The male stars of the Sunday night TLC special “My Husband’s Not Gay” openly speak about their attraction to men, and even past sexual and romantic experiences with men. But they’re not gay, okay?
The whole show basically tries to explain how these men explain that contradiction to themselves and everyone around them.
Cue heads exploding.
There are three married couples. But there's also one single guy, 34-year-old Tom, who wants to start dating women for the first time and ultimately wants to marry one. Here’s Tom in a friend’s Twitpic:
Tom says things like:
“I’m interested in men, I’m just not interested in men.”
“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 my attraction to males. Those are the two things that are kind of gay about me.”
“Let’s just say I have a huge crush on Tom Brady.”
And this isn’t a quote, but look at Tom’s face when a blind date—a woman!—shows up for a super-cringe-worthy dinner with the group.
Tom is friends with all the other guys (at least for the show) because they all experience "SSA”—that’s short for “same-sex attraction.” While basically the entire rest of the world defines sexual orientation as innate rather than a choice, the protagonists of this special disagree. In the world of this show, being a man attracted to men just means you “experience SSA”—actually acting on it would make you GAY gay.
Being gay, as they define it, is an action. So suppressing those urges and choosing a woman means you get to keep your straight pass, at least in the eyes of church.
For the most part, the married women all knew what they were signing up for. There’s one exception: Curtis and Tera. They’ve been married 20 (!) years, but Curtis didn’t come out to Tera about his “same-sex attraction” until four years ago. So far, they seem to deal with it through a bunch of veiled jokes and the shared activity of checking out other men.
By the way, at least some Mormons on social media weren't fans.
As crazy as these situations may sound, there’s one thing that’s worth keeping in mind. These men do this to remain members in good standing of the Mormon Church. If any of these men were to live openly in romantic relationships with other men, they would have to leave the church, their support system, and the community they’ve known forever.
As far as the women? They don't speak too often in this pilot—errr, special—about their own motivation, beyond getting married and procreating as their church dictates. Pret and Megan were high-school sweethearts, starting to date at the age of 15—so at that early age, perhaps neither could even really verbalize their true desires.
There’s an especially poignant moment early on when one of the married guys, Pret, lets the facade crack for a bit. “If it was accepted to be gay in my church and live that lifestyle, would I be gay? Would I live that way?” he asks. “Maybe if it were eight or nine years ago, 10 years ago, the answer would be yes.”
Still, in one hour of television, there were enough eyebrow-raising moments to make the unwrinkling of your forehead require CCs of injectables. And this being TLC, the network that also gave us “Sister Wives” and “My 600-Pound Life,” you know there’s more of this coming—so get ready!
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.