It’s been quite a while since we've spoken. Ever since I've been going to my psychologist and talking with friends there is just this one gap that I've been trying to get over. Accepting myself as gay.
So far, it’s been the hardest to deal with. More so than coming out, especially due to my religious upbringing, because ... when it comes to accepting someone's non-heterosexuality it always comes with a price. Sometimes the price is too heavy to bear when you're dealing with subject matters like this.
The inability to have children the natural way. In my case, it’s what I really wanted, but I can't have it and now that I'm gay, I don't really want to have children who are either adopted or a surrogate either, if only because I'm afraid that they will be made fun of because of me (even if laws are changing).
The disposition of having to marry a man (not having as in forced, but rather having as in it’s my destiny), when it comes to my family members "Man/Woman" is all they know. And it hurts to even think about inviting them to something they probably would not attend to begin with, and therefore I don't want to invite my friends to it either since I feel they’re just a replacement for family members.
And, overall, my whole attitude regarding it. If I did accept myself, with paying these heavy prices I begin to wonder is it even worth it all? Just for the sake of being happy and being myself? Or am I just being selfish about it? Honestly, this is the thing that I'm most confused by. Selfishness.
I want to accept myself as gay, but what if I end up being selfish? Being gay may be WHO I am, but that doesn't mean it’s WHO I wanted to be. Disregarding other people's feelings for the simple fact that I'm gay. And I'm not proud of my sexuality, and... I’m starting to wonder if this is the one thing that I've been struggling with ever since, and I'm not too sure exactly what I should do. It’s astounding really. I can accept other people for being gay, but I can't even accept myself. And if I were outed to a bunch of people I knew, I tend to wonder what would go on in the back of their minds and I'd be too fearful to face the world.
So... I need to ask. What should I do to accept myself?
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Your letter is a perfect example of an argument against those idiots who declare that “being gay is a choice.” Who would choose to go through the kind of anguish you’re going through when it would be so much easier in our society to be straight? Answer: no one. Talk to any homosexual man or woman, and they will likely tell you that it was a tremendous struggle for them to be gay. For many, like you, it’s harder to accept yourself as gay than it is to tell family and friends you are gay.
Coming out can mean a lot of sacrifice, I agree. I had to sacrifice a lot. I had to give up my marriage to a wonderful woman (who is still my friend). It tore me up. The only thing worse than going through that has been Yogi’s (my mate’s) death, but the divorce is a very close second.
I’ve had a lot of success with people accepting me for being gay, however. At the same time, you and I and many other gay people have suffered a lot of guilt and shame. We feel we are hurting other people because of this, disappointing parents who want grandchildren, disappointing even those who might have considered being our spouses but now can’t be.
That is, that’s the assumption we always make, but it’s not necessarily set in stone. You see, there is something called “mixed-orientation marriages” or MOMs, which are when a straight person marries a gay or bisexual or even asexual partner. You might think such a marriage would be doomed to failure. Some, like mine, are, but in many other cases they can be successful. Why might, say, a straight woman wish to marry a gay or bi man? Or vice versa? Sometimes, especially in the past when it was much more shameful to be gay than today even, gay people would deliberately marry a straight person to hide their sexuality and gain approval from their families and society at large. And some societies are even more pressure-filled than in America. In China, for example, there is tremendous pressure for people to marry before the age of 25, and those who are still unmarried by 35 are considered practically social pariahs. In fact, in China there is something called “marriage fairs” where parents post their children’s personal information on boards and hope that someone will pick their kids and promise marriage to them. And it doesn’t matter if the promised one is straight, bi, or gay; the important thing is that they be married.
But back to America (sorry, I just find other cultures interesting). Believe it or not there are people out there who are willing to knowingly marry someone who is gay. The main reasons for this are either: 1) they love the person very much for many reasons other than sex; 2) they want children and see that gay men can be very nurturing; or they are a lesbian who wants kids and likes the man well enough even though he is straight. Just because there isn’t much compatibility in the bedroom doesn’t mean there can’t be a marriage. In fact, many straight marriages stay together even though lovemaking has virtually gone out the door. Sometimes this is for financial reasons or for the children or sometimes the partners simply don’t feel all that sexual any more (health reasons, age, etc.) Oh, and this sort of thing can happen between a straight, bi, or gay person and an asexual person, or with two asexual people.
Do you get that this can be more complicated than you ever imagined? The first thing one must do is throw all assumptions, preconceptions, and social conventions out the window. Start with a blank slate and go from there. Love and happiness do not necessarily stem from sexual satisfaction or desire. In fact, sex should really be just one factor of many in a successful partnership.
Here is an excellent, free, online book about mixed marriages from an author with experience http://mixedorientation.com/introduction/. A lot of it is about finding out the person’s gay orientation after the fact, but much of the information here would be relevant to you in order to get rid of your notions of the impossibility of marriage and children.
That all said, don’t discount the possibility of a very happy marriage to a man. I always like to think of actor Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, who are obviously ecstatically happy and have adopted children. Now, I understand the desire for biological children of your own (still a possibility for you), but please don’t discount the very real joys many parents have with adopted children. Do you think Harris’s kids will be scarred or made fun of? I really doubt it. And they will benefit greatly from being part of a loving household.
Now, that whole “selfish” thing you’re worried about. Stop it ;-) You have every right in the world to pursue your own happiness and to be who you are. Feeling guilty about that is self-destructive and counterproductive, and when that is the case you are no help to anyone. When you are happy, fulfilled, and self-confident you will also become a much better friend, son, spouse, colleague, etc. Example: if Papabear hated himself for being “selfish” all the time, he would be unable to write a column and help others. Point taken?
Seriously thinking of never marrying a man because you’re afraid your relatives won’t come and you don’t want your friends to fill in merely as substitutes? Okay, you say you have no problem accepting others as gay, but you feel your family cannot accept you as gay? You might not see it, but that is an awfully cocky attitude that is saying “I’m more open-minded than my family.” You might be very surprised to find out that many of your family members would attend your wedding. You might consider giving them a little more credit—or the possibility of some credit, anyway. And even if they don’t, what’s more important? Their approval or your happiness?
If you go through your entire life only doing things so that you can be validated and approved, I guarantee you right here and now you will be a very miserable, sad, and lonely person. Guaranteed.
This isn’t a phenomenon just for gay people, either, FYI. Probably the majority of people in this world live lives they hate because they want to have other people approve of them. They marry to gain social status; they pursue careers they despise; they keep trying to one-up “the Joneses” and end up with a beautiful house and car but empty hearts. All of this because they didn’t feel free to be themselves.
The biggest prison on the planet is the Jail of Approval. It has no iron bars, no chains, no walls, and therefore it is inescapable. It is a jail constructed by the inmates.
Realize that you don’t need other people’s approval to be happy. Know that it is okay to pursue your own happiness and that this is not being selfish. I think you are confusing “selfish” with “hurting people’s feelings and sensibilities because they don’t understand you.” That, dear furry, is their problem, not yours.
Hope this helps. Write again if you need more information!
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