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Dr. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist behind the irredeemable "conversion" therapy for gays, has apologized for the study he performed that led to gay men and women being subjected to horrific abuses by therapists in an attempt to change their orientation.

Pardon me for not applauding.

"Conversion" therapy, championed by many anti-gay institutions (particularly religious ones) as an "effective" method of turning gay people straight, was the equivalent of using leeches on a healthy person.  It encouraged GLBT people to see themselves as wrong, unnatural, and broken.  It did little but worsen the self-esteem and depression afflicting those who sought out such therapy in the first place.  It forced GLBT people to lie to themselves and insist that the "cure" had "worked," even though it meant lying to themselves and their families--in short, going back into the closet, and not only shutting the door, but nailing it shut.

I have no love of the closet.  I've lived in it.  Hated it.  Not going back to it.  Wouldn't encourage any friend of mine to do it, either.

It's been a long time since I've arrived in Seattle, WA.  After two false starts, I've finally found a permanent job, a good one with a good company.  My friends, who've put me up since August, introduced me to one of their oldest and best friends--and the two of us fell in love almost at first sight.  And of all things, said friend is a man.  I never thought I would ever trust any man to get that close to me--and here I am, mad for a fellow geek who is wicked smart, sharp-humored, generous, clear-sighted, and everything I could have asked for in a partner.

Of course I told him I was bisexual a day after we met.  I had to see how he'd react.  To my relief, he accepted it matter-of-factly--and then I discovered that his ex had also been bisexual.  Or, as he told me after we admitted we were crazy about each other, "How do I keep attracting bisexual ladies?  Is it the pheromones?"  (Actually, there's a list of reasons why, but I'm not giving you that much information.)  We've also had a few talks about what we expect out of our relationship, namely, monogamy.  He really wasn't worried that I was going to leave him for a long-legged blonde or redhead, but he was amused when I promised not to check out any gorgeous women in front of him.  As he said, "That's usually my line."

So yes, I'm doing well out of the closet.  I wish everyone were.  And by everyone, I mean one couple in particular.

I have a good friend who's been like a little sister to me.  She and her husband fell in love in high school, and married soon after.  They've been together for 20 years.  And within the last month, Little Sister's beloved husband told her that not only is he no longer in love with her, he never was in love with her--in short, he's gay, he's coming out, and he wants a divorce.

He not only slammed the closet door open, he shattered my Little Sister's heart with it.

They live in the South, that quaint old region where if you don't believe in God, the Bible, and the rightful place of women and blacks, you're going to Hell on a greased slide.  I've wondered sometimes, after reading about the youngsters who kill themselves after being bullied for their sexual orientation, or the adults beaten half to death (or just to death)--is gay bashing just considered another sport for some Southerners?  The first buck of the year is nothing compared to the first dyke or faggot of the season?

I digress, but not much.  It's why I can understand why Little Sister's husband stayed in the closet from his adolescence.  When you grow up in an environment that says you're everything from the scum of the earth to demon-possessed for loving your own gender, where your parents would be encouraged to spit on you (if not club you like a seal) if you came out to them, how do you muster the courage to do it at all?  And yet it can be done.  The Nephew is still posting here, and doing well, I see.  It does take courage, and maybe it takes a certain amount of being fed up to the teeth.  There's only so much you can take before you refuse to continue, before you fight back, before you kick open the door and stomp it to splinters.

Little Sister's pain, though, is what stops me in my tracks.  Imagine, if you will, a young woman who has lived her entire adult life in love with the same man.  Imagine this young woman, once shy and terribly insecure, coming into her own thanks to her husband's strength and support of her right to be heard, to be listened to, to feel worthy.  Now imagine this young woman hearing that her husband's steadfast, passionate love for her has been a lie . . . for twenty years.

Twenty years.

The closet is a frightening place.  It beckons with an illusion of safety, security, and acceptance.  Close the doors, it whispers, and you'll live a life where no one will ever suspect who you are.  They'll see you with a proper spouse or partner, and never think about the desires and shame you try to smother.  Open them, and you'll let loose plagues with which not even Pandora's box could compare.  And you'll be just one more casualty among all the rest--shunned, insulted, maybe even beaten or killed.

But it forces you to live that lie in front of those you love.  I don't doubt that Little Sister's husband loves her still.  I believe that, in time, he'll come to realize it.  But I also know the truth of one thing he told her:  that he has always yearned to be with another man instead of her.  And she is devastated, because she knows that nothing, not her devotion to him, her admiration of him, her love of him, will ever erase that fact.

It's killing her.

I've had sickening flashbacks all week to Francesca, the first woman I dated, whom I had feelings for.  If you recall, Francesca had come out to her husband, who divorced her and won custody of their only child.  Francesca was allowed to call her daughter every other week, for just five minutes.  Her daughter never got to say goodbye.  One moment Francesca would hear her child's voice; the next, her ex-husband would take the phone and hang it up.  Click.

Like slamming a door shut.

And so Francesca couldn't bear it any longer.  She decided to go back into the closet and live a lie, pretend she could be straight, live as a straight woman, anything it took to get her daughter back.

The closet is the only trap that draws its victims, once escaped, back inside its jaws.

#  #  #  #

Little Sister is going to counseling.  She's looking into groups that help spouses of uncloseted men and women.  But she has no enthusiasm for any of it, because it all points to the same thing:  her marriage is dead.

She dreamed of a long future with her husband.  Her dreams are ashes.

If there is such a thing as a just, loving God, she raged this week, then why is she losing the man she loves?  Why will he get to have a new life, with a new lover, when she'll be left alone and hurting?  What has she done to deserve the end of her marriage?

And yet she doesn't want him to stay with her only because he has to.  If she had her way, he would be in truth what she always felt him to be: the man that loved her, completely, honestly, without reservation.

The hideous truth is that her husband is like millions of men and women in this country:  hiding in the closet in an attempt to seem "normal," lying to themselves and everyone around them, because being honest about themselves would only earn them ridicule or ostracism.

An attitude, by the way, fostered by the rancid theory behind "ex-gay" conversion therapy.

It's nice that you're sorry, Dr. Spitzer.  But you're about twenty years too late for Little Sister, and many, many dollars short.

Originally posted to Personal Storytellers on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 11:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by LGBT Kos Community and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gizmo59, Catte Nappe

    About the villainization of Little Sister's gay husband.  His coming out has nothing to do with "ex-gay" therapy, it has a lot more to do with the closet that "ex-gay" therapy lives in.  I know all about authorial intent, but I also recognize that shaping a perspective may play fast and loose with facts.

    There's also Dr. Spitzer's other accomplishment, but that wouldn't fit in this diary at all.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 07:40:18 AM PDT

  •  This was very common once. (9+ / 0-)

    The perfect way for a gay person to hide is to marry someone of the opposite gender.  No matter what other evidence may exist suggesting non-heterosexual orientation of an individual, marriage trumps it (or used to).

    While some LGBT people may have married with a clear-eyed plan of hiding, some marry before they understand their sexuality.  You mention that Little Sister met her future husband in high school.  When I was that age, I was not ready to accept my homosexuality.  In fact, that didn't happen until I was 34.  It was a long arm-wrestle with denial.  I eventually won, and fortunately, in my case, there was no marriage to dissolve.

    I woulld also say that gay people who married, both now and in the bad old days, for the most part felt affection for their opposite-sex spouses.  I know a fair number of older gay men who were married in their early adulthood, and they had good relationships with their wives.

    It would not surprise me if there were a support group for ex-spouses of LGBT people.  This condition is not that uncommon these days.  Little Sister should find such a support group.  There's also a book entitled The Other Side of the Closet about the experience of ex-spuses of gay men;  it might help her to read that.

    -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

    by gizmo59 on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 07:58:42 AM PDT

    •  There is. (5+ / 0-)

      It's called Crossroads, and she plans to start attending soon.

      He's in bad shape too.  She's said that he's tried to get her to admit that she hated him, only to break down when she said she still lobed him.  I don't believe he did all this for cruelty's sake, or out of irresponsibility.   As I said above, the closet offers security and acceptance, especially when you're faced with the prospect of losing everything.  Coming out may have saved his sanity in the end, nut the fact that he had to stay closeted for so long is tearing the two of them apart.

      Hope is a good thing--maybe the best of things--and no good thing ever dies.

      by Gemina13 on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 08:09:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As painful as the process is, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gemina13, FarWestGirl

        it's better to go through it than not, for all concerned.

        It sounds as though he hsa gone for years thinking that she has not loved him, and constructed this image of her that he could leave without regret.  Obviously, he needs to adjust that image and think about how to come to some kind of mutual agreement with Little Sisiter.

        As I said, many couples in this situation manage to maintain a positive relationship when some kind of post-closet equilibrium is finally reached.  I hope that this will be the case with Little Sister and her husband.

        -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

        by gizmo59 on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 08:38:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Aye (8+ / 0-)

      Also, the world was very different, even 20 years ago... heck, I was considering it even 10 years ago...

      There's also the fact that there's the hope (both for the gay person and for their families) that marriage would "cure" someone of being gay... that being forced to live as a straight person, they would eventually learn to like it and live with it.  Heck, my mother still presents this to me as an option today, and cites examples of other (rumored to be gay) men in our church that have done the very thing.

      And twenty years ago, in certain places, such a thing sadly wasn't a choice.

      Faced with such a choice, I probably would have killed myself.  I understand completely why many people, even today, find this the most palatable option.

      •  And for those who are bisexual or closer to the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LSophia, J V Calin

        middle of the orientation continuum, they may have been able to settle and marry and be content. The problem is that most people are more strongly on one end of the contimum than the other and they can't change. It causes a great deal of confusion and animosity because the people who don't understand are looking for simple, binary answers; people can change or they can't. They're not able to accept the reality that most are immutable, but some are not. And it causes a lot of friction between gays and bisexuals because of the push back from the stubbornly bigoted.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 06:53:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  from a relationship perspective (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    legendmn, Uncle Moji, ScienceMom
    Little Sister is going to counseling.  She's looking into groups that help spouses of uncloseted men and women.  But she has no enthusiasm for any of it, because it all points to the same thing:  her marriage is dead.

    She dreamed of a long future with her husband.  Her dreams are ashes.

    If there is such a thing as a just, loving God, she raged this week, then why is she losing the man she loves?  Why will he get to have a new life, with a new lover, when she'll be left alone and hurting?  What has she done to deserve the end of her marriage?

    And yet she doesn't want him to stay with her only because he has to.  If she had her way, he would be in truth what she always felt him to be: the man that loved her, completely, honestly, without reservation.

    From a relationship perspective - I read that and I thought: There is more going on here than him having been in the closet IMO. My feel is, she's been colluding, big-time, because she wants him to be what he is not. The underlying dynamics are so strong they resonate across this computer screen.

    I don't feel like this diary is best positioned as a political one that's about the closet and Spitzer. I think this is a very complicated relationship situation has some aspects that don't shake out very neatly and really don't lend themselves to any sort of clear-cut political analysis, especially not one with clear-cut Bad Guys to blame

    •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, ScienceMom

      I sense that she feels guilt and shame because of this.

      The question she must be asking herself is "Why didn't I know he was gay? How could I have been so stupid?" And she suspects that many people she knows are asking the same questions behind her back.

      It's a common reaction to have.

      SOCIALISM...good enough for the 1%, but made for the 99%

      by legendmn on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 10:36:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Score another one for Monogamy Expectations (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp

    which is at the root of so much of this kind of misery ...

    In my experience people are wonderfully complex and self deluding when dealing with what some used to call "The Bisexual Dilemma".    

    As much as I admire and revere Dan Savage ... if only for starting the It Gets Better movement ... he spent years excoriating BiSexual men for being romantically and politically "unreliable" -- the assumption being that heterosexual privilege will always and ultimately be more attractive than any same sex lover.  (It seems to me that he applies  a different standard of judgement to the man who will abandon his Gay lover for a woman, and a man who abandons his male lover for another man --

    Underlying is the conflict as to whether or not one can love more than one person, and if so can they do so "equally".    The dilemma vanishes of course when the "more than one person" are one's children or blood relations -- then it's all so obvious.  

    IMO monogamy is not a natural state (for most people)  --  much like voluntary celibacy.  Both can be accomplished by an act of will in furtherance of a commitment -- but both lifestyles benefit immensely if there are social conventions coercing conformity to the desired behavior.

    (Conversely, embracing polyamory/polyfidelity seems to call for dealing  with "jealousy and possessiveness" by the same kind of brute-force denial and self discipline.  

    In Bisexual Discussion Groups, I have heard over and over how people (usually men) having discovered their same sex attractions  utterly forget that they ever felt attractions for other-Sex people other than their spouses, and focus on their new Identity as "the reason" they are feeling temptations and/or dissatisfaction in their Primary relationship.  And, sometimes it seems that the dissatisfaction preceded the same sex attraction by quite some time ... but the notion of infidelity was so unacceptable that the only self-respecting adjustment to wanting "more" or "different" HAS to be a new personal  identity ... BiSexual, Gay, or Trans.

    A person  raised in a culture of moral absolutes and sharp boundaries often finds the discovery of such unexplored potentials extremely EXTREMELY upsetting.

    •  I lived non-monogamously for a number of years (0+ / 0-)

      and ultimately decided that it was unnecessarily complicated and exhausting.  

      Plus it helps that I met the right person who shared my desire to settle down.  

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 10:21:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not necessarily... (0+ / 0-)
      Conversely, embracing polyamory/polyfidelity seems to call for dealing  with "jealousy and possessiveness" by the same kind of brute-force denial and self discipline.  
      Unless that's just how you are wired. We both avoid situations in which the other person feels wounded by our actions, but it's no different to us then, "How can you go off to the range with George for the day when I've got the flu?!" sort of situations. Or the classic, "Are you married to me or your mom?" sort of relationship/time pressures.

      We've been together twenty years, poly all the while. So far so good.

      When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

      by Alexandra Lynch on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 07:48:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks...great diary Gemina13 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J V Calin, LSophia

    What a sad story...I feel for Little Sister. I've known people like her husband before, and it's a sad, lonely existance. She should pity him instead of being angry.

    Perhaps in time she will come to realize that what he did was an act of love (which coming out usually is) and that her anger should be focused on our society that forces people to hide who they are and play a role which is a lie to both themselves and their spouse. Once she realizes that, I hope she becomes a strong ally for LGBT rights.

    SOCIALISM...good enough for the 1%, but made for the 99%

    by legendmn on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 10:13:33 AM PDT

  •  Regardless of orientation (4+ / 0-)

    This would be true for Little Sister had her husband decided to leave her for a new trophy wife, as well

    If there is such a thing as a just, loving God, she raged this week, then why is she losing the man she loves?  Why will he get to have a new life, with a new lover, when she'll be left alone and hurting?  What has she done to deserve the end of her marriage?
    And Francesca's asshole husband likely would have been no less an asshole had she left him for any number of other reasons.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 11:37:39 AM PDT

  •  I'm sorry for your friend. I'm sorry for her (3+ / 0-)

    husband too. That same situation tore  my life apart except that I was the one who came to understand myself as gay. I hope they find a way to  navigate it without raining destruction on each other.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 12:36:38 PM PDT

  •  Happy for you, sorry for your sister. (5+ / 0-)

    And while it is of little solace, remind her that what she had was, in many ways, good for while it lasted. She wasn't married to a drunk, or an abuser, but a man conflicted. he tried to live as society told him he was supposed to - wife, kids, house and car. Think of the many years he was tormented living that lie.
    and there will be someone else for your sister. there will be another love.
    people split for many reasons. And people lose spouses who die before their time. Marriages end in many ways.
    She needs to stop blaming herself, find the good in the man who is no longer her husband and remain, if possible, friends.
    Then go out, move forward, and keep her mind open to the opportunities the universe sends her way.

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

    by MA Liberal on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 02:06:34 PM PDT

  •  Sad story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch

    As long as our society is more interested in what people do in their bedrooms than in the quality of their lives or the content of their characters, this will continue to be an issue.

    I live in an ultra-liberal city, but even here, when a gay-positive story is published, the newspaper's comments section overflows with bile.  As a friend to and a cousin to gay and lesbians, it is painful.  I can only imagine how hard it is for them.

  •  In the South, it's OK to be Gay, (0+ / 0-)

    As long as you're properly ashamed of it.

    Take a look at the long list of gay southern republicans.  They were all 'widely suspected' of being gay, but so long as they remained closeted ("just bachelors"), it was fine.  The shame excused it.

    It's a sick, twisted culture.

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