The following is the eighteenth installment of the “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” series. The series features members of The Reformation Project’s Inaugural Conference – a leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform.
The Barbie and Ken Meltdown
The Boiling Point of a Mixed Orientation Marriage
by Michael Booth (BEA guest writer)
I found myself walking into my bedroom and towards the bed, the same bed that I had shared with my wife for the life of our marriage. There she laid sound asleep, innocently dreaming away, but even in her wildest dreams she would have never imagined earlier that night I had attempted to end my own life. I could no longer cope with my choice, derived in ignorance, to enter a heterosexual marriage. Playing the role of a straight man became a life I was far too familiar with, familiar to the point of mental exhaustion. I had been able to convince my wife, family and friends of my desired sexuality, however the most important person I needed to convince was myself, and despite my persistent efforts, I had failed to eradicate my homosexual desires. My mile high hopes of pleasing God by reconstructing myself to become a heterosexual male had crashed all around me in flames as I finally hit rock bottom.
Many factors contributed to my pursuit of heterosexuality. Aside from loving my Savior more than anything, the repercussions of “choosing” to be gay had been well established by the legalistic church in which I was raised. Seeing as how eternal damnation didn’t appeal to me, I dedicated all my power and energy, no matter how extreme, to take the steps of faith needed to change my sexual orientation. As a child in elementary school, I remember instead of talking with my friends at the lunch table, I would choose to fast and pray to become what I considered a “normal boy”. The fear of eternal punishment for merely having gay thoughts resulted in many sleepless adolescent nights that continued into adulthood. Instead of counting sheep at night, I often found myself begging, pleading and crying out to God to change me.
Finally one night while watching a Christian television broadcast, I was exposed to an “ex-gay” minister testifying of his miraculous gay to straight transformation he was blessed with after pursuing what he identified as “God’s will” for his life. According to him, one could be “healed” of homosexuality simply by taking a step of faith and entering into a heterosexual marriage. I believed God had finally revealed the answer I sought for so many years. Shortly thereafter, I met a beautiful Godly woman whom I connected with on many different levels. We instantly became the best of friends and loved each other deeply. She was everything I could have ever wanted in a wife, and more. It didn’t take long for those around us to see we actually did get along quite well, even going as far as to nickname us after the stereotypical perfect couple, “Barbie & Ken.” What people didn’t know however was the ongoing battle within myself to live the life of a straight man. Excited to live a “normal” heterosexual life, I decided to marry in June of 2008, and so began my step of faith, fully confident the seed I planted would return the blessing I sought for so long.
In the weeks to follow the wedding, I found myself literally nauseated as I awaited my miracle. Angry towards God, I cried out to Him, asking how He could do this to me?! My anger and feelings of betrayal subsided over time as I picked back up with my goal to rid myself of homosexuality. For five years my efforts continued as my wife and I served in our church as youth pastors and even associate pastors. Everything from the outside looking in was picturesque, but on the inside I was dying from living a lie. Suicidal thoughts and depression went from becoming a detestable thought to an alternate reality for me.
As I stood by our bed that night after another attempted suicide, I remember thinking we weren’t the Barbie and Ken couple after all, even though, my wife, being even more amazingly beautiful than any manufactured creation of the Mattel plastic bombshell, she still wasn’t a Barbie. She was real. She was authentic. She was true to herself. I, on the other hand was not, I was living a lie; a lie that even though was taught to me by “the Church”, still wasn’t real even after all the work I put into it. I was just as plastic and hollow as Ken, hiding behind my fake, painted on smile. That night I came out to my wife and bore my soul to her, and for the first time, someone knew the real me.
Over this past year I have set fire to my plastic façade to reveal who I am, the real me, exactly the man God created me to be. I have learned the importance of authenticity and experienced for the first time in my life the feeling of being true to myself. My relationship with God has grown and deepened to a whole new level that wasn’t possible before.
To my surprise I discovered I was not the only one who had experienced this situation. According to The Family Pride Coalition, 20 percent of all gay men, and 40 percent of all lesbians in America are in a heterosexual marriage. According to the Straight Spouse Network, there is an estimated 2 million mixed orientation couples in America. One third of these couples separate after coming out, another third stay together for approximately one to two years, however 17% are said to stay married.
My purpose now lies in helping others to never have to go through what I have. There are two victims in my story: both the woman I married and myself. Christ has now led me to the truth, changing my situation from a victim to that of an overcomer. I pray with my testimony others will also see God’s true plan for the LGBT community, who until this point has far too often been neglected and shunned. Although I did choose to marry, it was only because of the false message I had been raised to believe. No one should ever have to live through the misery I have faced because they are told God will not accept or love them. Every human deserves to be loved, accepted, and given the right to marry whomever they choose. If my journey can help just one person then my goal will have been met, however I pray I will be able to help many more along the way. No matter our orientation or sexual identity, we must all be true to ourselves, because at the end of our lives what will truly matter is not what others have thought about us along the way, but rather how authentic we were with ourselves and those whom we love. My story is just one example of how we can lose ourselves when we let the opinion of others affect who we are, the only opinion that we should ever consider worrying about is God’s and once we become real, honest, and authentic with Him and ourselves we will experience a true freedom that can’t be replicated. Your relationship with Christ will grow stronger, but also every other relationship in your life will as well once our plastic exterior is melted away and the real us shines through.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
― May Sarton
Michael Booth of Louisville, Kentucky, currently serves as Producer and Marketing Manager for a local Christian talk show covering Southern Indiana, Louisville, and outlying areas. Raised in a Pentecostal Holiness home, Michael was taught homosexuality was a sin before being taught its definition. With the mounting internal struggle to change his sexual orientation, Michael admits to making poor choices out of ignorance on the issue of homosexuality, such as entering into a heterosexual marriage. Michael is speaking out so others can be freed from the lie that you can’t be gay and a Christian. Through The Reformation Project, his hope is to help people replace the guilt, confusion, and sorrow he experienced for years with the love and acceptance in Christ he has now found through God’s word.Michael.Booth.TRP@gmail.com http://www.Facebook.com/Michael.Booth.TRP