Here’s What Life Is Like When You’re Gay But Marry Hetero
Until quite recently, men like Matthew Bowers weren't given the option to marry whomever they pleased, yet some of them found themselves pressured to marry anyway. Possibly via some sort of sitcom-style wacky wager. Matt, if you've been paying attention, is gay. He is also married to a woman. Here's his story.
There's Something Called "White Picket Fence Syndrome"
Matthew describes his wild early days: "I was a man whore. Usually two guys each week -- sometimes more at once." Matthew was out and proud, but he felt that most of the potential suitors he had met were as wild as he was. (Imagine that! Hey, we were all idiots once.) "I couldn't find a guy good enough to take home to meet mother (not that she would have allowed that)." He didn't think settling down seemed possible.
The fact that it was widely illegal until about 18 months ago may have played some part in that belief.
Matthew met his future bride, J, at a gay bar, where he was quite popular for his drag routines. The two became friends, and after a time she informed him that she was in love with him, and wanted to get married. Was she aware of Matthew's sexuality at the time? Well, since she met him in drag, at a gay bar, you'd figure. But...
"Did I sit down with her and say the words 'I am gay'? No, but it was extremely common knowledge. I can't express enough how out I was at that time in my life."
Once again: dressing in drag at gay bars out in the open.
But ready to settle down and left without any other (legal) options, Matthew agreed to go along with the wedding. He confesses that neither of them had put much thought into the decision, and both may have been less than sober. But more than that, there was pressure to fit into a societal box, to meet expectations and behave the way the world wanted them to. And behave they did.
Still, that nagging feeling of wanting a stable life was also a powerful motivator: "I call it white picket fence syndrome. I wanted something more stable than the guy of the weekend. J happened to ... well ... happen, and I followed that path. My parents' marriage was never great -- dad was distant and cheated, mom was Joan Crawford without the hangers, so I thought just having a friendship/partnership was good enough, and in many ways it is." Hey, marriage comes in all sorts of forms. Take us, for example: We're holding out for "the sea." It hasn't called yet.
"I really think of you more as a friend."
The Dramatic Moment You're Waiting For May Never Come
Matthew maintains that his mother was never physically abusive, but that's not saying much. She was very controlling -- and by "controlling," we mean a cruel and punishing taskmaster with coal instead of a heart. Matthew was punished for any less-than-stellar grades. He was never allowed to have his bedroom door closed -- ever (let your pubescent brain fully recoil at that thought). She picked out his clothes for him until senior year of high school. How did she take the news of the upcoming wedding? By informing Matthew point blank that she always knew "The whole gay thing was a phase."
Stone. Cold. Steve. Austin.
Despite Matthew's openness about his sexuality, nobody had any objections to the proposed traditional union. Some fell in line with his mother's thinking, believing he had been going through a phase. Others thought he was bisexual, or as Matthew puts it: "I think they just automatically assumed I was more Kinsey 3 vs. Kinsey 6."
Don't worry, we had to look that up too.
Given the political climate surrounding gay marriage at the time, some might have even been thanking their lucky stars that Matthew had dodged a sparkly, rainbow-colored bullet. Nobody was celebrating the victory of true love. None of Matt's former lovers showed up at the chapel with a boombox blasting Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." When the officiate asked if anyone had any reason to speak out against the union, nobody batted an eye. Getting hitched seemed to be going off without a, well, hitch.
"Really? No objections? Bride, groom? Last free exit, guys ..."
But The Marriage Can Work, In A Way
Matthew insists that his union is a strong one, in spite of their unconventional, moderately heartbreaking origin story. "Our marriage is no less valid. We support each other, run our lives as partners, still present as a family unit, etc. As far as supporting me -- well, just like anyone you choose to have in your life, she's a confidant, a partner in crime. We bitch about people behind their backs, we watch each other's health, call people out for each other -- that type of thing.
The "in sickness and health" part tends to be more important than macking it in the rain.
"Funnily, it seems like our marriage is stronger than most of the people we know. Our acquaintances are always talking smack about their SO's, and many have gotten divorced. I can count the number of true arguments we've had on one hand. Sure, we bicker, but nine out of 10 times, it doesn't escalate."
Most of the time our arguments don't escalate! is about as romantic as I usually close the door when having explosive diarrhea. But this isn't about romance. It's about getting by together: "I cook, I decorated the entire house, hell, I planned our wedding. My wife does the yard work, butch old thing that she is."
We might recommend a nicer term for a woman who owns a chainsaw ...
Another difference in the Bowers family home is the sleeping arrangements. Matthew and J do not sleep in the same rooms, let alone the same bed. He says it's because he's a night owl, but we should probably note that ...
The Sex Is Not Great (Or Existent)
Before tying the knot, Matthew and J discussed the sexual arrangements for their relationship, initially agreeing to a semi-open relationship that ultimately didn't pan out. "J and I agreed that I could have a weekend or two every year to scratch my itch. After we were married, that conversation was conveniently forgotten by J, and frankly, it wasn't worth the fight."
Open relations seem difficult enough with both people on board.
But said "itch" is Matthew's sexuality; it doesn't simply go away. So Matthew cheats sometimes. "I'm not allowed to be with men, and no, that hasn't stopped me from occasionally straying. Yes, I've cheated. Never with a woman -- why would I? And I still live with the guilt every time. [It] isn't a usual thing. I've asked (very reasonably, I think) for a FWB situation. The answer was no."
J doesn't really mind that Matthew is gay, but she doesn't like to be reminded about it either. Matthew wouldn't mind if J dallied with another man once in a while, but so far, she hasn't. The last time Matthew's wife had sex with a man was before they were married, when Matthew and J were still having sex ... with each other.
So yeah, she's been in a bit of dry spell.
Yes, Matthew and J's relationship was a sexual one. At first. These encounters usually involved a good amount of booze, of course. Soon enough, both the alcohol and the sex dried up, and Matthew and J stopped being physical altogether. Though they do have something to remember those times fondly: their daughter.
How Do You Tell Your Daughter Dad Is Gay?
The last time Matthew and J did the deed, they were blessed with the gift that keeps on giving. No, not antibiotic-resistant syphilis -- a child.
"Last time we had sex was nine months before our daughter was born -- May 2005. The wedding was October 2005."
Huh. Suspicious timing, that.
Matthew and J are raising her to be open-minded: "We talk to our daughter about acceptance. Gay marriage support has been voiced in the house by both of us." The family has even attended a Pride festival together. But they haven't told her the truth. Matthew is terrified of the day she figures it all out. At this point, neither he nor J have so much as dropped a hint about his past. Despite their focus on open-minded acceptance, Matthew and J really don't have a solid plan for how to deal with the day their kid fully understands all the different ways genitalia can play together.
"I'm hoping it will happen organically ... You know, no Santa, no tooth fairy, Dad is gay, no Easter Bunny."
At least she'll never have to deal with every teen's fear of accidentally catching their parents banging.
You can practically hear the record scratch and the coffee being spit.
The Happy Ending!
After 10 years of wedded semi-bliss, Matthew admits there are cracks in the foundation -- deep ones that have nourished a sad kind of resentment. Once the newlyweds sobered up, the broken promises started to pile up, and the lack of passion settled in. Matthew began to feel restless.
"[I think about leaving] every damned day -- but then I ask myself why. I'm too tired. It's kind of like the movie Date Night. Life just kind of sneaks up on you, and before you know it, 10, 15, 20 years have passed. We got married at 30, and now I'm in my 40s with a kid. Porn is easier. But I'm (usually) not bitter. I've been around long enough to realize that I don't like being beholden to anyone. Regardless of gender, I do not ever see myself getting married again."
Nobody wants to be on the hook for a second $700 cake.
Matthew isn't lonely, but he isn't very happy either. He doesn't want another relationship, but he doesn't really want to be married anymore. It's complicated -- like calculus. Like calculus that slowly and inevitably breaks your heart until you can't stand it anymore. You know, calculus II.
But despite our colorful prose, Matt has no intention of leaving his wife. He feels a duty to care for his family: "I stay with her because we have a lovely 10-year-old daughter and my wife has MS, so who else is going to take care of her?" In a way, Matt and J's relationship is the perfect love story for the modern era. No one's a good guy, no one's a bad guy, everyone's kind of bummed out, and the best-case scenario involves quietly holding onto pain with one hand while masturbating furiously with the other.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Realities As A Gay Person Forced To Stay In The Closet and 5 Realities Of Being Gay In A Country Where It's Illegal.
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