Several weeks after my divorce, I sat with my mother as she was buttering her breakfast toast, and we were rehashing the events of the weeks previous. And, just as casually as she could be, she said, “You know, I always thought he was gay.” I recounted this story very early on in the life of the blog, but it seems to come up again and again.
Turns out my mother wasn’t the only one. A good chunk of my friends said after the divorce that there was no doubt in their minds that his effeminate gestures; over-the-top cheering at sports that frightened my father half to death; his approach to men versus women and his uber-conservative nature was just the sign of a guy trying to prove to everyone, “No really, I’m not gay!” Even my gay uncle and several gay friends thought my ex was gay. And this was without the full details of not only our nonexistent sex life and knowing that, six weeks after I left, he would find a new wife after an intense search through my female friends.
Shortly after the separation, I told all of the information above to AD during a phone conversation while he was back on the East Coast. Being a fellow divorcee, he shrugged it off.
“When my wife left, everyone thought I was gay,” he said. I was stumped – AD was as masculine as they came. He definitely liked the ladies and the ladies loved him. I began exploring this issue, and it turns out that AD wasn’t the only one – several of my female friends that either went through divorce or were going through one said that they were told by their friends that they always thought their respective exes were gay as well, but they knew it wasn’t the case.
Although anyone who’s met my ex could tell you his sexuality is definitely in question, something bothered me about how calling the men in divorce situations gay. Perhaps it’s because I have always been sensitive to gay issues since I was younger and had to deal with my friend’s coming out in the conservative town we grew up in. Maybe it’s because I think the idea of using “gay” or the other word (I refuse to write it, I find it so disgusting) as derogatory makes me sick. Or by chance it’s because I love drag queens. I don’t think that being gay makes you any less of a person. It just makes you different. And that, for me, is great.
So why do people throw that towards men in the situation of divorce? Why are we so easy to slander men as being less of men because their wedded life didn’t turn into happily ever? Although there is a lot of blame pushed at women for leaving their marriages, I feel that men can sometimes be made into being less than for having their wives leave, as if they weren’t man enough for that woman.
The traditional gender norms of the past are still rather difficult to shake off, and the past has always depicted that if a man is not enough of a man, he has to not like women. I don’t know how not liking women makes you any less of a man, but I don’t have that equipment. When I left, I don’t think anyone threw out the fact that I was a lesbian, so therefore I wasn’t woman enough for my marriage. But that isn’t attached to the female gender as often, not the way it is to men.
I am a proud feminist, in that I believe in gender equality on both sides. I am proud to be a woman, but I don’t mean to demean men. I want them to join my cause for equal rights on my side, and I feel that they have a right to not be treated badly, particularly in the debate about divorce. It’s a hard enough thing to go through without rumors. So let’s just put this one to bed.