The ‘pray the gay away’ organization Exodus International recently announced it is closing down. Its mission–getting homosexuals to believe that a lifetime of struggle, confusion and occasional torment over sexual orientation was something that could be happily overcome through prayer–proved in the end to be as simple-minded and just plain wrong as we had all thought.
The belief that homosexuality can be (or needs to be) ‘overcome,’ and it’s associated belief that sexual preference is a choice, once among the most cherished and powerfully held beliefs of social conservatives, is beginning to fade. This is surprising and unexpected to those of us who knew such things to be false decades ago. And it should also be the cause of great hope among straight spouses.
It’s worth noting among straights for one obvious reason: that everything that leads to acceptance of homosexuality as unchangeable inevitably will lead to fewer ‘mixed-orientation’ marriages in the future.
But for some of us there is a second piece to this. When a spouse comes out as gay, in many cases, like mine, there is an initial desire to stay married. There is love, familiarity, a more or less stable (or at least ‘normal’) family. There is also fear of change, financial shock, devastating the kids, etc. Some decide to open the marriage, letting the gay spouse find an outlet (and sometimes the straight spouse, too) within whatever open marriage parameters they establish.
Some of us try and try to get there. I tried for years to get my mind around an open marriage, but I just kept coming back to the fact that I am monogamous, and that I need that in my spouse, too. (Poly vs. mono orientation is a subject for another post, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.) And in that kind of situation, you end up with a no-win choice: divorce or the gay spouse stuffs it. A very small handful of people make one of these choices work, somehow. But most, like me, can’t.
And this is where the thinking of Exodus International and its ilk comes in. Over many years my wife, a serious Catholic, quietly tried to pray it away. She tried to keep it under control by sheer force of will and her inclination toward self-denial. She was in therapy for years, still is, trying to reconcile being a closeted gay woman married to a straight man who won’t open the marriage. But who *wants* to live that way? Who wants their spouse to live that way? Who wants to be, or be with someone who is, in therapy for the rest of their life in order to stay married?
There’s a line of thought among some jilted str8 spouses that ‘if only my gay spouse had been willing to be honest and try things would have been OK.’ Well, you would have ended up in an open marriage or with a spouse living a life as an incomplete person. That isn’t drama; it’s fact. And say your gay spouse insisted it was not too big a sacrifice. Would you end up like the one str8 woman I talked with, who was in a cold, distant marriage, but whose minister literally said, “it’s bad that he’s gay, but he isn’t acting on it, so what’s the problem?’
And beyond that, one more thing: It does not *ever* really go away, not matter how hard they stuff or pray. It’s always there for them, sometimes small and sometimes almost unbearable. It manifests in emotional affairs, depression, outbursts, resentment, and a distance that can never, ever be bridged.