Monday, November 2, 2009

Monotheism, Polytheism and this Episcopagan's Journey - The Silent Years.

And so began a period of my life where I ran...from everything. I was adamantly not gay. I was not going to let my church's betrayal separate me from my faith (church and faith being synonymous to function in that church) and I was going to Get It Together and be a normal Christian woman. *snort*

I attended church with energetic consistence, went to singles groups and retreats (these were designed btw, pretty much for the sole purpose of catching a spouse, not for how to function as a single individual, whole unto one’s self. The singles activities were all social, with a thin veneer of Bible study, designed to have you meet your opposite number and prepare to be a good little submissive wife, or authoritarian husband. There was an unspoken undercurrent that we were all in the singles groups until we “graduated” by marrying some one…until then, we were just marking time.) In an interesting aside - none of the nice, well spoken Christian young men in these groups ever looked twice at me. I was actually well liked, but I was also always treated like a friend or a sister, or even as “one of the guys”. It would be years before I figured out the how’s and whys of that dynamic!

At this point, I was 24 about to turn 25. I dated men with a grim determination – a friend, “Irishman”, who owned a local independent bookstore…a handsome co-worker at my job whom I will call “Doubter”…a good friend of Irishman whom I will call “Couch Potato”. There was even, very briefly, one more woman, “D” who was more than a friend…but I still could not face this part of myself, and I turned away from her, even more determined than ever to be true to what my conservative upbringing had indoctrinated into me – Homosexuality was a sin, a choice and one I must reject or lose my connection with God.

After a confused period of about three years (and I am leaving SO much out, but this is focused NOT on the details, but the substance of this part of my life…) the relationship with Couch Potato had grown and deepened into dating, loving and became an engagement. It was not without it’s ups and down. Twice during those 3 years we broke up, and then came back together. He was far more in love with me than I was with him. In many ways he was the ideal for me – we shared many interests, he was gentle and loving and he was a joy to talk to. I had told him my deepest darkest secrets – everything from the rape in my past to my struggles with my sexual identity and my “choice" to give up my interest in women…he never once flinched. I was able to talk honestly with him, as I could few people in my life at the time.

However in many ways, Couch Potato was also a big problem. He was ambivalent about the church – that was an issue, because I refused to marry outside my faith. He had a difficult relationship with his mother and sister – their communication consisted of verbal abuse on three sides; NOT a characteristic one wants to follow in to a marriage. He is not nicked-named Couch Potato here in my blog for nothing; he was utterly addicted to television, and I so was not. This last was masked from me, because at this time, in the end of the 1980’s, there actually were TV shows I was following, a rare event in my life. When the 3 – 4 shows I was watched finally ended a few years later, suddenly I was no longer particularly interested in TV…and his constant TV fixation grew over the years to the point of seriously interfering with our relationship. He was also a porn addict – and I say that in all seriousness. Someday, I will post about him and the years that I knew him, until his death last year. He deserves an elegy. But this post is for other things...

It was a confusing time, those 3 years. But slowly, a step at a time, he shifted the things that were my biggest stumbling blocks. He started coming to church with me, and then officially joined the church and made a profession of faith. He moved out into his own place, and the distance that placed between him and his mother and sister improved their relationship dramatically. He even got rid of the porn collection for my sake and entirely without any prompting on my part, got a short hair cut, as he was an unrepentant long haired Hippie and his shoulder length hair had become the bane of my fathers reasonableness and sanity.

Truthfully, I liked his long hair, but the gesture was a noble one, and it did ease some things for my dad a bit. Finally, the engagement became a marriage – on May 5th, 1989, he and I were married. There was one other thing that was a part of his life – he had Muscular Dystrophy. He had the Myatonic type that affects the extremities…his arms and hands did not have the strength they should have had and his legs as well. But by in large, he was reasonably unaffected by it, and the Dr. who diagnosed it assured him that he would have a mostly normal life. Little did we know then, that the Dystrophy would cost us so much more than we ever dreamed in the future…but on our Wedding day in May, we were happy, and young and in love, truly.

And yet...

I remember late on my wedding night, after he had dropped off to sleep, lying half awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling. We were both exhausted - anybody who has ever survived a big church wedding event that all the relatives had control over, knows what I am talking about! - I wasn't having oh my god regret or sense of I have just made a big mistake...but there was a strange feeling deep inside. A moment of grief, of longing, of having closed a door forever (I thought) on ever being with a woman again, in relationship with a woman in that way...that the form next to me under the blanket was loved and dear, and I was happy...but I felt that I had lost something irrevocably, killed some part of my self to be where I was that moment. I think I was grieving. But it wasn't nearly as articulate a moment as it sounds, and it was fleeting. The next morning we were on our way, and life was good.

The next five years were truly good...Couch Potato and I had a wonderful relationship. We were involved in a Medieval Reenactment group, our jobs and finances were stable. We bought a house. We traveled. There were no big fights or disagreements beyond the ordinary bumps of a happy healthy relationship. If asked if I was happily married, the answer was yes...and it was not a lie. He could be a difficult man sometimes, but he was a GOOD man. And we had a very precious relationship.

Every now and then, the deep part of me that was put aside forever would stir...the sight of an attractive or striking woman walking down the street would catch my eye...or there would be inevitable new program or political upheaval about gay rights...and I would turn away from that deep internal twinge. Of course, the fact that things were stirring every so often inside me meant that - even if I denied it - someday, it was all going to rise again, to the point that I could not ignore it. But at that point in time, I was happy where I was. It was the happiness of someone oblivious in the path of a hurricane of epic proportions, or living on a slowly slipping, eroding earthquake fault. The happiness was real...but it could not last. Other things were also stirring subconsciously - undealt with issues with the rape and assault, undealt with situation with church. I was a walking ticking time bomb. And simply could not see it coming.

In the summer of 1995, Couch Potato and I had been married six years. Little did I know that we were nearing the end...or the beginning of the end. And what would bring us down was not my buried homosexuality, although that too played a part near the end.
It was the summer when the movie Rob Roy starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange came out. Couch Potato and I scrambled to see it, and then saw it again, multiple times more. Great movie...but it triggered something within me in that deep uneasy silent place that I was so busy ignoring. To this day, I still haven't quite unraveled it. In the oddest way, I found myself identifying so strongly with the lead character. I still haven't unraveled my gut reactions to that movie - but I am quite sure that some of the deep nudges to my intuition had to do with being a butch lesbian and my years later realization of being transgender. At the time, I simply knew that I felt more than I could express about what I saw in the character of Rob in the movie. Strange how the smallest things that seem trivial can have messages for us that we can only unravel much later. It's like having a random piece of the puzzle, but not enough of the rest of the picture to put it in place. You know it's significant, but without context, the meaning eludes haunted me for a long time to come.

The other thing that happened in the fall of '95 is that over a period of months, Couch Potato simply checked out of our relationship emotionally. All of a sudden, over that fall and into the winter, he simply, somehow left even thought his body was still sitting there. We became like roommates, sharing space. I was confused, I was lost. I could not figure it out - I still haven't, even in the wake of his death last year. I have some educated guesses, that I think are pretty close to correct, but since I never could get him to talk about it, and now he is gone, I will not know in this life what happened for certainty. Another distressing part of this time with him was that in parts of our relationship, he became abusive...not something I would have ever expected from him, or ever saw any warning signal that things could turn this way. It was completely out of character for him. I struggled desperately with the situation, unable to cope or understand, unable to ask for help, or confide in anyone.

Over the next four years the situation worsened. The abuse became frightening, though it finally peaked and burned out at last towards the end...and left us just coexisting in our house like two strangers who happened to meet in the middle to pay the bills. Needless to say, in the vacuum of my marriage's destruction, and after over a decade's suppression, the long buried issues of my sexuality and orientation, and my faith and beliefs all began to rise. I wandered around my house empty and lonely, and thinking of things that I had firmly set aside...

....and this time there would be no stopping the inevitable truths. The change was inevitable, unavoidable and necessary - change or die, all over again. I'd been down that road before, almost to the bitter end. I chose a different road this time.

And my journey was never going to be the same...


  1. Isn't it funny how our True Self MUST emerge, no matter how hard we try to ignore or suppress it? It's painful at the time, but so worth it in the long run, isn't it?

  2. Having known and loved Couch Potato, it's hard to believe that such a gentle man could have been so abusive. Funny thing what chronic illness, unchecked, unspoken, and slow deterioration can do to man, to a marriage and to a woman in love.

    Yet the first time I met Couch Potato, I couldn't imagine you just didn't fit. All I could think was, "what was she doing with him?!"

    Over the years I learned to love him, first because you loved him, then later because he was family. Perhaps I loved him best as he lay dying, clinging to you like a child, cherishing you, comforting me. He allowed us to share a sacred space as he lay dying, and now it's hard to match the abusive man who created PTSD in you to the man in the bed, or our hearts.

  3. Debra - yes, in the end there is that moment where if you are not congruent with who you really are, a final decision must be made. However, not everybody chooses to move to self-truth. I did a paper on this a few semesters back, on the concept of Identity Foreclosure. Many people have so much invested in the lies that they have been told and the lies they tell themselves that it becomes impossible to make that change. So the foreclose on the development of true self identity. (the title of this paper - 25 pages of it! - is "Modeling an Art Therapy Intervention to Aid in Overcoming Identity Foreclosure and Facilitating Self-Acceptance in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Populations with Fundamentalist Religious Backgrounds". Writing it took over my life...) So, not everyone makes the jump, unfortunately. But as Dreamweaver said in her comment to Light - self authenticity lets you sleep at night in peace, but your days can become fairly interesting!

  4. Dreamweaver, thanks for your beautiful words about Couch Potato. One thing his and my relationship over 22 years; 10 of those years married, proved was that nothing is ever simple. He was a complex man - loving, gentle, tend and giving. He was also socially difficult, rude, unthinking, and in the end abusive. There will come a post here wherein I will write about those years with him in detail - his elegy so to speak. Suffice to say here, for those who read this blog - posts and comments - that the side effects of Myatonic Dystrophy can manifest with cognitive abnormalities including developmental delays, learning problems, language, speech, behavior, apathy or hypersomnia.Couch Potato had ALL of these...and they grow progressively worse, geometrically so, with time and age. He was relatively normal when we met. By the end, the Myatonic Dystrophy had utterly destroyed him.
    I think that fateful fall in 2005 was a catastrophic jump in symptomology for him, particularly in cognitive areas. I don't think he understood what had happened to him; I think he was confused and lost in his own mind, frightened and unable to express what was happening to him. And so he turned inwards...
    And I had no way of knowing what had happened. It was a sad thing.