Coming Out: My Journey
My wife and I sat in bed watching a video. It was movie night. One night a week I’d bring a home a video and we’d sit and watch it together after the kids were in bed. This week I had brought home In and Out. From what I had seen of the trailers and in my naivete I assumed it was a movie about mistaken identity, about a man who was thought to be gay just because his mannerisms tended to fit the stereotype. I figured my wife and I could both use an opportunity to laugh about homosexuality. When Kevin Klein left his bride standing at the alter, I was ticked.
Five years earlier I had become involved with a man at work. We became good friends and spent as much time as we could manage together. My wife tried to tell me our friendship was over the top, but I wouldn’t listen. I had never had many friends and none that I would have called close. Amos (not his real name) was the best friend I’d ever had. I could talk to him about anything and everything. I was very jealous of the friendship I had always wanted and finally found and resented my wife trying to get in the way. At some point Amos and I realized there was more to our feelings for each other than friendship. We tried to maintain control and not let things get out of hand. We tried.
One August Amos and I were in LA with the company at a convention. We were sharing a hotel room. One night we ended up naked together. We spent most of the night just holding each other. It was the first time I had ever been that close to a man. It was heaven. There was nothing that felt wrong or unnatural about it. While I probably would have let Amos kiss me had he tried, neither one of us was very interested in making the first move.
The next morning, however, I knew I had a choice to make. It wasn’t really much of a choice. I loved my wife. I wanted to be with my family. A week later, I told my wife what had happened. It was a terrible time. At first she wanted a divorce. Those were some of the darkest days of my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about how it had felt being together with Amos and knew I didn’t feel that way with my wife. I was afraid I had done something irrevocable and had ruined my marriage and my life. My wife changed her mind after a few days of talking things over. While it was a great relief to me, I was still stuck and very unhappy. I went to speak to my bishop. It wasn’t the first time we had spoken on this subject, but I think the depth of my despair surprised him. He told me he was out of his league and we should get me some professional help. I will always love and respect him for knowing his own limitations and not pretending to have all the answers.
I started seeing a counselor at LDS Social Services. In the beginning I went hoping to be cured, wanting to be cured. As time dragged on and the years went by I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Still, counseling was very good for me. It helped me gain some measure of self worth, something I had never had. It didn’t ever do much about my attractions for men.
I did what I knew how to do to try and rebuild my relationship with my wife. I told her everything. We talked about my counseling sessions. I told her how I felt and how I felt about how I felt. It was terrifying for me. My wife would often get frustrated waiting for minutes at a time while I gathered my courage to talk about my feelings. Still, for a while things seemed to be going well. My wife told me she was feeling more secure in our relationship than she had ever felt. I had joined Disciples, a mailing list for gay Mormons who choose not to pursue a gay life. My wife and I got in the habit of reading it together. She told me more than once she was impressed and even surprised by the things I had to say to the group. After a little more than a year of counseling I was finally beginning to a grip on things. At some point, though, something changed. I still don’t know what.
My wife began pulling away from me. I tried everything I knew how to show my love for her. I tried the big things. I tried the little things. I tried to be more attentive and anticipate her needs. I was supportive of hobbies she had taken up and gave her time alone (read: away from the kids) to pursue them. While I could tell she appreciated it, none of it had the desired affect of bringing us closer together. We sometimes talked about how she was feeling and I would ask what I could do to help. She never had an answer for me. I tried starting a date night, a night for just the two of us to get out of the house and away from the kids. More often than not, she forgot to get a sitter or simply didn’t feel like going out. I got a sitter on a couple of occasions, but I really wanted her to put something into it. I needed some reassurance that it was something she wanted to be doing, not just something she felt like she had to do. I never got it. Movie night was all that was left of date night. I had spent the last five years trying to show my wife that I loved her and would never leave her. Then Kevin Klein left his bride at the alter and pretty much called me a liar.
When the movie finally ended. I gathered my courage, turned to her and said, “I feel like I’m losing you and I don’t know what to do about it.” That was when she said to me, “I want a divorce.”
I was in shock. I guess I knew it was coming. I just didn’t want to admit it. I wanted to believe we could work it out. I needed to believe we could work it out. I asked her to try some counseling together. She agreed, but it was soon obvious to me and our counselor she wasn’t there to work things out. She was there to justify her decision. I felt like I was on trial every time we went. She brought up everything I had ever done wrong in our relationship, things we had hashed out together over and over and over. Everyone, including myself, could see the changes in me. Everyone, that is, but my wife. To her I was still the same man who had cheated on her five years ago.
After two months of getting absolutely nowhere. We called it quits. I didn’t understand what she wanted from me. The facts were not in dispute. I was not denying anything that she said. All I could say was I was sorry and that I wasn’t the same person now I was then. It was sometime in late October or early November and we agreed I would move out when the holidays were over. I started going to Evergreen about that time. I knew that my wife was my only real reason for staying on the strait and narrow. I knew I had to find another or I knew I would be sunk. January 5, 1999, I moved into my own apartment. I don’t have a head for dates, but that one will stick in my mind for the rest of time.
1999 pretty much sucked. I was still intent on staying the course I had chosen five years before. I found my new ward and went and talked to my bishop. I told him why I was in his ward and how I had come to be there. It became readily apparent he didn’t posses the same wisdom of my first bishop. He tried to give me answers and solutions and I quickly lost interest in speaking with him. I continued to see my counselor for a while as well, but we had reached an impasse. We had done all the work on my self image that we could do. Talking about homosexuality was getting us nowhere. Nothing he could say to me offered me any hope. I needed something concrete to grab onto and he had nothing to give.
I tried to make new friends in the ward. Brandishing my new found sense of self worth I actually went up and introduced myself to people in the ward, something I had never before done in my life. Imagine how disappointing it was to have to reintroduce myself to the same people only a week later. They didn’t even remember talking to me. After being in the ward for a few weeks someone actually came up and introduced himself to me. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do. We made small talk for a few minutes and then he went and sat down. I berated myself later for not inviting him to sit with me, but I had been too startled to think clearly. It took me three weeks to get up the courage to walk up to him and tell him how much it had meant to me, to tell him that being recently separated, in a new place, and never very good with the social graces anyway, it meant a lot to me that he had gone out of his way to say hello. He got a pained look on his face and explained that he and his wife were moving. It was their last Sunday in the ward. “Well,” I said, trying to hide my disappointment, “it’s a good thing I said something today then, isn’t it?”
Going to church became a chore. I so longed to find some peace there. “I’m here,” I would sit in Sacrament Meeting and pray. “This is where I’m supposed to be. This is where You said I need to be. Please, please help me find peace here.” I still remember vividly my first Fast and Testimony meeting in my new ward. I sat and listened to some woman say how good the Lord was and how He knew exactly what we needed and all we had to do was ask. I sat drawing thunderheads and lightning bolts on my program and thinking, “Bullshit.” Still, I thought if I kept going something would change. Eventually the peace I sought would come. It never did.
I struggled to find meaning in my life. I had married my wife because I had felt impressed by the Lord to do so. I didn’t understand why He would tell me to marry my wife when he knew how it would end. Wasn’t marriage supposed to be eternal? If He had impressed me to marry my wife why had I never felt aided by Him to stay married? I thought of the nights I spent on my knees begging for help to bring my wife back to me. I thought back to all the nights in college I spent on my knees terrified and begging for His aid because I knew I was gay but didn’t know what it meant or what to do about it. Always, the Lord had remained silent. I don’t know why I expected Him to answer this time, but I did. I needed Him to answer. I wasn’t looking for a miracle. I wasn’t even looking for understanding. All I wanted was to hear or feel, “Sean, I’m so sorry. I’m here.” But He didn’t seem to want to give me even that. There were several times I felt the presence of the Lord during that year. Each time it was a powerful “I AM GOD” type of experience. Frustrated I would reply, “I know that already. I need to know that You care.” I might have been able to deal with it except that I had felt His peace and love in my life before. “Why not now?” I would cry. “Why not now when I need You the most? I am so lost.”
Evergreen had ceased to be a comfort to me as well. I was so tired of talking about sex. I have never been, am not now, nor will I ever be one who is interested in serial sex. And yet that seemed to be all homosexuality was to those men. I tried to explain there was more to it than that. I didn’t want sex. I wanted to fall in love. I wanted to settle down. I wanted to find a mate. They would all nod sagely and go right back to talking about physical relationships. So I stopped going.
I was stuck. I made it to church less and less often. I would drive to church praying for the courage to stay. More often than not, I drove in the parking lot only to drive out the other side and go home. I couldn’t stand to be there. I couldn’t pretend anymore that I wanted the same thing everyone else there wanted. I had absolutely no interest in being married again. I was tired of Sunday School platitudes. I couldn’t bear to live the rest of my life wanting what wasn’t allowed and allowed what I didn’t want. “I’m sorry, Lord,” I said one day. “I can’t do this anymore. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
My last act in the Church was to baptize my oldest daughter. It was a horrible day for me. I felt like a total hypocrite. I had stopped taking the sacrament months before. I didn’t feel that anyone who was as angry with the Lord as I had any business taking the sacrament. I knew when the day was over I wouldn’t be going to church anymore and that I would start trying to make friends in the gay community, hopefully to find someone I could love and who would love me.
The first man I slept with was Andy (also not his real name). Andy and I met on-line completely by chance. We spent a fair amount of time chatting and discovered we had much in common. The biggest problem was he lived in Seattle and I lived in Utah. I had been chatting with Andy for about a month when an opportunity to go to Seattle on business came up and I took it. I was there for two days, but the seminar I attended was only a day and a half. We spent the second half of that day talking and walking. We drove down to the waterfront and got some dinner. Afterward I was pretty tired and worn out so we went back to my room.
The hardest thing for me to adjust to when I moved out was sleeping alone. It was now April of 2000 and I was still very lonely. I asked Andy if he would spend the night with me. I knew that sex was a possibility, and I’m sure some part of me wanted it to happen, but it wasn’t why I asked him to stay. Nevertheless, we did end up having sex. The whole time I was worried that I would wake up in the morning feeling guilty and ashamed. I didn’t. It was strange to me to be making love to someone I had known for so little time, but I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t feel ashamed. That in an of itself was odd to me. Guilt and shame had been companions of mine for so long. I wondered why they hadn’t joined me for breakfast.
Andy came to visit me about six weeks later. One of the things we did together was go see Gladiator. I was reluctant to go. It seemed to me just to be an excuse to splatter someone’s brains on someone else’s armor. I ended up enjoying the movie very much. However, at the end when the Spaniard dies and is reunited with his family in the afterlife, it was more than I could bear. I managed to keep my emotions under control until we left the theater, but by the time we got back to my apartment I was sobbing. The final scene had touched on my own beliefs about the afterlife and families and I wondered if I had forfeited my right to be with my children through the choices I had made. Andy held me while I cried and while I tried to explain to him why I was so upset. All the times I cried during 1999 what I wanted more than anything was for someone to be there and hold me while I sobbed. That Andy was there and willing to hold me and listen to me, even though he didn’t share my beliefs, meant a great deal to me.
In the end things didn’t work out for Andy and me. He couldn’t bear the thought of living in Utah and I won’t leave my girls who are only six and eight. I’m with someone else now, call him Luke. Luke makes me happier than I ever thought I would be in this life. We have our moments. He is at a place in life which requires that we be discreet, which is hard on both of us. Still, he’s most definitely worth it.
For the most part, I have made peace with the Lord. I feel like He understands and doesn’t condemn me for the choices that I have made. I don’t know what my choices will mean for me in the next life. I have hope that there is more to the story anyone has been told and it will all work out in the end. I do still have moments when I wonder if I’m being led carefully away down to hell, and there are times when talking to some of my gay friends who are still in the church and trying to follow the counsel of its leaders will bring all the guilt and shame crashing back in on me. The only thing I know for certain is I cannot go back to living my life the way I lived it before. I am so much happier and actually look forward to life instead of dreading every single day I have left. To paraphrase a moment in one of my favorite plays:
“God only knows what my choices will mean for the future.”
“Then we will leave it in His hands.”