Closeted: Is your partner with you to cover up his or her sexual orientation?

Gay couple

There are special situations where partners agree to get married to evade suspicions of being queer, these are known as lavender marriages.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Experts point out that it is very hard to spot the red flags in such situations until certain peculiar sexual requests are made.
  • There are special situations where partners agree to get married to evade suspicions of being queer, these are known as lavender marriages.

Cheating is one of the most painful sins in any romantic relationship. Some couples choose reconciliation while others go separate ways. It is a devastating revelation.

But what if you found out that it was with someone of the same sex? Was the relationship then all a lie or a cover-up? 

Saturday Magazine had a chat with two queer people who have embraced their sexuality but find themselves in compromising situations where married people or people in relationships approach them to fulfil their deepest fantasies and desires.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities and privacy of the parties involved.

*Ben, 28

I met *Kamau when I was at university. He was a lecturer. I was living in a hostel which he owned, outside the school. My roommate, who was also my classmate, was friends with Kamau because they came from the same area. 

My roommate knew I was queer and might have mentioned it to him. I had little to no interaction with Kamau, even while in the vicinity of the university. What business would I have conversing with a lecturer who also happened to be my landlord? Or so I thought. 

In my fourth year, I moved into a house with its own compound. One day, I went shopping in town and my phone rang. It was him. When I answered, he went on to ask if I was at a certain supermarket because he thought he saw me.

My plans for the evening were to treat myself and head back home. He suggested that we hang out, have a few drinks and then head over to his place just outside town where would not be spotted. It was awkward since I did not know him that well, but I said yes, but only to the food part. We ate at a restaurant and I had two glasses of wine, which he offered to pay for but I had already paid for it. 

I finally agreed to go to his other house, which was further away from his matrimonial home near the university. He said that I could sleep there, that he would drop me off in the morning when we drove back to Eldoret since he had classes the following morning. I slept in one of the rooms he showed me, only to wake up in the middle of the night when I felt a hand on my leg. It was Kamau. I got spooked and he was embarrassed. He apologised and quickly left the room. The ride home the following morning was dead silent. 

As he drove, I told him I was gay. I just had not realised what he was hinting at. This was back in 2019. Since then, we have spoken regularly and he has opened up to me about his life. When we met, he was already married, had one child and was pursuing his doctorate degree. Now, he is a professor, has three children and is still married. 

He admitted that this was something he always had inside of him but never acted on it. He was timid in his youth, he said, and did not get to explore his sexuality. Now, we meet and we talk about this other side of him that nobody knows about. He told me he wished to experiment with me after hearing of all the crazy and liberal experiences I have had since I do not hide that I am attracted to men. He feels like he missed out on a lot. He is older now but he still wants to explore.

I have daddy issues as many queer guys do, but I do not fancy older men. I am not attracted to older men. That is why I had been holding him off for all those years even though I easily connect with mature people. I am also very monogamous, so the fact that he is married does not sit well with me. He has tried to make moves several times but I have turned him down. I thought he got the memo.

A month ago, he visited me. I had been drinking and was tipsy. He begged, and eventually, one thing led to another. I cannot believe it happened. I have a feeling he might want it to happen again. I will, however, tell him that it was a one-night stand. The experiment is over.

He says this is something he cannot get from his wife so he feels that being with a man and exploring his queer side is perfectly acceptable. “It feels nice to be dominated,” he told me.”

*Susan, 26

“I have had a few instances with people in relationships approaching me for an experience. I am a stud. It is evident in how I dress and express myself in a masculine way which attracts some women to me. When a woman approaches me for an experience, the man she is dating or married to usually has no idea.

*Doreen and I happened to be in a WhatsApp group where she was a silent follower who was attracted to my profile picture. One day, she gathered the guts to message me. She asked me if I had ever been with a woman. I confirmed her hunch. She went straight to the point to tell me she had been fantasising about having an experience with a fellow woman and thought that I would be the best person to bring it to life. We met up twice to bond before getting intimate. Ours became a ‘friends with benefits’ situation. The whole time she was with a man. He did not know what she was doing.

The same WhatsApp group brought a married woman with two children to my attention. *Brenda was very flirtatious in the group, and all her teasing was pointed towards me. One day, a few of us from the group decided to go out partying, including Brenda and I. I do not remember much from that night, but Brenda clearly had the events from that night cemented in her memory. We shared an intimate moment which the other women confirmed actually happened. It has opened doors to more conversations about planning a private meet-up for just the two of us at a hotel. Make no mistake, she loves her husband and always has her wedding ring on.

Another woman from the group who approached me was *Fiona. She was aware that she was queer but her boyfriend was in the dark. They had even moved in together. He had travelled for a few months and they were in a long-distance relationship when I came into the picture. Surprisingly, she was very open about her queerness even to the point of attending a queer event with me - as a couple. When we met, she was yet to have her first queer experience. I think her life became complicated when her boyfriend returned and she asked to take a break. They eventually broke up. After a few months of silence, she sprung up asking if I was seeing someone to which I answered yes. Our communication fizzled out.”

Expert’s Take

Nelson Aseri, a relationship counsellor and psychologist, says that these situations are not weird or new, but increasingly coming to light, especially with newlyweds.

“The few cases that we have researched show that the partner may have experienced some sort of sexual abuse early in their life, which affects how they relate with the opposite sex. Some may have already had sexual encounters with someone of the same sex before getting married to a straight person or they were first exposed to it as their first sexual experience at an early age. It might be all they know, which may be a contributing factor to the betrayal eventually happening later in the relationship or marriage,” he says.

“When you get to a certain age and people have not seen you interacting romantically with people from the opposite sex, society begins to conclude that you might be playing for the same team. To get rid of such suspicions, they get married to someone who does not know of their sexual adventures or fantasies. It is inconsiderate of your partner because you are using them to cover your tracks,” he explains.

Aseri points out that it is very hard to spot the red flags in such situations until certain peculiar sexual requests are made, which could be several years into the relationship or marriage.

“You would find that the couple are regular churchgoers. They do everything right. They went for pre-marital counselling assessments and there were no warning signs. There are cases where people find out that their partners are queer three or four years into the marriage, which ends up being a very painful revelation for the unknowing partner,” he says.

There is only one way the script usually ends, Aseri says. It is such a big blow for the unsuspecting partner because trust has been broken in a way they may have never imagined. Almost all such relationships do not survive, so separation is the only option. He says the partners who feel betrayed end up losing trust in the institution of marriage or even love. 

“Time always reveals the truth. For instance, a married man in the closet will begin to revive relationships with queer friends, years into the marriage. His wife might notice that there is this one friend who is always at their home or around her husband but it is not easy to connect the dots,” he says. 

He urges couples to study their partners’ relationship with their close friends, how they work and what boundaries are in place since most of these situations are very secretive.

“Because of the stigma, societal norms and perceptions that exist, people sometimes use religion as a camouflage they can wear to hide the thoughts and desires that live in them,” he adds.

He admits that it is a gray area that counsellors struggle to advise people through since it is a personal decision that cannot be remedied through common marital therapy interventions.

“When the betrayal happens and they come for counselling, the cheating partner will honestly confess and say that that is who they are. They knew all along. They choose to get married because society expects them to act in a certain way. This connection is so vital to them because they want to feel accepted,” he says.

There are special situations where partners agree to get married to evade suspicions of being queer, these are known as lavender marriages. These are more common in societies that have harsh rules and punishments for anyone suspected of being part of the LGBTQ+ community.