The matter of sexual orientation of prospective heterosexual couples was highlighted earlier today as what has been described as concerns raised by some members of the cloth in recent times where new marriages simply end in disaster due to the lack of disclosure or deception on the part of one or both persons involved. Everything from being on the downlow to pressure from the church leadership or family members who demand marriage and procreation as proof of normality or legitimacy as it were were covered. Previous discussions on this subject tend to have a leaning towards reparative therapy but thankfully this time it was more balanced and did not go there.
What are your thoughts on whether couples should be asked about their sexual orientation during counselling in preparation for marriage?— Love 101 FM JAMAICA (@LoveFMJAMAICA) June 3, 2015
A question on Facebook by Love101FM’s Morning Watch showed via the respondents that persons hide indeed to cover up their true identity for all kinds of motives, other persons hinted to a lie detector test while others suggest the counsellors should not ask the questions on sexual orientation and should be left for the couple to be honest with each other prior to entering the union for purposes of trust and longevity of the marriage.
Among the standard questions put forward to perspective couples are those of:
Compatibility and so on
Should the counselling or marriage officer put sexual orientation squarely on the table?
Should someone who is found out to be gay/bisexual (even if the partner agrees) be advised to go ahead with the marriage?
Why do churches pressure their members into marriage and expect not to have problems emerge with downlow living given that the very church’s attitude overall forces persons to remain in the closet.
Reverend Marvia Laws raised the issue this morning on her aforementioned show given also a now deleted blog post on a blog ran by a Christian woman (maybe unbeknownst to Rev Laws) was of concern to me as well who was said to have experienced a breakdown in her marriage just days after when her former husband was found to be bisexual but never disclosed. Panellists in the discussion were two Christian marriage counsellors of the Anglican and Baptist tradition from western Jamaica Rev Carl Henlyn of the Gregory Park circuit of Baptist churches and the very Reverend Annette Brown of St Augustine’s Anglican Church in Coral Gardens Montego Bay.
The very Reverend Annette Brown raised among others things the following:
The unearthing of various sexual orientations and practices
Prospective couples must be aware of what is occurring or the sexual orientation of a potential spouse so as to avoid marrying a homosexual or bisexual
Difficulty in raising the subject with the parties directly given our cultural context and it would be better to raise it in a one on one session first before bringing both parties together if it becomes a cause for concern
During counselling persons are not honest and then the marriage dies thereafter
Sections in the solemn declaration in her church tradition it reads to the effect: ‘I know not of any lawful impediment why I should not be married to this person.’ She also stressed that during the session she goes through the ceremony itself and its aspects with relation to commitment and vows. Reverend Brown uses that phase of the dialogue to raise sexual orientation and also on the form that the parties are asked to fill out it is also raised but the results are not shared with the other party and is only the pervue of her unless it becomes absolutely necessary to raise it with both persons
Some women do marry gay/biesexual men for reasons of their own low libido and seeing his interest in the same sex will distract him away from her and not have her to be obligated for sexual relations as a full time heterosexual husband may be. Once a child comes into the picture they still stay together for years for purposes of the kid(s) and the wife’s low sex drive. She continued that some wives may not want to have sex all the time and so if the man goes out it is not like having sex with a woman hence they don’t feel ‘cheated’ on or that the marriage is in any threat. The business of women claiming they like having homosexual male friends as they do not feel threatened also factored when raised by Reverend Laws (show host) as societal practice women are usually hounded by men for sex or so on.
Reverend Brown raises other issues such as a previous marriage or relations and so on before getting to the sexual orientation bit as she feels that is her way of breaking the ice in the session. She asks the couple to speak to each other and she observes body language etc. She says it not easy to say to someone if you’re homosexual while assuming everyone who comes in for pre-marriage counselling is heterosexual.
Probing is required with excellent listening and perception skills as persons are good at telling you what they want you to hear for purposes of camouflaging any secrets.
A question on her standard form also asks of sexual history or knowledge of it with respect to one perspective partner: “if you find that your spouse is interested in someone else of the same gender how would you respond, how would you take the marriage?
On the matter of confessions and persons who claim they are healed or restored; or that they do not need to repeat it in a session as pre-marriage counselling she says she deals with that on an individual basis, she mentioned the issue of boredom and experimentation with same gender sex with a possibility of repetition in the life of the marriage as opposed to someone who is innately homosexual; she also raised concerns about persons using marriage as a cover from pressure from society (she never mentioned church pressure though).
She insisted her role is not to say ‘don’t’ to couples but alert them to dangers that may appear down the line, she uses hypothetical examples and see how the parties respond. She also said there have been postponements after sessions and issues are worked out. She also uses prayer before during and after the sessions.
Presented an example of a couple who were considered ‘pure’ (no sexual contact prior to the wedding) in the church but soon after the man’s true sexual identity was discovered much to the dismay of the wife although he had testified he was ‘healed’ or changed. The woman was enthralled by his chivalrous behaviour in courtship to her but he really was struggling with living a double life.
He uses standard form that raises 8 questions to include hints to sexual orientation, after getting the answers he tailors what he wants to probe but he has not asked directly if someone is a homosexual either in one on one sessions or with parties present together.
A question asked by him in sessions is if five years or so down the road it is discovered by you that your partner is gay or bisexual or was involved in same gender sex in the past what would you do or how would you respond? As part of probing any suspicious issues.
In as far as conversion and or persons testifying healing of homosexuality he highlighted a case where a man and woman who came in for sessions, the man claimed he was healed and the woman accepted his new found dispensation but he (Rev Henlin) could not overrule the agreement with the parties deciding to go ahead with the marriage despite the full knowledge of the man’s supposed previous same gender sexual practices as brought out in the session. The wife three days into the marriage called back in consternation claiming “It” has returned and that she wanted out.
He has had occasions where he has had to extricate himself from certain situations knowing that issues are not settled or some pending doom seems to be on the horizon but the couple insists on pursuing the marriage anyway.
In as far as abuse presenting itself as a concern or in the sexual history with a same gender accused he says he wants to know if the other party is aware, probe if any prior counselling interventions; if not referrals and recommends waiting a while by putting the pending marriage on hold until that matter is dealt with or a full withdrawal.
More of my concerns:
The church tradition still has this notion of young Christians should not be single and that they should marry as soon as possible even when the parties do not know each other well; there is also an insistence of such young persons marrying within the denomination and definitely not a non-Christian.
Pressure from older family members can be over bearing as well (from personal experience years ago) questions such as where is your girlfriend? When are you going to have a child or we want grandchildren from parents as evidence of continuity of the bloodline I suppose or the procreation.
There is going to be more down-low marriage disasters I fear given the stance taken by some vocal religious groups on their anti homosexual campaigns, persons are forced underground or feel a need to have a desire to confirm to hetero-nomative to be accepted so persons rather hide just to avoid the scrutiny and profiling.
Then again honesty is so crucial and the jury seems to be still out as to whether bisexual men or gay men who find themselves in heterosexual unions should actually disclose, some bisexual activists say no it is not or should not be a concern while others say yes and do it from early in the courtship so as to avoid later troubles. Heterosexual women mostly tend to respond with disdain when discussing the matter or often say I suspected something.
Old beliefs abound:
Can counselling 'fix' my gay husband? (Jamaica Observer)