I love your blog (http://www.askangelo.blogspot.com). I found out about you as I am involved in a gay support group. I have an issue that I hope you can help address and clarify. Author Dennis Schleicher (Forbidden Love with a Married Man; E-mail Diaries) is adamant that in order to be a part of his support network that we as gay married men all have to have goals. One of the goals is that we must plan to come out and come clean to our wives. I have an issue with this as I am not ready to come out to my wife and family. Why should I be segregated from his support group if I choose not to comply with his guidelines? I need his support group as it’s a great way for me to connect and hook up with other guys in my shoes. If he finds out that I do not have a plan, I'm afraid I will be asked to leave the group. This is just not fair! That's my problem.
Signed, Married Gay Man
Dear Married Gay Man,
Coming out is not an event. It's a lifelong process of overcoming learned shame and increasing self-acceptance. I advocate that all gay men must strive to come out - fully. No one can truly be happy and thrive in the shame and secrecy of being in the closet - fully or partially. (That includes Ted Haggard. You can watch my youtube video opinion on Ted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcF9Q5ibacY.) The only way others will accept us is if we are brave enough to accept ourselves, being out. The most effective weapon against homophobia is being out. Those that know a gay person are more likely to be supportive of equal gay rights. So overall, I support Dennis' position in principle and respect his right to have his rules. I am sure he has good reasons for them.
However, I also support your right to come out on your own timetable. I think as long as you're striving for and working towards full disclosure as a goal, I think you should be allowed to remain in the group. If however, you have no intention of moving in that direction, then you should respect his group rules and withdraw. It's a tough call. It's like an alcoholic coming into treatment with me who isn't ready for AA. Is it better for me to support him, meeting him where he's at and guiding him toward recovery, or to refuse to treat him until he stops drinking and joins AA? For better or worse, I do the former, but the key is in either case - the client has to have to want to stop drinking. Similarly, you have to want to come out to be "treated." But the "when" of it needs to be left up to you.
You're not alone. Every gay man takes the journey from the closet to a life of authenticity. Coming out is the struggle that unites us as gay men.
Aside, Dennis Schleicher's book Forbidden Love with a Married Man; E-mail Diaries is riveting. At once the reader's taken in, identifying with the author's suffering for being different and his plight for love in a desert of intimacy called the gay community. Dennis writes (my composite),
I don't like what the gay community has to offer. I've been to gay bars and find the people to be extremely clique-y and shallow and into themselves. I am so tired of dealing with the gay scene, the cattiness, the “I promise to call you,” or the “We have so much in common, where have you been my whole life?” Only to never hear from that other man again…the gay community isn't emotionally available or stable. It is a natural desire and need I have, as a human being, to be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually close with another person. Is this what all human man kind want’s? This is my history with gay men since I first came out--always searching for love but never finding the commitment that I am so desperately seeking. I have to tell you, I've been burned so many times by gay men, I'm questioning whether or not I'm actually gay. I'm not physically attracted to the female anatomy, but I'm attracted to the emotional stability that I have seen in my female friends.
As I write about in my own book Straight Acting - Gay Men, Masculinity, and Finding True Love, learned shame derived from heterosexism and gay stigma lead many gay men to tone down the signals that they're gay and turn up "real man" traits to gain more acceptance. After all, if a guy's too "out" he may face loss, social humiliation, and life threatening danger for being perceived as weak or "a fag." This causes many men to hide, keeping their sexuality in the closet, or muting their "gayness" once their out. Either way, this tough straight acting facade blocks men from one another's hearts, making building meaningful lasting relationships challenging to say the least.
Dennis takes us on his journey of how he was driven to look for love from a closeted married man because of the lack of emotional availability of many openly gay men. You don’t go to Holland to buy Tulips if they’re down at the corner store. He was further pushed to this extreme in his search for love by his experience of gay men's mistreatment of one another. Dating a closeted married man was a desperate cry for help to be rescued from the pain of gay loneliness. He was seeking an oasis where he could fill his heart with some “real” intimacy. Being fed up with openly gay men, perhaps he felt it was the best he could hope for.
Many men like Dennis are walking around in a gay wasteland looking for love. They’re dazed in despair, crying out for love in an often hostile barren land. Their alienation is intensified not only because it's hard for men to feel safe, supported, and comfortable enough in our society to love each other openly, but also because it's hard for gay men to love themselves from all the rejection they face. Hence, many of us find ourselves all alone with a hole inside and a constant craving to fill it. We have a burning desire for love in a community that seems to have lack and limitation around it. Being alone, or single, only reinforces an underlying sense of inferiority ? that there’s something wrong with us.
Dennis's book helps men understand how not being authentic not only hurts themselves, but hurts others who love them (wives, children, the other man). His crusade to help gay men be out and proud and to treat each other with love and respect is a must read for any man struggling with his sexuality and those that love them; A perfect compliment to Straight Acting - Gay Men, Masculinity, and Finding True Love.