I am 33, married (for almost seven years), with two children. I love my family. I have a successful and rewarding career. I serve in my church, which has also given me a deep sense of meaning. I have a beautiful home, a nice car, and impressive degrees from college and graduate school. I am living a life that I could only have dreamed about when I was younger.
I should be deliriously happy.
But I am not. At least, I am not completely and deliriously happy, as some people expect me to be.
You see, I am bisexual. Two years ago, I finally owned up to the long-repressed truth that I liked men. This process was difficult for me. I guess I had known, for a long time, that I liked men. But I liked women too. I dated women. I had great relationships with them. And eventually, I married a wonderful woman who still turns me on.
I had hoped that marriage would "cure" me of my attraction to men. It didn't. Instead, it made me feel more conflicted. I enjoyed sex with my wife. I truly love her and remain in love with her. When I came out to her, she took the news hard, but eventually came around to accepting me and learning to love a new me.
I feel conflicted because I embrace and deny my sexuality in equal measure. After years of repression, it feels good and right to me not to have to fight it anymore. It feels good that I don't have to quickly look away when I see a good-looking guy. It feels good to me when I read that Kevin and Scotty will get married on "Brothers and Sisters." It feels good that I don't have to hide this part of me anymore, at least to myself.
But at the same time, I don't like feeling this way. I knew, even before I decided to come out to my wife, that I would remain committed to her if she wanted our marriage to continue. I know we are in the minority; an estimated 80 percent of mixed-orientation marriages come to an end within three years of one spouse coming out to the other. I believe in our marriage. I believe in us. As a Christian, I believe that it was not just coincidence that my wife and I came to be together. I believe that my struggle as a queer man in a marriage to a loving woman has some redemptive and bigger meaning, for me and perhaps for my wife too.
So this is where I am now. I'm queer, out only to myself, my wife and two good friends whom I don't see regularly. I want to remain in my marriage. I don't see it as a stone weighing me down. It gives me a deep sense of meaning and purpose. It fulfills me. But at the same time, I struggle with what I desire, and I wonder about what might have been. I have been tempted to commit adultery. Once, I was on my way to meet another guy I had met online when I chickened out at the last minute -- only because I knew I wouldn't have been able to lie to my wife. And once in a while, I get into depressive moods. Why, I wonder, did God make me this way? Why do I have to feel this way? And I hate myself for feeling this way.
So my question is: Do you think I'm nuts for wanting to stay in my marriage? Or do you think I'm nuts for indulging in my queer self? I know I can never integrate these separate selves, but at least I want to try. Is this nuts?
Married and Bi
Dear Married and Bi,
I don't think you're nuts for wanting to stay in the marriage, or for acknowledging and accepting your queer self. I don't say "indulging." I say acknowledging and accepting. I do not think it is indulgent to recognize who you are. I think it is a courageous act.
You now confront a deep and perplexing reality. You fought it for a while, as many of us do at first when we begin to see that we are not who we thought we were. But then you accepted it. This is your nature. Here you are. Congratulations.
You are not alone.
Many of us live with deep contradictions. Those contradictions include not only ones of sexual orientation but of politics and spirituality. Consider, for instance, the contradictions for a non-Christian with an intuitive grasp of the beauty and power of the Christian religion. Some Christians would say that such an "intuitive grasp" is nothing but a shallow nonbeliever's pretense of understanding, or a mask for deep spiritual longing unexpressed. Such rigid individuals would suggest that something is wrong with us who straddle the fence, who may have religious feelings but do not commit to one church or one belief -- as they might suggest that something is wrong with homosexuals, atheists and so on. That is when we get a little bristly. We do not wish to be second-guessed, or looked down on, or excluded or pitied because we are "going to hell." We want to stand where we stand, as you stand where you stand. We may not swallow the whole program. That does not mean that we don't have a deep appreciation for your faith.
Being a deeply devout Christian and a bisexual person presents contradictions you're going to have to live with. I think that's good and healthy. Ideally, one would like to believe that your struggle with your faith will ultimately improve the church, as its leaders must adapt its message to serve a more inclusive audience.
We are all more than one thing. We all desire more than we have. We all harbor desires that push against the boundaries. We all have impulses that we cannot act on because of the consequences. The way to live a civilized, compassionate life is to remain alert to these things and thus grow wise about their nature.
I do not like my writing. It's coming out in all these choppy sentences. I wonder why that is. I started out more flowing and then I started cutting. Why do I do that? That is what I am saying. We do not always like ourselves. We do not like what we do. Do we belong to ourselves? Do we belong to God? We live in the difficult middle, or some would say muddle, or puddle.
It is my understanding that Jesus thought the house and the car would not lead to happiness. He was offering something higher. This higher thing contained at its center a riddle, a contradiction requiring a leap of faith.
Perhaps the leap of faith you made when you became a Christian is like the leap of faith you must make to accept yourself as a bisexual Christian, husband and father. Is it possible for you to accept yourself with the same awe and humility with which you have accepted the main tenets of your own religion? Is such an idea in any way blasphemous or sinful? Why not accept the mystery of yourself fully, unreservedly, with the same deep humility and awe with which you have accepted the mysteries of your religion?
That won't solve all your problems. You will still stumble. You may succumb to temptation. You're not perfect, or superhuman.
That's the point.
"Since You Asked," on sale now at Cary Tennis Books: Buy now and get an autographed first edition.
What? You want more advice?