You talk in your letter about a part of your life “that is so repulsive and dark” that you have been “warring against it” all of your adult life. You go on to mention that at times you would “find victory” and yet occasionally you would find yourself “thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary” to the things you believe and teach.
I can only glean from this and your current situation that this “dark” part of your life is your struggle with your sexual orientation. You write that you have sought assistance through the years but found this to be ineffective. You talk about deceiving and hiding it from others so as not to hurt or disappoint them.
Then you write this, “The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete.”
In that statement alone, you have crystalized the feelings of many people within the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community as they dialogue about their sexual orientation. From what I have read and my own personal experiences of people working through their sexual orientation, it is an evolutionary struggle with many phases of discovery and it may take years to truly understand oneself in this very personal and intimate area of ones life.
Your wife Gayle has no doubt known about your desire for intimacy with men for years. That would be my guess. No one shares a life with someone for over 25 years and has these desires or passions go unnoticed. It is my belief that she most likely struggled alongside of you in this, encouraged you, tried to understand your struggle, wanted the best for you and hoped against hope that one day you would be “complete” with her. But as you have written, that is not possible.
Ted and Gayle: The marriage you share is over as you knew it. You will both be moving on to a new chapter in the process of Ted’s self-discovery. It is one that will be filled with pain at times, but if embraced rather than resisted it will lead to an unprecedented level of intimacy and deep bonding between the two of you as the life-long partners that you have pledged to be with one another. Your marriage does not have to be over, but it will forever be redefined. Yet, the new definition will hopefully be built on a level of honesty that other marriages can only envy.
In many ways I am sorry for you and your family that you must go through this in such a public way, but as you say, you are the one that created this entire situation. In fighting your “repulsive and dark” side, you chose to do what many pastors and people in power do – you made it a crusade to eradicate the darkness with the hopes of in doing so, you might be able to conquer your own demons. You are not alone. Many pastors “crusade” against the things they struggle with most. I am of the opinion if we want to know what our pastors wrestle with most in their private lives, take note on what they preach against most often.
I find the statement “The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete” very compelling and empowering. I can certainly relate to this as a person, and most importantly as a former pastor. As pastors, we often feel compelled to lead exemplary lives. We want the public self to be something that others can look at as the power of God transforming a life into holiness. We try to convince others that who they see on Sunday or any other day of the week is exactly the same person they would see if they were to follow us around for 24 hours a day. Somehow we think that this instills confidence and strength in those that look to us for guidance and leadership.
You thought that if people knew who you really were, if they knew of your struggle with your sexual orientation that they would reject you. You believed that those in your church could not handle you as their leader if you revealed to them how “incomplete” you really felt by not being totally honest with them at all times with all of your struggles, not just your sexual ones. So instead of being honest about who you were, you went into hiding. You concealed the parts you thought others would reject and this eventually drove you to commit acts that were unhealthy and irresponsible.
You felt that people cannot handle the ugliness and “darkness” of their pastor’s life. And sadly you were right. And that must change if the church is going to change and be truly revolutionary. We must begin to let our pastors know that they are off the hook. We should inform them that we do not expect our church leaders to be a “perfect” icon for us to emulate or the measuring stick for our “goodness”. In fact, what we should hope is that our pastors and their families are just like us. We should expect that they are incomplete.
End of Part Two