Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. They live happily ever after, right?
But what happens when boy realizes he is gay? Such is the predicament in which eight men and women in author Michael Testa’s inspirational collection of true stories, “When Opposites No Longer Attract,” found themselves.
“Opposites,” Testa’s debut book, offers a pioneering look into an increasingly common but not often discussed issue: men and women who leave straight marriages and come out as gay.
“I love my spouse. I love my kids, but I’m not happy. I’m not happy because I am LGBT. Now what?” said Testa, Equality Pennsylvania vice president. “This book is about eight people who went through that.”
The impetus for the book came from Testa’s own story of coming to terms with his sexuality after being married to a woman for nine years and having two children, along with the experiences of several of his close friends, who found themselves in similar situations.
“Me and five of my friends used to go to a bar in the South Side of Pittsburgh and watch ‘Will and Grace.’ One day I realized between the five us, we had 14 kids and were all divorced because we had later come out as gay,” Testa said. “That was the day I decided to write ‘Opposites.’”
The book also includes the stories of several lesbians who went on to leave their husbands.
“It was really interesting to see just how different the women came out, compared to the men,” Testa said. “We didn’t realize it until we put the stories side by side. The women tended to handle the process better than the men.”
Gay or lesbian, male or female, every person in “Opposites” struggles with the burden of societal norms, says Testa.
“I think the common denominator is we are raised in a society that has all these expectations of us: marriage, kids, the white picket fence. We get caught up in what society wants,” Testa said.
The moment when a person begins to questions these norms is often the beginning of the story for the people in “Opposites.”
“At some point, in our own minds, we check those [norms] at the door,” Testa said. “We ask ourselves, ‘Why am I having these feelings?’”
Testa said he hopes the book will be a resource for people who might be going through something similar, though “Opposites” appeals to straight spouses as well.
“The book is not just for LGBT people who have come out. It’s for their straight spouses as well,” said Testa. “It will hopefully give them insight, at least from our perspective, and that in turn could help them too.”
Looking ahead, Testa would like to include the stories of transgender people in the next book.
“In the next book, if I do such a thing, I would love to include transgender people. It just wasn’t on my radar the first time around, but I think of people like Dr. Rachel Levine, who I have gotten to know through Equality PA, would have great stories to share.”
Testa lives in Pittsburgh with his two sons.
He can be reached through his website, www.testapublishing.com. “Opposites” is available online and locally at Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room.