Today's post comes to us from a friend and fellow writer who wishes to remain anonymous. The author attends graduate school and works for a non-profit. She has been a member of the RHE community for a number of years now.
I'm so grateful for her openness and wisdom in sharing her story with us. She will be available for interaction in the comments, but asks for patience as she may not be able to respond to all of them.
American Christians are in the midst of a conversation about sexuality. This conversation is important (yet heart-wrenching) to gay Christians for obvious reasons. Among straight Christians (with whom I identify), some of us have the conversation for ministerial reasons. Others have it so that we can know how to better love our friends and family members (which in my opinion, is ministerial!). And then there is a small contingent of us who approach this conversation from a unique vantage point--we are in a heterosexual marriage with someone who does not entirely identify as heterosexual.
Today, I speak into this conversation as the wife of a queer man.
I don't know how to tell our story. If you know us personally, you probably know it already. We're fairly open about it. (We were conflicted about whether or not this should be anonymous. We finally decided that it would be most loving and protective of certain family members who are ashamed of this part of our story to remain anonymous at this point. We hope you understand.)
My husband and I were friends long before we dated, and I've nearly always known about his attraction to men. It was part of who he was, but never the defining thing. He was always kind, smart, fun-loving, generous, and more. When we were friends, he was wrestling with his sexuality, and we talked about it fairly openly among our close group of friends. He was a Christian and did not feel at peace with his attraction to men. He felt even less at peace when he was in relationships with men. They were hard, hard years for him.
It's hard to explain briefly, but here's my best attempt: Our friendship led to a tentative romance. And then our romance led to sexual attraction. (This applied on both counts. I was not aching for him when we were friends.) There were bumps and bruises along the way, but eventually we decided that we wanted to swear off all other romantic and sexual interests for life and commit completely to each other. We were married and have enjoyed an amazing marriage since.
(Now, I want to pause to say this loud and clear: My husband is not all queer men. His story, our story, is unique, and we do *not* want it to be used to guilt, shame, or condemn anyone. If you want to share it with a gay friend/son/brother to motivate him to find a wife, you are not loving him well. This story is intended to explain my perspective as the wife of a queer man, not provide any sort of template for healthy sexuality. Far be it from me.)
Today, my husband has come to peace with the reality that he is a queer man. He is attracted to men and me, so he doesn't consider himself gay, nor do I. Our "heterosexual" marriage has provided him a safe space from which he can advocate for LGBTQ individuals who are both inside and outside the Church. He advocates for them because he identifies as one, even though it doesn't appear that way to many outsiders. I am so proud of him for this, yet I also know how hard it is for him at times.
There's a lot I could say about my experiences, but as his wife, I would like to make a few points for everyone to consider as we continue discussing sexuality in the Church:
1) In any conversation, you should not assume that everyone who "passes" as heterosexual is in fact heterosexual.
I cannot tell you the number of conversations we have sat in on that left us clutching each other's hands in frustration. Those judgmental things you say about LGBTQ people, they hurt us both. Those judgmental things you say about people "trapped in false marriages," they hurt us as well.
2) My marriage is real and healthy and blessed by God.
Please do not mock me or it. My husband and I are not in denial, nor are we "just roommates." I hate that I feel the need to tell you this, but, for what it's worth, we have great sex. Just like most of our married friends, we have periods when we have sex every day, and periods when we have "snack" sex between less frequent "banquet" sex. And then there are the times when sex doesn't come so easily--when we're both too busy, I'm struggling through pregnancy sickness, or following a birth. In short, we are more sexually normal than you think.
3) I am convinced that there are millions of spouses like me, but most live in secret.
I think all of our stories are different. Some of us are Christians, many are not. Some of us found out about our spouse's sexuality before marriage, some after. Some of our spouses are at peace about their sexuality, many are not. Some of us have been lied to or cheated on, many have not. Some of us have happy marriages, some do not. All of these differences create a world of varied experiences. But we are here, even though we don't often speak up. I personally know many wives in a situation similar to mine, but I only know one other couple who lives openly amongst friends as my husband and I do. I wish more of us could.
4) The "Side A" and "Side B" dichotomy that is often talked about is not exhaustive of the experiences of gay Christians.
These sides can even encourage a false dichotomy in our conversations. I don't want to imply that everyone has other options, because that would be false. But the story I've lived and the stories I know don't fit into "Side A" or "Side B," and it is somewhat frustrating to feel as if our stories not real, recognized, or legitimate.
5) My husband and I are both convinced, largely because of our experience, that sexuality is more flexible than many people are admitting right now.
We completely understand why there is such vehement rhetoric that people can't change. We do not believe in or support gay conversion therapy. But we have lived a story of flexible sexuality. He was sure he was a 6 on the Kinsey scale before he fell in love with me. But fall in love he did, and it changed him. This observation feels like a betrayal to many people we love, so I don't know what to do with it. But it's the reality of our stories.
But those observations aside, when you click away from this post, what I want you to hear loudest from me is this: My husband and I are both blessed by our marriage; it is not a burden. I have in no way married a second-rate man, and he has in no way settled for second-rate sex. Christian marriage should be a closing off of oneself to all sexual options save one, and in embracing that reality we have experienced shalom.
I'm so grateful for this story. I'm starting to wonder if, because sexuality has become so politicized and such an unfortunate theological line-in-the-sand, we tend to brush aside stories that don't fit our preferred paradigm for fear they will provide "ammunition" to the other side. In so doing, I wonder if we've veered too far from the reality that human sexuality is indeed very complex. It's so tempting to take one person's story and use it to make a point while simultaneously dismissing another person's story because it doesn't line up with my assumptions. This happens on both "sides" (or, perhaps more accurately ALL sides), and I'm not sure how to stop it. What do you think? How do you respond to this story and how can we make more space for people whose sexuality doesn't fit in a box?
[See also: "On Mixed Orientation Marriages: Four Stories"]