Well, well, well…He Has No Shame! – Or Does He?

In September James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey—and former husband— who blew the lid off the pot of his personal life in 2004 when he was forced to admit to an intimate relationship with another man, will release the book, The Confession, about his life and those hard times.
He has no shame, they say.
As just one of the estimated one to three million married men who also engage in sex with men, he represents a sizeable segment of the male population who are victims of society’s homophobia. The shame belongs to that much larger segment of the population that makes it difficult, although not impossible, for a person to feel no shame in being attracted to his or her same sex. In a 1990 study, The Social Organization of Sexuality, Edward Lauman, a University of Chicago sociologist, found that nearly 4% of men who had ever been married had had sex with a man in the previous five years. That doesn’t mean they’re all gay. It does mean that there are a whole lot of married men who probably struggle with shame. How incredibly sad.
Can we call it shameful when a person reaches a place where he says: “There’s a big part of who I am that I’ve kept hidden. Hidden from even the most important people in my life. I can’t do that anymore. This is who I am”?
For whatever reasons move a person to a more authentic place in his or her life—insight, a found letter, a careless computer trail—the movement from conflict to resolution is an accomplishment to be valued.
It is a shame that James McGreevey had so many “less than” years. Years of his life that were less than what they could have been. They’re not lost years—no one should dare to presume that in those closeted years of his life his two marriages had no value. But the years were undoubtedly less than they could have been, as they would be for anyone who has to commit significant amounts of energy to making sure secrets stay secrets.
McGreevey writes, “At a point in every person’s life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one’s soul and decide one’s unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.”
They have no shame.
For the past five years the Healthy Living Project has facilitated a support group for married and formerly married men who also have sex with men. The primary aim of the Healthy Transitions program is to provide information and support to those men who are conflicted about having a primary heterosexual relationship and simultaneously engaging in homosexual behaviors. The program takes no position on what changes these men must make. The “healthy transition” is intended to reflect movement from conflict to resolution, from confusion to clear intention.
In the five years that the program has been offered, 70 men have attended at least one group meeting. Each man can attest to how much courage it takes to attend a meeting for the first time—in fact, 20% of them came only once. Of the other 56 men, more than half were currently married or living with a female partner. The others were either divorced or separated by the time they found their way to the group.
For those who were married, in the course of attending the group 60% divorced or separated from their partner. The other 40% chose to remain married. Most of them, but not all, stopped attending the group. What happened with them subsequently, we don’t know.
The shame is that there is no way the general public can see these transitions unfold over time. Although it is a cliché, there is no better way to describe it than miraculous. Whether they decide to stay or to leave, the shift from secrecy to authenticity, from shame to acceptance, from depression to liberation transforms their lives.
The journey is often incredibly painful. Indeed, the delay in coming out is usually a function of wanting to avoid pain—one’s own, and the pain honesty will inevitably cause. The process takes its biggest leap, however, when the person realizes that the pain he is currently causing is so much greater—distance, closing off, unavailability. Without knowing its source, spouses and children are left to assume they are the cause. Everyone in the family suffers keenly under the burden of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Occasionally, a child too independent, or too young, to have learned that lie, will lead the way: “Dad, are you gay?”
He has no shame in saying yes.

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