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Married Men With Another Life to Live

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 14, 2004; Page C01

Listen to Bill, 71, a retired lobbyist in New Mexico:

"I'm probably the oldest of the callers, and I've been involved, off and on with men -- discounting my Boy Scout and teenage years -- since I was in my forties. I am married."

John N. Craig of Fairfax runs a phone network and support group for closeted men who struggle to balance private yearnings with their public image. (Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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Listen to another Bill, 55, from Boston:

"There's so many of us out there, it seems like it's very, very good to communicate and support one another. . . . I feel like a typical male with an extra bonus, perhaps. My wife does not know."

The Bills (along with Steve from New York, Joe from western Massachusetts, a nonprofit executive from the Washington area who won't give his first name and a preacher from Toronto who also won't give his first name) leave three- to five-minute voice messages, once or twice a week, in a "Voice RoundTable" created and facilitated by John N. Craig of Fairfax. Callers also listen to the others' messages, making this a support group built around an answering machine, where no one interacts live.

That's not all. Since 1990, Craig has organized dozens of three-day and one-day conferences for more than 200 complex closeted cases, white bisexual and gay men (where, exactly, is the line?) who are predominately in their forties, fifties and sixties. He has advertised for these gatherings -- held in California, New York, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Massachusetts -- in magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic and Harper's.

Most participants are married.

Many have grown children.

Most hold high-ranking, leadership jobs.

That this is confidential with a capital C is understandable.

Craig, 52, is openly bisexual and holds a master's degree in social work. "I'm strongly sexually attracted to men. I'm strongly attracted to women," he says, sitting at a coffee shop on 14th Street NW yesterday morning. He was still trying to make sense of the spectacular disclosure Thursday by New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey -- twice married with two daughters -- that he is gay.

Spectacular not only because it was unprecedented, but also because McGreevey, in this Age of Queerness, is hardly alone.

Whether they call themselves gay or bisexual, McGreeveys are everywhere: in Red America and Blue America, in suburbs and cities, in corporate offices and city halls (and the governor's mansion). They are the white guys on the DL -- the "down low," which describes black men who sleep with other men, popularized (some say ghettoized) by the best-selling book "On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep With Men."

Regardless of their race, these men are living double lives, talking in doublespeak. "I'm gay," one says, "but I like to call myself bi." "I'm married," another says, "and I only play around with other married guys."

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