I suppose most people remember the revelation of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2004. McGreevey, who was a married father of two, broke the news at a press conference with his wife and his parents standing behind him. At the time, he was allegedly being blackmailed by an Israeli acquaintance that he was having an affair with. McGreevey decided to out himself instead of allowing it continue on. He left his office in shame and unsure of what his future life would be like.
I haven't heard much about McGreevey in the last couple of years. But today he appeared on Oprah to talk about that experience and to plug his new book, "The Confession."
McGreevey spoke about the situation and how it changed his life and the life of his soon to be ex-wife. He described his wife as currently being "in transition." It's always tough for a woman in that situation. One day she's the first lady of New Jersey. The next she's questioning a life that she's built with another human being.
Oprah asked him the dreaded question of the caught married man. If you're gay, then why get married?
McGreevey answered that he was in denial about who he was, despite the fact that he knew he was "different" by age 6 or 7. He expounded on his answer later in the interview by saying it was a mixture of "arrogance and denial" that made him think that he could be Gov. of New Jersey, a married father of two, be a closeted gay man, and pull it all off.
Similar to many in the LGBT community, religion played a role in why he kept his life a secret. Getting into politics was another reason. But he also spoke about something that many of us can identify with. He said that he had been called a "fag" in they Boy Scouts. He didn't want to be one of those. So he "added a layer" to hide himself. Those issues arose again in high school. So he added another layer. And so on, and so on. Pretty soon he was fooling even himself. Making himself think that he could keep it all inside and manage everything to his satisfaction.
He went on to read an excerpt from his book about the day that his wife was in the hospital having a difficult c-section. He was at home with his Israeli friend, who he says he was in love with, and willing to "give it all up for."
The former governor said that his previous sexual experiences with men had been limited to highway rest stops, dark allies, and bookstores. He sought out people like himself, those that couldn't be open about who they were for whatever reason. Once he got into politics, he felt that he couldn't meet someone in a bar for fear of being recognized.
To his credit, he talked about a lot of things that leave him in a less than flattering light. Lying to his wife, having an affair, and promising to help his friend with a job in his administration. He takes responsibility for his actions. And he calls his book a "moral inventory."
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I applaud him for this. He's now with an Austrialian man and still living in New Jersey. The couple appeared to be happy with one another. And McGreevey appeared to be happy with being true to himself. Being the former governor of a state should provide him with some interesting opportunities to make something good out of this. You know me. I love a good redemption story.
Oprah did invite his ex-wife to attend. But she wasn't ready. In time, you have to hope that she'll be able to get on with her own life. What McGreevey did to her, there is no quick fix for.
I don't blog about my personal life very often, or about the people in it. But I suppose that one reason why I would give McGreevey the benefit of the doubt is that I can relate in some small way to his story.
No, I was never governor of a state. I was just a good little Baptist boy, and unfortunately in a situation where I couldn't be honest about who I was because of my job. Although truthfully, I wasn't ready to be honest with myself during that time anyway. But that was changing. And after 11 years on the job, I was ready for even more changes.
Just a few days before my resignation was to take effect, I was sitting in my office making sure that I was leaving everything in good shape for my successor. The phone rang and it was a friend of mine. This was someone whom I met through my work, and whom I had done a lot to help. I was used to taking phone calls from her. But this time her voice sounded a little different. She told me that she had attended her regular church service the day before and that my name "came up." From behind his pulpit, this minister of the gospel had outed me to his congregation.
Basically what she said was that he told the audience that "we need to do a better job of picking our leaders." Based upon things he had heard, he told them that I (he used my name) was gay and not someone of a high moral standard. Not because I didn't do a good job, and not because of any act that I had committed. But because of who I was as a person and who I chose to love.
Ever been outed in a small town? It's not fun. Everyone hears about it. Things of which are no one else's business are opened for public examination. People give into the really ugly side of themselves that casts aside all that they've witnessed and let their imaginations run wild. And unfortunately, you're not the only one that gets hurt. Those that care about you get hurt too.
So before judging Jim McGreevey too harshly, just remember everyone's circumstances aren't the same. We still live in a judgemental society that makes it hard for everyone to live so openly and carefree. Ultimately we have to decide our own paths. And unfortunately, sometimes others force you down a path for which you aren't ready.