When Christian rock star Trey Pearson announced he was coming out of the closet and separating from his wife and their two children after seven and a half years of marriage, he said that his wife had been his “biggest supporter” and that “she just hugged me and cried and said how proud of me she was.”
If this account is exactly true, it is troubling. Think about the degree of social decay required—especially within Christianity—for a Christian wife to be so conditioned by popular culture that she immediately congratulates her husband for abandoning her and their children, rather than reaching out for help to preserve their marriage and family. A man who walks away from a marriage because of same-sex attraction is no different from a man who abdicates his role as husband and father for sex with other women. We shouldn’t view Trey Pearson’s actions as heroically true-to-self, but as simply selfish.
I should know. I walked away from my marriage nearly twenty years ago because of my same-sex attraction. I made a stunning error in judgment. Thankfully, our marriage has been very happily restored for more than five years now. Along the way, I learned that marriage is more than just a tradition or a religious or social construct. Monogamous, complementary, conjugal marriage is a pearl of great price worth investing one’s entire life in, a pursuit that surpasses all its imitators and impostors.
Many Same-Sex-Attracted People Are Drawn to Complementarity and the Solemnity of Marriage
Popular culture now espouses the notion that heteronormativity is harmful to those with same-sex attraction. But many who experience same-sex attraction would disagree. In seeking conjugal, complementary marriage rather than anti-conjugal, anti-complementary relationships, we seek nothing more than to fit in with the entire universe, to be part of the wonderful ecosystem of humanity and all of nature. Non-conjugal, non-complementary sexual relationships are a synthetic lifestyle, at odds with nature and the entire cosmos. Not only do we seek marriage in the only true sense of the word, we are dedicated to its solemnity and the sanctity of our marriage vows.
One man recently told me:
Over the years, I have had passing thoughts of giving up my family and marriage for a same-sex relationship or partner, but decided that in no way is it worth destroying my family and marriage for that. There is enough unhappiness in this world without me adding to it. Life isn't all about me; I have created a family and children and I have a responsibility to them that I could never forsake. So over time, even when feeling same-sex attraction, I have chosen not to dwell on it and to remain faithful to my marriage and family. I draw immense satisfaction from that.
I don’t think of myself according to my sexuality or sexual desires, but rather as a man, husband, and father. I’ve formed many relationships that support that self-understanding and I’m content with it. I suspect that there are many married men like me with these same-sex attractions but who choose to remain faithful to our first commitment to wife and family. It’s no big deal to. Really. In fact, it’s the greatest of honors and privileges.
Like many of the married same-sex attracted people who have spoken to me over the years, this man wants to remain anonymous, because he wants to protect the happiness and security of his marriage. He would never do anything to undermine or jeopardize his family. He is one of the many unsung heroes whom the world will never know. I wish many more would step forward publicly, but I certainly understand why they choose not to.
Last year I contributed an essay to a book, Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction. Here’s what a few of the married same-sex attracted men I spoke with had to say:
I am 52 years old, a father to five awesome kids, and have been happily married to my wife, Colleen, for 20 years. I am an actor, writer, marathon runner, and I have SSA [same-sex attraction].
I may not have chosen to have SSA but I certainly can choose to deal with it according to the dictates of my own conscious [sic], mind, and faith. I stand as a voice to an alternative choice: that a man with SSA can be fulfilled emotionally, physically, and sexually in a traditional relationship and marriage, as the provider of the family and the patriarch of the home.
In my twenties I would have thought it was impossible that I could ever marry a woman, and even less possible that I would be happy and fulfilled in every way in that marriage. Eleven years and counting now, and I am happier than ever. That includes sexually, relationally, and emotionally.
I don’t blame people who doubt me—if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would find it dubious myself, it’s so counter to the dominant cultural narrative out there. People like me have always been around, but we seldom have any reason to speak up. I choose to do so now not out of any desire to help myself, but to advocate for those who are in the position I was in in my twenties and early thirties, and even more, for the children whom I believe deserve (if at all possible) to be raised by their biological parents if at all possible.
Joseph Allen Stith:
I don’t remember ever being attracted to someone of the opposite sex since my earliest memories. As a boy, I kept my feelings to myself knowing I would not be accepted if anyone knew how I felt. I joined the United States Marine Corps to learn how to be a man and learn masculine characteristics I lacked. After 6 years of service, I fell in love with the only woman I have ever been attracted to and we were married. We’ve had the privilege of seeing our children grow to maturity in a loving home as husband and wife. My greatest happiness in life has come from the privilege and responsibility of raising my family in a way I have chosen according to my beliefs. Grandchildren now visit our home and our family remains close more than thirty years since our marriage.
Had I followed my own desires and impulses toward other men, my life would be very different today. . . . My children have been told many times by their friends from single parent homes, just how fortunate they are to have both a Mom and a Dad even with our reversed non-traditional roles (I do the cooking and I hate sports—totally opposite of my dear wife, and it’s ok).
And there are others. Many others.
Dale Larsen, now father of four and grandfather of nine, recognized his attractions at an early age. After nine years of marriage, and during a period of stress, his attractions “skyrocketed.” A gay relative “convinced me that I needed to be who I was—that that’s who I am and I needed to live my life that way.” She arranged for him to go on a date with another man, and Dale recalls:
I looked over and I saw a couple, his brother and sister-in-law, and their little kids and they had the same aged kids I had and the same two boys and a girl. And all of a sudden in my mind, I saw my own family sitting there and the words that came into my mind were, ‘If you continue down this path, and you can, you will lose them.’ I made a decision that that was it—I was coming back home. I wanted a family so bad. I wanted my wife.
I loved my wife.
Blaine Hickman: “my feelings don’t . . . define me. I’m not what I feel; I’m what I do.”
Bill Seger: “We can choose our destiny. We can choose the direction we want. It’s not easy . . . but the blessings are enormous.”
The Power and Beauty of Marriage
In the spring of 2015, I originated an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court that came to be known as “Same-Sex Attracted Men and Their Wives.” It was submitted in Obergefell v. Hodges in support of allowing states to maintain the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Twelve same-sex attracted men, married to women, contributed to this effort. Our goal was to let the justices know our stories, which have been regularly suppressed. We are not supposed to exist. Our existence—and the thriving of our families—threaten to undermine the narrative that same-sex marriage is the only route to happiness for the same-sex attracted.
Here is the conclusion of our brief, which sums up the message we wanted the justices to hear:
Striking down man-woman marriage laws on the basis of constitutional discrimination would thus send a message to the same-sex attracted that there is only one choice for them, that man-woman marriage is unattainable, that they are acting against their nature for desiring it, and that pursuing it will be dangerous for them, their spouses, and their children.
But the opposite is true. The man-woman definition of marriage is not an insult; it is an ensign, beckoning to anyone—regardless of sexual orientation—that the union of a man and a woman is of unique significance in light of its procreative power and complementary capacity.
The man-woman definition of marriage—conjugal, complementary marriage—is an ensign not because it is just a good idea, or the best among many. It is a bright ensign because it is the truth, undeniably displayed in nature and in each of our physical beings. We are made male and female, as complements to each other. And when male and female come together, they unite as one flesh. When two males or two females attempt to join together sexually, they remain two males or two females. To base marriage solely on romantic or sexual interests requires averting our minds from easily discernible truth.
Our stories are not based on “reparative therapy,” so-called attempts to “pray away the gay,” or other efforts to change sexual orientation. Rather, we fully accept the reality of our same-sex attractions and fully affirm our individual self-worth, just as we are. We also attest that our attractions do not dictate our relationships. While we may not have a choice about our attractions, we do have a choice about our relationships. And rather than choose the now culturally acceptable and popularly celebrated same-sex relationship, we instead have chosen marriage. The real thing.
Here’s what the proponents of same-sex marriage and the many who have passively accepted its arrival may never be able to comprehend: sex within marriage—and marriage itself—is about generously giving of ourselves, not taking what our eyes and minds covet. I would rather live freely according to reason, in harmony with the universe, than as a prisoner living according to the dictates of nothing more than hormone-triggered impulses.
Same-sex marriage is not the only option for gays and lesbians who seek personal fulfillment and familial happiness. No matter what the Supreme Court may say, marriage to a member of the opposite sex is not some kind of meaningless impossibility for the same-sex attracted. It’s the fulfillment of our deepest longings.
Doug Mainwaring is a marriage and children’s rights activist. This article is adapted from his forthcoming book, Marriage, Ground Zero: The Real Battle Dawns.