I wrote this a little over a month ago as a Facebook note, just after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. At the time, I hadn’t quite decided whether I’d start blogging again, so I just left it as a note. Now that I have decided to blog again, I figured it’s a fitting first post. So here it is.
Usually, when it comes to Facebook, I stick to mainly re-posting funny cartoons about wine, the occasional cute cat, and wishing people happy birthday. And complaining about airline travel. I used to write all the time, and for various reasons, I stopped a few years ago. For the last few months though, a few things have been bugging me. I’ve thought about responding to certain status updates, writing some of my own, but have held back. However, the events in Boston yesterday and some of the reactions to that tragedy have prompted me to say something. In particular, seeing one item from the Westboro Baptist Church about how God sent the bombs and they would be picketing the funerals of the victims had me make up my mind to finally say something. If you haven’t heard of these over the top cult like lunatics, do yourself a favour and DON’T look them up. Seriously, these people are a special brand of crazy, and to be honest, the last thing they need is more publicity – I mention them only because they prompted me to finally write.
I’ll start by saying that I subscribe to no particular religious philosophy. I believe in the philosophy of striving to be a good person. To me this means respecting and accepting others, treating others as you would like to be treated, being helpful and aware of how your actions affect others and affect the world around you.
Having dispensed with the preamble, let me get down to what I really want to say.
My ex-husband is gay. Those of you who know me well (and some of you who don’t know me all that well), or those of you who used to read my blog already know this. However,there are many of you who may only know me in passing, or knew me from elementary or high school and don’t really know any of the details of my life, and maybe this will give you something to think about.
I didn’t know my ex-husband was gay when we met, or when we got married 6 years later. I didn’t know he was gay until the day he told me, almost 8 years after we got married, 14 years after we first met. Hindsight being what it is, knowing that he is gay explains a lot of things about our marriage and relationship, but at the time, I did not suspect that he was gay. People find this difficult to believe – surely I had some clue. Perhaps there were clues and I missed them. And here’s why. It never occurred to me that in the nineties, a gay man would find any shame in being gay and feel the need to hide it. In my mind, if you were gay, you were gay. Nothing wrong with that, no need to pretend to be something else. This is how I was brought up. People are people (I might break into song with Depeche Mode here) gay, straight, black, white, purple, whatever. As long as you’re a kind and decent human being, I’m happy to call you a friend. At the time that my ex-husband came out, I didn’t know any gay people (or if I did, I didn’t know they were gay), but that didn’t matter, I still couldn’t fathom why a gay man would be ashamed enough of being gay to hide it and marry a woman.
Of course nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and there were no doubt many reasons for him to have not told me he was gay. Maybe he wasn’t sure that he was gay. I do remember him telling me that he thought it (being gay) was like smoking – that he could just quit. I found that a really helpful explanation. I also remember him telling me that he felt that as a gay man, he could not have had a family. This was something that was really important to him – to have children – and he felt he had to be straight to do it. I have no doubt in my mind that he loved me and that he still does. If love were enough, we would still be together. However, this is one of those situations where, at least for us, love wasn’t enough.
Divorce is difficult no matter the circumstances. We had two young children (4 and almost 3 years old at the time), and were faced with splitting up and trying to do the best for our kids, something we both resolved to do. Trying to explain why mommy and daddy weren’t going to live together anymore was difficult, because it wasn’t like other marriage breakdowns where children may have witnessed parents not getting along. Even today, at 12 and almost 11, an age when our kids understand sexuality and what it means to be gay, I think they sometimes wonder why we can’t all live together, since we get along.
But I’m not here to write about my marriage. I’m here to write about how my experience shaped the way I feel today.
First of all, I’ve learned that people in general are much more accepting that I ever expected. My family still accepts my ex-husband as part of the family. And more than that, they accept his partner as part of the family. My friends have been nothing but supportive and helpful. As far as I know (and we have discussed it), my kids feel no shame in telling their friends that they have a gay father and a gay stepfather. Sometimes their friends are confused, but so far, there has been acceptance, no bullying, no strange comments, no uninformed parents keeping their kids away from the gay dads. There is a lot of good in the world – we’re seeing now with the large numbers of people trying to help out in Boston – sometimes all of that gets lost, because good gets very little publicity.
I’ve also learned that we have a long way to go. Our son, who will be 11 in a few years, had recently been attending church and bible study with a friend. We were a little slow off the mark and didn’t realize until after a few months that the church he was attending was a very conservative Christian church. At one point, he asked the bible study teacher about being gay. The bible study teacher told him that being gay was a sin. So was being divorced. Of course they also told him that he was going to Hell because he wasn’t baptized, and that playing games involving magic and watching Harry Potter movies was demonic. He doesn’t go to that church anymore. Please note that I do recognize that there are many wonderful, accepting Christian churches, as well as other religions out there. Our kids have attended a summer camp run by the United Church for a number of years. This is in no way meant as a slam to Christianity. The Christians I know are loving, accepting people. I use this as an example of how intolerance is everywhere, even where we don’t necessarily expect it, and sometimes it masquerades as good. It can be hard for kids to know the difference.
My kids are growing up in this world, and I don’t ever want them to feel like they have to be something they’re not to get by. Life is hard. People get picked on for almost everything – anything that is different. The internet makes it impossible to get away from constant scrutiny. Young kids are killing themselves over bullying and teasing, some of which is coming from adults. I don’t want my kids, or anyone else’s kids, to grow up in a world where they feel like they have to hide who they really are. Does it really make any sense to have gay people feeling so ashamed that they will pretend to be straight and marry someone of the opposite sex? How many lives does that affect? I can tell you firsthand, that is absolutely not the right choice for anyone. I don’t want either of my children to have to go through that, on either side of that type of relationship. Is it really fair to say it’s fine to be gay as long as you don’t act gay? It’s okay if you are gay, but you can’t enjoy the companionship and benefits of marriage. You can’t experience the joys of parenthood. I want my kids to live in a world where they know that gay or straight, they can have what they want. If they want a relationship, a marriage, they can have it. If they want children, they can have them.
I often hear people saying that they’re fine with people being gay but they don’t understand why they have to flaunt it. I’m not sure what they mean by that exactly, because I’ve met a few gay people now, and not one of them has ever walked up to me and announced that they were gay when we first met. I guess by flaunting, they mean talking about their partner, or holding their partner’s hand in public, or kissing their partner in public, or dancing with their partner in public. Or maybe wanting to marry somebody they love. All things that straight people do without anyone accusing them of flaunting their sexuality. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that anyone, gay or straight, take things to the extreme and start really going for it in public places. That’s what the internet is for. Gay people are just doing what straight people do – showing affection for a person that they care about. The only reason people feel uncomfortable with that (besides outright intolerance) is because they’re not used to it. It’s unusual. There are more straight people than gay people, so they don’t see that often, and when they see it, it just feels weird. And that’s precisely why we all need to see more of it. So it becomes less weird, and it becomes accepted. When 90% of the people walking down the street don’t look twice at a gay couple kissing, I’ll know we’re getting somewhere.
I’m proud of my ex-husband and his partner. I’m proud of my ex-husband for finally having the courage to come out after hiding it for so many years. I’m proud of them both for being true to themselves and working together to have a relationship in a world that may not support it. I’m proud of them for doing the very best they can as parents.
I’m proud of our kids for being good, kind, loving and accepting people. For not hiding because their family is different. Every day, I see examples of how much good is in those kids. Kids who are being raised half the time by gay men, which, by many people’s standards, shouldn’t be allowed.
A few months ago, I read an article that said that researchers were closing in on a genetic cause for homosexuality. There was a bit of an interesting debate over it. On one hand, it’s interesting. There must be some sort of genetic connection, and finding it would be a scientific breakthrough. It might show some of the “don’t flaunt your sexual choices in front of me” camp that gay isn’t a choice. And on the other hand, it might give those very same folks fuel to look for a cure for gayness.
Here’s what I think. There are a whole lot of ignorant and intolerant people out there. I don’t know if they outnumber the gay population (although as far as I can tell, it sure seems like they do), but I do know that they are the cause of much of what is wrong in the world. Let’s get some scientists together to find the scientific cause of intolerance. Then maybe we can work towards a cure.
Now back to my regular agenda of wine, cats, and birthdays. Cheers.