The Good Men Project speaks about the changing role of men in the 21st century—and that includes the continued expansiveness, inclusion, and understanding of sexuality and gender as well as the ways that marriage and commitment are changing. The Good Men Project is thrilled to talk to acclaimed writer David Christel about his groundbreaking book.
The Good Men Project: Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. Your book Married Men Coming Out! The Ultimate Guide To Becoming the Man You Were Born To Be is speaking about gay men who are married to a woman. As a man who dated women before coming out as gay yourself, how did you feel emotionally while writing this book?
Dave Christel: I used to facilitate a Married Men’s Coming Out group. When I began in 1993, I had no understanding of the scope of what these men face, only my own life experience. I learned quickly as the men shared so much.
After facilitating the group for six years, I’d really honed in on the challenges, needs, fears, and aspirations men experience on this journey. One complaint the group members had is that there were no resources to help them through the coming out process. Being a ghostwriter of books, they urged me to write a how-to book for men everywhere.
When I sat down to begin organizing an outline, the book came pouring out of me. It brought up emotions connected to my own coming out process before I moved to NYC in 1974 at the age of 21. It also deepened my compassion for men in this position, which spurred me on to get the book completed and published.
Gay men who are married to a woman will clearly get a lot of benefits from reading this book. How can readers who are not gay benefit from your book?
The coming out process involves everyone to a lesser or greater degree. So, one of the important components of the book is that people dealing with this issue are going to go through their own emotional process and self-identity re-assessment.
Something as momentous as a man coming out as gay to his wife is going to rock the world of many people, come up against their beliefs and values, and impact their relationship with the married man. The man they thought they knew and understood, they don’t. Now they’ll question just what their relationship is based upon and whether trust can be re-established.
I wrote the book for anyone who is dealing with this issue either as the spouse, a family member, relative, friend, co-worker, neighbor, church member, or community member. The book can help you address your feelings appropriately and with sensitivity. It offers comprehensive insights into what a gay man in an opposite-sex marriage is going through emotionally, as well as how others might react to the married man’s disclosure of being gay. In the book, I’ve included exercises for the married man to help him through his re-identification process, which anyone can do for themselves.
What would you say to someone who insists that coming out is inherently selfish because of the turmoil it can cause the other people in his life?
People who don’t want a person to come out are actually being selfish themselves. All they’re concerned with is their own comfort whether that involves other people’s comfort or not. They aren’t concerned with the welfare of the individual coming out who will go through a gauntlet of emotions in the process, who may be facing tremendous rejection and loss. Some people will hold that over a man’s head to force him to stay in the closet.
What people don’t realize is that the husband who is coming out will forever remain unhappy if he rejects his true sexuality, who he truly is in his heart and soul. That will impact all of his relationships, especially that of his immediate family. Heterosexual people are clueless to this because they’ve never had to experience socio-religio-cultural condemnation, rejection, hate, and even bashing and murder just for their sexuality.
As we all know, keeping secrets can be disastrous and break a person’s spirit. Again, people who want a married man to stay in the closet are really only concerned with living in their safe little cocoon, where everything is copacetic, non-challenging, and doesn’t scare them. That is far more selfish than desiring someone be happy with who they are in all aspects of their life.
Your book speaks specifically to the experiences of gay men. How are the experiences of women who come out as a lesbian while married to a man unique? Similar?
There are similarities and unique differences. Both married men and women coming out to an opposite-sex partner face challenges of discrimination, rejection, and homophobia. Each will face challenges that the other won’t due to their gender and how they’ve been perceived by society, culture, economics, politics, education, and religion.
There are also archetypes promoted by all of the above that many desire to maintain for reasons of power, control, wealth, and authority. Homosexuality upsets the applecart of conventions, archetypes, and the ruling parameters of how humanity is supposed to organize itself. That’s the delusion: “how humanity is supposed to organize itself.” There is no “supposed.” It’s a fallacy, an erroneous understanding of how life actually works.
People tend toward emotional comfort and safety. They want to be able to label and categorize, to organize in order to avoid conflict of any kind and bring peace of mind. What is considered “other” is an unknown quantity, something to fear. That fear, combined with ignorance, then drives people to malign and disassociate from.
Whether a married male or female, the coming out process will be fraught with challenges. That’s why it’s so very important to have a support group or at least one person in your corner.
How can someone find the necessary community to support him during the process of coming out, especially in a small town or conservative area?
Thank god for the Internet! When the Married Men’s Coming Out group first met in 1992, everything was dependent on the facilitator and their counseling background. At that time, this group was believed to be the first of its kind in the US, so there was no historical context or support materials available. Now, one can find all sorts of support from men’s groups to books, research, journals, digital men’s magazines, individual therapy — all of which can be done long distance via social apps.
The book does cover the who, when, where, and how of disclosure. A man will want to choose these with great consideration, understanding the ramifications of telling the world “I’m gay.” They’ll want to manage their coming out process as much as possible rather than being held hostage to other people’s agendas.
Again, the greatest fears men have in this process is that of loss and rejection. A man will be forced to re-evaluate his family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and church and community members. He’ll take a serious look at his career and what he wants for his future. Coming out may entail moving so as to be in a more accepting and less stressful environment.
What would you say to the wife of a gay man who decides to come out?
Make sure your husband is getting therapeutic support and, very importantly, make sure you yourself are getting the same kind of support, preferably with a different therapist. As much as your husband is going through emotionally, you will be also. You’ll question just who you are now that you’ve been told you’ve been married to a gay man all these years, whether your husband ever really loved you, what the heck was going on in your marriage all this time, what you’re to do with your life now, how and what to tell people, how to manage the guilt, shame, fear, and/or anger. It’s a lot, something that can’t be done alone.
Reach out, no matter how embarrassed or humiliated you may feel. You will feel so much better if you know you have someone to share your turmoil with, who knows what they’re doing, and who can provide a dispassionate sounding board. Check to see if there is a support group for this issue in your area. Your emotional well-being is just as important as your husband’s and your children’s, if you have them.
Also, there are a number of books specifically focused on the spouses of men who come out. The authors have additional resources, blogs, and possibly workshops and a national network you can join. Realize that you’re not alone in this situation and a lot of help and support is available.
Any new insights since the book was first published?
No new insights except that the battleground over LGBTQ civil rights, gay marriage, and protections continues to be a rollercoaster. But that doesn’t mean one should continue hiding. It does mean that the decision to come out must be thought through carefully: who you tell, when you tell them, how you tell them, how much you disclose, and where you tell them.
There’s no avoiding that fact that coming out is going to be stressful and challenging, but you can work to make it less stressful and challenging. It’s each person’s choice as to how they want to handle it. Some men stand on a mountaintop and announce they’re gay to the whole world. That approach isn’t for everybody. Take the coming out process step by step, there’s no rush.
If you could go back and talk to the twenty-year-old you, what would you say?
Simply: Be yourself, no matter what. People who think they know better, who think they have the authority, whose beliefs they feel are “right” are always going to try to enforce and institutionalize “their way.” They’ll use coercion, manipulation, outright lies, threats, and even physical force to get “their way.” They are clueless and blind and are unconsciously seeking some kind of power. They do not have your best interests at heart, just their own.
Your heart knows you better than anyone else. That is what you need to follow. Respect and honor yourself, respect and honor everyone you meet. Love unconditionally, choose wisely. Be the light you seek in the world.
Read more about David Christel and buy his book Married Men Coming Out! The Ultimate Guide To Becoming the Man You Were Born To Be here.
This post is sponsored by David Christel.
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