A married couple in Illinois recently came out as gay after 32 years of marriage and raising a family together.
Brad and Cyndi Marler came out to each other a few years after they were married, but decided to stay in the closet to the rest of the world until earlier this year. In an interview with the Associated Press, the couple discussed the difficulties of living a secret life, and how they are now living authentically and happily.
“Being homosexual, you’re just going to go straight to hell,” Cyndi said of the mindset in the small, deeply religious towns where the couple grew up. “There’s no two ways to it.”
Brad recalled a conversation with his mother when he was 16 where she confronted him over his sexuality.
“She just said, ‘If you are [gay], that’s not OK. You’re not going to do this to the family,’” Brad said, adding that was the last time the two discussed the topic.
It was this type of environment that convinced the pair they needed to stay in the closet if they wanted to live the “all-American life” they both desired. They stayed faithful to each other, bought homes, had children, and raised a family together.
“We wanted the house, the dog, the two kids — and we did all of that,” Cyndi said. “We made a decision to make it work. This was what we were going to do.”
On the surface, life was going well for the Marlers, but the pressures of hiding their true identities behind a heteronormative façade became too much to bear over time. Brad sought help for his internalized homophobia.
“For such a long time, I hated that part of me,” Brad said, adding he couldn’t understand why his life with Cyndi “wasn’t enough.”
In the end, Brad said “it was the overwhelming need to protect” their adult daughter who had come out as lesbian that helped drive the couple’s decision to come out as well. They retired this past March, sold their home, and moved into separate residences in Chicago where they plan to explore their true LGBTQ+ identities.
“Everything is new,” Brad said of living as an out gay man.
Cyndi agreed, adding she is taking time to adjust to living her true identity before jumping into a relationship with a woman.
“It’s like taking this filter off and asking myself, ‘What am I?’” she explained.
One point the Marleys wanted to stress is that they have no immediate plans to divorce and visit each other nearly every day.
“We’re still best friends,” Cyndi said.