Monday, March 5, 2012

Orthodox, gay, married, and in the closet

This post is probably one of the most important messages that I will share on my blog. Please note that the author of this post wrote this on the condition of anonymity to protect his family and their well being.

Although this brave man's situation seems hopeless and without a "way out", his story sends a really powerful message to so many people out there who find themselves in similar situations, and the most important thing they need to know is that they're not alone.

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You know you got to go through Hell before you get to Heaven. - Steve Miller Band

I have been writing my story for about 8 months on my blog frumgaymarried.blogspot.com. The name was appropriate as the title of my blog when I started writing in June. Today, you might call it confused, gay and separated.

As a gay man in a committed heterosexual relationship for over 15 years, the guilt and dishonesty has risen to a point of uncontrollable anxiety and depression. In the 35 years I have lived, I had never come out to anyone outside of my therapist and a close friend. A therapist is well... paid to listen and my friend didn't know how to take the news. He closed up for a couple of years.

Intense loneliness is one word to describe a closeted homosexual.
A married closeted homosexual is more in line with the word  "trapped" or "confined". It is like being in a self imposed prison. Slowly the gaping hole in your soul that yearns for the love of a man widens, and Like Elton John's Skyline Pigeon, you pray to a God you hope is listening.

Turn me loose from your hands
Let me fly to distant lands
Over green fields, trees and mountains
Flowers and forest fountains
Home along the lanes of the skyway

For this dark and lonely room
Projects a shadow cast in gloom
And my eyes are mirrors
Of the world outside
Thinking of the way
That the wind can turn the tide
And these shadows turn
From purple into grey

You see, I didn't choose to be gay. Whether genetic or learned behavior, this is a deep rooted need for male connection and intimacy. It has been 35+ years in the making. I suffered abuse both physical and emotional through my parents, therapist and 2 camp counselors as a child. I was bullied in school for years on end without having an adult to protect me. I went through your standard ultra orthodox yeshivas where the message was if the Rabbi's ever even got a whiff of a homosexual tendency there would be a zero tolerance level and the boy would be thrown out immediately. No one spoke to us about sexuality and masturbation so I was alone in thinking that I was the only one in the world that was suffering through this. I thought I was sick.

For just a Skyline Pigeon
Dreaming of the open
Waiting for the day
He can spread his wings
And fly away again
Fly away skyline pigeon fly
Towards the dreams
You’ve left so very far behind

Growing into my teenage years I knew there was only one answer, to get married. What else does a 20 year old frum boy struggling with homosexuality do? We marry the gay away. There was no internet in the early 90's. There was no way for me to know I wasn't the only one. There was no You Tube and "It Get's Better" videos.

So I married. I was able to be sexually active with my wife but I struggled with being in the moment. We had our first child. We struggled and I settled into a deep depression. I went to a therapist in Lakewood who sent me to Barnes and Noble to buy Nicolosi's book on reparative therapy. He told me if I followed the approach in the book it would all be better. Now I would read the gay away. I came out to my friend who was confused and didn't quite know how to handle my disclosure. He retreated away and distanced himself from me for a few years.

I finally found a therapist who cared and wanted to help. He practiced reparative therapy on me but it did not work. I had swings. I went through times where I was able to "turn the gay off" and subjugate the feelings. I had more children. I dug myself into a deeper and deeper hole. I grew along with my wife but the gay would rear its ugly head up and tear apart my insides.

(No, being gay is not just a taava or an inclination. It is an orientation. It is deeply rooted in our psych just like a heterosexual need for male-female attachment).

This past summer I couldn't bear the burden alone any more and started writing my blog. This allowed me the opportunity to meet others and discuss our challenges together. I learned that there are myriads of frum people, single, married and divorced struggling deeply with homosexuality. I realized that there is no voice for the married gay man. I continued to write. In December on a Friday night the bubble burst, my depression was such that I was ready to hurt myself if I didn't take action. I opened up to my wife about my homosexuality. She cried, we talked. We decided to see what can be done to potentially help us stay together and keep our family intact. 

At that time the "Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality" came out. It was hurtful and offensive. It suggested that God and the Torah are cruel. It had signatures of some of the greatest rabbis of our generation that I had grown to respect and support. This affected my already wavering commitment to being Frum in a world where I felt that I was one of Hashem's forgotten children. Other hurtful articles, statements and videos were published by the Torah world in its approach to Jews and homosexuality which further distanced me from it's core values of loving your neighbor as yourself. I felt the need to share my truth with various people in my life. My wife had a hard time understanding why it was so important for me to share and discuss with others.She was scared about my secret making its way through the community at large. My anxiety level and depression once again hit the roof.

When one is in the mud it is impossible to take a shower and clean themselves. My therapist and I decided it was best to separate so that I can have the ability to get a clearer mind so that I can make these life altering decisions from a relatively sane place. This is where I am at now. I am in an apartment, alone, depressed not knowing what the next day will bring. I am questioning whether it would be a blessing for God to relieve me of my duties on this world. What does he want from me and the likes of me? I have never given into this inclination in a physical sense yet I am tortured every day by it. How can I be happy? How can I feel whole? How I can I follow a Torah where its association brings me so much hurt and pain? Why am I different than the holocaust survivors who went off the derech that we are told not to judge? 

I pray; 

Just let me wake up in the morning
To the smell of new mown hay
To laugh and cry, to live and die
In the brightness of my day
I want to hear the pealing bells
Of distant churches sing
But most of all please free me
From this aching metal ring
And open out this cage towards the sun

I am seeing some signs of hope through an incredible support system that has developed for me. I have people who love me for who I am and want to see me find light through my darkness. I continue my prayer and beg the powers that be that in the future I can change my blog name to "gay, confident and at peace with life". 

20 comments:

  1. Maybe you're bi

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  2. as hard as it maybe for this man, i can't help but think about the people he has dragged into his struggle without them realizing what he is getting them into. what if this man had children? for them to then have to grow up with out a father because he has to now find himself...how is that fair?

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    1. I can't speak for his children, and I can't speak on his behalf either, but I can tell you that turning this into a "poor Kids" situation is really selfish of you. The person that's struggling the most is the writer of this story, 15 year ago, coming out wasn't an option for him and so he followed the "rules" and did what people expected of him.

      He has a great relationship with his kids and based on the good values they were raised with I hope they would be proud of their father one day for being honest enough to put an end to the false facade of "family" that ultimately caused more tension and strife in their home, as opposed to it being a decent environment for these kids to be raised in.

      You can't ask him to continue living in the closet, even his wife doesn't want that as is clear by now.

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    2. as one of those "poor kids" I don't find that to be self centered at all. The kids in his situation are lucky but that's an unusual situation, unfortunately the exception, not the rule.

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  3. Chaim, I can tell you from the perspective of an ex-spouse of a closeted orthodox gay man...there, is without question more than one victim in a marriage as described above. The children involved are "poor kids" the woman who was duped is a "poor wife" and the man who tricked them all including himself is the "poor man" no one comes out unscathed but let me assure you this ISNT just about the poor man who was "trapped" or "caged". to quote the article : "It is like being in jail and having to put on a show for your master. Slowly the gaping hole in your soul that yearns for the love of a man widens, and Like Elton John's Skyline Pigeon, you pray to a God you hope is listening." Trust me in my marriage there was one "Master", my Ex husband. He called the shots, went and did as he pleased and if ever questioned, he berated and abused me until I was doubting reality and assuming all he said was true. He may have been yearning and hoping for a mans love, but he did this KNOWING WHY he was. You cant even imagine the PAIN of a woman who is married to a man, whom she has devoted her entire life to, whom she does everything for, whom she tries to please in EVERY IMAGINABLE WAY and yet still knows she is not enough for him, that he does not seem to desire her, that he does not find her attractive....but SHE doesn't know why!!!!! and even after when he finally confesses his true feelings to her, after she has given him his children, her life to him, after she is then viewed as "damaged goods" to the rest of the orthodox world, as all divorced women are....he adds insult to injury and when he is asked "how could you even be with me???" and his response is "I just pretended you were a man". Can you begin to know the hurt, the pain, the destruction of self esteem and self worth? the hole you fall soooo far into having everything you thought was whole, real and true ripped away from you without any warning is so deeep and so hard to climb out of. Let me make something clear. I am not against gay men or gay marriage, I am however against ANYONE, gay or straight, misrepresenting themselves and therefore causing pain and destruction to an INNOCENT who did nothing to harm this person in the first place.

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    1. I feel sad for you -- because you don't have enough clarity to see who really hurt you in the end. It's not your husband. And only until you acknowledge who hurt you AND him, you will have no inner peace.

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    2. I was married for 26 years and then found out my whole life was a lie. reading your words, I felt that it was me speaking. Only someone like you and I can truly comprehend the intensity of the agony that such ahusband and father to children can cause. I would love to chat with you either through phobe or e mail. I pray that Hashem should contiue to give us the ability to be strong for our children and ourselves.Gemar Chasima Tov.Leah

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  4. I am terribly sorry for your experience. All I can say is that I am and have been a great husband and father to my wife and children. As it related to getting married under false pretenses, that is what was our society dictated to me as a young man in my early 20's. I simply didn't know any better. Maybe caged is a strong word. I had wonderful times with my wife and I suspect she did as well. I didn't feel that way my entire marriage, rather it felt that way at the moments that my needs for male intimacy were magnified and intense. Thank you though again and as I say to my wife all the time, I am so sorry for what I have put her through and for what you went through.

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    1. What would you say to this woman's ex-spouse now, in regards to how he's handled and abused himself and everyone else that was involved in that situation?

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    2. I would say that abuse and maliciousness are never okay. I would also say that I can't judge him or anyone for that matter, even my abusers because I don't know what caused them to be the way they are. Understand that it doesn't make it okay, it just means I wouldn't judge them.

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    3. Dear "Frum, Gay and Married,"
      This piece was incredibly moving. May you continue to have the strength and hope to find peace.

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  5. There is no doubt that there is more than one victim. However, to blame any one individual is absurd. This man was forced into a straight marriagdhaka to the bigotry and hostility of his religion. He was left with no choice.

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  6. I don't agree with you, Chaim, in regards to the closeted husband's share of the blame. Being gay is not a choice. But it was HIS CHOICE to raise a family as an accessory to his closeted life. Although there are mitigating circumstances, he is still responsible for that choice.

    Yisroel http://www.kosherunicorn.com

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  7. Yisroel;

    Do you feel it's appropriate to make a judgement without knowing me or my specific circumstances?

    To me it's akin to saying a blanket statement that all people who are abused as children are to blame for making the "choice" to stay in that environment and allow for it to happen. After all, they had a choice.

    I was one of those children and I knew no better. Can I take responsibility for the "result" of my actions? Absolutely! Can I take blame or responsibility for actually making the choice? That I can't do. I didn't have a frame of reference to know to do anything differently. If you were in my shoes I suspect you'd have done the same.

    Blame frum society, blame my parents, my rabbeim and/or others who created a society that didn't lend to someone in my shoes understanding what I was going through and/or offering me a compassionate ear to hear my situation. It simply wasn't available. A phrase we use is tinok shenishba. That was me.

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    1. I merely pointed out responsibility. We all try to do our best with the cards we're dealt. Clearly you've been dealt a tough hand.

      No, I don't know you personally. But you don't know me personally either. Despite your assumption, I would not and did not 'do the same.' I still have people from the frum community calling me, asking me when I'm going to get married, blissfully unaware that I'm gay. I got matched a couple of times. And each time I got to know the girl the first thing that occurred to me was, 'I can't bring her into this. I can't bring someone else into a lie.' And because of that, I put an end to it.

      According to you, "blame frum society, blame my parents, my rabbeim...." But by your logic, they're not responsible for their actions either. And in the end you can't control or change them all - only how you choose to react to them; only your own adult choices.

      As a frum gay man, I admire you for accepting your gay identity and for seeking greater honesty and openness in your life.

      I hope that you are currently in and continue to pursue counseling or therapy and that through such help, the support of good friends and the grace of Hashem, you find your way to an even more positive situation in life.

      - Yisroel

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  9. I can only look at people similar to me if I want to project. I grew up in a "frum" household, went to ultra orthodox yeshivas and made a choice to get married at 21. If we use the stats that 1 in 10 males are homosexual than a combination of the yeshiva I went to in Israel and in the states had over 6,000 students. This means 600 were gay. I don't know of one that chose not to marry the gay away. That's a crazy stat. 600 people. You might say that I don't know them all. I think though I woul have hear of 1. Just 1.

    So I reiterate, I believe that 99.9% of the people in my shoes would have married. That takes away an element of free choice and responsibility for my decision.

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    1. I should also mention that it was in the early 90's before Will and Grace or certainly well before the frum world even used the word gay. The Internet was not in play as well. I had no other way or frame of reference to place my homosexuality.

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  10. I am is a smiliar situation. Maried 14 years with 3 kids. Everyday I struggle. For most of my life it was easy to play along. But as I get older the days get harder, to the point I am in a depression. I hid behind work for a long time until my career stated to go sideways. Some days I just want to end it all but I couldn't do that to my children. They need me. If I was to come out now I feel like I could lose everything, my career, whats left of it, my kids, and my family. What to do?

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  11. Most recent anonymous post. If you are comfortable emailing me at festerfest123@gmail.com please do. You can send frm an anonymous account. I know someone who's. in a very similar situation as you are in and I believe communication, even anonymously can help you both in an important way. Thanks.

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Feel free to post any comment or questions. Negative commentary that does not serve a useful purpose will be deleted.