“For me, being gay means living in tension. My deep core beliefs about the Christian tradition are daily in conflict with my deep core identify as a gay man. That’s inside me. Meanwhile outside my head, I have the gay community telling me I’ll be happy if I live one way and the church community saying I’ll be happy if I live another way.
How this plays out is that I’m the non-hetero element in a mixed-orientation marriage. Why this came about is a lot of reasons. I was raised in a sheltered Christian home-schooled family and raised to be a “good boy.” Being shy and eager to please and not having many friends, I thought I’d be happy if I was a good boy and tried to do everything my family and church told me to do. Later I ended up at Bible college where I met my wife. She was kind and thoughtful and created around her one of the safest spaces for me to be myself that I’d ever known. She got to be head over heels for me. I was so immersed in the culture that I didn’t ever stop and seriously think about my lifestyle options. Never realized that living a gay lifestyle was a legitimate option for myself. So I took the road I knew and understood, Christian heterosexual marriage.
Five years later, we’re still together. Marriage is hard because I figured out who I am and it’s not a Christian hetero male. I’m comfortable with my sexuality but don’t have a socially acceptable expression for it. Marriage is also good because she’s good and loves me so much and wants me to be happy. The way I live is hard because I try to get support from my straight Christian friends and they just don’t have a concept for being oriented to your own gender. The way I live is good because most of my friends are eager to learn about me and willing to listen to my same pains over and over and over.
Coming out for me started when I was fourteen and first noticed I thought guys were beautiful. I tried to deny my attractions for most of high school. In college, I started sharing my story with close friends. First I’d say things like, “I’m really struggling with this and don’t know what to do.” I’d talk about my sexuality like a problem. As I got more comfortable sharing my story, I got more comfortable with who I was. Started talking about being gay the same way I talk about being a writer. Just another part of me.
In some ways, I didn’t fully come out until this year when I chose to start openly blogging about my sexuality and how it intersects with my spirituality. For the most part, people have been supportive and eager to continue being friends with me. Lots of people have really appreciated me being open. Often the response to my openness about my struggles is for them to be open about their struggles. I’d say the only real resistance came from my church. What happened was I was going to start an addictions support group, but after the pastors read my blog, they decided I was too “un-cemented in the Gospel.” They put the group on hold, made no plans to bring it up again, and it hasn’t come up again. That’s generally the response I get from the church…they just don’t bring it up.
I don’t feel like I could be complete without connection to both the church and gay communities, but I don’t know that I can ever fully meet the expectations of either. I want validation from both, for the church to say I’m a good Christian and for the gay community to say I’m a good gay man. But because I don’t get to fully practice the values of either, I fear that I’ll be denied validation from both. Living in a mixed orientation marriage makes me feel like I don’t get to live with integrity and that I’m always lying to someone. On the other hand, I get to transcend my identity and sexuality and create a family with a person completely outside my orientation. My whole life is a bridge between the Christian and Gay communities. This is the most beautiful and most painful thing I’ve ever done. Beautiful because I can see into two worlds. Painful because I’ll never fully be comfortable or welcome in either.
I’ve learned that being gay really truly isn’t about sex. It’s about friendship and affection and how you make relationships with people. Just so happens my most enriching relationships are with men. I’m okay with that. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine life any other way.”
To read more of Rhys’s story, visit his personal blog: