“Samuel” is a soft-spoken, middle-aged Caribbean-American man who I have chatted with online for years.
He is very handsome, with warm caramel skin, and a neatly trimmed, salt-and-pepper goatee. Samuel could be your favorite uncle, your high school English teacher, or your dentist.
But what Samuel is is a married gay man who is almost at the end of his rope. His marriage is failing, he is weary and guilt-ridden from sneaking around for sex, and he wants to just be his authentic self for the first time in his 50-something years.
For the last two weeks he has sent me text messages and inboxed me on Facebook.
“Immanuel, I just need somebody to talk to.”
So last Thursday he came by to visit, arriving at the door looking stressed and worried. Morgan went upstairs to give us some privacy and I gave advice to Samuel on how to escape the down-low world and come over the gay side, if that is what he ultimately decides to do
Here is what I said:
THINK ABOUT IT AND THINK AGAIN BEFORE DECIDING WHETHER TO LEAVE YOUR MARRIAGE: If you decide to leave a marriage there will be major upheaval. Your wife will have to deal with the emotional scars of finding out you are gay. Your children will have to adjust to a new image of their father. You will lose old friends. On the flip side you may be happier, more fulfilled and feel less guilty. What you decide to do is totally up to you — there is no wrong or right answer.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR MARRIAGE FOR A MAN: If you decide to leave your marriage do not do so because you have fallen in love with man and want to run to him. Some gay men actively pursue married men because they are good for sex but they can send them home to wifey and not have to deal with dirty socks on the floor and snoring at night. So the man you think is in love with you may not be truthful. If you decide to leave, live on your own awhile so you can learn the ins and outs of gay life and get used to being on your own and learning about yourself.
YOU WILL TURN INTO A SEX FANATIC IF YOU LEAVE YOUR MARRIAGE, AT LEAST FOR AWHILE: For the first time you will have all the time in the world to pursue sex you have been denying yourself for years. So you will go a little buck wild (read the earlier entries in my blog to find out!). Don’t worry, this new teenager phase will eventually end and you will want to pursue deeper connections with men.
GET ACQUAINTED WITH GAY CULTURE: There are several excellent websites and books that cater to men coming out later in life. Read a few before making your decision.
GET LEGAL ADVICE AND MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING: I would strongly advise getting legal advice about separation, divorce, child support and child custody and visitation rights before you make a decision. Some lawyers will talk to you pro bono. Some more good advice: find a therapist who specializes in gay or bisexual clients to help you handle the emotional stresses you will go through. If you can’t afford mental healthcare go online and look for support groups in your area. There are groups for newly out gay men and married gay men.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE: There are thousands of gay and bisexual men who were married to women and have children. Your situation is not unique and you are not alone in the journey. Cultivate a small group of friends who you can turn to for advice and support.
BE AS GAY AS YOU WANT TO BE OR DON’T: My dear friend Andre gave me this advice and I found it to be some of the best words I heard: “Be as gay as you want to be.” In other words, if you decide to “go gay” you can immerse yourself in gay organizations or causes or patronize only gay establishments. Or you can decide not to. That is up to you. There is no right or wrong way to be gay. Don’t believe the stereotypes you see on television or read. The LGBT world is very diverse and rich. There is a lot to enjoy.
GET YOUR FINANCES IN ORDER: If you decide to leave remember you have a legal and moral obligation to support your children if you have them. When I left my wife I rented a room before getting my own place and eventually living with Morgan. I took on part-time jobs and continue to do freelance work to afford to go on vacations with Morgan and do things with my children such as eating out and the movies and shopping. Until you get on your feet learn to live more frugally. Believe me there are plenty of things you can do for free or for less money.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL EVERYBODY YOUR BUSINESS: If you decide to come out do so at your own comfort level. You may decide to tell a few close friends and relatives you are gay or you may not. Do what you are comfortable with and remember some friends and relatives may cut you off if they find you are gay. Don’t worry about them — they really didn’t love you anyway. Go and make new friends!
DON’T FEEL GUILTY — A HIGHER POWER IS IN CHARGE: If you believe in a higher power, realize when this power created you it did not make a mistake. You were meant to live your life to the fullest and be yourself. And love yourself and others. That is the greatest gift you can give to the world.