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I’m gay and tired of closeted married men approaching me for affairs

Ask Roe: Why do men play from the closet? Even among themselves it’s very unfair

Dear Roe,

I’m gay and single, and recently met a man who made a move on me. It turned out he was married so I said no, which was fine but he lost interest completely which was disappointing as I thought we might be friends. Then I accidentally found out he was having an affair with another married man and he didn’t want to associate with me because I was “too gay”, whatever that means.

Then the man he was having the affair with was in a car accident and ended up in hospital, he had a freak out and the other man dumped him because he was too indiscreet. How was that for karma? His wife heard about it and they ended up divorcing. He then put one toe out of the closet and jumped back in and is remarried! Why do men play from the closet? Even among themselves it’s very unfair.

This man made a move on you which you declined, because you felt comfortable setting a very reasonable boundary of not wanting to get with a married man who was hiding at least some parts of his sexuality. That’s absolutely valid and shows that you are at a level of self-respect and self-acceptance that he has not reached. While people who are not out about their sexuality deserve sympathy and everyone gets to move at their own pace, it can be hurtful for someone like yourself who is out to be forced back into a stealth form of closeting by a partner who wants to conceal your relationship. Refusing to do that was important for you, and it’s good that you set that boundary.


It’s also understandable that his comment about you being “too gay” could have been upsetting, though it seems incredibly obvious that this comment (however it reached you) is indicative of this man’s internalised homophobia and his deep fear of his own sexuality. (It’s important to note here that this man could be bisexual and may be attracted to his female partners, but his comments still show internalised homophobia.)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with how you exist in the world or express your sexuality, and his comment just shows the depths of how much he fears both his own sexuality and the world’s potential reaction to it. Witnessing you being out, being yourself, refusing to closet yourself was threatening to him because he can’t yet imagine having that level of self-acceptance. His fear also probably fuelled his desire not to stay in touch, as he could have feared that being friends with you would attract attention or questions about his sexuality, questions he is terrified of.

He’s terrified of these questions because we still live in a society where violent homophobia and biphobia are rampant; limited ideas of gender impact everyone, whether they are cis, trans or non-binary; and where patriarchal, heteronormative societal structures enforce compulsory heterosexuality, where heterosexuality is assumed, enforced and protected at the expense of queer identities. Straight people are still given so much social protection and benefits not afforded to LGBTQIA+ people – a recent example of this is the new IVF funding scheme that will fund a straight couple’s fertility treatment, but not a queer couple’s. When men who are attracted to other men are under threat of stigma, violence, a lack of social protection, a lack of societal and governmental support, and their relationships and families are threatened and undervalued, it’s no wonder that some of them see having relationships with women as a form of protection – because it can be. When true, authentic expression of sexuality is not protected, there will always be people who live in ways that include secrecy.

I think you know this already, and I hope you do understand that this man’s actions are not a reflection of you in any way, simply his own fears and relationship with himself and his sexuality – but I understand how this entire dynamic could have been disappointing and upsetting.

However, being hurt by the ripple effects of a person’s internalised homophobia is one thing. Following their next relationships and taking pleasure in their pain and misfortune is another thing entirely, and there’s a nasty streak to your letter that I think you need to examine. Someone being in a car crash and the subsequent dissolution of a marriage isn’t “karma” for how a person treated you; it’s a series of traumatic and complicated events in the life of real people who exist as flawed, fully-rounded individuals who exist completely independent of your interactions with them. I don’t know how you “accidentally” found out about who this man started seeing after you, the car accident, the separation, the second marriage, the man’s continued relationship with other men – it seems more likely that you’re keeping tabs on him through whatever channels, whether social media or gossip, and are taking some pleasure in seeing that his life and relationships are falling apart.

You’re focusing on the fact that this man is not behaving “well”, ethically and in his relationships – and he’s not, which is something he and his partners will have to grapple with. But in your desire for what you feel is “karma”, you’re overlooking that he’s not behaving like someone who feels emotionally well, in terms of having self-acceptance and external support; and he does not exist in a well society where queer people are treated equally. These issues can and do co-exist – along with the pain and choices and experiences of his ex-wife, his current wife and the other people he has affairs with. In other words, life is complicated and difficult and sometimes people hurt other people – and reducing these complications and contradictions down to a desire to see someone suffer isn’t going to solve anything.

I’d urge you to look at why you’re giving this man so much of your energy. Why has this man in particular become a conduit for a lot of what seems like projected anger against closeted men, and why are you giving a man that you never had a relationship with so much power over you? Because by focusing on him so much and believing that his treatment of you deserves some form of divine retribution, you are giving him power. What is it about this man in particular that has brought out so much anger?

Have you had many experiences of men trying to treat you as a fling or acting ashamed of their attraction to you, and the cumulative effect of that is causing your distress and hurt and leading you to direct that emotion towards this man? The pain and the ripple effects of other people’s shame can be incredibly difficult to deal with, and in a society where homophobia and bigotry seem to be on the rise again, the cumulative trauma of absorbing all of that can be exhausting and infuriating.

You should not be treated like a secret, or something shameful, and the shame and internalised homophobia of other people should not be yours to carry. I’m sorry that it has been. But instead of letting that close you down and wishing harm on others, learn to focus on yourself. Seek out a therapist who can help you work through his experience and others; continue setting boundaries that protect you and serve you; and seek out support for yourself so that you can live up to the best version of yourself, create the friendships and relationships you want, and foster a supportive, loving community around yourself. It’ll be a much more empowering use of your energy and attention.