I live in Kosovo, still a patriarchal and traditional place. I have this dilemma whether to get married with a woman, not because I want that, but because social pressure is too high. I don't know what to do. I really have this need to get an advice from you. Is it okay to marry a woman, when I am a gay man, and when I'm endangered socially and psychologically if I am who I am openly. I don't know what to do.
Signed, Caged In Kosovo
Dear Caged In Kosovo,
I felt very sympathetic reading your dilemma. I understand and appreciate the difficult struggle to come out. We live in a bias world that is largely homophobic, heterosexist, unfair and often dangerous for gays and others that transgress cultural "norms." While I don't know what it's like to be a gay man in Kosovo, I do know what it's like to be closeted and discriminated against. It sucks. It's confusing. You risk loss. It makes you anxious. It leaves you scared. It keeps you sad, angry, and saps all your energy. It's painful and you suffer. In short - it's hell.
Only you know if staying there, remaining closeted, and marrying is the best and only option available to keep you safe from harm, but only if you're upfront about the truth beforehand with your wife, allowing her to freely choose the situation. I imagine it's pretty awful to have to decide between saving yourself and yet, by doing so, selling yourself out at the same time. That's a high price to pay, but not if it literally means saving your life. But if your life is not in jeopardy, and if it's at all possible to move or stay and take a different path, I encourage you not to marry and to come out.
It's courageous men like you that create profound cultural change when they break tradition. If we hide, we don't progress. We must take a stand. The focus of my work is to encourage and help gay men bust out of the closet fully by loving, accepting, and believing in themselves. While I wholeheartedly understand and appreciate the social pressure and fear, I don't condone gay men concealing or compromising their sexuality in any way or to any degree, especially if it hurts innocent women who love them. This is because I don't believe there's anything wrong with being gay. Covering only increases shame and colludes with the prejudices that caused us to go underground in the first place. In fact, all of my work is geared toward helping gay men be who and what they are openly - gay, not stamping it out. My work is also about helping gay men find authentic connection with others, genuine connection that's not based on facades. My book Straight Acting - Gay Men, Masculinity, and Finding True Love has helped many men like you and I'd like to be helpful to you in this way as well. It's about the damage that secrets and shame based lying do when gay men act straight or are straight acting, camouflaging who they are, and it aims to stop it - teaching gay men how to live authentically and happily. An excerpt:
You can be brave and overcome the male taboo that says men aren't supposed to get emotionally intimate with one another. It takes a strong man to stand first in line and not fall prey to the widespread opinions of what makes a man a man. It takes courage to travel beyond the horizon. But you can be an ambassador, representing a new idea of manhood in a foreign land. You have to be a special man to redefine manhood, swim against the tide, be different, stand out and not fit in. But you are special. You likely made it this far not being a crowd pleaser, standing up for your individuality...
While the focus of the book is on gay men, it's a liberating and empowering book for all men and anyone in a relationship with a man. It helps us understand how cultural homophobia and heterosexism drive men to do some of the things they do, including gay men marrying women. And sometimes it's understanding what happened to us and why that can help us heal. Nicholas Snow of Notes From Hollywood writes,
My only regret when reading Angelo Pezzote's Straight Acting: Gay Men, Masculinity and Finding True Love was realizing that, given the title, "straight"‚ men everywhere may not read the book, missing out on the powerful, transformational, life-affirming consequences. "Pezzote's book is filled with words of wisdom not only for men, but for moms, wives, sisters, girlfriends, and daughters as well. All men and anyone in relationship with a man (fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, boyfriends) have something to learn from Straight Acting. In Straight Acting, Pezzote skillfully and with heart and passion describes the behavioral, emotional and spiritual prison most men are trapped in, and details the escape route for any man to live more openly and freely within himself and in the real world.
All The Best, Angelo