A little more than a year ago I asked “Can I be in harmony being gay and married to a woman?” It was a tough question to answer. In the months that have passed, I told my ex-wife that I am gay. It hurt us both. I hate to do things that hurt those I care about. We talked some about what I had been going through and about a divorce and agreed it was the best thing to do. There is still a great deal of denial on my ex-wife’s part regarding my being gay. I am sure that is natural.
We both read a book called “The Truth Shall Set You Free” by Sally Lowe Whitehead. It was about a couple that was married for more than 20 years, had 6 sons and the husband was gay. It was a very moving story about their lives. Not just the husband being gay and their breaking up. She tells very intimately of their search for the Lord, their relationship and how things progressed past the divorce. I think it helped us both. We read from someone’s own life about their friendship, their marriage and the heartache, and the new beginning for their family. We found we were not the first ones to experience this.
About 6 or 7 months after I came out to my wife, I moved out. I moved in with an old friend to whom I had also come out. She is a very dear friend and has been very, very supportive of the moves I am making.
When we told the kids that we were divorcing they were shocked, very shocked. During the preceding months I struggled with telling the kids. How would they handle this? Should I tell them now that I am gay or wait a while? How would they view me? Their mom? How would our church react? How would the extended family respond? Many things were running wild at times through my head. And for all the worrying and fretting I did, the thing was, I could not control any of it! Not one response. Not my kids, my family nor my church. All I could do was pray. And, that I did. Some have found it hard to believe I prayed about this divorce and how it would be handled by the kids and their mom, but I did. A LOT! We decided for the time being that we would just tell the kids about the divorce. The “gay thing” would not be mentioned for the time being. We did this to minimize the shock to the kids. They had commented to us both at times in the past that their friends thought is was neat that their folks were still married and had been married for a long time. We knew this would be enough for them to deal with right now.
They both took it hard. Each expressed it in different ways. My son (who is 19) grew very distant and would not talk to me. At present, he still does not communicate with me much. While he was home for the Christmas holidays, he turned down every offer I made to go out to eat or a movie. While that bothered me a great deal, we still had a couple of nice visits while he was home. My daughter cried a lot (she is 17). She has talked about her feelings with her mom more than she has with me, but she is talking to us both. And for that I am grateful. She and I do things together. We share a common hobby and that has given us something that we enjoy doing together and I think overall it has helped her make the adjustment better.
There have been bad bouts of guilt for me breaking up my family. Coming from a Pentecostal/Evangelical background, that was unavoidable I guess. Thoughts like “you should just go back home and try harder to make things work.” “You know, God hates divorce and he ain’t too crazy about them that get one.” Things like that ran through my head at times. But when I pulled back and looked at things realistically, there was and is no going back. Too many things had transpired that would not allow a “going back to the way things used to be” or to what seemed to be. The number one thing being, I have accepted the fact that I am gay.
Most of the extended family has seemed to be compassionate. My parents are understanding, more so dad than mom. She is not sure she agrees with my position on homosexuality at this point. Most of the in-laws from what I am told still consider me “part of the family,” only one has made any attempt to keep in contact.
My church’s reaction has been, well, less than stellar. My ex-wife asked if I cared if she met with the assistant pastor at our church and I said no. This happened just prior to my moving out. I was glad she was reaching out for some help and support. When she met with the assistant pastor about the situation he did not have much to say other than he wanted to meet with me and if she remarried she would be in adultery. I was not impressed with the coldness he showed my ex-wife for sure. I consented to meet with him when he called. I knew it would not be a pleasant meeting. We were both told the meetings would be confidential, and that our discussions would be shared with the senior pastor and no one else.
I was given the whole list of scriptures explaining why what I was doing is wrong, and told that in the end I am going to just turn my back on God and essentially go to hell if I don’t change my ways. I explained my position and left it at that. There was a very subtle, but heavy use of guilt and condemnation in the discussion with the assistant pastor. Thankfully, I did not go there in a combative mind set and I think that helped me to “hold my ground.” It is very difficult for me to not start blasting this man in detail right now as there were other things said that seemed so inappropriate and cold, but doing that will not be of benefit to anyone.
He commented to my ex-wife later (and I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but I found it an interesting/almost odd comment about me coming from him). He told her that I seemed to be spiritually perceptive and in tune with things. We were both surprised at that comment since I did not agree to follow his “program for spiritual restoration with God and my family.” This happened in late July/early August. There was never any comments or communications from the senior pastor. He would not even give the common courtesy of a handshake when I last saw him. It may seem petty, but I had been involved in the church for almost 7 years and just having the back turned to me like that really hurt.
A few days before Christmas I received a letter from the senior pastor explaining that they were going to start an “investigation into charges brought against me” (their words) over homosexuality, adultery and divorce, thus determining my membership status. I had not been back to that church since my meeting with the assistant pastor and only had one follow-up contact from him several days after the meeting to see if I was going to be submissive to God’s Word and the elders of the church and be restored. The letter included the written charges against me that had been submitted to the elders of the church.
All the confidential conversations had been revealed to others in the church. It hurt some but honestly I was so very, very angry over this exposure. I sent them a letter and told them to cancel their “little investigation” and remove me from membership immediately. In the initial letter and the follow-up I got from the assistant pastor, they justified their actions with scriptures. I could see where they were coming from, but they went way, way too far. They risked exposing this to my daughter when my ex-wife and I agreed and told them how we were going to handle telling the kids and that was made plain to the assistant pastor. Even something true can be turned, through gossip, into something very hurtful for the hearers.
This has been a time of great heartache for myself and my family; a time of doubt about many things that I have believed and held dear for much of my life, especially in my relationship with the Lord. There has been much confusion and disorientation. A disorientation that has left me drifting spiritually and emotionally. Many days I just go through the motions. I long to be with the man I love. He is very dear to me and our relationship has gone through many strains at the same time I have been dealing with this divorce (not related to the divorce though).
I hope things will start to clear as time goes by, but until then, I can only hold to the truths of scripture. God’s love, His forgiveness and that whatever path I have chosen, God’s grace is bigger than my sins and mistakes. He will not let go of me and those that I love and hold dear.
Would I recommend this course of action to others? That is something I cannot do. No one can! This kind of move in one’s life can only be determined prayerfully between the individual and his/her Lord. The decision to stay in a marriage or long-term relationship must be prayerfully made and with a trust that God will provide the grace to handle the situation for all effected by the decision, because many people will be affected.
Do I have any regrets? I don’t think so. This has not been an easy road to travel. It is a road that one for sure needs the support of friends and family. That has been minimal for me. I have started over again with my social life. Most of the friends I had did not approve of what I have done and that has put a rift between us. Things will change as time goes by. A new life will emerge and new friendships will grow.
Raised in a Pentecostal/evangelical tradition, Michael Howard Garoutte of Wisconsin helped found a church and served as an assistant pastor before coming out in middle age while married with two children. He later found his life partner while the two of them were involved in an online conversion therapy ministry.