If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that my perspective on life is limited. Life itself is complex and multi-faceted, and the more I am able to listen to other people’s stories and lean in to understand a different perspective than my own, the more I learn and grow.
So when I read Josh Weed’s blog post about his experience as a happily married, sexually healthy, gay LDS man married to a heterosexual LDs woman, I was impressed. The Weed’s answer some deep and challenging questions, they share intimate details about their relationship, they articulate what works in their marriage, and why. If you haven’t read their story, you can read it here.
After reading it I thought, “Awesome! They seem really happy. What an anomaly.” And almost immediately, my mind began sorting through the many friends and family of mine, who have had the opposite experience. People who have loved a spouse, started a family, and given everything trying to make it work, only to have their homosexuality rise to the surface, insisting on a change of course for their lives. I’ve seen marriages crumble, partners suffer, and children take the brunt of a broken home.
Scott Nicholson posted a response to Josh Weed’s article on his FB page. His response is very accurate to what I’ve seen and heard repeatedly from gay people who make an effort at traditional marriage. Scott agreed that I could post his response publicly. It too, is heart-felt and honest:
“I’m gay, and I was married to a woman for fifteen years. I was happy. I loved her. I STILL love her. But ultimately we (mostly I, but with her support) decided that it wasn’t enough for me to be with someone I loved—I wanted to be with someone I am actually IN LOVE with, on every level. That simply isn’t possible with a woman.
Since we separated I’ve been happier, more fulfilled, more complete, and more ME than I ever was with her. And she will acknowledge that since we separated she has gained a great deal of strength and independence that has been good for her.
She struggles with the separation more than I do, because she WAS (is?) in love with me, in a way that I could never return. I think that we are both hopeful that one day she will heal enough to find someone who is IN LOVE with her (something I could never give her), because she is amazing and she deserves it.
There is a temptation among active Latter-day Saints to point to stories like this one and say “See? It’s possible” (with the implied—but hopefully unspoken—”…and if you can’t do this, you just aren’t trying hard enough, aren’t faithful enough, etc.”)
For one thing, for every story like this there are ten stories like mine. And for every story like mine (in which my ex and I have been able to remain friends, remain supportive, continue to co-parent the kids, etc.) there are a hundred stories that ended in bitterness, venom, drawn out custody battles, and a great deal of misery.
The fact that this couple has managed to stay together happily for ten years means NOTHING to anyone else. They are individuals. They are unique. Even their RELATIONSHIP is unique, since they have known each other since they were toddlers and been best friends for decades. If they happen to have hit on the right combination of friendship and self-denial and faith and conviction and bisexuality and sacrifice, that’s *fabulous* for them. But nobody else is them, and nobody else should be expected to follow the exact pattern of their lives.
Mr. Weed even says this himself in the post. Of everything he writes, this, I believe, is the MOST important bit:
”I want to make it very clear that while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being ‘incorrect’ and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself
. … If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse. Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.”
Even posting this article on a gay friend’s wall is a tiny step beyond love into correction or coercion or control. Please don’t go any further than that.
You may have beliefs about homosexuality that you feel strongly about. That’s wonderful, and if you derive value from the belief system that you subscribe to then please continue to believe and have faith.
But nobody else is you, and despite how ABSOLUTELY right YOU feel your beliefs are, at the end of the day they are ONLY beliefs. They have been “proven” to you by a very personal, subjective, and intimate experience, and they are yours alone. Please allow others the privilege of their own personal, subjective, and intimate beliefs, so long as their beliefs do not attempt to infringe on yours.”
I agree with the caution expressed in Scott’s facebook response. I hope that faithful LDS members will not read the Weed’s story and think it is a one-size-fits-all solution for gay people in our church. It isn’t. While we are all in unique situations, it is the exception not the norm that a gay person will find the intimacy and success in a long-term heterosexual, traditional marriage. One success story does not begin to address the fact that the LDS church provides no real practical solutions to address the very real issues of loneliness and worthiness and happiness that arise for gay members of our church.
Life is hard. Human sexuality is complex. Marriage is a lot of work, and it’s often a gamble even in the best of circumstances. I agree wholeheartedly that each individual circumstance is unique, and that the best we can do is to love and support each other in our efforts to live the best lives we can. So I send a lot of love and support to the Weeds. I want them to have incredible happiness. I send a lot of love and support to all of us, doing the long-term relationship gig. Let’s all approach our human relationships as wisely as we can. Let’s keep listening to each other’s stories and perspectives. Let’s make enough space in our viewpoints to accept each other, gay/straight, single/married, etc. etc. Let’s live and let live.