February 25, 2008
Hidden victims of Christian ignorance
Posted by: Chris
Self magazine has published a poignant profile of a woman who learned, after a decade of marriage and pregnant with her fourth child, that her husband was gay. It's worth the read, but the take-away for me was this excerpt:
I was 30 years old when this happened, and Chris and I had been married for 11 years. We looked like the perfect family in our Christmas card portrait. Both of us grew up in the small-town South, and Chris was in the military. …
I was a 19-year-old college freshman in Kentucky when I met Chris. He was 22, a senior and a talented musician who could sing and play brass, keyboards and woodwinds. I'd never had a boyfriend before, and I felt incredibly flattered when this popular, good-looking guy asked me out. I was also pleased that we had a similar religious upbringing. I grew up going to a Methodist church, and I've always had a strong Christian faith. Chris's father was a Southern Baptist minister who preached fire and brimstone. …
It's not just her husband's (fake) name that makes this story ring true. Time and again, I have seen how the woman most vulnerable to marrying closeted gay men are those from the same sheltered conservative Christian background as the men who aren't equipped to come to grips with their sexual orientation.
These women (and the men who marry closeted lesbians) are the hidden victims of often-willful Christian ignorance about homosexuality. It's easy enough to see how gay men and lesbians can be tortured about their sexual orientation, worried about risking family, friends and even their eternal hereafter. But the roadkill in their torture are the heterosexual girlfriends and boyfriends they date and often marry.
The woman in the Self magazine profile actually had many more clues than most do. "Chris" told her at the end of their first date, out of the blue, not to believe all the rumors about him being gay. Most of those in the closet are a bit more adept at hiding who they are. But just as gays from small towns and conservative churches aren't informed enough about sexual orientation to come out, their girlfriends and wives aren't clued in as well about the signs to watch out for.
Still, let's be clear that responsibility for a sham marriage ultimately falls on the closeted homosexual, as well as on the pressuring family, church and society leaders insistent on making the case that sexual orientation is a "choice."
I remember all too well the relationships I had with women in college and law school. Whenever I felt like her feelings were becoming serious, I fell into a torment. On the one hand, the relationship held the hope of "saving" me from the feelings I tried so hard to stifle. On the other, I knew I would be risking her feelings and her future as much as my own. I would pull away, but I could just as easily see myself jumping in, with consequences I shudder to imagine today.
It's too much to ask of these "straight spouses," after all they've been put through, to stand up for us in public. But their stories bear powerful witness to the real human cost of anti-gay ignorance and religious-motivated bigotry.
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