Ted Clark – Coming Out

“The family didn’t split.”

[My first emotional attachment to a man] led, about six months later—to having a discussion with my wife to say, “Okay, here’s what’s wrong with the marriage. It’s me, not you.” I expected she would say, “Well, I want out.” I was prepared for that. By then we had a child; she said, “Well, okay. I guess we need to learn how to live with this.” We remained another seven years in the marriage; by then our son was five-and-a-half to six years old, just getting into elementary school. We separated. About a year later I met Gene.

[My wife and I had] put up a wonderful front. We were the perfect couple, you know, but we weren’t a couple. She also was a very intelligent lady. I was getting to the point that I thought, “I’ve got to do something to get out of the marriage and get on with my life.” That’s probably the only time that I really had guilt because I was like, “She’s given and done everything she can, and it’s not enough.” I was guilty about “I need to walk away from this.” Fortunately, she was the one who said, “You know, we need to get out of this, and get on with our own lives, before we start hating each other.” That was the break that it took for us to go ahead and separate.

We got a divorce. We used the same attorney and it blew his mind. [Laughs.] He said [to my wife], “Well, now your husband will have to do da, da, da, da, da.” [My wife] says to me, “Does it make any sense for you to have a different attorney?” I said, “No. We’re not fighting about anything.” So I called him up and I said, “That’s stupid. I’ll give you the stuff you want. What do you need?” [Laughs.] He said, “This is highly unusual. I can’t represent both sides.” I said, “There aren’t sides.” [Laughs.] We’d already agreed on everything we were doing and what had to be. So, “Do what you have to do. Do the legal paperwork and get it over with.”

My son jokes about the divorce process. I didn’t know this until about a year ago. He was talking about how he used to enjoy baiting people in college, because he’d say: “Oh, you know, my family divorced.” They’d say: “Oh, wasn’t it terrible?” And he’d say: “No, it wasn’t terrible. My mom and dad split, but the family didn’t split.” He said, “For me it worked out fine, because I wound up with three dads.” Then they go, “Huh?! How’d that happen?” [There’s me, my partner Gene, and my ex-wife got] remarried, to a very fine man who was a great stepfather.

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I don’t know that Spokane is more inclined to have gay men [married to women] than any other part of the country. I say that from having traveled quite a bit around the area. My personal situation, and the situation of several people that I know, who are now out that were married, is that you get married [as a matter of course]. You certainly did in my period of time, [the] ’60s, because you’re expected to. It’s just what happens. If you had some emotional gay experiences or something before, it really was societally, culturally dismissed, “Well, it’s kind of a phase. Boys experiment. They will do that, but they’ll settle down.” Apparently some of them do experiment and settle down, because I also know those people that are married, have families, and are not gay. But did experiment. Whether they scared themselves or if it really didn’t appeal to them, I don’t know! For the married people that I know, you got married [to the opposite sex] because that’s what was expected. Then, you’re committed, you’re obligated, and you’re unhappy. Then, how you choose to deal with that varies from individual to individual.

I’m thinking, right now, of three people in the last three years, that we have known and counseled in some ways, in their 60s, [who] have divorced and come out. Kids are grown; they’re on their own; commitments are over. [They say,] “Let’s get out of this mess and live my life for the few years I have left.” One called three days ago and said, “Well, I’ve signed the papers this morning. The divorce is final.” They’ve been the last three years working their way through the process. The good news is they can essentially deal with it as intellectual adults and not [with] a lot of fighting, nastiness, and emotion. Separate things and each life is moving forward. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, particularly when there’s kids involved.

We spend a lot of time repressing emotions or feelings, because you’re doing what you think you’re supposed to do. At some given point, it’s like, “This isn’t working. It isn’t so much that I’ve changed my orientation, it’s that I’m admitting what my orientation is.”

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Sources: Interview with Susan Williams on 3 December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture; interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 30 November 2012 and on 27 February 2014.