Author Charles Rowan Beye was worried his newest memoir, My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man’s Odyssey, would be pigeonholed along with other gay novels, he said.
“The title of the book bothers me because it automatically puts the book into the gay ghetto of book stores,” Beye said while discussing his book at the Harvard Book Store Monday.
Naturally he wants his book “on the front table,” he said. “I find it exceedingly annoying.”
Immediately, I was intrigued by his candid honesty. And this honesty carries to My Husband and My Wives. As a man now more than 80 years old, he looks back at his life in the book’s introduction to ask himself, “What was that all about?”
Beye said he’s fortunate and lucky to have fruitful friendships and relationships as a gay man in such a hateful world.
“The gay persons share a persecution … that sense of woundedness, which they share with other discriminated people,” he said to the audience.
At the start of the memoir, Beye outlines his childhood. He primarily discusses the relationship with his mother during this time in his life because he feels deeply influenced by her and says her staged living saved him.
“My mother also taught us that creating whatever reality we wanted meant ignoring what didn’t fit,” he writes.
His mother’s advice carried him into adolescence and into manhood as a man who was attracted to other men in a predominantly heterosexual world.
“My teenager career was a long and interesting experience,” he said. “[My book] has a lot of sex in it. I did this deliberately. It is reasonable for the purpose.”
And the sexually charged scenes serve a purpose. His sexual anecdotes illustrate the similarities of homosexual and heterosexual desires. The only differentiable desire is with whom ― the same sex or the opposite sex. These anecdotes seamlessly guide the reader into recognition that gay men are men too.
However, when Beye’s mom was informed of the nature of his sexual encounters, she insisted that he regularly visit a psychiatrist, he writes. His doctor, Dr. Miller, insisted he was a normal boy.
A member of the audience said Dr. Miller’s acceptance was unusual for the time period, and Beye compared him to Jesus.
Although Dr. Miller helped Beye own his sexuality, Beye married two women (Mary and Penelope), before he married his current husband, Richard.
“I had never touched a woman,” Beye said of his first wife. “I was happily married.”
But after divorcing Penelope, he said had to reassert himself into the gay world, which he describes as a difficult experience.
“The gay community I didn’t really know at all because I had been married most of my life,” he said.
However, he eventually found the love of his life, Richard, who sat in the audience listening to his husband read about the sincerity of their romance in the end of his memoir.
My Husband and My Wives is about fostering happiness through relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual. It’s an eight-decade odyssey through a homosexual adolescence, a period of happy marriage and a final return to his nature. It’s about finding love where it’s available to you and is an intriguing read no matter your orientation.