There are many different stories of straight spouses, closeted LGBT husbands and wives coming out, and how families cope. Most of the time, we come to some peaceful resolution of conflicts, and re build our family relationships. At our Straight Spouse Network face to face meetings, people often tell their stories. For all the people who speak of the anger and pain of an LGBT spouse “coming out”, there are those who experience their husbands or wives continuing to deny being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual. Over time, some closeted homosexual spouses come to accept this part of themselves. It’s a very difficult process for gay people and one which takes time for some.
There are some people who just never will utter the words “Honey I’m gay”. Instead, they tell their straight spouses “You’re crazy”, “You’re making this up” “You’re trying to make me look bad in a divorce”, or “You are ruining this family and harming our children”. They may go so far as to accuse the straight spouse who discovers their homosexuality of being evil, or abusive. When discovered they might acknowledge an affair but explain it away. Everyone does it, everyone’s a little gay, what, you didn’t know? You did not meet their needs. No, they’re not gay. You are crazy,stupid, homophobic, deluded, hateful, jealous. They continue this denial, and discrediting of the straight ex who knows the truth long after the divorce is over, year after year. Sometimes they encourage the children or other family members and friends to participate in the ridicule.
We’re not talking about deliberately outing your spouse maliciously, to “get back” at them or their relatives. We’re talking about the honest acknowledgement of homosexuality in a marriage, in a family, in a confidential setting such as a counselor’s office. Such acknowledgement needs to be made in order for the couple or family to move forward, regardless of deciding to stay married or get divorced.
For the straight spouse, this continued and rock embedded denial just compounds the agony. You cope with the devastating discovery about your marriage, and face ridicule, threats, recrimination if you even mention the truth. If you are getting divorced and have children, you may face a complicated court battle since the illusion that nothing is wrong with the spouse who denies being gay must be maintained at all costs. In abusive relationships, a straight spouse’s discovery of homosexual pornography or activity further fuels the necessity of a deeply closeted person to discredit, isolate, and ultimately silence them in order to preserve the secret. Let’spretend that all is just as it “should” be, because that’s how it is.
When recovering from the power of an abusive individual, many people find it helps to visualize that person as a cartoon character. If visualizing a cartoon character is your coping strategy for dealing with an abusive closeted homosexual husband or wife who insists that YOU will pay for even thinking such a thing, let alone mentioning it, we have a pretty good cartoon character for you.
The effect that long term closeted denial by a homosexual spouse has on the straight husband or wife is sort of like the effect the Evil Monkey has on Chris in the cartoon “Family Guy”. Chris Griffin is a little old to fear make believe monsters in the closet, but whenever he mentions that there’s an evil monkey in his closet, everyone ignores him – except the monkey, who jumps out and points an accusing finger at him. Everyone ignores the monkey too. This menacing pointing is a lot like diverting the focus in couples counseling to faults of the straight spouse, or entire families deciding that the straight spouse is just totally wack for having discovered and disclosed the truth.
The monkey never actually DOES anything. He just points and looks scary, and everyone pretends he isn’t really there and that the terrified Chris never actually said anything. Sound familiar? It isn’t to everyone, but to those straight spouses who cope daily with abusiveness and continued denial, it is very familiar. With this type of continued denial, the secret must be kept from the closeted individual themselves, at all costs. It’s a distraction – if the family is chaotic enough, maybe the unacceptable sexuality won’t be easily noticed, but everyone else’s faults will be scrutinized.
Just as no one should force a homosexual to remain closeted, no one should force straight spouses and children to remain in someone else’s closet, enduring blame, shame, and isolation to preserve a destructive illusion.
We know that those facing continued abuse have much to fear. Even when we have reason to be very fearful, humor does help. If your gay husband or wife is in the minority of those who will never accept the truth about themselves and continues to physically or legally threaten you as you move forward, we hope we’ve given you some support today with an image that might make you chuckle with recognition.