When my partner first heard about the TLC show My Husband's Not Gay, she emitted a low chuckle. It does sound funny -- at the very least it has a humorous title.
I agree with Mitch Mayne who writes in The Huffington Post that the show is damaging to Mormons, gay Mormons and especially LGBT Mormon youth. As an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint, he should know.
But the larger issue, for me, is that this is bad for the women who marry these not-gay men who are admitting that they're attracted to other men (but marry women because that is what their religion tells them to do). In the early 1980s when I was coming out, I was part of the second wave of the feminist movement. In those days, lesbians and straight (and bisexual) feminists worked together. This has changed with the emergence of LGBT rights. But the fact is that feminism and LGBT rights still have a lot in common and this show demonstrates why.
I have heard these women on the show who knowingly married gay men called "enablers" and "stupid" -- but the fact is that these women have been brainwashed by a religion that has its issues with women. There are Mormon women who identify as feminists and one, featured on CNN, was recently excommunicated for advocating for women's ordination in the faith.
Thinking about this issue immediately brought my colleague Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed., to mind. Kaye counsels straight women who are married to gay men. Kaye is also an author. Her latest book is a memoir, Jennifer, Needle in Her Arm: Healing From the Hell of My Daughter's Drug Addiction.
She also counsels closeted gay men on how honesty can help them and their female spouses.
After watching the show, I had some questions, which I put to Bonnie:
Janet Mason: Much has been made of terminology -- bisexual, SSA (Same-Sex Attraction) (the term used in the show and the Mormon community). Is there anything you would add to the conversation about terminology to clarify the issue?
Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed.: Sadly, men are given too many choices of labels (a-sexual, bisexual, confused sexual, etc.) that allow them not to accept themselves as gay men. There are some unconscionable people who are espousing that just because you have male attractions doesn't make you gay or stating that hundreds of thousands of people in straight-gay marriages are in happy and successful marriages. This thinking only perpetuates the myth that gay men can be happy with a straight woman in a relationship or that just because you have SSA, this doesn't make you gay.
After working with over 100,000 women in the past 32 years and nearly 2,300 gay husbands on their coming-out issues, it is very clear to me that labels mean nothing. I always say that the penis is the dividing line. When a man fantasizes about it, looks at gay porno, masturbates to it, or touches it, he has crossed over the straight line and is no longer straight. Yes, it is that simple.
Mason: One of the wives on the show seemed to be frequently jealous and suspicious of her husband's activities. Could you explain why this could be unhealthy?
Kaye: A marriage should be based on love, trust, honesty, and communication. When a woman knows from the start that her husband has same-sex attractions, she always wonders is her husband thinking about her when he touches her or fantasizing about a man. And when does the fantasy become a reality? Always wondering when that moment is going to happen -- and it will -- scares women. This wife has every reason to be suspicious. It's a matter of "when" not "if."
Mason: What is your opinion about the common statement that women aren't interested in sex and therefore can have fulfilling relationships with men who are not attracted to them?
Kaye: That is such a scary statement. Some women aren't interested in sex because they were virgins or inexperienced when they married their gay husbands. Sex is such a challenge in almost all cases, and even those men who can "perform" heterosexual sex on occasion don't necessarily want to. It isn't usually a very fulfilling experience for the woman, which makes her lose interest in sex. Also sexual rejection makes many of our women stop wanting it, fearing there is something wrong with them because they can't satisfy their husbands.
Women need to learn that MEN WANT SEX. If they aren't having it with you, they will have it with someone else eventually -- and that will be a man.
Mason: There has been some discussion that "mixed-orientation marriages" -- for example when a heterosexual woman is married to a gay man -- can work. What is your opinion of this -- and what can a woman do to protect herself?