My Story — Dorothy Gale

English: Screenshot of Judy Garland performing...

English: Screenshot of Judy Garland performing Over the Rainbow for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(See also Meet Your Blogger)

Kansas.

In Kansas, life was very much in black and white. My husband, “Rev. Gale” and I both came from clergy families in different Christian churches. Life in the ministry was all we knew, and we eagerly followed this family tradition. For me, homosexuality was entirely off my radar. I knew that some people were gay, but I was not likely to meet any (so I thought) as I moved in very restricted church circles. To be honest, I wasn’t extremely concerned with their lives. Like many Christians, I thought that SSA (same-sex attraction) was just another kind of cross– like cancer or disability– and that gay people should be pitied, but preferably from a comfortable distance. I thought that the idea of same-sex marriage was ridiculous; gay people could simply marry someone of the opposite sex if they wanted family life.

In Kansas, my marriage was also in black and white. My husband and I always knew that we were different from other couples. We were primarily friends with a common cause, but I always believed that if I could only do more, be more, pray more, then the relationship would grow. Someday I could be enough to make him happy. I was often troubled by a nagging fear that my husband didn’t really love me, a feeling that he didn’t fully value me in the way I valued him. I never allowed myself to openly acknowledge these fears, but they were always there, causing anxiety and tension. Also, I learned early on to avoid disagreements at all costs. In an argument, it became too hard to ignore the fact that my feelings mattered very little; only the issue at hand mattered. Over time, I became the very picture of a virtuous Kansas clergy wife, but with deep insecurities and unvoiced questions about my worth as a person, even to God.

Cyclone.

For many people in my position, the cyclone begins with some event that makes the spouse reexamine their lives, such as the death of someone close. For us, the cyclone that changed our lives forever began as a series of crises: a miscarriage, difficulties in the congregation… I soldiered on as my husband struggled with debilitating depression and suffered multiple stress-related health issues.

He was fighting an inner struggle to come to grips with a fact that he had spent a lifetime trying to deny to himself and the world: he is gay. (Let me be clear– when I use this term, I am not implying any sexual activity. He has been faithful to his vows to me and our church.) He is gay, even though he was raised to believe that homosexual orientation is a terrible sin, even though as a teen, his family helped him explain away his “lack of interest in girls” in other, more acceptable ways. His sexuality, he realized now, was not even just about physical attraction, but about how he related to anyone, male or female, on an emotional level. If homosexuality is a sin, how do you struggle against something that colors every aspect of your human interactions? But acknowledging the truth of his orientation meant risking the love and respect of his family, his friends, his church community, and most importantly, of God Himself. I am grateful that this cyclone did not lead to his suicide, as it does for many people. Instead, the cowardly lion found his courage. The tin man discovered his heart.

Wizard of Oz

Like the other, more famous Dorothy Gale, however, I found myself in a new and initially terrifying reality. My husband was gay; for that matter, any of my children might be gay. I felt lost and devastated by the confirmation of my unspoken fears. Everything I had believed and worked for was called into question. We were certainly not in Kansas anymore.

The Land of Oz.

In the early days, as I first tried to know what I was supposed to do (black-and-white Kansas wives would never ask any other question), I had one rule to go by, “The truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) Facing this truth was initially so painful that it felt like the world had ended, but at the same time, I knew that we could not build a good marriage on lies and self-deception. I knew that wherever this yellow brick road might lead, it was clearly the right path.

The Yellow Brick Road's spiral origins in the ...

The Yellow Brick Road’s spiral origins in the 1939 film (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over time, I have come to appreciate living Somewhere Over the Rainbow. With truth comes the possibility for healing and for love, for real joy as well as pain. I am beginning to relearn that I have worth, to have the confidence to undertake new endeavors. Rev. Gale’s health has greatly improved, and his spiritual life has deepened. He preaches about the profound love of God with conviction and tenderness now, a side of him that I rarely saw before. He and I are able to have a stronger friendship: one based on honesty with ourselves and each other, and the understanding that it is friendship, not romance. We have each realized that we must live authentically if we are to be able to have true and deep connections with others. This matters a great deal, as we both continue to struggle with acute loneliness.

We face a dilemma. Because of the fear and stigma associated with homosexual orientation, we cannot talk openly about our situation as long as we remain in ministry. Regardless of how we resolve our family difficulties, the church urgently needs to discuss the issues that gay people and those close to them face. Our family is far from unique.

  • There are an estimated 1.7 – 3.4 million gay men married to women in the US. 
  • A leading counselor in this area, Bonnie Kaye, reports that she has personally counseled 80,000 such wives since she began her practice in 1985.
  • Other countries have even higher numbers, such as China with an estimated 16 million gay men married to women. 
  • In the US, at least 8 million people identify as LGBT; 19 million admit to a same-sex relationship or sexual encounter; 25.6 million report that they have experienced same-sex attraction. 

As Christians we cannot continue debating issues like same-sex marriage without also making the effort to understand the lives and struggles of gay people. God loves all people, including LGBT people, unconditionally. “In wisdom hast thou made them all.” (Ps. 104:24)

I would also direct any other Dorothys in my situation to the Straight Spouse Network (SSN). where they can find a support group of others in our same situation. There is also support available for our children.

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Meet Your Blogger: Dorothy Gale

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the trailer for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The issue of how Christians interact with gay people is very personal for me. I am the wife of a clergyman in a conservative Christian church. My husband also happens to be gay. Let me be clear: he has been faithful to his vows both to me and the church. But coming to terms with his sexuality has dramatically impacted both our lives and our understanding of the world.

The widespread fear and misconceptions about homosexuality in our church make it impossible for us to talk about our lives and struggles openly, but the Christian community desperately needs to hear voices like ours in their discussions of sexuality. Our family and the millions like us can provide so much insight, but we are hidden and in crisis. For us, it is no longer a theoretical question–“How does homosexuality work? What does the Bible say about that? How does God want gay people to live?” Understanding the Christian approach to sexuality has become urgent and personal.

More importantly, I am also a mother. Even more than asking these questions for myself or my husband, I must ask them for my children. How can we guide them to have a healthy understanding of their sexuality and to know that God loves them unconditionally?

To read more about our family, see My Story–Dorothy Gale.

 

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Misunderstandings Over the Definition of Words Like “Gay” and “SSA”

Gay-Christian-Sydney

Gay-Christian-Sydney (Photo credit: acon online)

What is the Christian response to people who identify as gay, bisexual, or as having same-sex attraction? We need to agree on how we use these words before we can have a productive conversation.

Johnny says, “Dad, I am worried that I might be gay,” and Dad hears, “I am considering a lifestyle filled with anonymous, meaningless sex with lots of different men. While I’m at it, I might do some drugs and burn some Bibles.” But what Johnny meant was, “I have noticed that I am not really interested in girls, but the idea of baking cheesecake with my best friend and then cuddling up to watch a movie gets me really excited. This scares me, Dad. Am I okay?”

Johnny and his Dad use the word “gay” in very different ways, though they don’t realize it. Which definition do you think of when you hear the word “gay”?

Perhaps Dad was expecting this question from Johnny and has read some Christian pamphlets on the subject to be prepared. He loves his son and wants to give him good advice. “It’s OK, son,” he says, “That’s called same-sex attraction. Try to ignore it when it happens. You’re not gay unless you act on it. Try dating some girls. It will be OK.” This time Johnny hears, “You’re right, son: you have a really big problem. But don’t worry, if you ignore your feelings, they’ll go away. ” Despite Dad’s loving intent, Johnny now begins a path of self-deception that leads to a major life crisis years down the road.

There is a huge realm of variation in human sexual orientation. Can same-sex attraction ever go away? Are there people for whom it can never go away? How does trying to ignore their SSA affect different people spiritually?

We desperately need to talk about these issues in our churches. The failure to understand one another has only led to confusion and pain for so many like myself.

Coming up next will be a series of posts about how we define words like “gay” and “SSA.”

Please share your experience of what how Christians talk about homosexuality. Do you find it helpful or problematic? How has it affected you or someone you know personally?

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