A Reason To Live
My wife is home in California with my two beautiful twin children. My family is healthy and my children are two happy four-and-a-half year-olds. We live in base housing and also own a home in North Carolina with a tenant who pays the rent on time and takes good care of our house. Our only debt is good debt: a mortgage, student loans, and one car payment. At work, I command a Marine rifle company. My company has 187 infantry Marines who are well trained, well prepared, and ready to fight for their country and their Corps. I’m forward deployed, I’m PME complete, and I am almost halfway to retirement.
I regularly think of committing suicide.
I realized I was gay in high school, though upon closer reflection the writing was on the wall long before that. I dabbled when I was in junior high, and was in my first long-term relationship with a guy by my senior year. Ironically, I was also in my first long-term relationship with a girl at the same time. To say I was in denial was an understatement. It did not help that my mother, an evangelical convert late in life, realized my sexual leanings and ordered me to counseling with her minister. They both managed to convince me (a struggling recent convert at the time) that my relationship with boys was unnatural, ungodly, and would ensure I had a reservation in Hell when I died. Naturally, I believed them.
At college, I did what my family expected me to do. I went to a big, conservative school in Texas with a large ROTC program, I suppressed my sexuality publically (though quietly seeking the occasional interlude on the “DL”) and I went about my life. My long-term girlfriend broke up with me during my sophomore year after my long-term ex-boyfriend called her and told her about us. I didn’t date anyone after that for about three years.
Fast-forward to college graduation and commissioning. I started dating a girl in the fall of my college victory lap (5th year) and then proposed to her shortly before starting Marine Basic Officer Course in Quantico, VA. The suggestion to propose came from my best friend (who didn’t know I was gay) and I was too scared and too deep in the closet to tell him. I bought a ring, she said yes, and we were married five months later. At this point, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was gay, but there was also no chance that I would ever consider coming out to anyone, so I assumed I could simply change my feelings over time, and that I would eventually become straight, or at least bisexual.
It didn’t take me long to realize how hard it was going to be to keep up the illusion of sexual attraction. I have never been attracted to women. I can become aroused while making out with a woman and I can have intercourse, but my mind is always on previous sexual encounters with men. Always. In the seven years of my marriage, I don’t think that my wife and I had sex more than 100 times. I know this frustrated my wife, but I was too afraid and ashamed to tell her the truth, and so the lie became a life, and life became more complicated.
After my first deployment, we decided to try and get pregnant. I realize that I should have told my wife before this point about my sexuality, but again, I was too ashamed and I wanted to have a child before my next deployment. As an only child, I alone bore the family name and I did not want that name extinguished if something happened to me on my next combat tour. I had long concluded that my life would be one of silence and suppression of my feelings – the safest and most considerate thing to do. We were immediately successful and my wife became pregnant with our twins. I deployed a few weeks later.
Following the second deployment, I returned home to my new family. When I left, I had a wife and a dog. When I returned, I had a full house. Becoming a father was the best experience of my life. I’m not a great dad, but I worship my kids and they love me, so that is all that matters.
But being a father, especially as my kids grew older and smarter, made me realize the importance of honesty with my children. What would I do if my son or my daughter killed themselves as a pre-teen or as a teenager because they thought their parents wouldn’t understand? What would they think if they were to discover my sexuality when they were teenagers or adults? Would they hate me for lying to them and their mom? Would they resent me because I was not honest with them?
And about my wife—how much longer could I make her unwittingly suffer without the knowledge of my true feelings and desires? How much longer would I let her think that my lack of desire for her was her fault or that she was somehow unattractive? I knew that the longer I waited, the more painful the truth would be.
When I was at PME school, two significant issues began to creep into my conscious. First, I realized that my true political beliefs no longer matched those I professed. Despite being raised in conservative south Texas, attending a very conservative university, and serving as an officer in the most conservative of our Nation’s armed services, I was actually quite liberal. While most people have this revelation in college, I waited until I was almost thirty before allowing myself to admit it. The significance of this admission is closely tied to the other issue—my religion and faith.
These two revelations, each life changing for me in their own way, were perhaps the most significant contributing factors to my ultimate decision to come out to my wife. Once I was able to accept myself spiritually and politically, it freed my mind and my heart to accept (for the first time) myself sexually. Armed with the power of that knowledge, I decided that I would tell my wife the truth, and I would do so before the year’s end.
A few months ago, just before deployment, I came out to my wife. I had been sexually active with a male friend for about three months, and while that relationship was nothing sustainable, I couldn’t bear to keep it from my wife any longer. I feared that if she discovered my infidelity on her own, she would never be able to forgive me, and I knew that her eventual forgiveness was critical to my long-term emotional stability. Equally important to me was finding an end to the secret meetings and late-night hookups. I knew that my desire for men went far beyond sex; it was the relationship I wanted, and that demanded a total lifestyle change.
It was a Wednesday in October when I made the decision. I called her from work and asked her if she could have a friend watch the kids one night later in the week—we needed to talk. She immediately suspected something was wrong. By the time I came home, she was very distraught. She kept asking me questions, trying to pry the subject of the conversation out. I wouldn’t tell her, and that made it worse. I had hoped for a Friday night talk, where we could have the weekend to work through the intense emotions I knew would follow, but she couldn’t wait. I eventually quit stalling. We sent the kids to the neighbor’s house, sat down on the couch, and I spilled my guts. At first, she just sat there, shaking violently, having trouble catching her breath. She kept saying ‘okay, okay, okay, okay,’ as if she could somehow talk herself into accepting the complete destruction of the world she knew by wishing everything to be okay. But it wasn’t okay. We talked and cried for four hours that first night. She desperately needed someone to talk to, and so she asked if she could call her mother. I told her that was fine, and she made me promise to stay in the room. In spite of her anger and disbelief, she wanted me to hear every word she said, because she wanted me to know that she wasn’t going run to her family with the kids. She was in the lowest point of her entire life, but she wanted to be sure that I knew something—this was still OUR family, and we had to handle this as a team.
It was hard that night; it still is. But it was the right thing to do. While she is still hurt and angry, she does not hate me because I am gay. She is angry because I lied to her. We’ve agreed to stay together for a time until we work out what is best for the kids. We’ve decided to get divorced, but not to rush into it. She’s even let me start seeing a guy I really like; a fellow service member who I can see myself committed to for a long time. So there is hope for progress.
So why do I think about suicide? Because I’m 32 years old, and the world I built for myself is crumbling around me. Despite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I’m terrified of my Marines finding out that I am gay. I’m terrified of telling my parents. I’m terrified that my wife and I will fight about our kids and she will take them somewhere that I won’t be able to get stationed. Life is so much better for our generation than it has been for previous ones. I’m grateful everyday for those who paved the way for our society to recognize LGBT people as equals. But I struggle everyday with the reality of living on the threshold of this new world. My kids, my Marines, and the hope for a future with someone I can love openly are the only reasons I’m still alive today.