Not Your Shame Alone

Crooked politician hiding face from photographers after political scandal

I received an email from a man in his mid 50’s who is married, considers himself gay, has never been with a man sexually, and feels tremendously guilty and ashamed. He asked me: “Does anyone else have this similar situation – or am I the only 55-year-old virgin to sex with a man who is afraid to change his present situation?” 

I wrote to him the following:

In rereading your email I had a few thoughts. First, you are not alone. The way you wrote that you feel is very similar to the way so many of us have felt through this process. Every one of us who comes to the support group for gay married men speaks at some point about the family we have hurt. It came up in the meeting this past Friday. But we also come from a culture, family, church, community that for so many of us has made us feel our being gay was an unspeakable and ugly thing that we couldn’t share with another soul.

When I think as to how I kept my being gay hidden for so many years, it was because I felt I had this ugly thing I needed to hide. I only began really to come out when I was 53. I’m now 57. You could choose to feel guilty for the rest of your life and take this shame fully on your shoulders, or you could recognize that it was the weight of all culture, religion, and humanity that has had you feel the need to stay so hidden.

I’m not telling you to come out. I am encouraging you to see that the shame we all felt and the need to hide wasn’t of our own making. You don’t have to bear the full burden for all the choices you have made. You made those choices in the context of the world you have lived in.

It’s not easy to come out at 55. But that aside, it sounds like you love your wife and kids and don’t want to lose that. A question I asked myself at many points along the journey is, what would have me feel like a whole, integrated person? For you, that may not be coming out, but rather finding a way to feel you have a level of integrity, wholeness, and reduced anxiety while keeping your commitment to the family you feel is important.

Anonymous sex with men, which is what is most available to married men, can be a real let down because it doesn’t have much emotional content. Some men I’ve met find an FWB relationship with another married man they see a few times a year. None of this juggling is easy. And maybe your path is to know who you are but live the life you are living.

Again, I encourage you to read The Velvet Rage, as I think it will give you some much-needed insight.

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