Sunday, September 6, 2009
Q: "Does coming out as Gay mean I have to divorce or leave my (straight) family?"
However, it does mean you need to work with your family to decide what is best for you and them in what was probably already a hard situation for both the closeted Gay spouse and the straight spouse, and which has now become a real stomach-twister – especially if there are children involved.
The Bible, of course, speaks of marriage (a family commitment of two people before God) and divorce (the ending of that commitment). It's often said that while the Old Testament allowed divorce, the New Testament does not. However, that isn't strictly true, and there simply are no black-or-white answers that will serve every situation.
God always insists that His people remain faithful to our commitments – both in our commitment to Him, but also in our various commitments to each other. In the case of divorce, In the Old Testament God also insists that His people take care of and protect those who have been made vulnerable in some way, due to their disconnection from a family unit.
For example, in Isaiah 1:17, God warns the ancient Israelites to (among other things), "defend the orphan" and to "plead for the widow". In ancient Israel, orphans and widows were among those left outside the family commitment that would otherwise have sheltered and provided for them economically, politically, legally, and religiously. Any divorce today can easily result in children and spouses who are essentially left as "orphans" and "widows", economically, politically, legally, and religiously, if we aren't careful in beginning, living, and ending marriage commitments.
In our modern cultures, for example, it's not only common to produce children outside of the protections of marriage, but also to later (emotionally, financially, and even physically) abandon children produced within the bounds of marriage. This has, in fact, become so commonplace that children who remain protected and provided for by two parents throughout their growing-up years seem "odd" in many parts of modern culture.
However, things are not "peachy-keen" within most modern, "traditional" Christian families, either. Two parents may remain married, yet the children are still abandoned (i.e., made vulnerable) to being physically and sexually abused, emotionally abused by ungodly and unbiblical male dominance, religiously abused by cult-like adherence to so-called "Bible-based" philosophies that have almost nothing to do with the real Jesus, and more.
Whether children and other family members are abandoned for all the world to see, or are secretly abandoned within families that pretend everything is "perfect", God isn't pleased.
And neither should we be!
All that being said, there is no, one, "right" answer that I can give you for your situation – and anyone else who tells you there is an easy "right" answer is either a con artist or a fool.
Sometimes in life there is just no answer that doesn't cause pain in one way or another. Sometimes we have to choose the least painful answer, or choose an answer that carries the most benefit to one or more despite the pain it may otherwise bring with it.
For example, yes – divorce hurts children and spouses alike. But so does marriage based upon one spouse's submission to something within the marriage that isn't right somehow. Few these days, for example, would tell a Christian woman being battered by her Christian husband that she must stay within the marriage. And few these days would tell two heterosexuals to remain married if being together made them so miserable that it was causing problems for the children.
Within a marriage between a man and a woman, where one spouse is heterosexual and the other is Gay, something isn't "right" within the relationship. And in this case, since the sexual orientation of both spouses is something God programmed permanently into their bodies, that means however much they may love each other as friends and partners, neither of them will ever have that deep, intimate emotional, physical, and sexual bond that God also intended to be a part of marriage commitments. In such a case, it won't only be the Gay spouse who is unhappy and perhaps looking for an "out". The straight spouse may also wish for that "out", which brings with it the possibility then of finding another heterosexual spouse who may provide that intimate marriage bond.
So, what should you do, then, if you are a Gay person currently heterosexually married?
First and foremost, you must consider all options for the protection of any children you have produced. This means also continuing to provide for them emotionally, and not just with a child support check each month, should you decided to end the marriage. And not just with your otherwise-distant presence around the house, should you decide to remain in the marriage.
You must also, to the best of your ability within your situation, make the decision to keep or break the marriage commitment with your heterosexual spouse. Both of you must have input into this decision. Yes, you are entitled to be who you are. However, you did choose to make this commitment with your spouse, before God, family, and community. You must honor your commitment and your spouse, to the best of your ability within your situation, in the ending of your commitment, just as you should during your commitment.
If you choose to remain within your heterosexual marriage, you must find ways to still honor who you are as a Gay person, just as you must find ways that still honor who your spouse is as a heterosexual person. You no doubt already know how difficult it is to find the emotional and sexual satisfaction all normal human beings long for, when you are living within the bounds of a marriage that doesn't perfectly "fit" you. Your heterosexual spouse no doubt has the same longings and the same difficulties within this imperfect "fit" you've decided to stick with. What will that be for you both? It will what fits you both and your individual situation.
If you choose to remain within your heterosexual marriage, you must also honor the emotional and sexual bounds of that marriage. Remaining married with a Gay lover on the side, or seeking out anonymous or semi-anonymous Gay sex in other places, is simply wrong – it's adultery. And that's just wrong, both within our human moralities, but also, more importantly, to God. Fulfilling your emotional and sexual needs outside of your marriage also threatens real harm to yourself, your spouse, and your family, in countless ways. Want to consider a few? Then think about what your family will go through if you end up arrested and have your name published in the newspaper because you were soliciting Gay sex in a public park. Think about the hurt you will cause your spouse if you bring home a sexually transmitted disease. And think about the confusion and hurt your spouse and children will live with, if it becomes known that you are cheating on the marriage.
Is any of this going to be easy? I can't imagine how it could be! But by choosing to heterosexually marry, you have bound yourself to the well-being and care of another person, and of more than one other person if you have children. And those responsibilities do not disappear simply because you realize you didn't make the best decision.
Make the decisions that need to be made, knowing there will probably not be a painless answer. Make them prayerfully, asking God for strength and forgiveness, as needed. And make them, to the best of your ability within your current situation, with your spouse and family.
Now, what about if you are a single Gay person considering becoming heterosexually married?
Don't do it!
Because of the prejudice of our society, and the unbiblical ways even our so-called "conservative" Bible translations are made, many Gay people choose to marry heterosexually. Some believe they can just make it work. Some believe it will make them straight. Some just want the family recognition that comes from such a union.
All of those are the wrong reason for anyone to marry. And they don't work for Gay people, either.
Consider, for example, the hurt you will bring to your spouse, when you are unable to commit emotionally and sexually with them in a heterosexual manner, in the way a heterosexual spouse would. How are they going to feel if later they find out you already knew you were Gay, but married them and encouraged their heterosexual commitment to you anyway? After all, marriage is supposed to be an open, honest, partnership, and here you've started off from a dishonest position.
Consider, too: who is your spouse going to be able to talk to about having a Gay spouse and all the confusion, loneliness, alienation, and hurt they feel? After all, if you got married because you wanted to escape the anti-Gay hatred of your church community, then your spouse no doubt has only anti-Gay friends and family to try and speak with about what's happening in his/her marriage to you. Will it be any surprise if your spouse either won't talk about it to anyone (and therefore suffers without an outlet to help him/her resolve this), or adds anti-Gay hatred to the angry hurt he or she already feels towards you?
Marrying heterosexually when you know you are Gay is just wrong. Wrong because it involves deception. Wrong because it promises intimacy it cannot produce. Wrong because it makes other people (including children of the marriage) have to deal – now and in the future – with the very painful disconnect of strained relationships or divorce.
It you are Gay and thinking about becoming heterosexually married, think again!
What's the better solution? It's to learn to heal the homophobic self-hate and self-denial you are struggling with, rather than simply dragging others along in it. It's to be open and honest – with yourself, and with those you wish to be responsible to and for.
It's to honor the God who created you to be who He created you to be: a Jesus-loving, Holy-Spirit-filled, Gay Christian living either celibate or married to another Gay person. And it's to honor the God who created the heterosexual person you are dating or engaged to, to be who He created him or her to be: a Jesus-loving, Holy-Spirit-filled, straight Christian living either celibate or married to another straight person.
You must prayerfully find what works for your situation, and then walk with God to accomplish it!
Here are some additional resources you might find helpful:
Gay Husbands - Straight Wives, which includes among other things "Come out to your wife", a "plea to gay men to be honest with their wives about their homosexuality", and "Why not to get married if you're Gay", which "discusses the various reasons why gay people get married, and talks common sense about why they shouldn’t".
Straight Spouse Network, which includes among other things, online support and reading lists.
God bless you!