Queer.pl: The first blog entry is very moving. Was it difficult for you to describe this?
Adam: The first months after I told my wife I had fallen in love with a man were the most difficult for me. It was all very fresh, and I was overwhelmed by strong emotions. I cried for the first time in many years. Before the conversation that I had with my wife, during Christmas at my parents’ home (where my in-laws also were, and where there was an expectation that everyone would be in a joyful Christmas mood), I was depressed and absent. After this moment, which I describe in the blog, there were months of endless conversations, sleepless nights, and efforts to pull myself together so I could function somehow at work. However, the passage of time, self-improvement and support from some of my loved ones convinced me I had done the right thing. Today I’m regaining a sense of stability.
What is it like today?
It’s still difficult. I’ve come out to my family and friends, but I haven’t come out yet in the professional sphere or to some of my acquaintances. It’s only a matter of time, despite what some people have said to me. My father told me that “the rest of the family doesn’t need to know”, and my in-laws told me “you don’t need to be gay right away.” Finally, I have the strength to say, “Yes, I’m gay. This is my story.” However, I need to be more assertive and to define myself before some people form an image of me based on their prejudices and stereotypes.
Why did you decide to start a blog?
Initially, I was thinking about a website with links to meaningful, helpful content for married people with spouses of different sexual orientations. This type of content is hard to find on the Internet, and is often buried in hate; you have to dig deeper and really make an effort to find it. While I was talking about my idea, someone mentioned the word “blog” and I seized on that, not knowing if I’d be able to put together even one post. It turned out that in addition to its therapeutic function, writing also gives me a lot of joy.
I hope the blog won’t be the only thing I do. I’d like to organise meetings at some point, with the hope that they would be attended by people who are or have been in relationships with people of different sexual orientations. The sheer act of sharing your experiences and getting support from a group can be helpful, and even more so if the meeting’s agenda includes workshops with a lawyer, psychologist or family mediator.
Do you know other people with similar stories?
I know a man from Belgium who has two children and has been with his male partner for 10 years. He told me how shared custody of children can work. His partner recently helped his ex-wife buy a house. After the first difficult years, they reached an understanding and now everyone (my friend with his partner and his ex-wife with her second husband) meets, for example, at the children’s birthday parties.
I’m sharing my experience publicly in the hope that it will be helpful to others. While reading about stories like mine, I’ve come across results of studies according to which about half of homosexuals living in heterosexual marriages do not intend to reveal the truth to their spouses.
What would you say to gay people who are in heterosexual marriages and who haven’t come out yet?
I would say that I regret not doing it earlier. It’s unbelievable what kind of walls we build around us, and what kind of cages we trap ourselves in. Maybe it’s a cliché, but fear makes things look twice as bad as they are. I realised this when I came out to my parents.
To this day, I still don’t have the kind of understanding and acceptance from my parents and in-laws that I would like to have, but at the same time I’ve never felt better in my whole life. My morning coffee tastes different now (better). I appreciate music and literature differently. I feel as if I’ve finally found myself after a long journey.
My wife heard somewhere that the dissolution of a marriage between two people with different sexual orientations usually lasts two to three years, counting from the moment when one of the spouses comes out. These marriages are often built on other strong emotions and dependencies such as friendship, care and commitments. In my case, there is still an extremely strong bond with my two daughters. I also try to view our situation from the perspective of my wife, however imperfectly. When I came out, my wife felt she was the one who had entered the closet, so I shared my coming-out experience with her. I believe that truth, even the most difficult truth, strengthens the bonds between people. Building a relationship on a lie is like following a road that leads nowhere.
I don’t know what advice to give. I know that my own personal breakthrough was the moment when I was brave enough to get help and to let myself be helped. I read, watched, and listened to as much material as possible on this topic. For example, the German film “Free Fall” was important to me. The knowledge I gained helped me deal with my emotions. I also read a book titled “A Pebble in his Shoe” by Francine Barbetta. For years, Frank, the protagonist of this book, was unable to decide whether he was gay and whether he should leave his wife. I’m going to describe this story on my blog, so for now I’ll only say that the story has a tragic ending. Frank’s story made me realise that I was fighting a losing battle, clinging to something that didn’t exist, and that I couldn’t be a source of suffering for my wife and loved ones. At the same time, it was horrifying and devastating to know I would destroy the love I had been lucky enough to experience. After I’d learned the truth about myself, I decided the only path I could follow in my life was the path of truth. I also wanted this to be the lesson I would teach my children.
What was the most difficult thing for you?
Looking at the woman I had hurt and being aware I was the source of her suffering, and there was nothing I could do about it hurt the most. It was also difficult to understand that it was possible to live a happy life outside of Poland’s Catholic, traditional, “correct” family model. I became acquainted with the concept of a patchwork family.
It’s difficult and time-consuming to cleanse oneself of the residues of homophobia. For a long time I couldn’t get rid of the voice in my head that kept saying, for example, “Don’t be such a pussy, pull yourself together and act like a man!” I lacked the language to describe my own situation in my mind. I’m still constantly trying to learn it.
On your blog you mentioned the film “The Straight Story”, which is about straight women and men who were married to gays or lesbians. Why this particular film?
This film shows married people with different sexual orientations – gays, lesbians and their heterosexual partners – and that there’s both life and hope after their spouse comes out. One of the characters, Amity, whose husband told her he was gay after 25 years of marriage, says in the film: “I understand how you feel now, I have been there and I want you to know that as much as you feel that your life has ended, as much as you feel that you will never experience joy again, as much as you feel that you want to hold on to what you have, you will find out later, and it will be a lot of time and a lot of pain later, but you will find out later, that you can experience joy, you can find again a life, and you can find a better life than the one you had, because it will be based on honesty and not on deception, and not on not the truth of who you are, who your relationship is. You will find incredible life after the gay thing. It will be amazing to you. And you don’t feel that now, that it will ever happen, but it will.” Amity allows us to see that there’s a chance to find happiness in the future. But on the Internet, there’s a lot of rage, hatred and abuse, and many lies, concerning this subject – I came across such content just by typing the words “gay husband” or “gay wife” into Google.
Amity made use of her difficult experience in a fantastic way – in 1986 she founded the Straight Spouses Network (SSN), a mutual support network for women who have had similar experiences (and for men whose wives turned out to be lesbians). SSN can already be contacted in 11 countries.
Within the community itself, people like you often face a lack of understanding. How can people with a similar history be given support, and what should be remembered?
My experiences are relatively recent and I don’t know the LGBT community very well yet, so every gesture of acceptance and respect will be very valuable to me. At the same time, however, I’m aware I might be rejected instead of being offered support. Someone might want to accuse me of fear or egoism.
I’ve come to realise that homophobia is deeply rooted in many of us, regardless of our sexual orientation. Whether we overcome it and turn it into acceptance depends on many factors – on the environment in which we’ve grown up, the values passed on to us from our family, teachers’ attitudes or one’s life situation. If some are lucky enough to be themselves and feel proud of being LGBTQIA at an early age, that’s fantastic. I was not so lucky.
In my small, provincial hometown, societal pressure was so great that I believed I wasn’t gay. Gays “didn’t exist”; I didn’t know a single one (my mom claims, that apart from me, she still hasn’t met one personally). Nobody uttered the word “gay” – only the word “faggot” sometimes appeared in jokes. There was no Internet in the 1980s and 1990s. I had no source of knowledge. Many years had to pass; I had to leave my hometown, get married, become more mature and admit the difficult truth. When I first said out loud that I was gay, I felt as if I’d been born again. It was a euphoric feeling. At the same time I allowed myself to name the feeling I had for another man; I allowed myself to yearn for him, to love him. To be honest, he was the one who took my hand and pulled me towards him. That was when I understood there was no turning back and my world had changed. I know it sounds grandiose, but I want to say it: he has given me life.