Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • As I walked down the aisle in 1968 at age 21, I had no idea that my best friend, the Hansel to my Gretel, was struggling with his sexual identity. Nor did he. We didn’t even have words to put around such an idea. We both came from broken families where innocence and acceptance had long ago been sacrificed to social acceptability and religious truth. As I look back, there were no survivors on either side, only victims. For generations, there had been no room for questions, no space for wondering, no “miscellaneous” category. Children were continually being born into a world like letters coming into a mailroom, sorted into a concentrated group of items all going to the same place in the same direction. Choice was limited to living in the safety of the center or living on the edge with the almost certain outcome of being picked off and eaten alive.

    For several years we tried to fit into the template of family life, proudly passed down from parent to child. It was never comfortable but how can you doubt history? It was after the birth of our second child that we noticed the cracks in the template, the glued places, the sharp edges. We weren’t the first to struggle with the structure. We asked our parents what we were doing wrong. We went to couples therapy. We asked our priest. We asked each other. He worked harder. I parented more. Yet every night the silence was more profound. The safe place we created together in those early, naive years was disintegrating. When we reached out in the darkness for the comforting embrace of protection, my cheek no longer fit on his chest. His fingers no longer found mine. We saw foreigners in one another’s eyes. The template became a weapon. We brutalized ourselves and one another with unmet expectations and fault finding. On the 4th of July in 1971, after a violent outburst followed by a remorse and guilt that changed our world forever, my husband ran from our home and made the first of many attempts to end his life.

    Neither of us knew about a sexual identity. We took for granted that we were attracted to each other. How could you love someone you didn’t belong with sexually? My heart breaks for those two trusting children. It breaks for our parents who were trusting children just as we were and for all the trusting children that went before us. Innocent hearts and well-meaning intentions, however, are no match for the destructive power of fear motivated by ignorance and fueled by authority. What followed in our marriage were years of confusion, self-loathing, battering, addiction and yet a deep and abiding love. How I wish I had known, how I wish my husband had known there were words to put around what was happening to us. How I wish we had known that we were not alone in that fairytale forest, that there was a community of Hansels and Gretels there to support us. How I wish I could have told him who he was attracted to could never make me love him less, could never make him less worthy of his children’s respect and love. How I wish I could have set him free to celebrate all that he had to offer. How I wish he had lived to help his son navigate the same treacherous waters in facing his own sexual identity but that is another story.

    What I have today is the wisdom of my wounds. It’s allowed me to speak softly but with confidence in the truth of my own experience rather than shouting away my power into an abyss of anger and fear. It attracts the trust and honesty of others who have shared my pain and offer a healing bond. My wounds have opened my eyes to see the change I’ve longed for. My wisdom tells me that all those things I wished my husband and son could have heard me say, echo through eternity with each kind word I speak today, with every act of unconditional acceptance.

    Perhaps Shel Silverstein says it best in his poem Hug O War

    I will not play at tug o' war.
    I'd rather play at hug o' war, 

    Where everyone hugs 
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles 
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses, 
And everyone grins, 

    And everyone cuddles, 
And everyone wins.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.