Friday, June 28, 2013

It Gets Better

Several times over the last year or so, I've mentioned that equality for gay men and women is on the fast track in this country. No everyone has agreed with me; but hopefully the events of the last week, which have been rather amazing, will convince many of the doubters it is indeed time to exercise a little optimism.

The week began with the braking story of Alan Chambers, head of Exodus International, telling The
Associated Press that the church has, "waged the culture war, and it's time to put the weapons down." He went on to say Exodus International, whose work has long infuriated many gay-rights activists, will be closing down. From now on he and his allies will be forming a new ministry seeking to open conversation among those who've been on the opposite sides in the debate over gay rights.

Chambers has long been associated with the reparative therapy movement which has tried to convince gays that they are making a choice to be gay and that their gayness can be pushed out of their lives through prayer. Chambers apologized to the gay community for this past stance and said he now wants to devote his efforts to reconciliation.

In a speech to his ministry's annual conference also apologized admitting that the work of Exodus International has hurt people deeply and caused unnecessary pain. Chambers went on to say that Exodus had fought the culture war and lost! "It's time for peace," he said.

Exodus' power and influence had declined in recent years a reputable psychiatrists and psychotherapists rejected its approach and came to see homosexuality as a normal expression of human sexuality. It has reached the point that the only people still using reparative therapy are right wing evangelical and fundamentalist quacks.

Last year, Chambers who has acknowledged his own attraction to men though he is married to a woman announced he was trying to distance his ministry from the idea that gays' sexual orientation can be permanently changed or "cured."

In making the announcement that Exodus would close, Chambers announced a new ministry which he referred to as  "Our goals," he said, "are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities."

Reaction from the gay community was generally positive though it was noted that  some of Chambers' followers were starting a new group to continue to try to promote the idea that gays can be converted to straights.

It will take a while for real trust to develop between Chambers and his colleagues and those whom they have harassed for almost 40 years, but one has to give Chambers credit for the public admissions he has made about his change of mind and heart.

As for myself, I think one of the most important things he said was his admission that fundamentalists have lost the culture wars. Indeed they have and gays should not loose sight of that victory. Sure there will always be a few social morons who refuse to accept defeat just as there are still ass holes who cling to racial discrimination. Such people have no standing and no influence in the American culture as a whole. The time has arrived when evangelicals and fundamentalists must realize they are hurting themselves with their worn out arguments more than they are hurting gay Americans.

I thought it was significant this week when Fox News, an undoubtedly conservative institution reported that while those who felt homosexuality was morally wrong out numbered those who thought it was not by only 1%, a substantially higher percentage of Americans thought that gay people should enjoy equal rights and equal protections as those afforded to heterosexuals.

I think it is an unmistakeable sign that the American people have swung around 180both in their views on homosexuality and their willingness to accept the rights of others to have and act on ideas and ideals that are different from their own.

Change continued this week when the Supreme Court struck down significant portions of the Defense of Marriage Act stating that is was a clear infringement of individual rights and equal protection under the law. The end of DOMA means that same sex couples who are legally married will receive Federal benefits equal to those received by heterosexual couples. It is without doubt one of the biggest social revolutions in the last 50 years.

True, the Court was sharply divided in a 5/4 decision, but close counts just as much a Court in full agreement. The law of the land has been dramatically changed.

The week continued with the Supreme Court striking down California's overturning of Proposition 8 which made same sex marriage legal in the state. Unlike the overturn of DOMA this  California case does not impact other states directly. It does mean that 13 states now will recognize marriage between same sex couples as legal. For the first time in history, a full 30% of all Americans will live in a state in which same sex marriages are legal. That is indeed a social revolution.

Though I am not an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama, I thought it a nice touch that he called two of the principals in the California case even as they were being interviewed by the news media. See the following video.

We have truly come a long way from Stonewall. For those who may not recall, the Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.

At the time same sex activity was illegal in every state. Only the most radical homosexuals were out of the closet because anyone who admitted to being homosexual would loose their jobs, their families, their friends and most everything else they held dear.

The attitudes of Americans is radically different today. There is hardly a family that has not been touched by the homosexuality of a loved one as those coming out of the closet reached critical mass. Many Americans have for the first time had to consider that the queers are not "those people" but rather their own sons, daughters, fathers and grandsons. It has made a big difference.

As the more liberal churches have come to support homosexuals as persons loved by God; and indeed, made by God, the influence of radical Christians has begun to wane more and more.

It gets better all the time. It truly does. The trend will continue at an even faster pace in the wake of the Supreme Courts decisions this week. It gets better. It really does.

Jack Scott

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Times Are A Changing - Fast!

A while back, I wrote in a blog piece that I, for one, was amazed at how quickly attitudes toward gay men and women were changing in the United States. Even more amazing to me is how fast the average American is embracing gay marriage.

Some people did not share my viewpoint. They felt like any change for the better was more than canceled out by the attitudes yet left unchanged. I guess in a way it is the old adage of a glass half full or a glass half empty.

This coming week the Supreme Court is set to rule on monumental questions of importance to all gay men and women. While most Court watchers expect the Court to take a moderate rather than a radical stand on the cases before them, the cases will almost surely add momentum to the pace of change.

As a political conservative as well as a social liberal, I was extremely satisfied by the actions this last week of this man. He has been roundly criticized by the religious right types, but it is difficult to ignore his courage in his convictions, even if it took him a while to build his courage to the level that would allow him to go public.

Don't know who the man is? Stay tuned here. I'll have more to say during the week of June 24th.

Jack Scott

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Should One Try To Hold On To A Mixed Orientation Marriage

In August, 2011, I posted a blog piece entitled, "I'm Married To A Bisexual Man, Will It Work" . That post has become the third most read post I've ever written which tells me there are a lot of married bisexual men and their wives out there who are very much interested in the question.

One of the several reasons I continue to write this blog is because the interaction with other people through the blog helps me to grow and change in my understanding of the world and the people who populate it and what motivates us as individuals. It seems most people dread, or even fear, change. One of my oldest and dearest friends of almost 50 years is such a man. He will do anything to avoid the stress change causes him. He just doesn't like it. I have never been such a person. Even as a little kid, no matter where I was or what I was doing, I was always ready to be somewhere else and doing something else. Change has always been an adventure to me.

As I got older I settled down some, but I never reached a point at which I was willing to revere the status quo at the expense of changing something for the better. That doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the status quo or appreciate old things. I can and I do; but I also have a great appreciation for new ideas and new things.

As we say here in Texas, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since 2011. I have met a number of people, both men and women, who have dealt first hand with the issue of a mixed orientation marriage. Their experiences have given me a great deal to think about regarding the issue.

Obviously, I cannot escape the reality that marriage between a bisexual guy and a straight woman can work. My wife and I will celebrate almost 50 years of marriage this summer. She has known of my bisexuality for almost a decade. Of all the issues that have confronted our marriage in all that time, I can honestly say, and I think she would agree, my bisexuality has not been the biggest hurdle we had to overcome. It certainly was not the one that fueled the most fights between us by a long shot.

So yes, I still contend, and present myself and my wife as living evidence, that not only can a mixed orientation marriage survive; but it can be intensely happy and successful. But in the time since I wrote that blog piece, a new question has presented itself to me though several men and women whom I have met through this blog.

The question is not just, "Can marriage between a straight lady and a bisexual guy work?" The further question is, "Should one try to hold on to their mixed orientation marriage without giving serious thought to other solutions?" Again, the experience of my wife and myself proves that sometimes holding on is the thing to do. But there is a big caveat to that. You see, my wife and I never had to hold on to our marriage. Our marriage was never really threatened by my bisexuality. Sure there were adjustments on both sides, but my wife never went screaming off into the night about divorce. Neither did she issue any unreasonable demands or expectations. For us, it was just a matter of talking it through. Our marriage had been on a strong foundation for more than 30 years. This new revelation to her was not going to destroy it. We had too much invested in our relationship and there was too much about it that was important to us.

The only things we ever fought about in our marriage were sex, money and the kids. The kids are grown with kids of their own. Money is no longer an issue for us. We are more than comfortable financially. Our sex life was always robust and satisfying too.

With my cancer, sex is no longer an issue for me and she has chosen not to let it be an issue for her. We both miss it greatly, but we understand those days are gone. We are thankful that we made sure to make the most of all the sexual years we had together. Because we have nothing to fight about we just don't fight. We spend our time and energy doing the things we love to do, some of them mutual, some of them engaged in by only one or the other of us.

We both know that the next big change in our lives will be when one or the other passes away, and one is left to carry on. It will be a major turning point in our lives, so we are careful to make the most of every day we have left together. In the overall scheme of things as viewed from our present perspective, my bisexuality is not really such a big thing.

I don't know if many of you know it or not, but divorce actions are most often filed by women rather than men. Men are much more likely to be happy in their marriages, than are women. Men seem to find it easier to accept when everything is not just as they wish it to be. Perhaps it is because men, more often than not, enter into marriage with a more realistic perspective whereas women grow up filled with a fairy tale image of a prince charming who will carry them away, make sure to protect them from all harm, yet at the same time be more than willing to bend his will to hers in every way. The reality is that kind of fairy tale rarely takes place in real life. Further, when it does happen, women quickly find they cannot love and respect a man who lets himself be dominated by a woman, even if they do enjoy some of the perks of that sort of relationship.

Recently, I received a letter from a 42 year old man whose marriage is coming apart. He made the mistake of telling his wife about his bisexuality before she was emotionally ready to hear of it. She retaliated by demanding that he bring a male partner into the marriage so she could enjoy him too. He did so, but it solved no problems. She still claims to want to divorce him, date new men and find someone who will make her happy.

He told me he takes full responsibility for destroying what had been a strong and happy marriage. My reply to him was there was more than enough responsibility to go around and his wife bore her own share of the blame. True, she had no input into  his bisexuality or how he should handle it, but neither did she handle it constructively when she did find out about it. Instead she made it an excuse for her own "tit for tat" response and her own childish desire to find someone "to make her happy." It should be needless to say, but obviously isn't that no one can make any of us happy. Happiness come from within ourselves. We choose to be happy -- or not! Too many people make choices that insure they will never be happy, and more often than not, they make those choices for all the wrong reasons.

Unwittingly, this woman has chosen not to be happy. She is headed for the complete destruction of her life. And in destroying her own life she is likely to destroy the lives of her husband and her children as well. It is such a tragedy.

I'm not trying to excuse this man from his responsibility at all. But looking at it realistically all the trouble sprang from him trying to do what he honestly thought was a good course of action with an intractable problem - come clean. She failed him, she failed herself and she failed her children. In reality, he had come clean to her in an attempt to save their relationship. She chose to destroy it. He is suffering for trying to do the right thing.

The reality is their marriage was never strong. It probably was never really happy. If it had been, it could not have so easily been destroyed. Along those lines the only bright side may be that there was nothing worth the saving. That the marriage is destroyed may be a blessing to both of them in the long run. He has a chance to start over. She has an opportunity to learn that her happiness does not begin in others or end with others.

Of course it is not always the woman in a challenged marriage who drives the most nails. Sometimes it is the man who takes on that task. A couple of  years ago I heard from a woman who lives here in Texas. She had just found that her husband was not straight and she wanted to save her marriage. This woman was willing to do whatever it took to save her marriage. She had the emotional and financial resources that allowed her to take on the task. There was only one problem. Her husband is not worth the trouble. He had the opportunity to seek realistic help and advice to help him in the situation in which he found himself. He squandered it.

She has given him chance after chance after chance to make a decision about what he wants most in life, his family or his sexual freedom. He's chosen his sexual freedom, but he has done it in a cowardly manner which has not clearly informed her of his choice. In reality he has taken her willingness to work with him and stabbed her in the back with it while he continues to try to act like a spoiled child and have his cake while he east it too. He has never been honest and straight forward with her. He's just been an ass hole. He doesn't seem to understand or to care that he is punishing her for caring about him and trying to stand by him. All he is interested in is his own pleasure. At the same time, though he's an ass hole, he not so big of an ass hole that he can pull off his childish self-centered life choices without some measure of guilt. He has begun to self medicate in order to escape the guilt. I will not be surprised to find that he ultimately destroys, perhaps even takes his own life.

We all know the grim statistics of American marriage. Almost half of all marriages fail. What fewer of us know is what psychotherapists like my wife see year in and year out. Of the marriages that survive, the majority of them are not  happy. The unhappy couple stays together because they cannot afford to divorce, because they have mistakenly decided it is in the best interest of their children to stay together, because divorce is against their religious faith or any one of hundreds of other illegitimate reasons.

One thing should be perfectly clear and unmistakeable. If a marriage would not have been happy had not mixed sexual orientations been a part of it, it is not worth trying to hold onto when mixed orientation becomes an open part of it. Both parties would be wise to take their lumps, deserved or undeserved, and put the marriage aside with as little animosity, anger and vengeance as possible. Animosity, anger and vengeance will simply prolong the agony and make it more expensive.

One caveat is that a happy marriage should not be confused with a perfect marriage. Strangely, some of the marriages that do survive mixed orientations are far from perfect, yet they have a history of having been happy marriages. There are several models for this type of marriage:

  • a woman who enjoys the status she achieve through her successful husband and a man who enjoys the freedom this give him,
  • a woman who has no interest in sex and is perfectly happy for her husband to find it where he will so long as she doesn't have to be confronted with it and a man who enjoys the sexual variety this allows him,
  • a woman who understand she can live more financially secure with a husband she doesn't love than she can alone and a man who feels the same way, or
  • a woman who finds real companionship with her husband in non sexual ways and whose husband finds the same thing with her. In short two people who are truly friends.
None of these types of marriages can be described as successful in the classic sense of the word, but all of them can, in the right circumstance, be quite happy.

I must make it clear that it is not just women who can have unrealistic expectations. We men are quite capable of doing the same thing. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am always saying I have lived the most blessed of lives. That is not just something I say. It is something I really feel is true. I have lived a blessed life. But again the caveat to that is that having lived a blessed life is not the same as having lived a perfectly happy and serene life. I've had my share of sorrow and disappointment. I've had my share of anger and strife, but I choose to be truly happy. I choose to concentrate on all the blessings of my life rather than on anything else, for I know there is nothing I can do to change the sorrow, disappointments, anger and strife. I can only choose how much sway they have over me. I choose not to give them much sway. Some of you may find this difficult to believe, but I truly have trouble remembering many of the unpleasant parts of my life because I don't hold on to them. Instead I hold on to the things that have made me happy and given me a sense of accomplishment.

One of many things which bisexual men must realize is that if it is so difficult to find the right heterosexual partner and establish a truly happy marriage, it is even more difficult - nearly impossible - to find a life long same sex partner who is everything you've dreamed of. It's true, I have never wanted for a same sex partner. The man I've needed has always been there when I needed him. Part of the reason why is because I've always made it a point to look at the good in others and not concentrate on the bad. I'll tell you a little secret. I have had four principle same sex partners in my life. I have never ended a partnership. My partner has always ended the relationship. But, and this is the important thing, I've never stood in the way of a partner ending the relationship. I have always accepted it with a measure of grace and a willingness to accept its metamorphosis into something new. Thus I've never had a partnership truly end. I've continued to be friends with every partner I've ever had. I am good at realizing that few of us can live our lives solely on our own terms. But then again I understand well that by coming to terms with what we cannot control, we can truly live our lives in terms that are truly acceptable to us.

Some of you will find this difficult to understand, may even think it crazy; but it's not. A good example is my cancer. I have no control over my cancer. All things being equal, I'd rather not have it; but things are never equal. I have it and that is that. I can't control that. What I can do is choose how I react to my cancer. I choose to be happy in spite of it. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. We are all guaranteed death. I've had almost 66 years of good life. That's a lot more than some. And in the end, I'm not afraid of dying. I'm more afraid of living when I no longer wish to be living. With my cancer, I know I'll never have to do that for long. I won't linger for years not knowing who I am or who my loved ones are. A few short weeks of no treatments to hold back my cancer, and I'll be gone. There are worse things in life, and I know some of the people with those worse things personally.

Finally, I must tell you that some of the happiest married bisexual or married homosexual men I have come to know in the last couple of decades are those who had the courage to put their marriages aside and give them and their former wives a new chance at life. My friends Mike and Bill are prime examples. Neither found it easy to put their marriages aside. It was difficult for them to make the decision to do it. But when they did make the decision, they did it without anger, and without any attempt to be vengeful or unfair. In fact both of these men sacrificed to give more than they had to give to their ex wives even though each of their marriages had never been happy, had always been labored, even bitter. Each had much in the way of material things when they ended their marriages. Each walked away from most of it. Each has reassembled the material things that help to make all of us comfortable and promote our happiness. More importantly, each has found the partner they never thought they would find and each has chosen to be happy. Neither Mike's nor Bill's partner is perfect. They are ordinary men with ordinary failings and shortcomings. But both Mike and Bill are happy for the first time in their lives.

Most of us hate change. Our first instinct is to hold on to what we've got. But at the same time we are human beings. We sometimes choose to be vengeful and bitter to punish those we perceive to have wronged us. Sometimes we even cut off our own nose to spite our own face in trying to spite others.

As I said earlier, my wife and I are prime examples of the fact that mixed orientation marriages can work; but that doesn't mean such a thing is the most common outcome. It's not. Sometimes the real virtue is the courage to walk away, learn from the experience and try again.

The ultimate point of life is to be able to find happiness in ourselves, to feel that there is purpose to our lives. We can do neither of these things if we are holding on to a dead relationship.

Each of us is an individual. There is no set answer for us to hang on to. We each have to find what is best for us as an individual. We must also understand that in a marriage, for better or worse, we are two individuals. Of the two of us, we only have control over ourselves. We cannot control the actions or inactions, the decisions our partners make or their refusal to choose as we would have them choose.

We must be willing to examine our circumstance logically and thoughtfully and have the courage to make decisions that are in the best interest of ourselves and those we care about knowing that there usually are no decisions that don't have both down sides and up sides to them.

Finally we must be very cognizant of the fact that standing still and enduring what is unendurable is no answer at all. Change may be hard, but it can be rewarding too.

Jack Scott

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stopping To Smell The Roses

My posts have been sparse of late, I know. Actually, I would have liked to have posted more frequently than I have, but it became a matter of priorities.
White Caladiums and Pink Impatients

You see, we have had one of the most beautiful Springs in recorded history (literally) here in the Houston area. The temperatures have been lower than any since they began keeping records. Also the humidity levels have often been low as well making the days just awesomely beautiful.

Combined with that I have been feeling so good. I have had more energy than I have had in at least a couple of years, and along with the energy, the will to get out and enjoy the beautiful Spring days and do what I use to love doing most, working in my yard.

Pink Throated White Azaleas
The last couple of years, I just hadn't felt like doing much, so there was much to do in the yard. It's still not all done, but the yard is already beautiful. I've reworked the flower and shrub beds. I'm trimmed the trees and pruned the hedges.

In addition to the usual plants, I found some new ones that are beautiful and unusual. I always enjoy that. One that I found this year is a Brazilian Plum Plant. It is so unusual and beautiful. It has dark green glossy leaves and a pink plumed flower.

Since the Spring has been so delightful and I've felt so good, I've spent many whole days out in the
Pink Hydrangeas
yard working. Sometimes, like this morning, I've even stopped just to enjoy the beauty. This morning when I got up and pulled back the drapes in our bedroom, much to my surprise it was raining. I got dressed for church and still had a little time, so I just went out on the covered patio and watched the rain and the wonderful aroma it brings.

So, I guess the honest assessment is, I could have posted more over the last few weeks, but it just wasn't my first priority. I've been taking time to stop and smell the roses - literally! However, that is not all there is to it either. I have been turning over and over in my mind thoughts on my next post. It is a particularly difficult one to write, so it has been good to have the time to think about it.

Pale Blue Agapanthus
As Americans, we are always way too stressed out. I hope you too will take time this Summer to take it easy and do something for yourself. We are not guaranteed tomorrow you know, so do it soon.

All the pictures of flowers are from my back yard. Those of you who know something about growing flowers will recognize many of these are shade tolerant or shade loving plants.

That is because most of my yard is under some magnificent trees.  The few sun loving plants are tucked into the few small sunny spaces I have where they at least get the morning sun. I'd like to show you the yard itself, but for obvious reasons, that is not possible. I hope you enjoy the pictures. 

I really hope they inspire you to find your own way to relax and enjoy the present.

Jack Scott

Yellow Hibiscus

Marilyn Monroe Rose

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott