Sunday, August 10, 2014

Does "in the closet" = cheating?

Are Closeted Gay Men Cheaters?
By Rick Clemons

When do you cross the cheating line?

Emotional, physical, and intimate disconnects often lead to infidelity. So does hiding in the closet. But who's to blame for the "hidden agenda?"

In my five years as The Coming Out Coach, I've worked with a little over 100 people from all walks of life, who have finally taken that brave step forward to be honest with themselves about their sexual orientation. In the moments right before coming out to a parent, sibling, friends or spouse and children, you might be thinking, "dead person walking." The person you have always presented to the world is about to be buried in the past, and the real person you have always been is about to be birthed for a second time.

One of the most common reactions to hearing to someone's coming out is to accuse the person of being a liar, cheat, and having no integrity. Rather than get up on my soapbox and unleash my wrath, I prefer to let them vent and then quietly say, "What would you do if the tables were turned and being a heterosexual was not the acceptable sexual orientation?" That usually stuns them into silence for approximately 3.5 seconds before the tired and true retort arises from their lips, "That's not the same. Heterosexuality is normal!"

Therein lies one of the most common reasons that homosexuality gets buried in the closet with Dust Bunnies, Dirty Laundry, and Wire Hangers (hint: That's the title of my forthcoming book!). Honestly speaking, those of us who come out of the closet after driving on the heterosexual freeway of love didn't intentionally set out to hurt anyone, cheat or wear the crown of infidelity. Yet I question whether it's truly cheating and infidelity to be in the closet and married to a heterosexual.

Let's step back in time to the Clinton/Lewinsky sex scandal. Remember the hubbub about, "Is a blow job sex?" Similar questions arise when you start exploring the complicated world of mixed orientation marriages. At what point has the person cheated? Is it when they get married? When they look at gay porn? Or is it when the person actually acts on their sexual orientation?

Roll back the clock to the moment a couple meets, starts dating and falls in love. There are a multitude of prevailing thoughts the hidden homosexual is often processing. Here's the top three:
  1. It's just a phase and I'm past that same sex attraction so this relationship is going to work. 
  2. I really love him/her and know that this relationship will keep me from exploring the temptation of a homosexual relationship. 
  3. I know who I am but I cannot disappoint my family so I'm just going to pull up my bootstraps and go forth into the world as a heterosexual. I can do it!
The haunting question, "Are these feelings real or just fantasies?" get jumbled up and lost in the raging emotional currents of homosexuality vs. heterosexuality. Add a good dose of societal pressure and before you know it you have a:
  • Mixed orientation marriage where only one partner knows they're in a mixed orientation marriage...maybe. Oftentimes, the gay partner can't even openly admit to themselves that they are in a mixed orientation marriage. 
  • Closeted homosexual who on the surface appears to have no dating or relationship interests whatsoever. They've created a fabulous persona often caught up in work and other life reasons as to why they're not in a relationship of any kind. 
  • Individual who goes through relationships more often than they change their underwear touting the lame excuse, "I just can't find the right person to connect with!" Duh, because you're trying to connect with a person of the wrong sex!
Given this type of unsettled foundation, is it any wonder some people end up pretending to be heterosexual for the sake of saving face? It doesn't surprise me one bit! Think about the peer pressure you faced in high school and apply it to being an adult, and you'll get a really clear picture of why mixed orientation marriages happen.

Caught up in self-doubts, worry and living a double-life, gay people in straight marriages often end up in a state of living numbness. Of course, onlookers who consider themselves the experts in normal relationships call these individuals cheating, lying adulterers because of the lives they lead. On the other hand, is hiding in the closet in a heterosexual marriage any more adulterous or duplicitous than: 
  • A man who blatantly ogles a woman's body while his wife stands next to him. Is that different than a closeted gay man ogling the hot male Adonis lifeguard at the beach while his wife stands next to him? 
  • The woman who decides the pool guy is much more interesting to talk to than her husband because he really gets her. Very similar to the woman who decides that Sally in accounting is much more interesting to talk to than her husband because Sally is an out and proud lesbian that really gets her. 
  • Clearing the cache on the computer so that your wife doesn't find you've been looking at porn. No different than clearing the cache and history on the computer to ensure your wife doesn't know you've been looking at gay porn. 
  • Discovering that you and your husband have nothing in common now that the kids are gone and the type of guy you're really meant to be with is someone who is sexually adventuresome. With this new insight, you make a conscious decision to explore this side of yourself, knowing full well the consequences could lead to the break up of your marriage, but could also lead to a feeling of inner fulfillment in a way that you've never experienced. This isn't just because the sex rocks the mattress off the box springs, it's because you're connected to someone who is totally in sync with your needs. Sounds like a coming out story, only the players happen to be heterosexual rather than homosexual. 
  • Marrying because this is what I'm supposed to do to keep the peace in the family, even though the thought of being with the same person for 5, 10, 20, 50 years simply doesn't interest me. I'm a free spirit and I don't need the same someone in my life to feel complete. I like to have spice in my life. Yet, this same, stereotypical thought process gets laid on gay men and they're assumed to be male whores who only want sex, sex, sex!
Homosexual, Heterosexual, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer; it doesn't really matter the orientation or sexual preference. Infidelity, cheating, lying and adultery are all in the eyes of the beholder. The two people in the relationship each have to define infidelity for them as individuals and as a couple. Which pretty much means, the rest of us need to stay out of their relationship and their bedrooms and let them work it out in a manner that is in their best interest.

# # #


scrumrob said...

Interesting take on the mixed orientation marriage. It is too simple to say cheating is in the eyes of the beholder. I was one of those sort of closeted men who got married. I knew when we got married and did tell myself that because I loved her, I could marry her and just ignore that aspect of who and what I am. Then again, the decision and offer of marriage had more to do with keeping her out of jail after being busted for possession of my drugs that I left in her dorm room than champagne with a ring. I could afford a ring anyway. Our wedding was tiny since we paid for most of it ourselves. $300 if memory serves and most of that was the gold bands.

Of course, it didn't work quite like that. The first indication was I started doing something at twenty-three that I had never done before. I started having wet dreams. I had slept in the nude since I was fourteen and suddenly had to wear underwear at night.

I would notice other men at work, out and about, and when I returned to college at twenty-five where I could swim and use weights, again, I noticed other men in the gym.

My first sexual experience occurred at thirteen and fourteen when I fucked another boy. Next was at nineteen with a guy I met at college. I was twenty-four when I first acted on it post-wedding. By this time, I had been married for three years. It was a pretty seedy gay cinema in Atlanta when I had to go into the city for special car repairs. It was just watching a gay porn and jacking off, but other men watched me.

I was twenty-seven before I had actual physical contact with another man. This was in a porn shop just before the puritan spasm in Atlanta closed them all, at least for a few years. Then I started cruising in my car. The pursuit of sex sort of took over.

In the meantime, my wife and I had two children although number two sort of acted as a testament to our fertility as the result of the first sex we had had in several months. I loved them both more than anything I ever loved before.

I also loved my wife. Just not in the way she needed. Things came to a head in 1985, and I realized on a specific day that she had a right to know that there was no fault with her. She was a good person and an excellent partner and mother. I knew and had known since before I met her in the first month of college. She was stunned and didn't think it possible. I guess I didn't meet the stereotype set by a mutual acquaintance in college who was sort of the definition of 'fey'.

It is hard to explain, but I loved her deeply and do to this day. I am gay. I make no apology for it. I came out to her and eventually to our children who had known my friends and knew they were gay. It came as no great shock to either of them.

Is it cheating? Looking at porn might be a gray area, but when you have had actual sex with another human being regardless of gender, which can be either a hand job, a blow job, or actually putting a dick in a hole, that isn't gray.

My view is if you know, then you know you will. Before you do it, have the decency to end your current marriage before starting to spread the cheer. Be gay, but don't drag others into a lot of extra drama. I think it hurts both parties less to come out and decide what to do if the closeted party has not crossed over from thought to action. That is how one of my best friends did it. It seemed to reduce the level of extreme pain that he had not crossed the line before coming out to her and their separation.

SteveXS said...

Thank you for sharing your story!

whkattk said...

Interesting... I discovered my bisexuality during my first marriage and had what I consider my first Male-Male sex during it. I certainly never considered jerking off "cheating" - even if other men were involved; God knows we had circle jerks every Friday night in the military.
My second wife was well aware of my bisexual orientation before we married. She was accepting of it too. Then she decided that mutual jack off was cheating - unless she knew about it ahead of time. So, I shrugged and agreed to let her know when I was heading off to a jacks group. Problem solved. We celebrated our 28th anniversary and are still going strong.

SteveXS said...

These are courageous statements, and I'm glad you feel comfortable expressing them here

Is it "cheating" if you're engaged to an ABG (actual biological girl) but maintain a long-distance relationship with the guy who's your boyhood buddy, best friend, psychic lover, and soul mate? Who gets hurt in that equation?

It's extremely rare that one person can provide everything another person needs even in a loving, committed relationship. And it may be self-serving, but my take is that "cheating" requires malice.