Married Ex-Gay = Situational Heterosexual.

Situational heterosexuality is the most misunderstood concept in the ‘ex-gay’ Christian worlds.

By Anthony Venn-Brown © 2010


‘Situational heterosexuality’ is a term I’ve used for several years to describe my experience when people have asked “how I could have been married for so many years and yet be gay?”

This term has also helped people gain a clearer understanding of what really happens when someone who is homosexual marries someone of the opposite sex and claims change.

Confusion about what really happens in these situations still exists and often wrongly reinforces the ‘homosexuality is a choice’ and ‘homosexuals can change’ myths.

How often have you heard someone say  ‘They couldn’t be gay, they’re married’; assuming that having a wife by your side and producing children means a person must be straight.

When someone says that to me, I just smile……remain silent for a while (having been a gay man in a heterosexual marriage) and wait for what I’m actually thinking to sink into the consciousness of the person who made the naïve statement.

‘Situational Homosexuality’.

The term ‘situational homosexuality’ is used to describe same-sex behaviours in prison, the military, single-sex boarding schools, or other sex-segregated communities, where members of those communities might engage in same sex activity or relationships.

Once they come out of that situation, they have not become homosexual; they revert to their natural orientation, sex and relationships with the opposite sex. It’s only the situation that created the behaviour; I did not change the orientation.

Behaviour vs. Orientation Confusion.

People who believe that a heterosexual marriage and children are proof that a person is no longer homosexual seem to be ignorant of the true dynamics of sexual orientation and have a simplistic view of sexual behaviour.

Alfred Kinsey’s ground-breaking research (late 40s and early 50s) in the area of human sexuality revealed many things.

Whilst not all his discoveries have become standard psychological practice, he opened the way for us to look at human sexuality in more realistic terms instead of making assumptions based on a Victorian, repressed and ignorant cultural mindset.

Kinsey developed a six-point scale with 0 representing individuals who had only heterosexual intercourse and with 6 representing those who engaged in only same-sex activities.

This created the concept of bi-sexuality and that some people may, from time to time, engage in same-sex behaviours but not actually be homosexual in orientation.

Kinsey and his associates found that 37 percent of the males and 13 percent of the females in their sample had had at least one homosexual encounter.

Are these people homosexual in orientation, bisexual, or heterosexuals who were playing up, being opportunistic or experimenting?

Further research over the last five decades has given us a more comprehensive understanding of sexual orientation.

Our sexual orientation involves brain wiring, thought processing, hormones and release of chemicals in the body with the final outcome demonstrated in our behaviour.

Our true sexual orientation is reflected by:

  1. The gender we are physically attracted to
  2. The gender we fantasize about
  3. The gender we desire intimacy and affection with
  4. The gender we are likely to fall in love with
  5. The gender we want to partner with
  6. How we identify ourselves

With all social, religious and legal restrictions removed and the opportunity to have a sexual experience with either gender, which one would we honestly choose? Or as one person put it to me recently, ‘In the morning, whose arms would you like to wake up in?’

So a person’s sexual orientation is determined by much more than their sexual behaviour.

Or to put it another way, our sexual behaviour, solely, doesn’t indicate our sexual orientation. Genuine bisexuality would also include all the above with either gender.

Some people think they are bisexual because they have had sex with both males and females.

I know I thought that for years, but this is not necessarily true. For some people, using the bisexual tag/identity is a useful and safe place for them to pause on their journey to accepting their gay self/identity. I did.

Same-sex Attraction (SSA) vs. Sexual Orientation Confusion.

I’d like a dollar for every time I’ve received an email from someone seeking help tell me they are ‘struggling with same-sex attraction’ (SSA).

The term SSA is frequently used in the ‘ex-gay’ world by individuals and in their literature.

The phrase ‘same-sex attraction’ is usually a deliberate choice to move the person’s perception of their sexuality away from an orientation (which gives it a scientific basis and is innate) to a behaviour (which can be suppressed, denied or ‘possibly’ changed).

What is ‘Situational Heterosexuality’?

‘Situational heterosexuality’ is when a person who is same-sex oriented enters a heterosexual marriage and has a degree of ‘heterosexual functionality’.

This is not a change in orientation, only behaviour; created by the situation.

Homosexuals In A Heterosexual Marriage – What’s Really Going On?

It’s not uncommon for men who have suppressed, denied, and hated their same-sex orientation to develop a sexual addiction or obsession.

When they get married, they have a sexual outlet which is free of shame and guilt and much more socially and religiously acceptable.

This is a great relief for them to finally feel ‘normal’, ‘wholesome’ even ‘pure’. As one research project clearly pointed out, they’d had sex with 100’s men once and sex with one woman 100’s of times.

It is easy to see how they and others confuse this newfound experience with the opposite sex as evidence of change.

They do however conveniently ignore the fact that any infidelity within the marriage would never happen with a person of the opposite sex, it would only ever be with the same.

Finally leaving the heterosexual marriage to live as openly gay men and lesbians, what many of us have found out, was that being true to oneself, instead of moving us into a life of promiscuity and sexual abandonment, actually releases us from the addictions and obsessions. A new sense of morality and control emerges.

I wish someone had told me that when I was 18?

From my experience, working with 100’s of situational heterosexuals, they rarely experience the depth, frequency or diversity of sexual experience that genuine heterosexual couples do.

One client sadly admitted to me that after many years of marriage, he couldn’t recall one moment of true intimacy with his wife, even though they had sex fairly regularly throughout the marriage. He didn’t actually know what intimacy was as his sexual experiences with men before he got married were mostly brief encounters with no affection or real connection, driven by his addiction and clouded with shame. It wasn’t until he came out and fell in love with a man that he discovered intimacy within that relationship and had a life experience to make a comparison.

Others have confessed that in order for them to perform in the bedroom, they had to fantasise about having sex with men.

Others, in the end, just tried to avoid it after years of feeling a sense of duty and obligation no longer worked. What a tragic situation for all concerned.

These men – are married but gay

Situational Heterosexuality | Brokeback Mountain.

You will often find men and women in the ‘ex-gay’ world speaking of their marriage as evidence and that they have produced children, that they are no longer homosexual. Those who are honest though, tell us they still have to deal with temptations, thoughts, and desires toward the same sex.

Some ‘ex-gay’ leaders in Australia have been honest enough to admit to ‘strugglers’ that ‘they will always walk with a limp’, meaning the gay never really goes away.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Alan Chambers, the director of Exodus (the global umbrella organisation for ex-gay ministries), sent shockwaves through religious circles, when he stated that, “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete,” and that he was uncomfortable with the term ‘ex-gay’ as he doesn’t think he’s ever met one.

Even after years as a husband and father, he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation.

The Saddest Things About This Situation

This false assumption by many that a heterosexual marriage means a person is no longer homosexual has caused much unnecessary suffering.

  1. Situational HeterosexualityWell-meaning Christians (and sometimes those not so well-meaning) will often use these ‘ex-gay’/heterosexual marriages as examples that change is possible and pressure those who are gay or lesbian to reject their natural orientation. They do this with limited or no knowledge of sexual orientation or of the finer, personal details of these marriages. Too often parents and friends have been quoted as saying ‘look at so and so ….they changed…..they are now married with children, You can do it to with prayer and faith’
  2. Seekers of sexual orientation change who come to ‘ex-gay’ ministries are tormented and desperate. They hate being gay and will latch on to any possibility of change. The ‘ex-gay’/heterosexual marriage modeled by the ‘ex-gay’ leader is just the answer they seek. They look at the marriages and selectively ignore the honest confessions that these people still ‘struggle’. This false hope leads people into many wasted years trying to do the impossible, that is, turn from gay to straight. As one former ‘ex-gay’ leader in Australia tols me recently, after leaving his marriage to be true to himself, ‘For 20 years, I was sold a very cruel lie’ or as Scott from Perth said ‘I lost my entire 20s, I felt like I was robbed of what should have been enjoyable days of my youth’.
  3. The opposite sex partner will often believe they are ‘called’ to walk the journey with their partner to ‘heterosexuality’. As history has shown, rarely do these marriages last, leaving the heterosexual partner with a sense of betrayal and the feeling that they may have contributed to their partner not changing. Or they are resentful that they have given the best years of their lives to a person who promised to love and be with them for life. A promise they were unable to fulfill. Former wives of ‘ex-gay’ men speak out here.
  4. And finally, the children. One thing many people want in this situation is children. We want to be parents. I wanted to not only be a husband, but also a father. I believe now, I was more in love with the idea of being a husband and father (ie being ‘normal’) than I was in love with my wife. When the marriage finally breaks down, often during mid-life, the children are also traumatised and have to deal with the added shame that their Dad has ‘become’ gay or their Mother ‘become’ a lesbian. As many of these kids are a part of a Christian community the scandal is intensified. As my daughter Hannah said recently in an interview on the ABC ‘If you are gay and get married hoping it will change you, then it is a very selfish act as you don’t know what hurt you will create in the generations to come.’

Whilst I’m grateful for the years of married life and the lovely children and grandchildren I’ve had, I also have to live with the knowledge that I have been the source of the greatest trauma, pain and shame in the lives of the people I cared most about. If I could have turned back the hands of time, I would not have chosen that for them or myself.

After Ron Brookman from the ‘ex-gay” program Living Waters declared proudly that he recently  performed marriages for three men, he had helped become ‘ex-gay’, a former wife of an ex-gay man had this to say.
I’m sad for Ron Brookman’s wife, and for the wives (and children if these marriages don’t make it) of the other two men he talks about. I’m sad for everyone who will believe what he says. I’m sad for myself… separated, now divorced from my Christian, closeted, gay-in-denial ex-husband (also in ministry). I’m sad for my ex-husband’s first wife and children. I’m sad that he quite possibly will do this again to a 3rd woman because of fear and shame, and because of messages like this one from Ron Brookman that say that it’s possible to be a “former homosexual”. I support equality in marriage. I support honesty, authenticity, and integrity. I’m a Christian, but sadly the Australian Christian Lobby or Ron Brookman doesn’t want or welcome my point of view. And… I should also have said that I’m very very sad for my ex-husband, and for all the unnecessary anxiety, depression, fear and shame that keeps him in the closet.
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© Anthony Venn-Brown