A friend of mine came to me this morning and said she had thought of me the previous night; she had seen a show called “My Husband’s Not Gay” (broadcast January 11th) about same-sex attracted religious men who were married to women, and she knew that for a while that had described me. I had also not considered myself gay at that time, and in almost all real senses I wasn’t. I was not straight, but I wasn’t gay either. (In the parlance of the show, I was “SSA”: Same Sex Attracted). I was in denial: self-imposed, certainly, but denial nonetheless. And it wasn’t anything I wanted to broadcast.
I first heard about this show being taped and broadcast by TLC (a channel I’m less and less impressed with) a few weeks ago. I signed a petition on Change.org to call for the program’s cancellation for a simple reason: its potential impact on those struggling where I was fifteen years ago. TLC certainly has the right to broadcast whatever they want, but this program is a bad attempt to capitalize on a hurtful topic of the moment, and is potentially very harmful. There are many people who are in the position of the protagonists right now… or have been (as I was with my ex-wife of ten years) at some time in the past. My biggest concern is the well-being of those who have moved through it, but who still have religious convictions (again, like me). A show like this cannot help but make us wonder (somewhere in the back of our minds) if those featured in the show have a point. Could we have done better? After all, many religions include an aspect of self-denial and self sacrifice that is important to personal growth. In Luke 9:23 Jesus speaks to those following him: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” We can’t help but wonder: is that talking about our orientation?
I deny myself in many ways: they bring me closer to God. I denied myself regarding my orientation for many years, and it brought me closer to no-one. But worse than the show’s effect on me, is the potential effect on someone like my ex-wife. Our break-up was the most difficult thing in both our lives at the time, and I hope that this show doesn’t affect her in a parallel way: wondering if there might have been some way that she could have been a little bit different, done something that would have kept our marriage together. Since these women apparently have achieved some “success” in their relationships (depending on how you define success), I hope that this show’s premise doesn’t make her feel like she missed something. I believe she is happier now; and I know that I am more complete, more expressive and more self-aware than I was at any point previously.
I’ll close with a simple quote from the friend who first brought this to me: “It was stupid.”
Addendum: Since its broadcast, I’ve been interested to see the response toward the show. There is an excellent description of the premise (and it’s assumptions) in the Wall Street Journal (2015). The Daily Mail includes statistics that show over half such Mormon marriages (they are relatively common) end in divorce, and up to 70% of the guys end up leaving the church (Daily Mail, 2015). The Atlantic (2015) describes the shows failure as the “lack of empathy for the pain that likely defines those men’s lives.” (And the protagonists might deny it, but I can tell you it’s there.) The Daily Beast (2015) recognized the show was based on a “simplistic view of sexuality”… I might say “laughably” simple, but that’s just me. And, lastly, it was considered “one big dud” with just a million viewers (Orlando Sentinel, 2015): several of whom thought it was “stupid”. I hope we don’t have to worry about a repeat performance.