April 3, 1996
By Mark Evans (name changed at request of author)
Last week in marriage counseling I came out to my wife. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. There is a sense of relief that it is for the first time out in the open. I was neither embarrassed nor ashamed of my sexuality.
So far, my marriage is intact, but I am feeling very scared. I do not know what the future will bring. I do not know if my marriage will survive.
A few years ago I heard a man describe himself as a gay married man. He said that being gay did not make him any less married, and being married did not make himself any less gay. I like that description. I identify myself as a gay married man. I am not bisexual.
I married my wife over sixteen years ago. To the outside world, we have a wonderful marriage. My single friends will tell me how lucky I am to have my wife and my children.
We were considered one of the model families in our ward until I started drifting into inactivity a year or two ago. My wife and I have both held responsible ward and stake callings throughout our marriage.
I am reasonably happy in my marriage. I could probably stay in my marriage the rest of my life. I know that my wife and children are probably not going to leave me. It would be very hard to leave the life I have now. I know that I would miss my wife and children if for some reason I would lose them.
I am aware that one of the reasons I stay in my marriage is that I do not want to be alone. I know that if I stay with my wife I will always be with someone. If I leave, I do not know. A number of once-married gay men have advised me to stay married. They said they regret ever leaving their wives.
On the other hand, I would like to be sharing my life with another man. I feel as I have an empty hole in my heart. The hole grows larger with time. It is impossible for me to describe the pain I feel at times. It starts in my chest over my heart and then spreads over my entire body, leaving me in a state of sadness and depression.
I have always know that I was gay. My earliest sexual fantasies involved men. When I was fifteen I had a major crush on a friend that was a couple of years older than myself. In a lot of ways, he was very immature. He did have a beautiful body. He would come by to see me shirtless wearing very short cutoffs. I knew then that I wanted him even though I was not quite sure what I would do with him if I got him.
When I was thirteen years old, I started keeping a journal and hid it under my bed. In the journal, I recorded some of my fantasies. One day when I came home from school, my mother informed me that she had found my journal. After she read it, she burned it. She then told me that I was a sick pervert and needed professional help. I was very ashamed. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.
That experience started me on my shame cycle. I have put a lot of time and energy into living as a heterosexual. As it turned out, I did not fool very many people. As I have come out to acquaintances, I ask them if this surprises them. Most of them were not surprised. A few expressed surprise that I have a wife and children.
For most of my life I never acted on my homosexual feelings. I would everyone to think it was because of my high moral principles. The truth is that I was too afraid to act on my impulses. I did not think that any other man would find me attractive enough to want to have a relationship with me.
I come from a very abusive family. My parents were both alcoholics. I grew up with a very strong denial system that allowed me to survive as a child. I believed that even though my parents were very abusive, that they still loved me. I also took responsibility for that abuse because I really thought that I deserved it. I learned to act in ways that would minimize my parent’s anger and the beatings. I thought I was in control. My parents did not tolerate mistakes.
The church was my respite from my family. As a teenager, I became involved in as many church activities as possible to stay away from home. I rebelled by going to church because it bothered my parents.
I got a lot of what I needed from church leaders and teachers. A therapist told me that the church probably saved my life. He said the single best thing my bishop ever did for me was to send me on a mission and get me away from my family.
After my mission, my bishop insisted that I once again leave home and attend Brigham Young University. I was glad to go in part, because a lot of men from my mission also attended BYU.
As a reasonably good looking young returned missionary, I had no trouble getting dates. I found out later from a woman friend at school, that I had a reputation for being “good father material” by several of the women at church.
On some level, I always wanted be a husband and a father. As a believing member of the church, I knew I had an obligation to become married. I thought my homosexuality was going to be my “thorn in the flesh,” something that would make me stronger as I overcame it. I also thought that marriage would be part of the solution. On my mission, I felt attracted to several of my companions. I remember thinking after my mission that I needed to go home and become married soon, hoping that my attraction to men would go away.
There was a lot of pressure at BYU to become married. There was also a lot of excitement about friends becoming engaged. I wanted to be part of it.
President Kimball, then the president of the quorum of the twelve, spoke at a devotional about marriage. He told us that all of the young men that we needed to become married, and to become married soon. He said that we would never be happy unless we married.
A few of my bishops at BYU were fanatical about the subject of becoming married. One even set a goal date by which time I was to become engaged.
In priesthood meeting, that same bishop would talk to us about the many fine young sisters in our ward. He said that they would make wonderful wives and mothers. He reprimanded us for being more concerned about the woman’s appearance than by what was on the inside. He told us over and over again that we were the only stumbling block between these fine young women and their eternal happiness.
I never told a bishop or a branch president about my homosexual feelings. I feared excommunication from the church and expulsion from the university. I had not done anything wrong, but I was still very fearful. In retrospect, I wonder if I did not think that I was capable of making major life decisions by myself so I relied on the advice of church authorities. I know that I ignored my own wants and desires. At the time I thought I was giving them up for something better.
I did not hear much discussion about homosexuality. Any discussion of homosexuality was in the context of oppressive shame using such phrases such as weakling and pervert.
When I was in my twenties, I believed that all things were possible. I believed the brethren when they said I should become married and have children. I thought all it would take is faith.
I started dating a woman from my ward. I was very attracted to her roommate’s fiancee. The main reason I continued seeing this woman in order to see more of him. We would often double date. As time went on, it became obvious that out of the four of us, he and I had the most in common. For me, the best part of the date was walking back to the dorms with him. After they broke off their engagement, he and I became roommates. I eventually ended my relationship with the woman I was dating. The years that we lived together were some of the best of my life. I loved spending time with him. It was purely platonic, the most physical contact we had was a handshake.
On some level I knew that we would not go through life living together, double dating. Still, it was quite a shock when he announced his engagement. He married the summer before I was to graduate from college. I became very depressed when he announced his engagement.
I became acquainted with the woman who was to become my wife by a mutual friend. After our first date, I was sure that she was the one I wanted to marry. She was bright, funny, and I enjoyed her company. I also liked holding her hand, kissing her, and being close. In true BYU fashion, we were engaged only a few months after we first met.
During our engagement, I bought a copy of the book “The Joy of Sex.” I became very afraid that I would not be able become intimate with this woman that I loved so much. I would comfort myself with the words of Nephi “I will go and do the things which the Lord had commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandedth them. (1 Ne 3:7)”
I think I was in love with the mutual friend that introduced us. We shared a room in a motel the night before I was to be married. I remember thinking that if he had asked me to call off the wedding and to move in with him, I would have done it.
I was very nervous and scared on my wedding day. At our reception, I would look at the other young marrieds with their babies and wonder if I would ever have children. Despite my worst fears, we consummated our marriage that night. I felt tremendously relieved. I am sure that I was beaming the next day. I had really done it!
As it turns out, I am more than able to have sex with a woman. It was such a giant relief. I took this as proof that I was not really gay. I even had erotic dreams about women for the first time in my life. I ignored that fact that sometimes I would have to fantasize about men in order to have sex.
I noticed though that my wife wanted sex more often than I did. She would remark that she should have married someone younger with a higher sex drive. I thought that men always want to have sex more often than women want to have it. I would compensate by initiating sex when I thought she wanted to have sex.
Sex with my wife has never been that good for me. Masturbation was more satisfying. When I masturbated I would fantasize about men. As time went on, I would fantasize about being abused by other men. The fantasizes became more and more violent. I believed that the only way I would ever get any attention from another man was to let him brutalize me.
I started visiting adult bookstores to buy gay S&M books. I realize now part of the ritual of buying the books was to feel guilty and to worry about being caught. I especially feared being discovered by another church member. I did once bump into an Elder’s Quorum president one day at a bookstore. I rationalized the pornography by saying that it was my consolation prize for choosing marriage instead of the “gay lifestyle.”
I think there are two main ingredients to making a marriage work if one of the couple is gay. They are a lack of self esteem and shame. Due to my lack of esteem, I did not ever think having a same sex relationship was even a possibility for me. I did not think I was attractive enough, that I am gay enough.
I have felt vulnerable for most of my marriage. I have let my wife make most of the major decisions in our marriage. She decided when we would have more children, when she would quit work and stay home with the children.
It was as if we had this unspoken agreement. When there is anything wrong in the marriage, it is automatically my fault. For most of my marriage, when there was conflict, I would take the blame.
I feel as if I will never have the relationship with my wife that I could have with another man because there are parts of myself that she could never understand or share.
My wife has always been suspicious of my male friends. This became a problem at church since most of my callings included spending a lot of time in presidencies and bishoprics. Looking back, I think I was in a bishopric that was entirely closeted gay. I was probably the most straight member of bishopric. I became very close to the other counselor in that bishopric. He and I had a lot in common, alcoholic parents and low self esteem. It was great having someone that I could talk to about the way I felt. We did not talk about our sexuality.
I was confused by our relationship. There were times when he was very available, but most of the time he was pretty unreachable. One evening I was very tired and depressed and made the remark that sometimes I feel like giving it all up and moving to San Francisco. He told me that he understood how I felt and to let him know if I ever made the decision because he would like to go with me.
After our release from the bishopric, he decided to cool our friendship because he correctly sensed it was causing problems between my wife and myself.
I remember hearing a lot of talks in leadership meetings about not getting too close to the sisters that we worked with at church. I never heard anything about not getting too close to the brethren. In fact, we were encouraged to get closer to each other. On my mission, I was counseled to love my companion. At college, it was important to love my roommates. In presidencies and bishoprics, we were told to love each other.
In testimony meetings, missionaries freely say how much they love their companions, bishops how much they love their counselors, and young single adults how much they love their roommates. In Sacrament meetings, I see an Elder with his arm around this companion’s shoulder. I had a stake president who would greet me with a hug that I gratefully received. I understand President Kimball would occasionally kiss other men on the cheek.
Through my years of church service, I slowly started gaining self esteem. I found that other men valued my judgment and enjoyed my company. I have wonderful memories of standing out in the parking lot at the chapel after a meeting and just enjoying the company of another man. The brotherhood was incredible.
A few years ago we moved into a new stake. I was called to be Sunday School president. Since I did not know anyone in the ward, my bishopric counselor suggested that I retain the previous presidents’ counselors. As it turned out, one of the counselors was a neighbor of mine.
We quickly became friends. He said he immediately liked me because I was one of the few high priests he had ever known that could swear. Over a period of several months we came out to each other a little at time.
He told me that not only did he love me, he was also in love with me, but he was not going to destroy my marriage. He tried to tell me that it was not going to work for us to be friends because he wanted more. He called me at work once and my voice mail said that I was unavailable. He said that pretty much defined our relationship.
Our relationship was pretty rocky. In a lot of ways he was the abusive man I had always sought. He brought up a lot of emotions. He belonged to a men’s group along with a number of other men that I knew. One night he told the group that not only was he gay but that I was also. I felt fear and shame. I forgave him because I thought he was the only man who would ever find me attractive, that would ever love me.
There were good times. He was the first man that would hold me when I cried. It felt so good, I knew that was what I had always wanted. The chemistry was great. There was a strong mutual attraction. Ultimately, he wanted a physical relationship that I could not give him.
The last time I saw him he told me that he had found a lover and he did not want to see me anymore. I miss him a lot. I miss going to the movies with him, holding hands with him in his car, and his hugs. Last summer when I was driving to work and I saw him jogging with his lover. It brought back a lot of old feelings for him. It was pretty hard.
I met another man last year at a recovery conference. We were both married, he to another man. We saw each other for about four months until he ended the relationship. He told me that it was too hard. Last month he introduced me to his boyfriend. I am really happy for him, he deserves someone that can be with him. I am also very jealous. I could easily see building a life with him.
Several years ago it was clear to me that I needed to get more help than what the church was giving me. I am involved in a 12 step group modeled after Alcoholic’s Anonymous as well as other recovery groups. I have also been in and out of therapy for the last several years. One of my therapists suggested that I become involved in men’s work.
I have always been afraid to get close to other men. I am afraid that if I get too close, the other man will figure out that I am gay and then reject me. I believed that if someone found out I was gay, then they would leave me.
For the past two years, I have attended a men’s retreat in New Mexico. The first year, I attended as a heterosexual. Of the twenty or so men at the retreat, there was only one openly gay man. I identified myself as another homosexual. I asked him not to mention it to anyone else. When it came time for him to introduce himself to the group at large, he told us how hard it was for him to be in a group of heterosexual men. When he finished telling us his story, the other men in the group stood up and gave him a standing ovation. The group’s acceptance and love of this gay man astonished me. I did not believe it possible.
Part of the retreat included a sweat lodge and a solitary overnight quest in the mountains. The sweat lodge is modeled after native American lodges. In that tradition, we used it as a time of cleansing and purification. We gathered before dawn and entered the sweat lodge. Rocks are heated in a fire outside the seat lodge. These rocks are then are brought into the lodge and are doused with water. The effect is much like a sauna.
Towards the end of the lodge, the leader said it was time for us to honor ourselves and to rid ourselves of anything that was burdening us. When it was my turn, I said that I honored myself as a husband, a father, and as a gay man. I could not believe what I had finally said out loud.
After the sweat lodge, we ate breakfast in silence and each of us left for our own individual quests. I was weak from the quest and could barely make it to the site I had picked the day before. I set up camp and then pondered what had happened in the lodge. I was not able to get any reaction from the other men because of our silence. A number of men did come up to me and give me hugs and smiled at me.
As I reflected on what had happened, I got my vision. I felt much like Enos when he was on his quest. I was assured that the shame I had carried around all of those years did not belong to me. It belonged to my family and my church. I had a strong sense that it was okay to be gay. God still loves me. That night from under my tarp I witnessed the most amazing display of lightning from the heavens. I will never forget it.
The next day after we had returned to camp and broken our fast and our silence, I was able to check out what had happened with some of the men. They assured me that they still loved and accepted me.
Last summer I returned to the retreat and introduced myself as a married gay man. There were four of us who identified ourselves as gay men, and another man who identified himself as a bisexual.
Afterward the introductions, one of the men came up to me. He wanted to know if I knew I was before my marriage or it was something that I figured out later. He was afraid if he looked at himself too closely he might also decide that he was homosexual. I told him that I have always known that I am gay.
That week I learned that heterosexual men would accept me. More importantly, I found out that other gay men would also accept me.
This time, after the sweat lodge, the four of us gathered together in silence and walked as a group to our respective places on the mountain.
This leads me to where I am today. I have never gone looking for relationships with men. I do not go to places such as bars or bookstores to meet other gay men. I used to think that the fantasy of being with another man would be enough to satisfy me.
I still tend to miss signals from other men that they are interested in me. A few weeks ago, I was chatting with an acquaintance who happens to be gay. After several minutes, he finally had to stop the conversation. He said that he is attracted to me and asked if I felt the same way. I also get very uncomfortable when another man compliments me.
What is it like to be a gay married man? It means that I do not get to date other men. Sometimes I think it would be wonderful to have someone to just be myself with, maybe to go and see a movie or something. Even with a wife and children, I get very lonely sometimes.
Would I do it again? I do not know. It is hard for me to imagine my life without my wife and children. Would I advise someone else to do it? I do not think I would.