Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On Abuse and the Magical Power of Redemption

Sometimes deep insights come in the most peculiar places.* The other day, I was sitting in a hot tub at a friend’s house, and we were talking about our childhoods. The topic eventually got around to abuse I had suffered as a child and to how various Mormon doctrines of redemption had, over the years, affected how I had “processed” not only the abuse I myself experienced, but also the history of abuse in my family. 

As I was describing these doctrines to my non-Mormon friend, I experienced one of those moments in which I suddenly perceived, with stunning clarity, how doctrines in which I had passionately believed for almost 30 years were not only not true, but were mind-enslaving, soul destroying cancers that had eaten away at my sense of self for most of my life.

Such, alas, is the power of magic, the force of myth, carefully constructed. It dispenses the elixir of sanity, bewitches the believer, holds out the promise of transformation and proffers hope ~ but, alas, all is vaporous.  


As I have written about from time to time on my blog, I experienced physical and emotional abuse when I was a child.Without going into details, suffice it to say that my mother – who was twice hospitalized in psychiatric wards, who suffered from depression and debilitating migraines and who was addicted throughout the first 10-12 years of my life to both prescription diet pills (speed) and sleeping pills (barbiturates) – could be a short-tempered woman who was physically powerful and prone to violence.

The only picture I have of my father, my mother and me

My father, for his part, was largely absent during those years. It’s not as though I grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks,” however. We were, by outward appearances, a respectable, middle-class religious (Catholic) family. But appearances were deceiving. My father was absent because his sales job often required him to be out of town and because he was a workaholic; and though he knew about some of the abuse, and probably suspected more, he was happy, I think, to just try to ignore it. He had his own issues with my mother, and I think he willfully shut his eyes to much of what was going on at home. He may have even been afraid of her.

As I got older, I tried to forget most of what had happened in my childhood. What I didn’t manage to forget, I simply took in stride. To me, it was my “normal.” To the extent I held things against my mother, I justified her behavior in my own mind due to the fact that she had herself been abused as a child: her father was very abusive, as was his father before him. 


I well remember my grandmother, Nell, talking about my grandfather. She divorced him in the depths of the Depression and was turned away by her own mother as a result. Through sheer grit, she managed to make it through the Dirty Thirty’s with my mother and one of her brothers in tow, her older brothers being farmed out to other relatives. Grandma described to me how my grandfather had, among other things, pistol-whipped her, threatened her with a gun (until the neighbor lady came over, took the gun and threw it down the outdoor toilet), and otherwise abused her. 

Nell also described how mean her former father-in-law had been. “Herman,” she once told me, “was mean,” – her high-pitched nasal voice accentuating the word “mean” as she stared off into the distance, holding a lit Lucky Strike cigarette in her hand – “then,” turning back to look at me and pointing her hand toward me, cigarette dangling, “he turned nice … Then, he died.” Grandma flicked her cigarette into the ashtray as if to emphasize the finality of death, then turned away again, looking once more down the tunnel into the past.


Interestingly, late in his life, my maternal grandfather added another bit of knowledge and understanding of the curse of his family. I hadn't even met him until I was 16 or 17, and that was only because I made the effort to drive across southern Illinois to meet him. My mother had had nothing to do with him for who knows how long. I went to visit him after I had joined the church (he died shortly thereafter) and interviewed him. When the subject came around to his father, he laughed and made a comment about how mean he was to him as a youngster. Another piece of the puzzle.

My grandfather (with pipe) sitting with some of fellow railroad workers

I frankly never thought much about the abuse I had experienced as a boy (and the effect it had had upon me) until I joined the Mormon Church. It was then, upon being confronted with a deeply shameful past and family legacy in the face of what appeared to me to be picture-perfect Mormon families, that I first felt the need and sought ways to whitewash or otherwise excuse my mother’s actions (and my father’s inaction) towards me when I was a boy, as well as my family’s shameful history of abuse.

I think I also believed for a time (again, as a way to cover the shame that I felt when I joined the Church) that my mother’s abuse – along with my father’s emotional abandonment - was why I had “turned out” gay. I think I wanted – at least for a time - to believe this. It was perhaps convenient for me to be able to blame her in this way for a “condition” that I didn’t want.

The Magic of "Redemption"

When I joined the LDS Church, I saw in its doctrines and practices a means of (among other things) redeeming myself from my own homosexuality as well as the deeply shameful family legacy of abuse.

First of all, there were the temple ordinances I could perform for my deceased ancestors. I strongly believed the LDS doctrine that I could be a “Savior on Mount Zion” (see Obadiah 1:21) for my abusive forebears and be a means of redemption to them. Furthermore, as Joseph Smith taught, I could in so doing receive blessings myself (D&C 128:18).

This work helped me to feel special – that I was preordained to do this work, that out of all the many members of my extended family spanning generations and numbering into the thousands, I alone had been chosen because of pre-mortal valor to do this work.

It was heady stuff. But it was other-focused. And it wasn’t healthy. Many times over the years as I engaged in genealogical research and temple work, I would hear a nagging voice in the back of my mind saying, “You’re just doing this out of a vain attempt to create a sense of family that you never had as a child. You’re trying to make yourself, and believe yourself to be special, because you were never treated as special when you were a child.”

Whenever I would hear that voice, I would tell myself it was the voice of Satan, trying to deter me from doing my foreordained work. Under no circumstances could I allow myself to believe that voice, because the emotional and psychological costs of doing so were too great. I could not allow myself to feel I wasn’t special. I could not allow myself to examine my motives. I had to keep the focus off myself. I had to perpetuate the myth.

As important as this myth was to me, however, an even more important myth (which also arose out of LDS concepts of redemption) focused on other existential issues relating to abuse. Shortly after I was married, I read the following quote in the Ensign (LDS Church magazine) by LDS psychologist Carlfred Broderick:
“[M]y experience in various church callings and in my profession as a family therapist has convinced me that God actively intervenes in some destructive lineages, assigning a valiant spirit to break the chain of destructiveness in such families. Although these children may suffer innocently as victims of violence, neglect, and exploitation, through the grace of God some find the strength to “metabolize” the poison within themselves, refusing to pass it on to future generations. Before them were generations of destructive pain; after them the line flows clear and pure. Their children and children’s children will call them blessed” [Ensign, August 1986].
The concepts expressed in this quote were new to me and extremely powerful. Suddenly, I had an answer to one of the most fundamental existential questions that had plagued me since childhood – Why was I abused? Why did I have such a shameful family history of abuse? Here was the answer – again magical, powerful, mythical, intoxicating: I had volunteered for this assignment – to single-handedly take upon myself the sins of my fathers and mothers, to metabolize all the accumulated hurt, pain, anguish and shame that generations of abuse had created and to prevent it from being passed on to another generation. This both explained my past and charted my future. It was my responsibility to end the legacy of abuse.

I believed – passionately – in this myth for most of my adult life.  But, the other day in my friend’s hot tub, I unexpectedly gained such profound insights into the fallacious and evil nature of this myth that I literally felt like I had received a blow to the chest, opening a well of emotion and understanding (not unlike my reaction to President Packer’s October 2010 Conference address).


What were these insights?

First, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe that I was responsible for atoning for other people’s sins. The fallaciousness of this belief is crystal clear to me now: even in LDS doctrine, there is only one person who is capable of redeeming others from their sins – and he was able to do so because he is a God and led a sinless life himself. He had no “baggage”: He was not abused as a child and did not carry within him the legacy of a history of abuse. I, on the other hand, was and am a mere mortal, a frightened boy who was himself abused and mistreated. How could I possibly expect myself, or allow others to expect me, to atone for the sins of my abusive forebears? The concept is not only grossly unfair and doctrinally unsound, it is evil.

Second, I had allowed myself to take on the responsibility of “metabolizing” all the hurt, pain, anguish, grief, etc., of previous generations. And what qualified me to be able to shoulder this immense burden? Absolutely nothing – except the myth that I had been assigned this task by God in the pre-existence because of my valor, righteousness, strength and general all-around “special-ness.”  But what loving Father would lay such a task upon a son whom He knew would emerge from childhood permanently crippled by the very thing he was supposed to “metabolize”? Again, the concept is not only grossly unfair and doctrinally unsound, it is evil.

Third, I allowed myself to take on the role of redeemer, or “metabolizer,” to focus on the needs of others while ignoring the legacy of abuse within myself. In this mythical tragedy, I was no more than a tool, a facilitator. My true sense of self was sacrificed to the mythical persona of redeemer, of “special one,” of “metabolizer.” I would lay myself upon the altar of redemption for the sake of those who had come before me and those who would follow, trusting that someday, somehow, some way, somewhere over the rainbow, I myself would be healed and made whole.

Meanwhile, by taking on these roles, I only exposed myself more. When I failed at metabolization, which I inevitably would, I sank into despair and vowed to try harder, only to sink further and make myself a convenient target for others.

These magical doctrines of redemption, these myths of “specialness,” cost me dearly. I now see this.  The belief that one is “special” and can play God places an unhealthy and wholly unrealistic burden upon the self to perform magical, god-like, super-human tasks. It reduces the self to a tool, a means of facilitation. Rather than recognizing the hurt, the shame, and the brokenness (created by abuse) in all its humanity and seeking to honestly and lovingly heal it, these doctrines and beliefs instead impose new, additional layers of guilt, shame and self-hatred. They are debilitating, they are destructive and they are wrong. 

* This post was originally published as three separate posts on my Invictus Pilgrim blog (now closed) in November 2011.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Abuse: My Confrontation Letter to My Mother

Me (left) and my best friend in Salem, Illinois. I was about seven or eight when this was taken.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I was subjected to abuse as a child by my mother. I have previously written about this subject on this blog here, here and here. I have also written about it on blogs that are now closed, and I will likely be republishing those posts here on this blog.

On February 20, 1995, I wrote the following letter to my mother. I have never before published this letter "publicly," nor have I shared it with anyone but a few family members. But for reasons of which I am not entirely sure, I feel compelled to do so now. Perhaps in some way, this may benefit my own children, who only know their father through lenses which have permitted them only to see darkly. Perhaps it may help others who have experienced abusive childhoods. (I have edited the letter slightly and have added headings for ease of reading.)


Dear Mom,

I have been trying to deal over the last few months with something which I thought I had long ago forgave and forgot. I speak of the abuse, physical and otherwise, that I suffered as a child at your hands. This letter is an attempt for me to explain my own feelings not only to you but also to myself and to let you know how I am feeling at this time.

To properly put in context what I have been feeling the last several months, I have to relate some things which have happened in the past 5-6 years.

Coming To Terms With the Abuse

As you know, I have been troubled with migraines for years.  These became much worse when I got married and started law school. While I was in school, I went to a number of doctors and other health professionals in an effort to determine the cause.  I was able to obtain some relief, but the headaches kept coming back.

In 1990, after I had graduated and just after I started working, I happened to be treated by a person I know who is a "touch therapist." I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that it came out that I held a lot of anger and anguish inside of me which stemmed back, according to this therapist, to one incident in particular. This was the time when I was about seven years old when you banged my head repeatedly against the dining room plaster wall in the house in Salem. I'll return to this incident later.  Suffice it for now to say that the memory of this incident triggered a massive physical reaction in me as a 31 year-old adult. It also made me wonder, because I thought that I had long since "forgave and forgot" about this and other incidents that happened when I was a child.

A couple of years later, I was experiencing a recurrent feeling in my chest which felt like a heart flutter. I became concerned about it and went to see my medical doctor. He examined me, found nothing seemingly out of the ordinary, then asked me - out of the blue - if I had been abused as a child. I was surprised at the question, but responded that, yes, I had. He said that the symptoms I was displaying were typical of adults who had been abused as children. This caused me to ponder once again just what lay inside my subconscious that stemmed from things that happened when I was a child. Nevertheless, I didn't go for counseling at that time, feeling that this was something I could deal with on my own.

Now I fast forward to this past fall. A number of things happened which made me come to realize that I needed to deal with things from my past. One of the things which made me realize this was my own behaviour toward my own children.  I was responding to their behaviour in a way that I didn't find acceptable, and when I examined it, I realized that my behaviour was really replays of what I experienced as a child.

A series of breakthroughs occurred in early and mid-December. I realized that I definitely had things I needed to deal with. I also realized that, for most of my life - especially after I joined the Mormon Church - I had justified your behaviour toward me as a child, based on the fact that I knew that you had a rough childhood. What I came to realize was that the abuse and dysfunctions which you endured as a child may explain your abusive behaviour, but these things were not an excuse for what you did to me.  I realized that I was the child and that you were the adult. I realized that I was not responsible for your behaviour; you were.

This realization opened up things for me.  I began to seriously look at my childhood and I started to try and reconstruct memories which I had long ago made a practice of turning away from because they were too painful. One of the first things I discovered was that I couldn't remember a whole lot, so I really started working at it. This was about the time you came up for your visit in late December, and I'll come back to this later.  

Investigating the Abuse

After you went home, I started talking to Karen and Dan [two of my three older siblings] in an effort to try to remember things. So much of my childhood seemed to be a blur. What I learned of your abuse shocked me. I had vague memories, but Karen and Dan had specific memories which involved me, too. I still can't remember some of these things specifically, but I think that, someday, the memory may come back.

What were these things? Well, as I said, I specifically remember you banging my head repeatedly against the dining room wall. I can't remember why you did this or my reaction to it. But my doctor helped me to put this in perspective when he asked me if I could imagine doing something like that to Sarah [who as then seven years old, the same age I was when this incident happened]. I was horrified at first, then very, very sad, because I realized you had done that to me.

Then there were the "spankings" with Dad's fraternity paddle or a belt. Although I don't have a specific conscious memory of it, I know that I was hit at least once around the head and back and arms with a belt, because I have had flashbacks about this in the past few weeks. Then there were the times when we had our mouths violently washed out with soap ...

Then there was the time I fell down the basement stairs when I was about four. I still don't have a conscious memory of this incident, although I have a memory that it happened. Karen and Danny, however, remember the incident clearly. They remember you standing at the top of the stairs and yelling at me and hitting me. Somehow or another, I ended up falling down the stairs.

There are no doubt many other incidents of which I don't have a clear recollection. The point is that I was physically abused by you. 

I have a clear recollection of standing in the bathroom outside your bedroom in Salem when I was about six or seven. I remember quite distinctly saying, almost in a wistful tone, distracted, that I wished I had never been born. Looking back on it, I can't help but wonder what would have made a seven-year old boy in comfortable middle-class family say such a thing. I was obviously very unhappy. Yet, how did you respond? You slapped me, hard, shocking me, and told me never to say such a thing again, that it was a mortal sin to say such a thing. Needless to say, your reaction was one more hurtful thing that you did to me.

Then there was the verbal and emotional abuse. I don't remember ever being told things like Danny was, when he was compared to me academically and called "stupid" and a "dummy". Nor do I recall you saying mean things to me like you said to Karen. But I do know this: I have no memories of you being a tender, loving mother. You have spoken in recent years of how you used to sit and read to me.  I have no memories of this. All I can remember is that you were always either angry or depressed or otherwise unavailable and distant.

These things continued when we moved to Carmi. The physical abuse (at least as far as I have been able to remember) tapered off to ordinary whippings, but you were still distant and cold and often irritable. I have since learned that perhaps this was probably attributable in no small part to your addiction to both amphetamines and tranquilizers. But, once again, this is not an excuse; it is perhaps part of the explanation.

Dissociation and Repression

Before I go on to my teen years, I will just comment briefly on what I think some of the effects of all of this were on me. First of all, at a very early age, I learned to be afraid of you. I also adopted the survival strategy of being "the good son" in an effort to both gain approval and avoid further punishment. I figured if I was "good enough," I could stay out of your way and avoid further abuse. Karen and Dan both commented on this.

I also learned to very quickly repress memories of what had happened. I realize now that so much of my childhood is a fog because, at a very early age, I learned to repress memories and dissociate from what was going on.  In the past few weeks, I have realized through flashbacks that if I had consciously realized as a young child what was going on, it would have killed me. By this, I mean that if I had fully, consciously realized what it meant to have my mother beating on me, I think my psyche would have broken down completely. 

So, I did two things:  I disassociated myself from what was happening and I repressed memories, telling myself that these things didn't happen. I know that I disassociated myself because I discovered in the past few weeks that, when thinking of what memories I have of my childhood, I would usually be "viewing" these memories as if the "adult me" was a third person: I would see myself as a child, as though I was looking down on the scene, rather that actually being that child and seeing the world through that child's eyes.

The tragic thing about all of this is that large chunks of my childhood are sealed to my memory.  I can't remember the bad things; but I also can't remember the good things. What I have been left with for years is a warning signal that goes off every time I start to look too intently at the past.  

I have also discovered in recent weeks that my headaches -- which I can remember having as young as 10 years old -- are probably attributable in no small part to repressed anger. We were never allowed to express emotions when we were children - even though you regularly expressed unbridled emotions. 

We certainly we never allowed to express anger at what you were doing to us; that would only get us more punishment. Besides, I was not rebellious by nature, as Mike and Dan were. They both eventually got to a point where they rebelled against you and refused to take any more. I never did that because that wasn't in my nature and because I was too afraid to.  I'll come back to this later.

Nevertheless, I still felt things, including anger, as a result of what was being done to me. All of those feelings were simply stuffed away in my subconscious, deep inside of me. I never let them out. Now, as an adult, I am starting to let them out because of the destructive affect all of this repressed anger and hurt is having on me as an adult.

My Teenage Years

Well, I'll now go on to the separation [of my parents, in 1971]. This was a very painful period in all of our lives. What I realized upon looking back on this, however, was that I had anger toward you because you never focused on the pain that we children were going through. All you could focus on was your own feelings. I remember you sitting out there on that screened porch that summer for what seemed like weeks after Dad left, just sitting there for hours, staring off into space. Finally, I went to you and asked you to please stop it because it was only making our lives that much more difficult.

Then you went to work and I was left to take care of Martha. Before I go on, let me say that I have written to Dad about this, too, and expressed feelings of anger and frustration toward him, too. Once you went to work, I basically became the parent to Martha. I could never leave home while you were away and Martha was there because she couldn't be left alone. After all, she was only in first grade the first year we lived on Kirk Street. I never had the chance to be a normal teenager and go and come and be lighthearted and carefree. To the extent that I wasn't one already, I became, overnight, an adult. I had to be at home with Martha, I had to get her dressed every morning for school, and I had to come home right after school to be there when she got home. Then there were the household chores.  When you went to work, I was left with a large share of the household chores because you simply weren't in any position to do them, for whatever reason.

Then there was your behaviour. You frankly weren't a very pleasant person to be around during those years. I can well remember the times you threatened to take your life and the times you woke us up after we had gone to bed, telling us to get dressed because we were leaving and never coming back. And, as always, there was your irritability and temper.

Yes, there were a few good times, but I became an adult overnight. I was left with responsibilities which properly belonged to you and Dad. My childhood had already been wrecked, and my teen years were taken away, too, because of events beyond my control.

I have never confronted you about any of this. In fact, the only time I have ever confronted you about anything that I can recall was the one time in my senior year when you complained about me practicing Methodist hymns on our piano at home [after I left the Catholic Church and joined the Methodist Church]. I replied that I didn't think you had any right to do that, considering you hadn't attended a single band or choir concert the entire time I was in high school. It was as if you simply lost interest after the separation in anything involving us kids.

Your Dealings With My Children

I still haven't worked out all the ramifications of what happened to me when I was growing up. As I said, I still can't remember a lot of the abuse that happened. Yet, I felt I needed to tell you what I have been going through. These feelings were heightened when you were here because I saw how you interacted around my children. Sarah asked if you wanted to play a board game with her.  You responded, "No. I didn't play board games when my kids were little and I'm not going to now."  Well, that told me a lot about how you were with me as a boy, and it showed me how you were with my children now. You seemed disinterested in them and jealous of the time and attention I gave to them when you were there.

I also became angry when you questioned me about how the children refer to Ruth [my step-mother].  I had told you before what they called her ["Grandma Ruth"] and you had expressed your annoyance that they called her "Grandma" at all. Well, I became angry because you have no right to dictate to me or them what kind of a relationship they have with Dad, Ruth or anyone else. You did that to me and Martha when we were teenagers [with respect to Ruth, our new step-mother], but you cannot do that to my children. 

If you are to have any relationship with my children, you will have to earn it. They don't owe you anything. We have taught them that you are my mother and their grandmother, and they have normal feelings of love and respect toward you because of that fact. We have explained to them in very simple terms why their grandfather is married to someone else. They understand that you were once married to Dad, but that Ruth now is. 

You cannot expect them to love you when you act as though they owe you their love. If you show no interest in them as children and as persons, then you should not be surprised if they in turn are distant from you. I cannot force them to love you.

You Were the Parent; I Was the Child

As far as my own feelings are concerned, I think it is fair to say that I have grown increasingly distant from you as the years have gone by. I was not really that close to you when I was at home, but this was not my doing. In fact, I felt a great sense of duty and responsibility to you when I was at home. I cannot, however, say that I was close to you because of your own behaviour toward me ever since I was little. You abused me physically when I was a younger child and you became emotionally unavailable as I became older. I have searched my memory for one, tender, nurturing moment between you and me, and I frankly cannot recall one. This is a source of great sadness to me, but the fault for this does not lie with me. I was the child; you were the parent.

One of the main realizations I have made in all of this is that what happened to me as a child was not my fault. I have learned that, unfortunately, most abused children tend to blame themselves for the abuse they suffer; this is their way of coping. They can't blame the person who is supposed to be protecting them and loving them (but who is instead abusing them) - that would be too psychologically devastating. Instead, they blame themselves. Well, I am now an adult, and I realize that it was not my fault. It was your fault.

I wish we could have some sort of a relationship from this point on. Frankly, that is going to depend an awfully lot on you. You cannot expect that I now owe you the kinds of feelings that I would have liked to have had from you when I was a child. I am angry now, as well as sad, and I may be for some time to come. That anger will eventually cool and the sorrow may become less painful, but I cannot guarantee what sorts of feelings I will have toward you when the anger does cool. Again, a lot of that will depend on you, just as your relationship with my children will depend a lot on you.

Well, I guess I've said enough. I regret that circumstances were such that I need to write this letter, but I cannot change that. The future holds hope, and I guess it is toward the future that we must both look.


My mother did not respond to this letter for a very long time. When she did, it was a written note, saying that she did not remember any of this.

Though I saw my mother off and on for the next 11 years until she died, we were never again close, nor could it be said that we had any kind of "relationship." This was a source of great sorrow for me, but I eventually had to just let it go.

Several months after my mother died, I learned that her surviving brother had found this letter among her personal effects when she went into a nursing home. He returned it after she died. I found it interesting that she had kept it. Perhaps she did mourn - over many things. I genuinely hope she found a bit of peace that carried her into the next life.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club, AIDS and Observing a Plague

A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I watched “Dallas Buyers Club” at home. The movie was painful and difficult to watch. It was about people who were dying from AIDS and people who were desperately trying to stay alive by acquiring whatever drugs they could find to combat the disease. Based on a true story, the movie depicted the desperation and the frustration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that drove people to acquire drugs that were legally available in other countries, but not in the United States. 

The movie was depressing. But beyond that, it was overwhelmingly sad. I was not prepared, even though I should have been, for the final black screen featuring a few white words, announcing that Ron Woodroof, the real-life man who is depicted in the movie died of AIDS in 1992, seven years after doctors had given him 30 days to live.

At that point, I was overwhelmed with sadness. For several minutes as I lay on the couch, tears, one after the other, slowly coursed down my face. I thought of the hundreds of thousands of gay men – and others – who had died while their government did little to stop the slaughter. I thought of all the suffering that gay men have been made to endure, not just during the AIDS epidemic but for centuries. I thought of all the sadness, all the heartache, all the injustice, all the hate … And the weight of that sadness pressed those silent tears out of me.

And the survivor’s guilt ebbed forward. As I have expressed here and here, I had lived through all that, but I was deeply closeted, afflicted by the worst kind of homophobia – the self-loathing of internalized homophobia that projects itself onto out gay men. I know there’s nothing I can do about all of that now; I’m simply saying that at times, I am saddened ... and I am ashamed for lashing out at those men who had the courage to live their sexual identity "out loud."

And sometimes I am reminded that I’ve only been out of the closet a little over three years. So much has happened in my life during that time … But there’s so much I’m still learning, still processing. And so, from time to time, I visit what I lived through but was not a part of – the AIDS crisis. There is much I don’t understand but feel a desire to understand. 

Right now, I’ve just finished reading Body Counts, a memoir by AIDS activist Sean Strub (who is my age). Just before and after I watched “Dallas Buyers Club,” I read the following passages from Strub’s book that struck me with force:
“Many of the rich and powerful turned a blind eye to the death and suffering, rationalizing AIDS in religious terms as God’s punishment of homosexuals, even secretly welcoming AIDS as a eugenic societal cleansing.” 
“[T]he government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the entire health care establishment didn’t care if we lived or died. To them, it seemed, the epidemic was an opportunity to profit politically or economically.” 
“Nearing the end of his second term, [President Ronald] Reagan finally spoke the word “AIDS” in public, after twenty-one thousand Americans had died of it.” 
“What did keep us up at night was fear of pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a rare fungal infection that in the 1980s was the leading killer of people with AIDS … By 1989, when the federal government finally recommended PCP prophylaxis [an inexpensive widely available drug], 30,534 people in the United States had died from a disease that was known to be preventable since at least 1977.”
In the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s, I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, which had the largest gay population in Canada. AIDS-related stories were in the news regularly, such as the one in the lead photo. But I chose not to pay too much attention. At the time this story ran, we were living in newly-constructed married student housing at the University of British Columbia, where I would be starting law school a couple of months later. We were expecting our first child, who was born three weeks after my classes started.

I can't change the past. I have no regrets for the path I chose. But I can learn about what happened in the gay ghetto back then, and in so doing, express solidarity and expiation.

Seeing “Dallas Buyers Club” and reading Body Counts have once again prompted me to want to learn more about the history of AIDS, not only in the United States, but also in Canada and Vancouver – a history that I lived through but of which I was largely oblivious - by choice.

St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, the first hospital in British Columbia to treat AIDS patients.
It would become "ground zero" of the AIDS crisis in BC.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Death and Resurrection of Creativity

The memory is seared into my brain.* I think I was about nine and a half, though I may have been a year older. It was January. I can still picture my bulletin board in my room before I took it down and ripped off everything on it, crying uncontrollably, sobbing hysterically, caught up in a frenzy of shame and hurt ...

I was the fourth male child born to my parents, the third surviving son. Whereas my two older brothers were athletic and not very interested in books, music or art, I was just the opposite.   

One of the earliest expressions of my creativity was when I took to rearranging the furniture in the living rooms of my mother’s friends. At that point, I was a pre-schooler. When I was six, I started piano lessons. Voice lessons came later. I suppose I liked to draw, but after I learned to read, my chief love was reading and, later, writing. I recall writing my first multi-chapter novel – a mystery – when I was in third grade. (Boy do I wish I still had that.)

Just before 4th grade, my family moved to a new town, to a new house (pictured above; the room I shared with my brother was upstairs on the right). My brother Danny – with whom I shared a room from birth until 7th grade – and I had been given bulletin boards for Christmas the year before, and I enjoyed decorating my bulletin board like the teachers did at school.  

Each month had a different theme – just like at school – and I recall walking down to the office supply store in town to purchase (with my allowance money) colored construction paper as well as cardboard cut-outs of leaves, witches, pumpkins, pilgrims, etc., to use on my bulletin board. This was one of the chief ways in which I expressed my creativity.

I can still recall the scene on that January bulletin board. It featured black tree limbs, tinged with snow, and a frozen pond with a lone skater that I had drawn.

One night at dinner that month, my father made a comment to me about my bulletin board. I cannot remember what he said, but whatever it was, it was deeply painful to me. I suppose it must have touched on my own fears that I was a “sissy”; I simply cannot imagine anything else provoking such a strong response. I ran upstairs to my room and proceeded to tear up the bulletin board, and I never again created another one.  

Why am I telling this story? Because it, more than anything else in my childhood, instilled in me a distrust of my creative side. I think a part of me died that cold January night.  

Though I would later recommence my piano lessons and eventually learn to play the clarinet, I never again trusted myself to give full vent to my inner creativity. To the extent I did, it was closely connected with “practicality”; e.g., for a time I became fascinated with architecture and drew countless house plans. In high school, I flirted with creative writing, but it was not “practical,” and it – along with other creative outlets – was far too closely linked with my emerging gay nature.

All of this came to mind about six months after I had met Mark, because of something he said to me one evening a couple of years ago. As we were passing each other in the kitchen, he reached out and gave me a hug, then held me by my shoulders and looked me in the eye and thanked me for the creativity I had brought into our home and back into his life. (He has started writing about his hospice experiences and is making more of an effort to pursue his drawing talents, which are prodigious.)  “I feel,” he said, “like I have been reborn.”

It was one of the sweetest, kindest things that he or anyone else had ever said to me. And it was thought-provoking. In subsequent days, I realized that I needed to give myself permission to let my creativity out, to give full vent to that which has been bottled up inside of me for most of my life.   

Among other things (most of which I don’t yet understand), I thought this meant that I needed to give myself permission to stop viewing my writing merely as utilitarian - which, among other things, made writing an "appendage" of me, rather than an extension and expression of myself. In other words, like so many things in my life, I didn't feel "connected" to it.  

I came to realize that I needed to "own" my creativity, to not only give myself permission to express it, but to embrace it, celebrate it. 

* This post was originally published on a private blog in January 2012. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Person vs. Product; Ritual vs. Relationship

He was so cute. I was pulling out of my parking spot at the grocery store the other day, and I saw a young father carrying his little boy toward their car.*

“Bye,” I heard in a young clear voice. I turned and saw the little boy waving at me, smiling from ear to ear. “Bye,” he exuberantly called. “Bye!” I smiled and waved back. So cute. My own children have done the same thing – waved at total strangers, pure joy on their face, not realizing that their parents would never dream of doing such a thing.

As I turned and saw the man and his son in my rear view mirror, other thoughts came unbidden into my mind. I thought about this beautiful little boy and the hopes and aspirations of his father for him and I wondered – what if this little boy turns out to be gay? How would his father feel about that?  Would the beautiful exuberance I had just witnessed be someday crushed? Would this boy be rejected by his parents?

These thoughts quickly brought others to mind. Assuming this young father to be LDS, I wondered how this little boy would be raised. I wondered if the boy would be raised to go to Primary, to learn the words to “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission,” and “Army of Helaman”; to be a Cub Scout; to be a worthy deacon; to aspire to someday serve a mission; to be taught to believe that being a faithful Church member who “keeps the commandments” and “follows the prophet” represents the summum bonum of life, i.e., the highest good, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue.

I thought how this boy’s parents might sincerely believe that their job in life is to mold and shape this boy, to groom and prepare him for his mission in life, to – as it were – produce a young man who would fulfill all of their dreams as faithful parents in Zion. I wondered if they might teach him – as I once did with my own children – to pray that Heavenly Father would bless him with an opportunity to serve a mission, to get married in the temple to a noble and true companion and to then raise up his own children in light and truth.

My thoughts then came back to my original question: What if this boy is gay? For that matter, what if he’s not? How would this boy’s imagined life be different if, rather than looking at him as a “product” to be “produced,” he was looked upon by his parents as a unique person who had been brought into their lives to be loved and nurtured? To be discovered rather than molded? Whose individuality, mind, heart and spirit would be allowed to blossom and grow? Who would be valued as a person, rather than a product? Who would be loved for who he is, rather than for what he is?

The summum bonum of a Mormon (or any other) parent: Is it to love unconditionally – as God does – or to teach a child from an early age that acceptance and love is conditional upon obedience and conformity? To put it another way, is it to view their child as a person, or as a product?

On a related point, I also pondered, as I had on many occasions, the rituals in the Mormon Church that purport to "seal" children to their parents. As I contemplated resigning my membership in the LDS Church in August 2011, I wondered what effect my resignation would have on these ordinances. I also felt the bonds of the faith I had always had in the temple, and I felt anxious about "breaking" those bonds.

But then, almost immediately, I realized that I was still giving credence to a belief system in which I had lost faith. How deep the roots had sunk in a system that had taught me that my relationships with my children were dependent on rituals, rather than on strong, true and authentic emotions and experiences!

I pondered how I had bought into this system, which encouraged me to subject my relationship with my children to its demands, that taught me to constantly judge my children and myself, that “ritualized” my relationships with them.

How different things would be, I mused, if my had religion emphasized that what “sealed” me to my children were not rituals in a building, but rather feelings of love and acceptance, of validation and caring, of tenderness and devotion.

I did resign my membership in November 2011. From that point, and ever since, I have vowed to seek to love my children all the more purely, without regard to the goals of any organization, not as means to an eternal end, but for the glorious persons whom they are and for the sheer humanity of doing so.  

* This post is based on two posts that were originally published on my Invictus Pilgrim blog (now closed) in August 2011.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Family: It Gets Better

This past weekend, I made a quick trip to Vancouver to visit my daughter Hannah, her husband Cary and their little girl, Hazel. Mark was supposed to accompany me, but he had to stay in Salt Lake for a cancer treatment.

I wrote about recent developments in Mark's cancer 10 days ago. A decision was made shortly thereafter to start Mark on a new therapy that, due to timing considerations, would have to start immediately. It would consist of three treatments, spaced two weeks apart, each treatment consisting of two stages. Mark's first stage of the first treatment was scheduled for last Friday and the second stage was scheduled for the following Monday. We had already booked our flights to Vancouver, so a decision was made that I would go alone, then come back a day earlier than planned so that I could be there for Mark's treatment on Monday. I am happy to say that the procedure went very well with no side effects for Mark.

So, my time with my daughter and her family was short, but oh so sweet. I've thought all week about doing a post about my visit. Then, today, I reread something I had written in my journal during the middle of my divorce. It was one of the low points, but so, so illustrative of that whole process - divorce, me coming out, the effects on our family, etc. 

My lawyer and I were waiting for the second and final mediation in the divorce which resulted in a final agreement between my ex-wife and me and, in due course, the issuance of a divorce decree. I saw my ex-wife and her attorney come in and sit in the opposite corner of the large lobby. After a few minutes, they walked over toward us. 

I had previously expressed to my ex-wife that I thought the personal animus that her homophobic attorney (whom I had dubbed "Mr. Toad," in lieu of another four-letter word that begins with "T" and ends in "D" and rhymes with "bird") had obviously shown toward me was doing her a disservice. So I was surprised, but not too surprised, when he walked up and said (among other things) the following: 
"I have been informed that you think I have a personal dislike of you because of your sexual orientation. That is not true. I feel the same way about you as I would if you had taken up with a woman, leaving your wife and ten children after 25 years of marriage."
Slam. Of all the things that were said to me and about me during our divorce process, that was the vilest - and the most improper, especially coming from a member of the bar. And it was a lie. I did not "leave" my marriage to "take up" with a man. I came out to my ex-wife, unexpectedly, when our marriage was on life support, and she asked for a divorce. There was no man with whom I had "taken up." 

Nevertheless that characterization was propagated in my situation, and it is also unfortunately the type of assumption to which people (especially those who are LDS) leap when they hear of a married man coming out as gay. I thought about this while running the recent series of posts concerning mixed-orientation marriages.

There were many times during those dark days when I wondered how many of my children I would lose. I knew our family would never be the same again, but I couldn't say back then what shape it would take in the future. I hoped it would get better, but I had no assurances then, other than my faith in my children.

But it did get better. Way better. And my recent trip to Vancouver brought that home to me - again. 

My wonderful son-in-law holding Hazel

Most of the foregoing pictures (and all the good ones) were taken by Hannah. It's hard for me to express what I felt as I saw them for the first time and what I have continued to feel as I look at them. They captured so much love - in Hannah, in Hazel, in Cary and in me. And, for me ... well, this is particularly difficult to express. For so much of my life, I have had a negative self-image and I believed so many things that other people told me about myself. These pictures, for me, give the lie to those things. 

My family continues to evolve as my children evolve. I am grateful for each of them. I love each of them. It got better, and it keeps getting better. I am truly a blessed man. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Dave's Responses

This is the concluding post in a series that began with this one. These posts, which include material originally published on my Invictus Pilgrim blog three years ago, have told the story of "Dave" - an active gay Mormon man in a mixed-orientation marriage. Today's post sets out Dave's responses to the comments left by others on the original post.


I read the first comment early this morning before leaving for work, and while I am trying to remain open to all options, my reaction wasn't good … Perhaps my comments in the blog were unclear - I've tried this route, to "accept God into his life and tries hard enough, his homosexual attractions will diminish" for more than 10 years, without success. The result? Despair, self-hatred, hopelessness, anger, know the cycle.

To be honest, I'm not sure where I fall on the Kinsey scale, but MohoHawaii is likely correct. Without coming to terms with whether I'm ready to slap a rainbow flag on my car or claim bi-sexuality, I have come out to several good friends by telling them about my years of silence and pain, and by describing the beginning of this journey. The reactions have all been supportive, but certainly differ depending on whether they're Mormon or not. I have felt some peace since my secret is no longer my own.

I've also sought out a second therapist that is Mormon, but who is on the same page with me as far as the likelihood one can change one's sexuality. And I'm working toward re-engaging my wife in this discussion. MohoHawaii is correct here as well: I need to know if she is ok living an emotionally vacant marriage. And while she may say that she is at the outset, that could well change as I work through this over the next several years.

When we discussed this several years ago, she was loving and supportive, but then I was still describing my feelings as same gender attraction. Which is very different from saying, I love you, but I can't love you in all the ways you deserve, and probably never will. Oh, and I'm gay, not simply "suffering from SGA [same-gender attraction]” …

Trev - you noted that I don't sound happy now. And as I replied earlier, I'm not. But there are many factors involved. Prior to reaching the tipping point, my unhappiness was caused by my anger at God for not taking away this SGA, for not changing me, and at myself due to my inability to live a good enough life to make this go away and for never coming to terms with my sexuality or acknowledging my true nature before burdening my wife and children with this dilemma. Now, I reject these ideas and accept that my sexuality will not change, but the guilt related to what I've done to my wife remains. And my angst now is related to the uncertainties that lie ahead. It's extremely difficult to give up on the future I always thought I would have.

Don - your words are appreciated, "You are of no use to those around you if you are suffocating. There's lots of air available, all you have to do is breathe." I agree. Until I am open with my wife about everything that is happening, determining whether I can be authentic with my family and also be happy is an unknown. For now, I'm trying take this one step at a time while I figure out what my true nature is and whether this acknowledgment changes the feelings I have for my wife. 

Joe Conflict - I've read your blog from beginning to end and it was a great help. I agree with your advice to Trev. Before giving a MOM a try, I would suggest that Trev be true to his nature and explore a same orientation marriage/relationship. Maybe that's easy for me to say, but I believe my choices would have been very different if I was trying to figure out my sexuality in today's environment.

Beck - I've also read your blog from beginning to end. And I appreciate your comments, including "It takes a lot of work, and some serious sacrifice on both parts, but it is possible. Communication is the key." Time will tell if communication helps in my case. Honest is certainly a necessary element to moving forward. My own self-deception has played an important role in the emotional roller coaster I've been on. And dishonesty is a skill I've mastered by living this lie for so long.

Trey - generally I relate to your martyr comment. Being in the marriage, but not being present, is no longer working. My advice to others is to meet this head-on by first exploring "the depths" as Invictus advised me, and then figure out which direction to take. Living in denial and in hiding hasn't solved anything for me.

Alex - you have captured the essence of my situation - "You feel at peace for the first time with yourself because you can accept something that you’ve been trying to change and fight for years. But it scares you because you don’t know what that means for your future, for your marriage." 

And until I reached this point, I didn't understand the dimension of emotional love that is missing. As you point out, it's not confined by the generic "same gender attraction" term, it is my sexual identity, which is part of me, it's who I am. 

At the same time, accepting my true identity makes me want to live in harmony with my identity, right NOW. But as you noted, everyone must find the path that is correct for them. And I won't know what that means for some time - I want to remain married, but my/our goals may change as we work through this. 

It's difficult to consider living differently than I envisioned. And just to beat Dan's analogy to death, "There's lots of air available, all you have to do is breathe" -- after holding my breath and hiding for many years, breathing doesn't come naturally or quickly. So, here's to learning to breathe …

Geckoman and Mister Curie - thanks for adding your experience. This weekend has been rough, but I'm more hopeful than I've been in a long time. On Sunday, the sacrament speakers both discussed the importance of following the guidance of the prophets/apostles, with the promise of being protected from harm. I couldn't hold back the tears as I thought, "that hasn't been my experience." On the way home from church I lost it, and I finally told my wife that I've been depressed for months, as well as the things I've discussed here. We've been talking since yesterday. A song by NewRepublic entitled, Giving my Secrets Away, captures how I feel. Carrying this secret has made this much more painful and lonely. But I feel more hopeful as I face this head on, instead of hiding.

Thanks for weighing in on this post. In the last couple months, I starting telling my wife about everything I've been feeling as well as my therapy sessions. We have both attended a couple sessions together and we're talking about all the questions I've avoided for many years. We're working through everything and although I still feel like I'm on a roller coaster ride of emotion, I believe I'm headed in the right direction. In fact, through this work, the source of the emptiness and loneliness I described in this post is now clear to me. Because it abated for a time and then returned during a discussion that brought back the sadness I've felt in the past when I think about what my choices have done to my wife. And as we continue to talk, things continue to get better. Our emotional connection is now better than it's ever been. And I don't want to throw away all the good things in my life because of this one aspect that I find difficult.

Thanks for the positive feedback.

- Dave

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Responses to Dave - Part 2

This post is a continuation of comments that were posted regarding this post.


Word of caution: I am writing my response in a fairly straightforward way (not that kind of straight). Truly my comments are meant to add to the thought process and not add to any of the stress or pain. I do come from a loving and caring place with these words. 

MoHoHawaii has relayed many of my feelings. I have to reiterate the view of the other side that has been presented. Think of what this does to the hetero partner in a MoM. Is it fair to them? Do you hope or feel that it is acceptable for your children to grow up and find a partner that "struggles" and can't be as loving and intimate as someone who is attracted to them? Would any of us dream of seeing our children "endure" in a MoM? Even if your children find a partner of the opposite sex, does your marriage and lack of intimacy provide an adequate example of what a loving heterosexual marriage looks like? The fact is that many of our children look to our relationships as example of what theirs should be. Are you in a place that you feel your example is a good one? Just as you deserve to find a man that you can feel emotionally and physically intimate with wholly, so does your wife.

I do have one particular concern in Dave's letter that has gnawed at me more and more lately: happiness and coming out because of the belief that we can finally find a man to share our lives with.

I don't mean to sound cynical and I come at this from a place of hope and love. I know I was there at one time and I know it is common desire, but coming out is not about finding a man to share your life with. (I'm speaking more generally to the audience, not pointing you out specifically Dave). Coming out is about being honest to yourself and others. It is about authenticity and allowing yourself to be fully human, fully who you are.

There are many that find true, intimate, spiritual, emotional love with a man after coming out. That is icing on the cake. The cake is still delicious without the icing though.

I am not trying to dash anyone’s hope for a Prince Charming. I'm very much a hopeless romantic and really hope "someday my prince will come" [and he since has]. However, when he does show up, I need to be his prince as well. I need to be stable and secure with myself. I recently broke up from a nearly year-long relationship with a man (my first). It didn't bring me the happiness I had hoped for. In fact, I found myself replaying many of the mistakes of my marriage. Old habits that haven’t died off yet; one of which was that of the emotional martyr: giving up myself to provide happiness to their wishes. Today, I am happily single and my coming out is about me. It may sound selfish, but you need to be in order to be in a place that you are a "prince" to someone else. You must love yourself before you can love anyone else. I do believe that to be true. 

Ultimately I would love to find my prince one day. I hope we all find our princes. In reality that doesn't always happen. Also in reality though, many find the freedom in being true to oneself to be sufficient to justify their coming out. Many find the security of being authentic to be sufficient to find true happiness. 

Don’t come out because you feel another human being can bring fulfillment to your life. It can add to your happiness, but cannot create it. You, as well as many, many others have already tried that through MOM. We expected that this person we married would make things “all better.” The reality is that only we can make ourselves “all better.”

Dave, as well as to all, best wishes on your journey. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share your path with us. Here’s to happiness!


Dave, I can totally relate to what you’re going through. You feel at peace for the first time with yourself because you can accept something that you’ve been trying to change and fight for years. But it scares you because you don’t know what that means for your future, for your marriage. 

Like you, I spent some time with Evergreen. I went to the conferences, read their books, went through the manual, all the time believing that if I just prayed long enough, worked through enough, I could “diminish” my feelings of same sex attraction. 

I don’t have a condition called “Same sex attraction.” I’m gay. I’m homosexually oriented. And what that means is not just that I have a sexual attraction that I have to keep in check, but that I want to be emotionally and physically intimate with a man. If you know what orientation is, you realize you want fulfillment.

I’ve been married three years. Not as long as you, I don’t have kids. So I can’t tell you what to do. But I don’t feel emotionally fulfilled from intimacy. I thought for a long time it could be for some other reason. But the simplest explanation is it’s because I’m gay. I was too afraid to face up to that. I told my wife in December that I was gay and I didn’t think that was going to change. I told her I was afraid to go to counseling because of what they would tell me.

I got over that and I went. They didn’t force me to do anything, but I found that as I honestly and openly talked about it for the first time (that had never happened with the LDS therapists I met with when I was first understanding my sexuality) I discovered a lot of things. They didn’t tell me that I should get divorced. They didn’t tell me I should go “live a gay lifestyle.” But they did help me discover that as I accepted myself and stopped hating myself, I’d be happier.
So what does that mean for my future (And yours)? I don’t know exactly. But I think you can relate.

It’s been a hard process talking to my wife. Having to go back and tell her that I don't fill emotionally fulfilled by sexual intimacy with her. Having to explain that the attraction I feel for her isn’t the same as the attraction I feel for men. It hurts me and her. But do you think your wife doesn’t know, that she can’t tell? She may or may not be aware, but when you emotionally withdraw during sex, your wife knows, at least on some level. And she asks herself if she’s doing something wrong. And she asks herself if she just isn’t pretty enough. And a lot of things.

As I opened up to her, she opened up to me. I’ve been withdrawn from my marriage. I haven’t put myself into the relationship like she has. I realize what I’ve put her through. My wife has been suffering from this. Telling her didn’t necessarily make it worse. It just helped me open my eyes to the reality of my situation. I thought that could change. But I really feel that with the lack of emotional intimacy that should come with physical intimacy, that it’s probably not going to change. And why should she or I accept anything less than a true marriage?

We’re getting divorced. We just made the decision this week. I’m glad it was our decision, and not just mine. But honestly, my wife and I do love each other. It’s just for me more of a friendship love than a romantic love. I get along so well with my wife. We’re great roommates. It scares me to lose that. But I have to let her move on. And I need the freedom to be myself. Neither of us should settle for less than what could be. 

I could write you a novel. But my best advice is that you are too afraid of where your journey might lead you to explore your options (in thought experiments at least, I’m not saying to go cheat on your wife) then you won’t ever get to where you want to be. All of our circumstances are different. If you are going to make it work with your wife, then you are going to have to face this together. It may be that with kids, you choose to stay together longer. I could stay married to my wife. But neither of us could have the happiness that we deserve in this relationship. 

You’re going to have to make the choice. I don’t think you are ready yet. But keeping asking questions. Keep praying, and God will guide you. I think that Ben gave you (and me indirectly) some really good advice. If you do find a relationship with a man, don’t expect that alone to make you happy. I don’t think I can find happiness just in being in a relationship with a man. It doesn’t work like that. I think that someday, yes, that will bring me happiness. But I have to come out for me. I have to be together before I can give myself to another person.
I’m not getting divorced so I can go be with a man. I’m getting divorced because I realize that we can’t make our marriage work. Living together as roommates, best friends, sure. But marriage? No way.


I'm perhaps one of the more happy survivors of mixed orientation marriage in the Mohosphere. Recently I celebrated with my wife our 33rd anniversary. We have three lovely daughters who are now mostly grown up and out of the house. There have been many past years where I would/could not have used the term 'celebrate.' I'm one of those guys who has 'stuck with it' and hopes to continue in happiness, acknowledging that with MoMs, as with many aspects of life, "it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do."

It seems like there are few of us mostly happily married Mohos out there, if you look at the blogs. But I suspect a majority of gay guys in this church are not blogging or talking about their experience in Priesthood meeting. I think most of 30+ year old active/attending gay LDS men in the church are not single, but are 'struggling' with their MoMs, trying to evolve to a place of happiness and fulfillment within their families. Certainly much of the same could be said for straight marriages as well.

My MoM journey has changed me in critical ways--my faith no longer accepts everything the church says as Gospel. My personal evolution brings me to greater empathy and activism for gay people, even as I realize that I have a marriage of substance and worth. I haven't 'chosen' to be gay, rather, I've 'chosen' a heterosexual relationship that I have invested my life in, that I now choose to continue. My wife has grown up with me, is open-minded on gay issues, loving and supportive of my differences, and is willing to go with me so long as I am faithful to her. That's a negotiated bargain I'm happy with.

So what could I possibly tell you that hasn't already been said? There are many wonderful comments here--I especially agree with MohoHawaii that honestly coming out to yourself and spouse is the vital starting place. Also that you have to give yourself permission to end the marriage as a possible option. Not until I did that could I let go of the feelings I harbored of resentment or being stuck in unhappiness. 

Also realize that this isn't just about you and your feelings--perhaps your wife has more of a say in continuing your marriage than you really do. Deciding together what you can live with AND what you can live without, will help you both to determine your commitment to each other. In many ways, kindness and respect are what we really need, along with honesty. If you can both honor and do that, then perhaps there's a chance that passion and devotion will persevere.

Finally, there is a spiritual aspect to all relationships, especially those founded in sacred covenants. I lost that spiritual base for a while, thinking that it had died along with my passion for her. That spiritual death was partly due to the shame and guilt I felt about my natural attractions. I sucked in all the crap-mingled-with-scripture that LDS homophobic culture has created, and ultimately believed I was unworthy of any cure. It's hard to feel the Spirit when you believe God's acceptance and support is conditioned upon 'obedience' to a list of church rules. 

I decided to be obedient to the Savior's priorities, which I found in the scriptures. In doing this I came to realize the great and complete love that Father and Christ indeed have for me. I let go of my self-hate and self-pity, and then rejoiced in the truth of their unconditional love for me. I know that love is real. Let it fill your life, influencing how you treat others, especially your wife. (Whether or not you choose to stay together.) 


I just saw a link to this post in another's blog. Hence the incredibly late response time. I'm Bravone or Steve & my blog is Like Beck and GeckoMan, my wife and I are in the category of a happy, although not perfect, enduring MOM. We will celebrate our 26th anniversary in a few weeks. For most of our marriage, I held everything inside, not even admitting to myself the huge role being gay plays in my life. Living in denial and despair lead to many unhealthy and unhappy decisions in my life. I eventually lost all belief in God and violated my marital covenants. 

To make a long story short, when I lay as a broken man, all my secrets fully exposed to the Light, healing began. The road home has been rough at times, mainly with issues of faith. However, it has also been a deeply sacred experience for me, and only strengthened my relationship with my wife. 

I have written extensively about my thoughts and experiences, so won't belabor the point here. I do agree with many of the comments given relating to the importance of self-care, transparency with spouse, acceptance of self, joint journey with spouse, etc. 

My journey of striving to live authentically as a gay Mormon married man has softened my heart, humbled me, increased my awareness of others, and made me much less judgmental of others.

We are all different in so many ways that I can't pretend that my path will necessary work for others, but I do want to go on record saying that mixed orientation marriages cannot only survive, but can also thrive. I have asked myself the questions you now ask, and, at the end of the day, have decided that my maximum happiness comes through my marriage, faith, and family.