[Editor?s Note: Northern Lights welcomes guest post submissions such as this one. Please click on ?Blog Yourself? in the masthead for more details. Submit posts to submissions[at]ldslights.org. As with all posts, the view presented is that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of all blog contributors. This is guest post was submitted by FoxyJ. She blogs at foxyj.blogspot.com. She’s been married to Master Fob for nearly 6 years and they have two children.]

In a recent editorial in the New York Times, Stephen Benjamin describes how he and a friend were both recently dismissed from their posts as Arabic-language translators in the Navy. Stephen Benjamin is gay. While many of his comrades knew about his orientation, once the military found out, he was dismissed from service in accordance with the ?don?t ask, don?t tell? guidelines currently in place. As Benjamin points out, the wisdom of dismissing so many highly-skilled servicemen during a time of war is becoming more and more suspect. It turns out that ?don?t ask, don?t tell? may actually be harmful to the military.

One night when my husband and I were dating, we attended the temple, and then stopped on the way home to talk. He told me that he had always felt attracted to men and not to women. I wasn?t sure how to react. We discussed his feelings briefly; he assured me that he had never acted on his feelings, had undergone counseling, and was ready to get married. After that initial conversation we unofficially instituted a ?don?t ask, don?t tell? policy in our relationship. There were several points during our engagement when I could tell that he was struggling, but he didn?t tell me what was going on. I didn?t know what to ask, so I didn?t. We got married, we attended Evergreen conference twice, and occasionally had superficial conversations that mostly managed to sidestep the issue. When I discovered that he had been looking at gay pornography on our computer, I didn?t say anything. For a while we engaged in a competition to see who could erase the browser history before the other one noticed. The issue only came up when I kept pressuring him to attend the temple with me. He didn?t want to, we had a brief exchange about the reasons (I think we even avoided the word ?pornography?), and I left the issue alone.

On the surface, it seemed like ?don?t ask, don?t tell? was working for our marriage. We told ourselves that it was, but the secrets soon started eroding our foundation. My husband grew more distant, confiding more and more of his feelings in friends because he couldn?t talk to me. I grew more frustrated and angry because I could feel him slipping away and didn?t know what to do to about it. We finally reached a point where he decided that marriage was not what he wanted out of life; in a way, I can see where he was coming from. The kind of marriage we were stuck in was not the kind of life people should have. But then something changed. He decided that honesty was a better policy. He started to tell, and I started to ask. We are starting a journey of renegotiation and renewing trust. Unburdening our secrets to each other has strengthened our intimacy. I have discovered that a person who is completely closed off leaves no open spaces through which others can enter. Asking and telling are scary, but they are also necessary for growth.

The US military?s current policy places homosexuals in a difficult position. Even though many are eager to serve their country, they are either discouraged from joining or are forced to hide to live a life of secrecy. For many who do decide to serve, the secrecy becomes unbearable. The unofficial reaction of their comrades is usually supportive, but the official reaction is unyielding: being homosexual and being in the military are incompatible. Many would come to a similar conclusion about mixed-orientation marriages. We tried to make our marriage work using the same sort of compromise; if the issue was difficult to deal with, we simply wouldn?t talk about it. However, like most people in the military are learning, the benefits to be gained from talking about ourselves far outweigh the imagined dangers that keep us locked in ?don?t ask, don?t tell.?

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9 comments

  1. avatar

    Ouch… This one really hits home… I appreciate the honesty and integrity of this post.

  2. avatar

    j

    It?s is so interesting to me that you would write this post right now. Even though I don?t know you, I feel like you sat me down, looked me in the eye, and spoke directly to me?like a friend would. The scenario you outline with your husband is pretty much exactly what happened, and continues to happen with my wife and me. In fact, I?ve even used the same analogy of the ?don?t ask, don?t tell? policy to describe how we?ve dealt with my issues. Over the years, I?ve wrestled with the decision of whether to talk to her again, or not, and just recently I thought I had become comfortable again with our silence. But, in my heart of hearts, I know that it is harmful to our relationship. I find what you said about your husband confiding more in friends because he couldn?t talk to you to be particularly poignant. Silence is deadly, sharing experiences with others can be liberating and healing (as I?ve learned from blogging), but confiding in the only other person who is directly involved in my life and also affected by my actions is the only way to achieve real freedom and intimacy. I now realize this and I?m going to work on it. Thank you.

  3. avatar

    Not only do secrets and non-sharing destroy a relationship, but they also destroy the individual.

  4. avatar

    As a (somewhat) reformed keeper of many secrets, I have to agree with you that honesty is the best policy. Through painful personal experience I have learned that secrets only serve to destroy a relationship and, as iwonder said, the individual. It has taken me years to come to this realization and as always, you manage to express it much more beautifully than I ever could.

  5. avatar

    -L-

    This post makes me think in a lot of different directions. First of all, I’ve wondered how blogging fits into asking and telling. For us it has been a catalyst for better communication and understanding. My wife, FRM, initially suggested that she not read the blog so that I could explore the issue as honestly as possible. This was a wonderful show of trust, but I realized after I had written a number of entries that I wanted her to read many of them. I had learned a lot about myself, and even though some of them were quite incriminating, I encouraged her to read. The outcome has been good, where I think others have had some opposite outcomes from keeping their online activities secret from their spouse.

    Second, I remember a seminary teacher explaining that he and his wife “confessed their lives” to each other on their wedding night. They told each other everything there was to know, and frankly forgave each other for any past sins. I thought it was kind of a weird approach, and the idea scared the crap out of me. There were things about myself (e.g. being gay) that I didn’t want anyone to EVER know. No matter what. But, as previously mentioned, FRM and I have become progressively more open about things. It’s not that we bare our souls every other hour, but when there’s a need, we do.

    Third, I don’t know what to think of military policy. But I guess that wasn’t really the point of your post. :-)

  6. avatar

    I love this post. I think it’s wise and I think it’s real. I’m a gay kid going through a divorce right now from my wife of three years. Foxy J, I loved what you said when you wrote: “Unburdening our secrets to each other has strengthened our intimacy. I have discovered that a person who is completely closed off leaves no open spaces through which others can enter. Asking and telling are scary, but they are also necessary for growth.”

    For my marriage, when the honesty started flowing and truth became known, that’s when we saw that we were trying to fit into a marriage that wasn’t good for either of us. Thanks for sharing.

  7. avatar

    FlameRetardentMormon

    Thank you for this post, FoxyJ. You are wise and eloquent. And it’s totally presumptuous of me, but I really like you and Mr. Fob (from a lurking distance), so I’m happy to see you happy.

  8. avatar

    Borealis

    Totally agree with the points you make about “don’t ask, don’t tell” being deadly in marriage. Back to the original question about the policy in the military, just a small rejoinder. A lot of those discharges for homosexuality might well be deliberately self-inflicted. This particularly happens in wartime, since people get afraid when they get sent to the front, and a discharge for homosexuality is not at all as bad as dereliction. So there might be more to this story than it appears, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of those dismissed from the military either were looking for a way out, or there was more to the story than we are being told.

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