Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Ex is Having Sex with Rex!!!

Best. Title. Ever.

Don't you think so?

Hey Mo-Lit fans!!! I just finished reading Jennifer Lee's brand-new memoir My Ex is Having Sex with Rex, ($12.99, Matching Jackets Publishing).

This is the poignant-yet-hopeful tale of a single mom on the dating scene again with three kids in tow after she and her gay husband of sixteen years finally accept that his orientation makes it impossible for them to truly be romantic partners and soul-mates.

Jennifer describes in entertaining detail her adventures in discovering anew what straight men are like. For example, she gets the fun of having two different guys in a row try to charm the pants off her with a clever line about how ordering french fries is "sooooo sexy!" lol

Jennifer gets the excitement of dating some guys who above all just want from her a night of hot passion by contrast with the familiar situation of the guy who above all wanted from her the domestic comforts of home and family. In some ways she finds this a welcome change, but -- combined with the frustration of also dating some guys with serious social problems and the frustration of failing to find a complete, fulfilling romantic relationship -- she practically ends up asking herself if her new situation is better or worse.

Even though Jennifer is incredibly positive about pro-actively getting her own life in order and about giving number one top priority to her kids' well-being above all else, this book obviously ends up being a strong cautionary tale about why -- if you are a straight person -- you should not marry a gay person, imagining that somehow against all odds you'll find a way to make it work. And even more than that, it's a cautionary tale for gay people of what you're really choosing to do to the life of another human when you decide to try to cure yourself by building a family with an unsuspecting straight person.

Jennifer's situation is somewhat unusual among gay-man-straight-woman marriages in that she didn't have any idea that her husband might be gay until four years into the marriage (after they'd had one kid).

It's easy to see how this can happen -- her ex-husband was one of those gay guys who didn't blatantly fit the stereotypes, plus he was sexual enough to be willing to have plenty of sex with her despite his orientation. And notably -- even though he'd had sex with men and knew he was struggling with same-sex attraction before the marriage -- he didn't tell her.

Given the situation, it's astonishing how little anger Jennifer expresses. However, it's understandable that she's willing to forgive her ex because it's clear from the story that he didn't set out wanting to deceive and use her. He wasn't just thinking of his own need for a "normal" life and family in callous disregard for her needs. He believed and had internalized the disgusting lie that his attraction to men was just a disorder -- one that could be completely cured and one that was too shameful to even mention. They convinced him that he would be capable of giving his wife a relationship that was as sexually and emotionally complete as the type of relationship that a straight man could offer her.

So really, the liar in this story is the LDS church.

Jennifer makes it clear, however, that she doesn't feel anger towards the church any more than she feels anger towards her ex-husband. Her detachment is amazing, yet not so mysterious. The thing is that she places an admirably high priority on honoring the family they built together and the good memories of the years they spent together. She doesn't regret the years and the life that she gave him and she doesn't want to regret them. What's more, she doesn't want him to regret their relationship. If she were to feel a visceral anger at the church for telling him he could change and for pressuring him to do so, it would in a sense be equivalent to being viscerally angry that they had ever been married at all.

Tellingly, she spends almost as much time discussing whether she should be angry at "homosexuality" as she spends discussing whether she should be angry at the church. It's clear that while a new relationship would be great, she would just as soon have back the father of her children, only not gay -- if that were somehow possible.

(Note that she does blame his secrecy for causing her pain, and strongly advocates allowing and encouraging gay people to marry each other instead of marrying straight people.)

Jennifer includes an interview with her ex-husband in order to allow him to give his side of the story. For his part, he seems a lot more willing to feel anger towards the LDS church -- not because he regrets their family together, but rather because the church not only pressured him to deny a fundamental part of himself but also convinced him to make promises to a person he cared deeply about, promises that were ultimately impossible for him to keep. And obviously in the face of his new-found joy and happiness at truly finding himself and finding his soul-mate (Rex), he doesn't want to feel like he's left Jennifer high and dry.

I'm not sure whether all of my armchair psychoanalysis here makes for a good book review or not, but it's hard for the reader to avoid trying to make some sense of this difficult situation.

The book is definitely worth reading for its own sake as a story as well as for the insight it gives into the perspective of a straight woman who has the misfortune of finding out that her husband is gay.

Holly wrote an excellent series of articles here, here, and here about straight women in romantic relationships with gay men, and in particular discussed here how the women's perspective in such a situation is often ignored. Hopefully Jennifer's book will be a voice to counteract the invisibility of women caught in such marriages.

So, congratulations Jennifer on your excellent work of writing and publishing your story, and here's hoping the publicity and sales phase will be a huge success!!! :D


Cyn Bagley said...

Very interesting... :-)

Rebecca said...

Good review - totally makes me want to read it. Lately I've been reading a couple of blogs by people in gay/straight marriages. Interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an crazy, fascinating, and interesting subject. Maybe I need to strike up another gay-discussion with my mom who mourns the lack of news media about gays-gone-straight.

Some questions you may or may not have answers to:

Is this woman still actively LDS?
Is there a buzz about this book among LDS circles?
What is the LDS reaction?

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Cynthia and Rebecca!!!

Yes indeed, it's a fascinating book on a fascinating subject!!! :D

Hey Noell!!!

Glad to see you back from vacation!!! :D

1. I don't think she's actively LDS. My impression is that she's more not-active-yet-not-hostile. If you go to her site and sign her guestbook, maybe she'll give more details, but in truth it's not really clear from her book.

2. There will be if I can help it. ;-) But it just came out, so I haven't heard anything from LDS circles yet.

3. Yet to be seen!!! :D

The Sinister Porpoise said...

I think I can understand some of the husband's feelings about anger. He was a victim of the church's indoctrination, which in a way, we all are.

Kalv1n said...

I think I'll really have to check this out. Maybe I should give it to my mother since she was married to a gay guy (but he passed away). Hmm...

Cyn Bagley said...

I knew a family where the father was gay.. but we didn't know it until he left his wife (with 9 kids)... He is a happy man now.

She is a very bitter woman and made her sons very bitter too. They were so scared that they would suddenly become gay. (shaking my head)

C. L. Hanson said...

Very true Sinister Porpoise!!!

Of course this one interview was particularly emotional. Normally this guy seems pretty light-hearted (I know him from exmo-social).

Hey Kalvin!!!

I thought of you when I was reading this because I remembered that you had written in your blog about how your father was gay yet maintained a straight lifestyle to his death. I guess this book presents the alternative...

Hey Cynthia!!!

Nine kids??? Good gravy, I'd be bitter too... ;-)

Cyn Bagley said...

Well... he did wait to leave until they were old enough to take care of themselves. If I remember right, the wife was bitter even when she thought he was straight. She was a hard woman to deal with.

C. L. Hanson said...

Wow!!! Well, it's good that he took responsibility for raising all those kids.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Sounds like a great book.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey JLO!!!

I agree gender is a lot more complicated than just some binary operation.

My feeling is that individuals should feel free to adopt whatever gender identity they feel most comfortable in. Where's the harm in it?

For those who object on religious grounds, what makes you think God didn't "make them that way"?

Hey Freckle Face Girl!!!

Yes it is, and it's a pretty quick read, too.

Cyn Bagley said...

JLO... it is not completely a construct.. has something to do with hormones too... ;-)

In biology, the fetus starts out as female and with the hormone testosterone... the fetus becomes male. ... so hard to call it a construct when it has a biological component to it.

The Sinister Porpoise said...

JLO -- gender orientation and sexual orientation are not quite the same thing...

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Cynthia!!!

That is a very good point. I was thinking of responding something to that effect to JLO, but I didn't because I wasn't sure precisely what he meant by saying that gender is a construct.

Hey Sinister Porpoise!!!

Also a very good point. I thought of you when I read his comment and wondered what you would think of it (since I think you were saying on your blog that you're transgendered and not gay, right?) so it's good to have your reaction.

Anonymous said...

This book was written by a wonderful young woman who has come a long way since finding out about her gay husband. The book is an Oprah Book Club 'should be'. Great writing for a new author. I can't wait to read her next book!

Anonymous said...

Excellent review. The author has tremendous insight into this unfortunate situation which smashed her dreams of marriage, etc. and has rebounded and grown emotionally and intellectually in a short time to write a book that wraps around the many problems and frustrations associated with the deceit (unintended) of a gay being duped into thinking he/she can "change".

Anonymous said...

her website is www.husbandisgay.com

I've already read the review and I can't remember if the site is given in there or not. If it is I apologize for being repetitive.

I highly suggest purchasing this book.

I'm a close personal friend and I never even knew she could write so superbly! Her ex-husband is interviewed in the book. He's a great guy. It's very supportive of gay marriage which is a nice attribute.

Again, really great book. :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Anonymous!!!

Don't worry -- I've linked to the site above. :D

Bull said...

Any books about straight men married to gay women? It seems like there are more gay men than gay women (I could be wrong), but it seems like it's bound to happen, especially in the LDS church.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Bull!!!

It must happen, but I don't know of any books on the subject...

Bull said...

Here is a site I found:

Married Women Who Love Women