Devoutly Mormon. Happily Married. Undeniably Gay.
A gay man and his wife share their story.
by Josh Weed
Lolly and I have several reasons for opening up about this part of our lives. First and foremost, my clinical work as a therapist is taking me in the direction of helping clients who want to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious beliefs, and I have decided to be open with these clients about my own homosexuality. The second reason is that the issue of homosexuality is not very well understood, and we want to add our voice and experience to the dialogue. Thirdly, I have found that sharing this part of me allows my relationships with others to be more authentic; it has deepened my friendships, enhanced my interactions, and given others the opportunity to choose to accept me for who I really am.
Below are some of the questions we're most frequently asked. We hope that answering these will help you understand how we make sense of this delicate and complicated issue in our lives.
1. What do you mean when you say you're "gay"?
When I say I am gay or same-sex attracted, I refer specifically to sexual orientation. It's really as simple as what a girl asked me in junior high: "So, if everyone in this room took off their clothes, would you be turned on by the girls or the guys?" My answer, which I didn't say out loud, was unquestionably the guys. And it was unquestionably not the girls. And that still is my answer. It's really not very complicated. Most people just don't think about their sexual orientation because they don't have any reason to.
2. When did you know you were gay?
I knew I was gay when I was 11 or 12. For a little while I was waiting for the attraction to girls to set in, because that's what everyone said would happen at puberty, but then there was a sinking moment of realization—the girl thing wasn't going to happen, but the guy thing was totally happening. I told my parents shortly thereafter, when it seemed pretty clear that my sexuality wasn't playing a trick on me. My father was a lay leader in the Mormon church at the time, but my parents were incredibly loving and supportive, which is part of why I believe I'm so well adjusted today. I never felt judged or unwanted or that they wished to change anything about me. That's partly why I have never been ashamed about this part of myself. I feel plenty of shame about other irrational things, like the fact that I can't catch a ball or change a tire (and I'm working on that stuff, because toxic shame isn't a good thing), but I've never felt shame about who I am or about this feature of me, which is a critical part of my person in the same way that sexuality is a critical part of any person.
3. If you're happily married to a woman, how can you really be gay?
Some people assume that because I'm married to a woman I must be bisexual. This would be true if sexual orientation was defined by sexual experience, but it is defined not by experience but rather by attraction. In my case, I am attracted sexually to men. Period. Yet my marriage is wonderful, and Lolly and I have an extremely healthy and robust sex life. How can this be?
What people are really asking with the above question is "How can you be gay if your primary sex partner is a woman?" I didn't fully understand the answer to this question until I was doing research on sexuality in grad school, even though I had been happily married for almost five years at that point. I knew that I was gay, and I also knew that sex with my wife was enjoyable. But I didn't understand how that was happening.
Here is the basic reality that i think many people could use a lesson in: Sex is about more than just visual attraction, lust, passion, and infatuation. When sex is done right, it is at its deepest level about intimacy. It is a beautiful physical manifestation of two people being connected because they love each other profoundly. It is bodies connecting and souls connecting. It is beautiful and rich and fulfilling and spiritual. Many people never get to this point in their sex lives, because it requires high levels of communication, trust, and vulnerability. And Lolly and I have had that from day one, mostly because we weren't distracted by the powerful chemicals of infatuation and obsession that usually bring a couple together but dwindle dramatically after the first few years of marriage anyway.
Sex is about more than just visual attraction, lust, passion, and infatuation. When sex is done right, it is at its deepest level about intimacy. It is a beautiful physical manifestation of two people being connected because they love each other profoundly.
So, in a weird way, the circumstances of our marriage allowed us to build a sexual relationship based on everything partners should want in their sex life: intimacy, communication, and genuine love and affection. This has resulted in us having a better sex life than most people I personally know—most of whom are straight. Go figure.
4. Did your wife know you were gay when you married her?
Yes. I told Lolly about my homosexuality when I was 16 and we were on a date. That may have been the most important day of my life. Everything I have in life that I cherish—the love of my life, my career, my education, coming home to three beautiful daughters screaming "Daddy, Daddy!" with glee—hinged on that fateful day at Pizza Hut and on a wonderful girl who was compassionate and open-minded and willing to listen to a young gay kid who was lonely and desperate for a soft place to land and to be heard. (See "Lolly's Turn" below for Lolly's side of the story.)
5. Why do you not choose to be "true to yourself" and live the gay lifestyle?
First of all, I understand that when people refer to a "gay lifestyle" they are talking about a lifestyle that includes gay romantic and sexual relationships. But I want to point out that because I am gay any lifestyle I choose is technically a "gay lifestyle." Mine just looks different from those of other gay people. My hope is that other gays will be as accepting of my choices as they hope others would be of theirs.
Because I am gay any lifestyle I choose is technically a "gay lifestyle." Mine just looks different from those of other gay people. My hope is that other gays will be as accepting of my choices as they hope others would be of theirs.
But that doesn't really answer the question. And it is an important question. One of the sad truths about being gay is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. I think this is true of life in general, but with homosexuality the choices seem to be a little bit more mutually exclusive. If you are Mormon and you choose to live out your faith, you are sacrificing the ability to have a romantic relationship with a same-sex partner. If you choose a same-sex partner, you are sacrificing the ability to have a biological family with the one you love. And so on. No matter what path you choose, you are giving up things that are basic. I chose not to "live the gay lifestyle," as it were, because I found that what I would have to give up wasn't worth the sacrifice for me. The things I wasn't willing to part with were my faith, my traditional views, and Lolly.
I believe the doctrine of the Mormon church is true. One of the key doctrines of the church is that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of his children." Another is that "children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity." Time and time again, my experience has shown me that when I follow the teachings I know in the deepest part of my soul to be true, my life is blessed and I find immense joy and peace. Deciding not to give up these profound spiritual beliefs in favor of my sexual orientation required a great deal of faith, but I can honestly say that for me it has been completely worth it—and I thank God for blessing me for my obedience.
I am a traditionalist at heart. I wanted a wife. I wanted to raise children who were biologically the product of me and the one I love. Thankfully, Lolly was willing to marry me, and we found ourselves able to conceive children. Sometimes as I wrestle in the living room with my three daughters, or watch them eat cookies with chocolaty mouths and lots of giggles, or read them stories before tucking them into their beds, I find myself in awe of how lucky I am. But I believe it is more than luck. My life is filled with genuine, vibrant joy, and I believe this joy stems from living the gospel of Jesus Christ and trusting God and his plan for me even when it was really hard and scary.
I find that when I think of what alternative lifestyles could offer me, they pale in comparison to the bounteous life I live. I love Lolly, and I want to grow old by her side. I wouldn't trade her for any human on earth—male or female. She is my best friend, my lover, and my greatest gift. Anyone who knows us can attest to the fact that our love is real, vibrant, and very apparent. Aside from my relationship with God, she is my everything, and nothing I do or receive in my life will ever compare to her and her love for me. Thus, I believe that to live my life this way is being true to myself, and to go down any other path would be egregiously inauthentic and self-deceptive.
A few years ago, I saw a psychologist to get medication for my ADHD-I. She was a lesbian, and when I told her that I was a gay man in a heterosexual marriage, she spent an entire session hammering me with questions about my situation in a genuine effort to make sure I was happy. I didn't like that she did this, but as a clinician myself I understood where she was coming from.
During our conversation, she told me about her life with her former partner, with whom she lived for only three years. She spoke of the biological child of her ex-lover, whom she considered to be her daughter, too, of how much she loved her daughter but how infrequently she got to see her. And eventually, when talking about my sex life, she said, "Well, that's good you enjoy sex with your wife, but I think it's sad that you have to settle for something that is counterfeit."
I was a little taken aback. In response, I jokingly said, "And I'm sorry that you have to settle for a counterfeit family." She immediately saw my point and apologized for that comment. Obviously I don't actually think a family with nonbiological members is counterfeit in any way. I also don't feel that my sex life is counterfeit. They are both examples of something that is different from the ideal. I made that joke to illustrate a point. If you are gay, you will have to choose to fill in the gaps somewhere. She chose to have a family in a way that is different from the ideal. I choose to enjoy sex in a way that is different from the ideal for a gay man.
Loving your gay friends and family well
If you know and love somebody who is gay and a person of faith, show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It's what Christ would do. It's what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.
In junior high a bully actively spread a rumor around the entire school that I was a "woman trapped in a man's body." This was unbelievably horrific and traumatizing, and I was harassed every single day about it, often by perfect strangers. I was more effeminate, played the violin, didn't play sports, was never interested in girls and didn't hang out with guys, and so people glommed onto that rumor and ruthlessly harassed me for the entire year, culminating in a yearbook filled with breathtakingly insensitive taunts. Being the gay kid in junior high is really, really hard. If you know one, give them a hug and tell them you love them. I assure you they could use it.
If you are a parent or guardian, in appropriate moments (and with the spirit) teach your children what you know to be true, but then let go and let them govern themselves. Trust that they can find their own path. Let them live their life and have the experiences they need to learn and grow. Trust that they are in charge of their own agency and destiny. I promise you they will thank you. I also promise that pressuring them to live the life you want them to lead will only hamper their ability to make a genuine and authentic choice for their own future, be it what you hope for them or not. You will never, ever give your gay loved one a better gift than to love and accept them for who they are, right now, no matter what—period. The friends and family who did that for me at varying points in my journey, including very recently, are cherished and will go down in the history of my life as the people who truly loved me and helped me on my path. (Incidentally, some of them are not technically even Christian, but to me they are like Christ in their actions.)
You will never, ever give your gay loved one a better gift than to love and accept them for who they are, right now, no matter what—period.
Loving your gay self well
If you are gay and a person of faith, I want you to know how much I admire you. I know how hard it is to be where you are, and I want you to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and accept yourself as you are. You are you, and your attractions are part of you. I want you to stop battling with this part of you that you may have understood as being sinful. Being gay does not mean that you are evil. Sin is in action, not in temptation or attraction. I feel this is a very important distinction. You don't get to choose your circumstances, but you do get to choose what you do with them.
I want you to know that God loves you and that even though you are attracted to people of the same gender, you are a completely legitimate individual, worthy of God's love, your family's love, and the love of your friends. You are no more broken than any other person you meet. You are a beautiful child of God. Please don't be ashamed. Know that you can be forgiven for any mistakes you have made and that God is not judging you. God has a plan specifically for you. He wants you to be happy, and he will take you by the hand and guide you step by step to where you need to be if you trust him. God knows you completely, every part, even the parts you wish you could keep hidden. God knows it all, and he is not angry with you. God couldn't love you any more than he does, and he is proud of you for your courage. I wish you could know my sincerity as I write these words and how deeply I feel compassion for you.
It's okay to feel what you feel
Perhaps you're someone who has never met a gay person whose opinion you trust, and you are having trouble believing that a man or woman could actually be sexually attracted to their same gender. Or perhaps it's hard for you to accept the idea that people do not choose to be gay, because assuming it's a matter of choice has helped you to understand this issue. It's okay if you feel that way.
Perhaps it is hard for you to believe that a man who regularly has sex with a woman could actually be a gay person who has chosen to live with a woman he loves and that there's no way I could feel what I claim to feel. It's okay if you feel that way.
Perhaps you are someone who has been affected by a gay loved one who married a person of the opposite gender under false pretenses and then left his or her family. Your feelings are raw, and my story makes you angry because you worry that anybody in these circumstances is in for an eventual rude awakening and horrible consequences. Or perhaps it makes you feel even deeper pain and loss to imagine that while this type of marriage didn't work for someone you love, it is working well for someone else, and so it's easier to dismiss our story as something that is bound to fail. It's okay if you feel that way.
Perhaps you are someone who has trouble believing a Mormon or Christian could actually be gay, so it is difficult for you to take my story at face value. It's okay if you feel that way.
Perhaps you are gay, and you once had desires to have a family with biological children of your own. But you gave that dream up long ago, and maybe it upsets you that I would even suggest that this is possible for those who want it. It's okay if you feel that way.
Perhaps you have had none of these emotions and are totally supportive of me and my chosen life. Maybe you are even excited to see this being talked about so openly. Or perhaps you have felt something entirely different from anything mentioned. Wherever you find yourself, know that it is okay to feel what you are feeling. This issue is a very complex and emotional one.
Whatever your feelings on the subject may be, you are reading the words of a real live person who is telling the truth. I have no reason whatsoever to share this with you besides to add a voice to the global discussion and help someone who might feel hopeless and lonely and devoid of role models or voices to trust. I do so at great risk. I do so in spite of probable backlash from people I know, as well as from perfect strangers. I do so knowing that I will be misunderstood and possibly maligned—called Satanic or deceived or told that my most intimate relationships are a sham.
Until now, Lolly and I have had 10 wonderful years of isolation, where we have enjoyed the goodness of our love and our life together in private. We have had chances to come out before in loud ways—we've been featured anonymously in news stories, been invited to be on radio interviews and documentaries, and were even asked to be on a national talk show. But it wasn't time. We needed to have those years to ourselves, to live outside of any scrutiny and just be ourselves.
But now we know that it's time for us to begin a new phase of openness and authenticity. We aren't sure why, but we both know without question that this is what we are supposed to do. Maybe somebody needs to hear our story. Maybe you are that somebody. If so, thank you for reading, and thank you for letting us share this intimate piece of our lives with you.
Joshua Weed is a marriage and family therapist in Auburn, Washington. You can read more of his story, including an unabridged version of this article titled "Club Unicorn," at his blog, JoshWeed.com.
Lolly's Turn: Why would a woman choose to marry a gay man?
I have known Josh and loved him for a very long time. We met as small children when we lived on the same street. In high school we went on our first date, and that is when Josh told me that he was gay. I was the first person he told, aside from his own parents. I will never forget the look on his face during the first moments of that conversation. From that look, I knew that he was feeling extremely vulnerable in what he had just shared and that what he was dealing with was very hard and very real for him. Knowing Josh's beliefs in our church, the first question that came to my mind was "What are you going to do about it?"
We talked at length that night about the reality of being gay in the Mormon church. Josh told me that he believed in the doctrine of the church and that he wanted to do what God wanted him to do. During the course of that conversation, my mind became overwhelmed by the complexities of the issue he was facing and how alone he felt in facing them.
I was determined to be an ally and friend to him in regards to this issue. We spent many hours over the course of several years hammering out what it meant in general and what it meant for him. Why was he gay? What did God expect him to do?
Josh's commitment to God was so apparent to me as we discussed the choices ahead of him. My admiration and respect deepened immensely for him. Our friendship grew, and I truly loved him. he told me he wanted to go on a mission for the church and that he would also like to get married and have a family. I believed that those things were possible for him, but I never thought it would be with me.
The possibility of us becoming more than friends would come up every now and then, but I would dismiss it quickly. My parents taught me that sex is sacred, enjoyable, and something to look forward to in marriage. I saw the important role that intimacy played in successful marriages, and that was one aspect of marriage I was greatly anticipating. Therefore, in my mind, marrying someone gay was completely out of the question.
One day Josh asked me, "If you won't consider marrying me, then who will?" I responded with, "I'm sure there is someone out there for you. It's just not me. Maybe you need to find someone who doesn't care about sex." He thought that line of thinking was wrong, but I couldn't think of another solution for him.
Josh's first year at college, he got a girlfriend who also happened to be my best friend. I loved both of them very much and was very happy for them. Yet, something unexpected happened. I started to feel jealous. They ended up breaking up shortly after the semester ended, but the feelings of jealousy that I had experienced in regards to their relationship threw me off guard. I started to seriously examine my feelings for Josh.
In a moment of honest reflection, I realized that Josh was everything I wanted in a husband—except for the huge fact that he was gay. He was dedicated to God above all else and loved his Savior deeply. He was kind, sincere, honest, and so much fun. I connected with him in ways I did not connect with anyone else. But he was gay, and I didn't know if I could handle that in a marriage.
I ended up confessing my feelings to him one day on a whim. He admitted that he felt the same for me—that I was everything he wanted in a wife. I had never been more excited or confused. It was an amazing experience for both of us, falling in love with our best friend.
Before he left on his mission, I was still not sure if I could actually marry him. The intimacy factor was so important to me. During the course of dating, we held hands and kissed. It was promising, but I didn't know if we had enough chemistry.
One day, Josh asked simply, "Am I worth it to you?" I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that question. We then talked about how you are accepting a person as a package deal when you get married—the good, the bad, the hard, the terrific, and the imperfect. He wanted to know if I loved the rest of him enough that I could deal with the realities his homosexuality would bring to our marriage. I honestly could not answer him then.
A few months later I asked a good friend of mine, "I can find someone else like Josh, right? Someone else to love like I love him?" she said, "You could find someone else to love, sure. But you will never have with someone else what you and Josh have. Because no one else is Josh." When she said that, I knew the answer to his question "Am I worth it?"
I knew that I loved Josh—all of him. I wanted to marry him because I loved the man he was and everything that made him him. I didn't want anyone else. I knew we had the kind of relationship that could survive trials and difficult circumstances. I had faith in him and in our love.
I did not choose to marry someone who is gay. I chose to marry Josh Weed, the man I love, and to accept all of him. I have never regretted it.