Last year at about this time, I wrote about when my wife came out to me as bisexual. It was an exposé of my own baggage (of which there was a lot) as well as a tribute to her patience and generosity (of which there was more).
Amid the flood of response, I received many different iterations of the same question: “Why? Why did your wife feel the need to come out at all?”
I understand this curiosity. After all, we’re an opposite-sex (some might say “traditional”) couple with attraction for one another and no desire to change how our marriage operates. What’s the point in even bringing this up, or labeling it bisexuality?
The funny thing is, even in the throws of my doubt and insecurities this question never crossed my mind. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve actually given it any thought.
This is what I’ve come up with (with her help, of course). Here’s why Courtney came out:
It was about personal integrity. I recently heard a pastor talk about how much she admired her transgender daughter’s commitment to living authentically. “Really, I’ve learned so much about integrity from the trans community” she said. I told her that this was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. It resonated with me.
I see the same ethic at work in Courtney. There’s a sense of wholeness that only living in the truth can provide. She’s taught me that. I’ve come to learn so much about authenticity from my wife.
It was about her commitment to me. Authenticity and transparency have always characterized our marriage. When I was first asked why Courtney came out to me, my immediate thought was “why wouldn’t she tell me?” We’ve never had secrets. We’ve never had the instinct to repress our thoughts or perspectives on anything (faith, politics, money, sex, family), even when we knew there would be conflict.
Courtney knew that the only thing scarier and more hurtful than being truthful with me would be to hide the truth from me. She came out to me because she trusted in the strength of our marriage. She wanted me to know.
Being on this side of that conversation, as painful as it was for me, I know it was the right thing to do. Working through it has brought us much closer.
It was about wanting to be an advocate. I’ll admit that I didn’t fully appreciate this at the time. For Courtney, the fact that she could go throughout life being assumed to be straight never sat well with her. It felt like a kind of cowardice, especially when so many of our LGBTQ friends, just by nature of their same-sex relationships or gender identities, were lightning rods for stigma and scrutiny. She didn’t want to hide behind the facade of a “traditional” marriage.
Before I ever joined an organization committed to standing in solidarity with the other, whoever that other might be, my wife showed me what solidarity actually looked like. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my wife. She paved the way for my work here at The Marin Foundation.
Watching her live out her integrity, her love for me and her sense of justice in standing with and for the LGBTQ community…it’s been such a revelation to me. In the end I know she could have chosen not to come out. But I’m so glad she did.
Note: This post first appeared on Love is an Orientation here.