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Reluctant Homosexual, Forgiving Marriage
by Norman Brown*
In high school and college I liked to work and got good grades, but I always felt like a failure, so I buried myself in studies. Spare time was spent looking at magazines like Scientific American. I never saw anything remotely interesting in Playboy. I didn’t do sports. I dreaded open houses and banquets because of the refusals I would get after I sent an invitation. Some girls were kind enough to go out with me once or twice, but I never had a chance to disobey my mother’s warning, "Now don’t you go kissing those girls!" It came to the place where I almost hated girls outside the structured environment of the classroom.
I experienced my first sexual touching on camping trips during college. I initiated it, and my closest buddy seemed to go for it, but never reciprocated. Then he decided it wasn’t right and said we would have to quit doing anything together. We had been so close. Why should doing something to make your friend feel good spoil such a wonderful friendship? I felt so alone. I felt some twinges of guilt, but I didn’t see why we should have to go different directions.
In my mid-20s I had frequent appointments in a city over a hundred miles away from my home and an acquaintance arranged for me to stay overnight in town with his friend Bill. On my first visit, after a simple supper of vegetable soup and home-made bread, Bill turned on his stereo and we enjoyed Brahms, Schubert and Tchaikovsky. I loved it. When bed time came we snuggled into the same double bed. I didn’t think anything of it since the house was small, but as I drifted off to sleep, I felt a touch on my thigh. I was electrified as I realized this was not just a casual touch. I had always been the initiator before, but now someone was touching me! After that, I looked forward to my monthly trips but I was torn by questions. Why did I enjoy this so much? Why couldn’t I get excited when I tried to imagine a girl touching me this way? I had always thought homosexuality consisted of anal intercourse, and I knew I didn’t do that. But something about me was different.
I had been taught from childhood that masturbation was evil. I had read J. H. Kellogg’s book describing the terrible things that follow in its wake. Mother’s admonition not to touch myself or I wouldn’t go to heaven still rang in my ears. The conflict between what I had been taught and what I did gave me a frightening picture of God. What would God think of what Bill and I were doing? Bill didn’t feel guilty and assured me it was okay. Maybe I was just perpetuating my childhood view of God as a woman in a long black skirt checking to see where I had my hands.
A few years after I finished college, I experienced several bouts of severe depression and finally sought help. I was admitted to a psych unit. Not long after my hospital stay, I learned that a psychiatrist who had consulted on my case had labeled me a homosexual. I was stunned. A homosexual! I was sure I’d never done anything homosexuals do. Was masturbating someone else homosexual? Surely not. Being branded worried me, but I knew myself better than the psychiatrist did. I was not a homosexual! I had just been too intimate with my buddies when circumstances put us in close quarters. I knew other fellows who had done similar things, and they weren’t gay.
When I turned thirty, I had occasion to see a psychiatrist again. During our visit he suggested I get married. When I asked him about my sexual attraction towards men he assured me, "Don’t worry! When you’re married, your homosexual desires will disappear like the dew of the morning." He emphasized the potential negative professional consequences if I didn’t marry. Up to this time I had never had a serious relationship or even kissed a girl, but some friends set me up with a woman, and we started dating. When that relationship didn’t work out I was relieved. But I still thought I should be married.
Daily, I prayed, "God, you know me inside out. You know my strong points and weak points. You know my sexuality. If there is a girl anywhere in this world who could be a good mate for me, please lead me to her." Somehow I had the assurance in the depths of my heart that he would answer this request.
A year later, after months of wondering why God didn’t find me a wife, I was introduced to Jill and to my amazement found myself attracted. She was on a medication known to affect sexual function. Add this to my attraction to men and we were looking at some real problems, but when I talked to my doctor, he dismissed my concerns. "Sex is just the icing on the cake, " he said.
God had come through for me. We got married. If I had looked the world over, I could not have found a more perfectly matched wife—same rural upbringing and home values, same religion, and temperaments that seemed to mesh. She was a great housekeeper. And after a hard day, it was so nice to know she would be there waiting for me with a hug, a kiss, and supper. We held hands as we bowed our heads. Touching became part of our lives.
Jill’s medications often suppressed her libido, but sometimes there was icing, lots of icing on the cake. I found, however, that my psychiatrist had been wrong, dead wrong, about my attraction to men. Even while we were making love, I would catch myself wondering, "What would it be like if..."
Because of a persistent health problem I’ve had to use medications with psychotropic side effects. I had experienced medically-induced depression but had never experienced the glory and pitfalls of a manic high. Then it hit. It was a roller-coaster ride over the moon. Gone with the wind were inhibitions and cautions. I bought a new car with a price tag that ruined our family budget. And I called Bill.
I’d never understood why some of my married friends were attracted to other women, but now I was wildly attracted to Bill. I had carefully avoided all contact with him since my wedding, but now it was hard to remember I was married. My mouth was dry and my heart pounded. I felt alone and trapped. Would I lose my marriage because of sheer stupidity? Then I remembered reading about manic/depressives. Manic!…Manic!…Manic! I went to see my family doctor, who immediately arranged for a psychiatrist to re-evaluate my medications. Would Jill forgive me? Did she even need to know? In my heart I knew she did, or there would be an unhealthy barrier between us. Would she throw me out? As we lay in bed, I sobbed out my story. And I found I had a wife with a big heart, a heart that could forgive the man she loved. There is no gift equal to that.
I still knew hardly anything about homosexuality, and I was sure I wasn’t one. But I went to the library and began researching. I found medical research, theological dissertations, and books written by noted psychologists. The more I read, the more inescapable the conclusion: I was a homosexual. But hadn’t God said no homosexuals would be in heaven? And didn’t he say, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he"? I felt doomed. I was angry with God because he was asking the impossible of me. He had given me a wife but had done nothing about my desires for men. I loved Jill dearly, but I couldn’t get rid of my gay thoughts. I had prayed a thousand times that they would go away! My heart gradually hardened toward God and my emotions seemed numb.
That’s when I noticed an advertisement for a start-up church. The ad included the phrase "Homosexuals welcome." I was still trying to tell myself I was straight, but I decided to attend their opening service. I didn’t see anyone there who looked gay, but I mentioned to the pastor I was doing research on homosexuality. And a few weeks later, a well-dressed man named Mark knocked at my door. The pastor had asked him to come see me. I invited Mark in. Somehow he put me at ease. He showed no surprise or disapproval as I tentatively groped for words. I ended up pouring out my life’s story, discovering in the process a depth of pain that I had scarcely admitted to myself, much less revealed to anyone else.
Mark, who had previously been a pastor, told me some of his own struggles. I was amazed. Here was a married man with children, a man devoted to God, who he said he was gay. Could I be gay? Mark invited me to join a men’s group that met weekly. With great trepidation I went and found a group of fine-looking, well-educated men. Over half were married and two had been church leaders. Unlike most of them, I had not been sexually involved with a number of gay partners, but in spite of our different backgrounds, we were bound together by a common black cord of emotional pain.
In the honesty and openness of this group I gained strength and courage. I doubted that I would ever be free of homosexual temptations, but God had written a commandment, and I pledged again to be faithful to my wife. I decided gay attractions were no more an excuse for unfaithfulness than heterosexual ones. Jill was really supportive. We read books together, discussed them and talked about our feelings. It didn’t seem to bother her nearly as much as me.
Now it’s 1999 and I look at life through my trifocals. Have I
changed? Yes, there have been changes. I have a better understanding of
God’s will for my life. I have gained the friendship of some great
men. I have a better understanding of others who are gay. I’ve learned
it’s okay for a man to cry. I’ve lost a huge load of guilt. While I
don’t trumpet it from the housetop, I’m no longer afraid to mention
my orientation to anyone who needs to know. And maybe I’m starting to
understand why God didn’t answer my prayers for deliverance from
homosexual temptations. Those temptations have lessened until they are
no longer a big deal, perhaps because I was willing to work through some
hard experiences with friends, or perhaps due to age. But does it really
matter? I’ve come to the settled conviction: God is on his throne, and
he is good!
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