This is the second part of a series on articles written by Jackie Clune, an author and comedian who shares about her experience of change in her sexual orientation from a secular perspective. In this post we’ll take a closer look at what she had written in an article published in the Daily Mail in June of 2010, entitled “How I went from committed lesbian to a happily married mother of four.” (You’ll find the link at the end of this post.)
As in the previous article, Jackie Clune is rather plain spoken about making a choice in her sexual orientation:
I realize that many gay people will think it sounds absurd that I ‘chose’ lesbianism. For them, their sexuality is so innate and undeniable that the issue of ‘choice’ doesn’t come into it.
But perhaps that’s not the case for all women. For I can honestly say that I never felt the need to ‘come out’ as gay or straight – I simply decided to fall in love with women.
A few paragraphs before these words, she writes about dating men, and how she found that satisfying at the time. But there came a point when she changed her mind…
It’s not that I stopped liking men, just that I felt a relationship with a woman would be a richer experience. After all, given the choice I would choose a woman over a man for a really great chat, an inspiring conversation or to share emotional problems with. A physical relationship with a woman seemed a logical progression.
Perhaps the best analogy is that I had come to see men in terms of ‘black and white’ whereas I saw women in colour. So I dumped my lovely boyfriend of five years. I didn’t tell him the truth at first but when I finally admitted that I had fallen for another woman, he was relieved. It seemed to take away the jealousy.
There is controversy over the wording she uses – some people will twist what Jackie Clune is saying into justification for abusing people who identify as gay or lesbian. And that is a terrible error. I’ve read some of what the leaders of Uganda have said about their new laws bent on criminalizing homosexuality in their country, and the issue of choice plays a part. I don’t mean to speak for Jackie Clune, but from reading several articles she’s written, I believe it’s pretty clear that she would stand adamantly against such injustice. As do I. It is wrong to seek to make homosexuality a crime – regardless of the potential for / existence of choice, or the capacity for fluidity in one’s sexual orientation. I wish to make this absolutely clear.
From what I have read about the situation in Uganda, there is a great lack of understanding, to say the least. And it seems there is a concerted effort to turn those in the homosexual community into scapegoats – almost as a means to distract from the corruption and other major issues that need to be dealt with in that country. The involvement of so-called “Christian” leadership in creating this new legal disaster has wrongfully devalued the name of Christ. I am looking for meaningful ways to support those in Uganda in getting rid of this law and restoring justice to those there.
On the contrary, people should be able to talk about the variety of ways one might experience their sexual orientation throughout their lives without fear of repercussions. Silence leads to continued misunderstanding and holds us all back.
Getting back to Jackie Clune’s article, she describes some of the “turbulent” relationships she had with women:
The sheer amount of talking and analysing that went on was exhausting. The women I went out with were by and large more inclined to be insecure and to need reassurance and I found myself in the male role of endlessly reassuring my girlfriends. The subtle mood changes of everyday life would be picked over inexhaustibly.
My straight female friends thought my deeply intense relationships sounded fantastic. They envied me the empathy I felt with my girlfriend. Why couldn’t they feel as close to their husbands and boyfriends?
Unlike most men, women, of course, offer each other endless support and there’s hardly ever any lack of communication.
But – bizarre as it may seem – I found myself longing for exactly the opposite. I wanted a bit more difference, a little less talking and a bit more edge and my relationships often paid the price.
As I pieced over the failings, I took a second look at my history. Was I picking the wrong women or was I simply not cut out to be a lesbian?
If you’ve ever heard of emotional dependency, you’ll find echoes of it in Jackie’s description of her relationships with women. If you’re wondering what the term means, or want to learn more, I’d recommend an excellent booklet written by Lori Rentzel called “Emotional Dependency.” It’s available on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Dependency-Single-Pack-Rentzel/dp/0877840849. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, an argument can be made that Jackie Clune was picking the wrong women, or that it was possible for her to work on emotional dependency issues within a same-gender relationship. But, after she took a look at her own life, she decided to take a different path:
This may sound totally coldhearted, but I made a calculated decision to try men again. I can honestly say that, although I was 34, this had nothing to do with my biological clock. I had always rather casually thought that, if I wanted children, I would use a sperm donor. So my decision was not in any way connected to a desire for a baby.
And, while I had male friends, I had not even had the faintest flicker of interest in any man for years. But I suspect the simple truth is that I no longer felt I needed to be defined by my sexuality. I had outgrown lesbianism.
It can be hard to read, “I had outgrown lesbianism,” and not take that as a backhanded insult. But in context, finding that defining yourself by your sexuality is limiting is a benchmark of growth. Jenell Williams Paris has written a book called, “The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are.” (Also on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/End-Sexual-Identity-Important-Define/dp/0830838368/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394726892&sr=1-1&keywords=sexual+identity) Paris is a cultural anthropologist who looks at the recent historical and cultural constructs of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” as being inadequate in light of the complex reality of who we are. You might want to pick up a copy and see if it helps you to look at things in a new way.
Jackie Clune goes on to contrast the difference she experienced between her relationships with women and those with men.
I don’t want to undermine my relationships – they meant a great deal to me at the time and I look back on them with great affection – and I am well aware that many people will find it shocking, if not downright offensive, when I say that I chose a different path.
I repeat, I know many people are totally convinced that they are born gay and have absolutely no choice over their sexual orientation.
All I can say is that I believe not every gay person is gay for life.
For me, finally shutting the door on lesbianism was rocky. It had been 12 years since I had been out with a man and I was terribly nervous about how to relate to men as anything other than platonic mates. I felt like a teenager again. I would flirt and then back off in alarm like a frightened schoolgirl.
Then in 2001 I met Richard, a 35-year-old actor. We started dating and for a long while it was quite casual, but something about his quiet kindness and his lack of neediness started to appeal to me.
I felt we were walking alongside each other rather than spending life locked in face-to-face intimacy or combat. It felt natural and not at all scary. He was sanguine about my past and never suffered the insecurities I had come to expect.
It was a breath of fresh air. I’ve always been fiercely independent and felt I could be myself with him. Within a year I found myself pregnant. Our daughter was born and 11 months later I was even more shocked when I discovered I was pregnant again – with triplets, conceived without any form of fertility treatment. We married in 2008 and our life is hectic, to say the least.
Let’s jump forward into the third article I read (also published in the Daily Mail, with the sensationalist headline: “Think being married to a man is hard? One writer who’s done both says: ‘Well try waking up next to a woman!’” – which I’m pretty darn sure she didn’t pick – in March of 2013…link may be found at the end of this post), by Jackie Clune. She writes a bit more on this same topic:
Being with a woman can be just as frustrating — or dull — as being with a man, just in different ways. The problem with relationships with two women is that the similarities which seem so appealing at first are what tend to eventually undo you as a couple.
But the pluses of living with a man are huge, and I now relish the otherness of men.
I love that I have my close female friends for laughs, talks, drinks and secrets, and my husband for the more intimate stuff. Our marriage is very strong and very happy, mostly because neither of us believes it is the be-all and end-all of our lives.
There’s none of that emotional game-playing you can get with women. If there’s a protracted silence and you ask a man ‘What are you thinking?’, he will normally reply: ‘Nothing’ and he’ll be telling the truth.
You don’t have to enter into a mind-bending discussion about what so-and-so meant by such-and-such a remark, or why you failed to notice that your partner had bought your favourite houmous. [British spellings.]
It frees up so much time. Since being married to a man I’ve written two books, learned the piano and ukulele, travelled the world on tour, taken up running, mastered knitting patterns, helped out at the school and started speaking French, at the same time as working constantly as an actress and jointly raising four children — a nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old triplets.
Now I know there are many high-achieving lesbians out there …but they must have very understanding wives because it’s just not possible to spend a lesbian amount of time on your relationship and still manage to have a life outside it.
I understand why this intensity happens. It’s not always easy being in a same-sex relationship in a largely homophobic world, so the impulse to turn inwards to your partner and your close community is only natural. But it can be stifling.
How I rejoiced when, after going back to men, I discovered what sulky babies they can be, providing me with carte blanche to ignore them and get on with things until they are over themselves — and with no guilt because they were behaving stupidly and deserved to be ignored.
Back in the days of Exodus conferences you’d often hear the words “opposite sex” replaced with “complimentary gender” – and what Jackie Clune writes here reminds me of that concept. I can recall several times when I did or said something in front of my husband and I just cringed, waiting for the eggshells to break. I started coming up with a mental list of apologies…yet to him, it was nothing. At first it was alarming, as I was so used to girlfriends making a big deal of similar things, but then I realized that this was a gift. I didn’t have to carry that tension around in my relationship with him. I was and am much more free to laugh and let go and be myself.
There is a balance between having female friends to connect with in healthy friendships and the intimate relationship I have with my husband. And the freedom that comes with the “otherness of men” does mean a lot less emotional stress and time open to pursue other interests. It’s also a huge blessing to be married to a sensible grown-up, who knows that relationships do take work, and who is committed to improving himself and our marriage. I see my husband taking steps in this direction consistently, and it draws me deeper in love with him. And ever-more grateful for the Lord putting us together and working in each of our lives.
Looking back at the second article, again, Jackie Clune writes about the surprise this change in her life has been to her, and more about the backlash she’s experienced from some in the gay and lesbian community:
I could never in a million years have imagined, in the full throes of my lesbian life, that I would one day live such a conventional straight lifestyle.
In fact, I would have thrown up my hands in horror at the very idea. And perhaps it was no surprise that most of my lesbian friends were outraged that I had taken up with men.
It seemed a betrayal of all they and I had stood for. Diva magazine, the biggest lesbian publication in the UK, voted me Most Disappointing Lesbian Of The Year. And the criticism still continues.
There was (briefly) a Facebook group saying People Like Jackie Clune Should Be Taken Outside And Shot. Although the criticism is hurtful, I understand where it’s coming from – I’ve confused everybody.
I’m glad that Facebook group wasn’t around for very long – and it’s sad that it ever existed in the first place. Confusion isn’t an excuse for that kind of hatred, although I appreciate Jackie’s grace in her response to the criticism she’s received.
I’ll conclude this overview of her article with this last quote:
In the gay world some people hate the way many of us believe sexuality can be fluid. The idea of bisexuality is anathema to them. They see it as a mark of indecision or even self-delusion.
Actually I have never thought of myself as bisexual. And I certainly don’t now that I am married. That would be tantamount to admitting that I am thinking of being unfaithful with a woman, which has never been the case.
But then this is an issue that provokes so much misunderstanding and downright anger. For many in the gay community, changing one’s sexuality is seen as a heinous act of betrayal. Straight people, for their part, always want to know why I switched sexuality (often with the offensive implication that I was somehow behaving strangely when I was a lesbian but I’m ‘all right’ now).
I agree with her take on bisexuality and the implications that label has for those in committed relationships with the complimentary gender. And I’ve seen, and continue to see, the dogmatic insistency that some in the gay and lesbian community put on the concept of sexuality being innate and unchangeable. The problems that narrow-mindedness causes when they come across individuals who have experienced a fluidity in their orientation continue. The world will be a better place when the reality of change is embraced and we can invest more in learning to live alongside one another in peace.