I Slept With a “Straight” Man: Why TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay” Hits Too Close to Home
I’m sure you’ve seen numerous articles and clips from the upcoming TLC special My Husband’s Not Gay, which chronicles the lives of four men, three of whom are married to women, and their same-sex attraction. The men, all Mormons who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ 0f Latter-Day Saints in Utah, have seemingly normal lives, until layers are peeled back and viewers get to see just how emotionally repressed these families are. Best put by one cast member, “I’m interested in men, I’m just not interested in men.”
It’s sad, upsetting, and downright depressing to think about these four men and their lives they’ve created. But make no mistake: We don’t have to head to Utah to find this sort of repressive sexual behavior. It’s right here in Philly.
There’s a lot we need to demystify and unpack here in order to even begin to comprehend how one can live in such an elaborate alternative world: yes, the Mormon church surely has a lot to do with it. As you see in the film clip above, the church seems to believe that the act of homosexuality is a sin: It’s hard for the cast members to even utter the word “gay.”
And, yes, there’s the obvious question about the varying degrees of sexuality in all humans: could these men be bisexual? Emotionally attracted to females but physically attracted to men? Yes, but that doesn’t seem like the case here. What we are dealing with here is the same sort of thing when we turn on our Grindr or Scruff and are flooded with headless torsos of married men looking for a “NSA” encounter. There are some of these dudes who are regulars, who aren’t just experimenting or questioning, but who are living a double life.
What doesn’t help us understand how emotionally traumatic it still is for many gay men to “come out” is how seemingly “open” and “easy” it is, even for youth, to burst through the closet. When we surround ourselves within a community that has, obviously, come a long way, we tend to forget that there’s a lot of stigma and a lot of hate. I mean, isn’t this the city where, a few months ago, a gay couple got the crap beat out of them? That doesn’t help.
The bottom line is this: There are a lot of “straight” men who are physically attracted and who are having sex with other dudes. I should know: I slept with one of them.
About two years ago, I met up with an old childhood friend who recently moved downtown. I had always assumed he was gay, despite the fact that his Facebook tried to prove otherwise. We met up for several rounds of drinks, which lead us down a rabbit hole to a very interesting and heated discussion about my own sexuality and his: Why was I so out and open? What exactly did it do for me? Keep in mind, when I point-blank asked him who or what he was attracted to (because, face it, after some bourbon, these things happen), he gave me a roundabout answer. He couldn’t even say the word “gay” to describe myself, much less even call himself that.
That night, we slept together. The next morning, he told me he had not felt that way about anyone in a long time and that he wanted to see me again. A week later, he entered a relationship with a female.
This bothered me a lot for a long time, not because I thought I was a “bad lay” (we both agreed it was some of the best sex we each had in our lives, and he was way too knowledgeable for this to have been his first tryst with a guy), but because of how emotionally scarred this individual was. Did I say something to him that made him want to run back into hiding? It killed me. But then I realized that this had nothing to do with me.
When a person can’t even utter the words “gay” to describe someone else (i.e.–me), it’s not my issue: its his, just like the men and their wives on My Husband’s Not Gay. Nevertheless, it is sad to know there’s a lot of people in our world who can’t find their truth and live honest, open lives, although I doubt that’s the intention of TLC broadcasting this special (I mean, come on: These are the same people responsible for Honey Boo-Boo).
In the trailer for the special, there’s a short moment where some of the men are playing basketball with no shirts on. It’s a stark juxtaposition to the rather phony scene where the men are ice skating with their wives. They seem “real” in the heated moment while playing ball; ice skating, not so much. I hope in all good faith that these men are genuinely happy, but I find that hard to believe: living a lie usually doesn’t work too well, as I’m afraid my “friend” is clearly learning on his own journey.