My Husband’s Not Gay is a special about Mormon men who feel homosexual attractions but, in keeping with their faith, actively fight their urges and, ideally, marry women and procreate. The special aired on TLC, the network that turned Mormon polygamist families like the Brown’s (Sister Wives) into reality TV stars, on Sunday night (Jan. 11), and we’ve reviewed it below.
Not all the men profiled on the new special are married. For example, Tom. Tom, who claims at the age of 34 to have never been kissed by a member of either sex, explained, “I don’t feel like I fit the mold of guys that are attracted to other men. Other than my deep and abiding love for Broadway show tunes and the attraction to males. Those are the two things that are kind of gay about me.”
Video: Watch ‘My Husband’s Not Gay’ Clip Here
The men – who are really into other men but are told by their faith that their desires are unnatural and wrong – operate under a danger scale of zero to four. Level one is looking at another man; level two means an urge to get a second look. By level four, the guys are metaphorically “requiring restraints.” (One of the men explains later that women can warrant a danger scale rating, as well, though it is more rare for him personally.)
One of the wives explained the experience of being married to a man who likes men. “When you’re married to an SSA guy, he tends to be your girlfriend and your husband, so you isolate yourself from your real girlfriends.”
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To be clear, the Mormon acronym SSA means same-sex attraction, and is indeed treated like a genetic deformity in the Mormon community, like being born with an extra thumb. Being gay, according to the guys on My Husband’s Not Gay, is about making a conscious choice to use that thumb, not simply about the fact that you have one. They genuinely believe there is a distinction between a deep-seated, organic attraction to members of the same sex and being “gay,” as they believe the words means a “lifestyle choice” and their attractions are just something they were born with and have to manage.
In other words, it is all a question of semantics. These men are clearly “gay” as most of the rest of society understands the term, they’re simply voluntarily abstaining (maybe) from acting on their natural, in some cases very strong homosexual desires. The women on the show acknowledge their husbands’ attractions to men and freely admit they themselves are not their husbands’ sexual ideal. One wife jokes that they check out men together, and she has different tastes than her husband.
The My Husband’s Not Gay TLC special presents an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, homosexual tendencies are treated as something to suppress and ignore, despite modern knowledge that doing so can be psychologically damaging. On the other hand, we see men who appear humble and accepting of themselves, and women who quite willingly support them, even bearing their children. They all seem to approach the subject of sexuality with a sense of what appears to be genuine humor and lightheartedness. In many ways, they are demonstrating liberal behavior and thinking; however, juxtaposed with this matter-of-fact understanding and approach to natural attraction, they feel it is against nature to actually explore those attractions. They feel this way because religion tells them to feel this way; not because feeling this way is natural, unlike their attractions, which they acknowledge as natural. (Confused yet? Yeah, us, too.)
Though this show has stirred up a lot of controversy about the unhealthy message the subjects of the show present, it was arguably watchable and interesting. Watchable, interesting and rather sad, if we can put that fine a point on it.
Did you watch TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay special on Jan. 11? What did you think? Leave a comment below.