When my faith clashed with my reality (Gay Edition Part II)

I’m sorry this post is rambling and fragmented, but I’m trying to connect the dots in my shift in religious mindset.

Life occasionally brings those Oprah-style “aha moments.” I remember watching an episode of Rules of Engagement with my wife about two years and one child into our marriage. I never found the show that entertaining or funny, but it was one of the few shows at the time that we both liked to watch. Right after the episode was over, my wife initiated sex, something that didn’t happen a ton at the time. After the sex, I recognized a pattern – she initiated sex after every episode we watched as far back as I could recall. The insecure person I was at the time, I just had to know if it was Patrick Warburton or Oliver Hudson who was getting her all hot and bothered – and of course I couldn’t converse with her directly about this. So, the next time we watched the show, I was tuned in to her reactions to the show. But, I noticed something different, she was more focused on the show when Bianca Kajlich’s character was on the screen. I found Kajlich’s character, while attractive, to be the least funny on the show, but I noticed that my wife found all of Kajlich’s character’s jokes to be hilarious. And then, as usual, we had sex after watching the show.

It got me thinking about my wife and our relationship from the beginning and I realized, “Oh my God, I’m in a gay marriage.” I thought back to her freshman year of college when she told me of a fellow freshman on her sports team who she didn’t want me to meet because she was jealous at how attractive was. She talked about this woman a lot, almost like an infatuated 13-year-old (side note: funnily, this friend of my wife’s ended up coming out as a lesbian two years later). The next year there was a new freshman, who resembled the other one in many ways – dark complexion, perfectly proportional and athletic body, etc, and once again my now-wife was giddy around her and when talking about her, and even said some stupid things to her (once again like an infatuated 13-year-old). Then I thought about the guys she had been attracted to – all of them (myself included) had a lot of characteristics traditionally associated with “feminine” – both in appearance and in personality. Then I thought about how there was something different in how she talked to and about attractive women compared to attractive men. Then I thought about how relatively easy putting off sex was for her before we were married. And it all kind of came together for me.

After a few weeks of thinking about it, I asked her something along the lines of, “Do you think you might be sexually attracted to women?” She immediately shot down the “accusation” and wasn’t happy that I’d say something like that. So, I dropped the subject completely for a while.

Now, my wife grew up differently than I. Her household was not as religious as mine – her (very socially conservative) dad attended a mainline Protestant church down the street, but her mom wasn’t religious at all, her family never prayed together, and she basically only attended church on Christmas Eve and Easter. But, her family never talked about sex or sexuality. Ever. As she explained later, this led her to be very repressed (way more so than I ever was) because if something wasn’t talked about it must not be something people should do. And, that definitely extended into the LGBTQ realm – it was something that wasn’t discussed, so clearly it wasn’t something that was up for discussion. She apparently wondered once when she was thirteen if she was a lesbian because she fit a lot of the stereotypes, but she immediately dismissed it and refused to consider the possibility for more than a decade. When she converted to Catholicism, the whole “no premarital sex” and “no gay sex” thing was easy to reconcile with how she was raised – in fact, she doubled-down on it when she converted.

Fast forward a bit here – we had been married for a little more than 3 1/2 years, had our second child, and I had already come to accept LGBTQ people for who they are.  One night, we were talking about LGBTQ stuff and I casually quipped, “I still think you’re queer.” And, to my surprise she said, “You know, I think I might be a little bi.” I was shocked that she would say something even as mild as that. I told her that she should explore that and that I’d be supportive no matter what the outcome. 6 months later, she was sure she’s queer (I use the term “queer” here because sexual orientation is so broad and complex that I’d rather not label it). She started going to LGBTQ-related groups, meeting new people, and, most importantly, she began to accept herself for who she is.

I’ll go into how that affected my marriage (and how I think of marriage) in a later post, but her coming out also had a profound impact on my faith. It made me realize that the anti-LGBTQ messages in conservative Christianity have profound real-life impacts. I internalized that there was something wrong with me for years because of how my wife related to me. My wife internalized a lot of shame and self-denial that affected how she related to others and gave her a general attitude of refusing to explore who she is, even outside of sexuality. Both of our lives would’ve been much different had she felt like she could be true to herself.

Conservative Christianity’s message on sex and sexuality has profound effects on people’s lives. And their solution? Pray, be celibate, replace sexual love with love for Jesus, etc. Listen, you can’t pray away the shame any more than you can pray away the gay. It takes a complete mindset shift – it takes thinking outside of religious structures and thinking inside your own self. Religion can’t make me happy or bring fulfillment to my life – it can only do that if I decide that’s what makes me happy or fulfills me. And, if that’s not what fulfills my life, then I need to look within myself and explore to figure out out does.

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4 thoughts on “When my faith clashed with my reality (Gay Edition Part II)

  1. wow. can i print this out and hang it on my wall? lol. i’m a woman and this totally struck a chord with me. i’ve been fighting my feelings for women for a long time now due to the fact that i’m a christian. my family is very conservative. i do believe in God and I would never deny Him, but there are things in the Bible that I just don’t understand. I know that God wouldn’t want me to be so miserable though. He would want me to live my life. And my therapist said to me the other day, “You know what happens if you marry a man and realize you hate sex with men? Then what? ” I’ve never wanted to have sex with men, so why force myself to want that. And holy cow! I watch Rules of Engagement purely for the fact that Biance Kajlich is one of the main characters. I think your wife and I have a lot in common. Thank you for writing this and being so honest. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also want to add…I don’t think God spends ANY time worrying about the fact that people are gay. I’m sure what He’s really concerned with is the hatred and the condemnation that the Christian community places on the LGBTQ community. I’m not worried that I’ll go to hell for being gay. I know God is loving and accepts me for who I am. I’m worried about the people here on earth that will treat me differently and hate me for being me. Anyway sorry for the lengthy comment. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by – I really appreciate your comments. I think it’s terrible that people feel the need to deny who they are because someone said that God theoretically doesn’t like that. I’m not buying it until God (if he/she/it exists) sits across a table from me (HT: Ellen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVbIr4t8png), looks me in the eye and says, “Yes, those people who purported to write and speak on my behalf were correct – homosexuality is an abomination and I will send them and all of their supporters to hell.” Until that happens, we can only know what humans experience. We know that some people find fulfillment in romantic and sexual relationships with people of the same sex and do not find themselves romantically and/or sexually attracted to the opposite sex – I would never deny them happiness and fulfillment because of what some dude purporting to have a direct line to God said. It;s great that more and more people are acknowledging who they are earlier and earlier. And as such, I’m very hopeful that less and less people will live in such denial out of fear. You have my warmest regards!

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