In the current zeitgeist, men seem trapped in a Catch-22. They are damned no matter which direction they take. Despite that, they are to somehow define themselves and shape their personality, mind, career and life in a perilously complicated world.
Many men feel caught in a maelstrom of conflicting messages, demands, theories, stories, censure and praise. Imagine what it’s like for a married man, facing his family and the world, who finally discloses what he truly is: gay.
We don’t often hear stories about such situations. If we do, the news becomes a marquee event. It gets pummeled under the public’s critical eye of disdain, disbelief, fear, kudos and even amusement.
For the husband disclosing his true sexuality, it can be a new level of hell—one that could bring about the ruin of his family, career and aspirations. On the other hand, disclosure will bring a new level of balance, freedom and authenticity within himself.
A man must wonder if coming out is worth it.
In this process, the husband is forced to re-evaluate who he is, his place in the world, and upon what his sense of self-esteem, self-worth and identity are based. He’ll wonder if he’s still a man, if he’ll still be treated as a man by others. He’ll wonder if he’ll be judged as inferior, defective, weak or a failure. Family, relatives, co-workers, sports team members and his church will speculate that he’s just exploring, was coerced by some deviant or is possibly possessed.
The love, acceptance and inclusion from spouse, children and relatives will be questioned. Can I love a gay man? Can we still be a family? Will you still be my daddy? Do you still love me? Did you ever love me?
Outside the family, all the husband’s relationships will come under scrutiny as he wonders whether he’ll be loved and accepted … or tolerated, despised, and rejected. To some people, he’ll be a heroic model—to others, a monstrous pervert.
Upon disclosing that he’s gay, some people will incomprehensibly determine that he’s a pedophile and assume he has sexually abused his male children. For those people, a father sexually abusing his daughter is considered reprehensible—but a gay father sexually abusing his son doesn’t have a word hellish enough to describe him and his actions.
The emotional response from spouse, family and others will at times seem bafflingly unreasonable, all of it based on fear, superstition, fictions, antiquated understandings and purposeful misinformation. Conversely, the husband/father may be surrounded by unconditional compassion, love, understanding, acceptance and information grounded in fact.
Put simply, it’s a veritable roller coaster ride for a married man coming out. He’ll swing, pendulum-like, through a range of emotions. One day he’ll be flying high with renewed vigor and hope. The next day, slogging through a quagmire of pain and despair.
Upon coming out, his hope will be that his familial relationships will remain intact. His perspective is that he hasn’t changed who he is at his core, just with whom he prefers to have intimate relations. He often still feels love for is wife and kids and wants them to remain an integral part of his life.
Loved ones, though, will be looking at him through a new lens—wondering just who he really is. What they know is that they’ve been lied to.
They’ll experience their own array of feelings: doubt, confusion, disappointment, disbelief, humiliation, rejection, resentment, abandonment, self-recrimination, regret, shame, guilt, hurt, loss, fear, contempt and/or outright hate.
The emotional terrain traversed by the husband and all those in his life will be filled with landmines and anguish, as well as moments of beauty and inspiration. Why would a man choose to come out knowing what could lie ahead of him, especially in today’s climate of attacks on the LGBTQ community from bashings and killings to religio-political actions aimed at destroying LGBTQ civil rights and institutionalizing discrimination?
The answer is authenticity, truth, honesty and freedom.
The Good Men Project’s article, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Men: The Top 12 Issues Men Face Today,” provides insight into the complex matrix men are struggling to comprehend, survive and thrive in:
1. Unrealistic and stereotypical portrayals of men in the media and the culture
2. Raising boys today
3. The disposability of men & boys
4. Combatting racism, sexism, homophobia, and the Man-Box
5. Parenting, stay-at-home dads, and paternity leave
6. The LGBT movement and the expansion of gender and sexuality
7. Relationships of every kind
8. Men, money, and the pressure to be a financial success
9. Sports as a lens of culture and masculinity
10. The prison industrial complex
11. The young and the old, the strong and the weak
12. Helping to solve the bigger problems of the world today
This is the zeitgeist in which men live today. Despite the confusion and overwhelm inherent in the list above, men still seek to be accepted, understood and loved. Deep in their hearts, they seek authenticity, truth, honesty and freedom. It’s an unconscious drive, an imperative that needs answering and fulfillment.
What each man intrinsically knows in the depths of his heart is that the greatest gift he can give the world is the unfettered and truest essence of himself—the greatest quest of his lifetime.
How a man can go about living his truest essence is the challenge at hand. Life offers up an unending variety of distractions, obstacles, tests, burdens and stimulation. Meanwhile, he’s vigorously encouraged to be responsible, strong, unfaltering, mature and a thousand other qualities. It’s easy to get caught up and lost in it all, waylaid by humanity’s conventions, demands, entertainments, conflicts and frenzied pandemonium.
Married men who are gay and who want to step into the fullness of their authentic being carry a tremendous burden, one of suppressed truth, deceit disguised as honesty and their true identity cloaked in fear, shame and guilt. Along with all the other socio-cultural pressures put on them, this one issue carries the most weight and has the greatest potential for loss. It is perceived as the proverbial nail in the coffin of a man’s spirit—but that doesn’t have to be the story anymore.
The key lies in a man unveiling and blossoming into the truest essence of himself—found only by going within his innermost being, the vastness of his heart and soul.
It’s a daily mindful contemplation to reveal his true self completely independent of the exigencies of the external world. It’s learning to listen to his inner voice versus relying solely on his mental capacities, education, life experiences and on worldly influences. It’s surrendering to his greater, more expansive, embracing, noble and compassionate self.
Men are multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, multihued.
For married men coming out, it’s their opportunity to sweep aside a lifetime of illusions, delusions, deception and a double life so that they may be their true selves and shine.
To thine own self be true,
and it must follow, as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man.
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