by Gene Marrano
It was painful, it was cathartic. A couple, married for 13 years with two children, broken apart when one reveals they are gay. Both are members of the clergy, and both remain respectful and loving towards the other. Sounds like a good book, no? Well, it is a new book, one the authors talked about for several years before committing word to paper. Joe Cobb, pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge in southeast Roanoke City, and his ex-wife, Leigh Anne Taylor, a music minister at a Methodist church in Blacksburg, have detailed the aftermath of their marriage and the new bond that formed afterward in Our Family Outing: A Memoir of Coming Out and Getting Through.
Cobb, while in Kansas, revealed to his then-wife that he was gay, after suppressing those feelings for 20 years. Taylor’s world collapsed briefly before she got back on her feet – a trip to the mall to buy a set of clothes she wore once before discarding helped. After another year of marriage, as they waited while Cobb decided who he really was, the couple split. “That year was very much like a roller coaster,” quoted Cobb from his new book.
Their children (Emma and Taylor) were just four and six years old. “I thought he was just depressed, a workaholic,” said Taylor as she read excerpts from “Our Family Outing” at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church earlier this week, as part of the kickoff to a speaker series the church plans to initiate. “I believe I went into shock.”
Yet even as they signed their divorce papers Cobb – who followed Taylor to Virginia several years after she had relocated to Blacksburg, looking for a new start – said the couple remained committed to each other on many levels, because of the children. One thing helped: “we really just [always] liked each other,” said Cobb.
“We vowed to speak and act in loving ways,” recalled Taylor, who has since remarried. Cobb and his partner are raising two younger children that they have adopted. Taylor even wrote about her dating misadventures with “Bachelor number one,” and the like, drawing chuckles from the audience at the book reading and signing.
The couple was as open and honest as they could be with their young children at the time of their separation. Back then Emma described what had happened to a friend, “he needs to be with a boy the rest of his life,” she explained about her father. Emma was at the reading on Tuesday night, and said what had happened to their parents helped make them more understanding of others from all walks of life. “Nothing fazes us,” she said.
Helping to complete the circle of understanding and acceptance for Taylor was her presence at the Metropolitan Community Church, which serves the local gay, lesbian and transgender population, among others, when Cobb was ordained as a minister there. She was worried about “that freak church,” but found that the people there were “just great folks,” and very accepting. She joined Cobb and others to receive Holy Communion after the ordination ceremony. “That’s where Heaven broke in,” wrote Taylor in Our Family Outing, which will be available on Amazon.com and in the e-reader format. “I embraced [Joe] for the first time in years.”
Taylor said she didn’t know she and Cobb would wind up writing about their experiences in the same book. It’s told in a back and forth narrative, with each getting their viewpoint across on a particular juncture in their relationship. “It was kind of gutsy,” said Taylor. Since deciding to author the memoir in 2008, the two often met to write and discuss their progress at Mill Mountain Coffee in Salem, “crying into our coffee,” as she put it. “There were some things she wrote that I was completely unaware of,” said Cobb, who believes that people in many family dynamics can gain some valuable insight by reading Our Family Outing.