I came out to my future wife on our second date. At the time my attraction to men seemed manageable and for many reasons, including years trying to change from homosexuality, something that I felt at the time was mostly in the past. We spent an intense two months wrestling with this issue before agreeing to continue dating. We married two years later. The topic of my attraction to men soon went underground for the next twenty-two years.
When I came back out to my wife in the summer of 2012 it began what was the most painful two and a half years in my adult life. I struggled to get clear about what I wanted for my life as a gay man and to make up my mind about staying with my wife or leaving the marriage. I began to write down the goals for my life as a gay man and work through why I had felt the intense need to come out. Were my goals big enough to justify all the hurt and pain I was causing in my marriage?
In one particularly tense conversation my wife, she asked, with a level of determined anger, “Is the only reason you are doing this is to have sex with men?” I was taken aback because, from her perspective, this was at the root of the issue. Yes, of course, I wanted to have sex with men, but I could not say that out loud. What I tried to explain to her is that being gay was more than who I was attracted to or slept with, it was at the core of who I was. I told her I wanted to feel integrated, whole, and to stop hiding what I felt inside.
I did not state my identity as a gay man easily. It had only come after a lot of reading, therapy, and self-reflection. As I looked back at my life, I saw how the person that I was, from a very young age, was colored by how I was different. I hatred team sports and always felt outside of the sporty guys throughout my growing up years. I liked the arts, crafts, and design. I learned to sew from my grandmother, cherished her old sewing machine, and even tried to make my own clothes in high school. While I did not understand my attraction to men until I was fourteen, I can see now, looking back at my childhood, how it was colored by how I was different. Being gay was not just my attraction to men, but it was who I was at my core.
My wife’s question made me feel ashamed. Sex with men was certainly part of my goal in coming out. But in reducing my coming out just to sex, it made my search for integrity, intimacy, the elimination of the mental compartments I wearily maintained, and the desire for a happy life into something seedy and dirty.
I felt hurt by my wife’s complete lack of understanding of what I felt inside. She could clearly understand that gay = sex with men, but beyond that she was blind. She could not see that my entire identity, which was beginning to unfold in the coming out process, was that of a gay man.
Beyond sex I hoped for intimacy with a man. I wanted to hold a man and simply lie there in his arms as we talked about life. And yes, I wanted to find love.
Did I come out for the sex? Yes. But I also came out for so much more.