and seeing her happy makes me feel happy. Just as I would with my sister, I get upset when I see her being hurt. I'm still rather upset at that bastard who married her knowing he was gay, then divorced her ten years later because he couldn't live in that marriage anymore. (This is the part of the story where I shock you by saying, "And I am that bastard." Except you already know that.)
In a lot of ways, our marriage was very nice. I got to live with my best friend for ten years. We had ongoing jokes that lasted the full ten-year run, we enjoyed watching movies and reading books together, we made three brilliant children together. Our personalities were very compatible and we had very little conflict. But there's a reason straight men don't marry their male best friends, and women don't marry their sisters. The love that one can experience with a best friend or sibling is not the same as the love that one can experience with a lover. It's like oxygen and food--both are great, but you can't very well say, "I have plenty of oxygen, I don't need food."
So in order to survive in my oxygen-rich-but-food-deficient marriage, I needed to ignore my need for food. It helped that I was very good at this. Due to a combination of my personality and the circumstances in which I was raised, I grew up with a well-developed ability to ignore my own needs in favor of the needs of those around me. I also grew up in the Mormon church, which taught me that my need to have a loving relationship with a man was not valid, not real. I knew very well how to "turn it off." The problem with turning off unwanted feelings, at least in my experience, was that I needed to turn off all my feelings. In other words, in order to survive, first in the Mormon church and then in a heterosexual marriage even after I left the church, I had to make myself numb.
I wasn't fully aware of this until February of 2011, when I developed a huge crush on a friend. I'd had crushes on guys before, but never quite this intense before, and never under quite the same circumstances. I spent a week away from home getting to know this guy--he didn't even know I was gay at the time so nothing happened--then returned home to a stark contrast. It was like going from technicolor to black-and-white. I'd felt more alive in that week than I had ever before. And I knew then that I couldn't live the rest of my life in black-and-white. It wasn't a matter of deciding to leave my wife for this guy. There were several reasons why I knew nothing could happen between us, and still nothing has happened between us. My decision to end the marriage was a decision to actually live, now that I'd had a taste of what that could be like, rather than continuing to accept inner death as a valid way of life.
As I watched Josh and Lolly's Nightline interview this morning, I was struck by something Lolly said. Something to the effect of "It means so much to me that Josh is willing to sacrifice something so big for me" (Sorry, Lolly, I'm paraphrasing because I don't have a transcript in front of me.) I feel bad that I got to a point where I was no longer willing to make that sacrifice for FoxyJ. Perhaps it comes down to what exactly it is we think we're sacrificing. In Josh's mind, he is sacrificing something he wants but doesn't need. I once believed that as well, and when I did I was perfectly willing to make that sacrifice for the rest of my life. Once I came to believe that it was my happiness that I was giving up, I was no longer willing to make that sacrifice. Don't get me wrong, I understand that in any loving relationship there need to be times when one partner sacrifices his own happiness for the happiness of the other. But I don't believe that a relationship that requires one partner to permanently sacrifice his happiness for the happiness of the other is a healthy one. And I don't think in the long run either partner would be happy.
So I made a choice, and here I am. There have been difficulties along the way--going through a divorce, trying to minimize the impact on our kids, navigating an evolving relationship with FoxyJ and watching the hardships she's had to endure, dealing with the financial consequences of the divorce, figuring out this new relationship with Clark--but I have not regretted my decision. I've felt frustration, anger, and absolute despair more in the past year and a half than I had in my entire life before that, but I've also felt pure joy in ways I had never experienced before. And as my old friend Lehi says, you can't have one without the other.