Summary: My parents were very loving and strict Catholics who never allowed me or my sister to have a boyfriend until perhaps college.
I thought I would never get married and have a family. I was an overweight, "goodie two shoes", deaf teenager from an upper middle-class family in Florida. In my community, the boys seem to want girls who fit the "playboy" look- skinny women with big boobs and big hair. My parents were very loving and strict Catholics who never allowed me or my sister to have a boyfriend until perhaps college. They both envisioned that my sister and I would meet our college sweetheart, get married and have kids.
By the time I got to college, I was faced with many challenges that is all too familiar to college students: moving away from home, trying to find my new best friend, and trying to figure out what I want to do after I graduate from college. I remember my roommate going on dates with guys and if I was lucky enough, I got one date. I recalled asking my roommate one day for an honest answer as to why I am not being asked out by guys to go on dates. Her response was "you are too sweet and too simple. Guys want a girl who is kind of like the diamond in the rough".
I was living in Hawai'i, working full time in a public school and in my last year of my Ph.D. studies. I recalled walking into a coffee shop for a break when a group of sailors in Navy uniform walked in. Minding my own business, one guy came over and asked me if he can take the chair at my table. I recalled looking at him and saying "wow he is handsome" and quickly told him, yes to take the chair. After a few minutes of glancing at each other, he came over to chat with me. After a few chats, we exchanged phone numbers and planned on a date the next day to the movies.
I recalled being excited to be going on a real meaningful date. I'm in my mid-30's, and my date life was stagnant. In the past, I would meet a guy, dated for a few years and then splitting up once he found his dream job. Romance seemed like kite in the sky going down to inevitable hurt feelings. This date with Ryan (not his real name) somehow seemed meaningful. I liked his quiet way and his way of encouraging me to be myself and not be so afraid of what the world had to offer. On weekends when I was hanging out with my best friend or other girlfriends, he would be in his apartment watching Star Wars or some military history movie.
After Ryan meet my family when they came to visit me, he took me to California to meet his family. It a wonderful meeting with mixed emotions and messages. His mother was extremely relieved that her son brought "a girl" home who had a Ph.D. I recalled one afternoon, while watching the evening news with his mother, she would make several references to people on TV who were gay. This struck me as odd; I brushed it off and assumed she was just an old-fashioned lady that was not with the times.
After a year and half of dating Ryan, we got engaged. I was absolutely overjoyed, shocked and in disbelief. Me - the chubby teenager who lost weight over the years but still has a "phantom fat", the nerdy girl who was too sweet for the guys in my undergraduate college days getting married?
Exactly four months after our wedding, I discovered I was pregnant with our first child. Ryan and I were absolutely overjoyed with welcoming a baby girl. We had the usual husband/wife challenges with a newborn baby - overwhelmed with having to be waking up every 2 hours to feed our daughter, having to figure out who stays home when she is sick, where to take vacation with a little baby, etc. Our daughter Julia (not her real name) was our pride and joy.
When Julia was about 1 year and a half, Ryan was deployed briefly to the middle east. Ryan returned to Hawai'i and became very unhappy with his new job assignment in the Navy. He was constantly snapping at me, and belittling me. His yelling became louder by the day and upsetted Julia often. Somewhere in between I discovered I was pregnant with our second child. Ryan was angry, as he did not want a second child. He was worried about his job assignment and where we will be moved to next, how we were going to manage emotionally and physically with two children when we are so far away from our families.
One day while at home changing the baby's diaper, Ryan came home with Julia from daycare. With him, was his best friend Todd. Todd was also in the Navy in the same group as Ryan. Todd and Ryan both grew up in California, living perhaps 10 minutes away from each other. They went to different high schools yet remained close friends. Todd, like Ryan, joined the Navy and they have both been stationed in the same places over the years. As a person from a non-military background, this did not strike me as odd. However, this day when Todd came over, it was odd. Todd was wearing a t-shirt Ryan often wore and Ryan was wearing Todd's t-shirt that I have seen a few times in the past. As I commented on it, both seemed shocked and then smiled, joking it is a "Navy thing".
Over the course of several months, it was obvious that Ryan and Todd were having a secret affair. It was like I was watching a movie about my life but unable to control it. I did my best to ask my husband what the relationship between him and Todd is. I kept getting angry responses. I ignored it as much as I could, pretending this was just a bad dream. I vowed to just focus on my children and not let this upset me. I felt alone. I was desperately looking for someone who I could relate to. When I announced our separation, my mother-in-law became angry with me. I was lost and could not understand why she would be angry with me. As time went by, I discovered she knew all these years her only son was gay. He knew he could not come out of the closet to his parents. He knew if he uttered any word of him being gay, they would disown him. He hid his identity for years. Ryan was angry and jealous of me and my family. My cousin is a lesbian and happily living with her girlfriend. My family has accepted and has never questioned her life as a lesbian. My family has always been very accepting of everyone, so much so, the motto in the family when it comes to dating/ choosing a life partner was "bring home who you want, with the exception of two rules: they must have a college degree and must have a job".
My husband and I divorced in 2020. Our children were 8 and 6 when we divorced. I have seen our children go through the behavior changes and the pain of dealing with divorce. I have suffered low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. Therapy, yoga, and meditation have all helped me to calm down and look towards the future. I have decided that instead of being angry of being betrayed, angry at myself for not seeing that he was gay, angry at my in-laws for being selfish and focusing on their Catholic faith and society's acceptance more than accepting their son for being gay, I would ensure my children not repeat this pattern. I would not want another person to endure the emotional pain I have endured.
I decided I will educate my children about LGBT rights; I celebrate Pride Month with my children, I drive through the gay neighbourhoods in my city rather than avoid them, I do not cover their eyes when LGBT couples are seen holding hands, and/or kissing. I would hope if either one of them is gay, they would tell me first and I would follow my family's motto: bring home whoever you want, with only two rules: they must either be in college or have a college degree and they must either have a job or working towards getting a job. I am a strong advocate of National Coming Out Day. Allow your child to love who they love.
*The author has remained anonymous to avoid possible retaliation from her ex husband and his family.
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• (APA): Anonymous. (2023, October 7). I Was Married With 2 Children When I Realized My Husband Was Gay: Why I Support National Coming Out Day. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved December 5, 2023 from www.sexualdiversity.org/literature/stories/1182.php
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