June is the season for “Dads and Grads”, and there are plenty of family celebrations going on. This can be a very difficult time for families adjusting to life after a father or mother comes out as gay or lesbian, or is discovered but continues to deny. In keeping with the season, and with some of the struggles straight spouses face at this time, we were happy to come across a commentary by Ben Stein on CBS. The message quite simply is this: Be yourself, and do what makes you happy. It’s advice to grads, facing uncertain economic times, and pressure to settle for a job, any job.
Many of us have gay spouses and ex spouses who have done just that. They’ve been encouraged to come out, be their authentic selves, etc. In doing so, some do not know how to deal with the effect on us. And many of us have become so accustomed to accommodating everyone else, that we have forgotten what it is that makes us happy. What are we doing when we are happiest in our lives? Some of us have to really take a minute to remember.
During June, we celebrate family events, such as Fathers Day, or weddings and graduations. These can be painful for straight spouses at any stage, particularly those new to the transition. At this time of year, Stein’s remarks ring true for many of us. Gay people are not the only ones who need to be true to themselves. We must be true to ourselves as well.
Most of us know that we did not turn our spouses gay. What we grapple with in the aftermath is the idea that somehow we are inadequate. Husbands of lesbians wonder at the accusations of not being sensitive, caring, responsive, wrapped up in their careers. Wives of gay men wonder about the contemptuous treatment many of them experience regarding their own bodies, their desire to be seen as attractive,and the lack of affirmation of their femininity once they produce the desired result: children. Many men and women both are in recovery from sexual dysfunction which they believed they had some responsibility for, and are now in the process of rebuilding their own heterosexual expression and gender identity.
Many also grapple with the face of the reality in family situations. Some straight spouses are uncomfortable with the degree that the gay spouse is out of the closet. Still others chafe at decrees to keep it a secret, and abet the denial. That denial can be a flat out “you’re crazy, what makes you think I’m gay” to a more subtle “If I’m going to be with a woman sexually, it doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian” response of actress Cameron Diaz. To a husband of a lesbian, who is being told he is not enough, or his touch is not preferred, it is all the same experience, and should be acknowledged. Abetting the denial can also mean that blame will fall on the straight spouse – who even though they have their faults, can never know if working it out would have helped . They are the wrong gender for their closeted gay or lesbian spouse to be fulfilled with. You can fix everything, and your husband or wife is still not happy, because they’d rather be with someone of the same sex.
The ability to be truthful to ourselves, and about ourselves, is vital. That means, get in touch with what you really like to do, and how you are best comfortable with whatever solutions are arrived at with your family and friends. And give yourself time to recover, and permission to feel all the normal feelings that come with this experience and express them honestly.
We are more than a breeder, a beard, a prop, a possession, a sperm donor, or a paycheck. We are real people who deserve to be our selves, and be who we are, not what someone else thinks we should be. As Ben Stein sums it up, “That’s it. Choose to live a life you want to live, not one that’s safe or what someone else thinks you should do.
Decide to live. ”
We wholeheartedly agree.