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Reaching Out of the Darkness

We reach out.

That’s what we do at the Straight Spouse Network.  It’s our mission. We reach out.  We build bridges. Where are we reaching, and where are those bridges going?

We reach out to straight spouses.  It’s our priority since we are not aware of any other group that offers help at the point when a spouse is just becoming aware there is an issue. We are there for ALL straights, whether they are living with a significant other, married or separated/divorced. We are there for ALL straights who have significant others who are discovering they are transgender. We are there for ALL straights – men and women struggling with the chaos resulting from having a significant other come out as LGBTQ.

On average, 200 people EACH month contact the Straight Spouse Network – looking for help with no where else to turn.

Straight spouses don’t live in a perfect world. We’re frequently misunderstood, and our experiences and needs are disregarded or ridiculed.  In fact, we are often subjected to the same social harassment and ridicule as gay people.

We started over 30 years ago as a task force of PFLAG in California, and we have had members over the years speak with LGBTQ groups about the straight spouse experience and perspective.  Some volunteers have also represented us at local Pride festivals.  It’s a way for us to say “hi, please tell your wife/husband about us.” Many LGBTQ people struggle with family connections when there is support and recognition for them, but nothing for their straight spouse. Some of our strongest supporters are LGBTQ people who have reached across those bridges.

We’ve participated in events such as the Small Change conference, the Just Love conference, and shared information about the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Day.  We represent straight spouses, and build bridges with groups that promote the healthy well-being of LGBTQ people in families.  Our idea is that if society is more open and accepting, perhaps there won’t be quite so many straight spouses in the future!

We are not a political organization.  Our purpose as a nonprofit organization is peer to peer support.  We have adopted positions favoring the legality of same sex marriage and opposing reparative “conversion” therapies.  We adopted those positions because of the effect of those questions on straight spouses. But, since our focus is on helping straight spouses, it’s not important to us if the people in our groups agree with those points of view.  We do strive to create a respectful and affirmative climate for listening to each other.

Reaching out, healing, building bridges – this was the purpose defined by our founder, Amity Pierce Buxton.  We remain true to these ideals today.Straight Spouse Network

 

7 Comments

  1. For all the time I’ve spent here, sometimes for longer periods than others, today was the first time I watched the SSN video on the home page. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, I feel like I should have watched it sooner, but at least now I’ve seen it. Kudos to everyone who took part in it and was willing to expose themselves so honestly, wherever they were on this path.

    Most of all, thanks to Amity Buxton, for establishing this organization, and for dedicating herself to it, to remaining clear, objective, focused and for withholding judgment against individuals. She makes the social and systemic causes for these marriages stand out in high relief, and does so without assigning blame, merely showing, factually and calmly, “This is how it happens.”

    I didn’t realize that her work has been published in a number of psychology journals, and that she has contributed such a volume of research and knowledge to our understanding, much of it paired with other professionals in the field. I tip my hat to Amity. I tried to download some of the journal articles, but it seems like most of them are on academic sites that require a student or faculty ID to login and read them. Am I mistaken about that, and are the journal articles readily available anywhere else for free (or a modest donation?).

    These days, I also like to quote another straight spouse who I heard say, “It wasn’t until I realized that nobody had done anything to me, nobody had set out to hurt me, none of it was done on purpose… that was when I began to heal.”

  2. I partly agree with Katherine, but only up to a point. There is no recognition of why LGBTQ folks feel they need to deceive someone; in fact, she blames the political zeitgeist of “political correctness” as giving permission to lie now, since it’s no longer acceptable to blame LGBTQ people themselves. We used to make LGBTQ criminals just for being gay; we’ve stopped doing that, but do we really want to make them criminals now because they don’t come out on our schedule?

    Nobody should feel they have to lie and deceive anyone to be accepted. Ever. But except for weirdos who get their jollies from it, why does anyone feel the need to lie or deceive? The answer is universal: we lie when we’ve been led to believe that the consequences of being honest will be worse. Why did Pinocchio lie – for fun? To torment Geppetto? No, he lied because he wanted to be like everybody else. He had to learn that he was a good enough boy exactly the way he was.

    This assumed “stigmata” of political correctness, besides being a strangely mixed metaphor of religion and politics, comes across as an attempt to deflect our own culpability in ignoring at best, or creating at worst, the homophobic environment which convinces our LGBTQ youth that they must lie to survive. If the intent of political correctness is that ideally we all are treated equally in our society, then I’m all for it. The more political correctness, the better.

    What’s the alternative? Political incorrectness?

    Charity begins at home.

  3. It’s nearly an impossible task…. to have each “group” understand each other. “Straight and shocked left to pick up the pieces” VS. “Found myself and everyone should be happy for me”! This will continually be a struggle….the LGBTQ community is strong and has the political correctness stigmata…. the Straight leftovers are just that, “leftovers “… Very difficult to get community support without being labeled “insensitive, unaccepting,etc” Thank God for this Network. Word HAS to be spread to young LGBTQ folks…. DO NOT deceive someone… Ever! It won’t work out in the long run! Life moves forward, with or without consent. Parents need to praise their children, straight, gay, transgender or otherwise… it’s the ONLY way for a better future 💗

    • “Word HAS to be spread to young LGBTQ folks…. ”

      Yes, but that’s not nearly enough. Word also has to be spread:

      1. to LGBTQ people FROM straight folks… YOU ARE OKAY just the way you are, you do not need to hide. We will help you fight back against the homophobia.

      2. to straight folks, of all ages… DO NOT demonize, shame or bully LGBTQ people. EVER!

      3. to political and religious leaders… DO NOT DECEIVE our LGBTQ youth with irrational fears, unneeded legislation and condemnations. EVER!

      4. to all of us… Live and Let Live. What consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes does not harm you, and it is not your concern. Treat LGBTQ people the same way you want to be treated: with love and respect.

      Saying this:
      “Word HAS to be spread to young LGBTQ folks…. DO NOT deceive someone… Ever!”

      singles out LGBTQ people for blame and re-stigmatizes them if the other messages, which are equally important and preventative, don’t accompany it. I would rather it had said:

      “Word HAS to be spread to young LGBTQ folks… we love you just the way you are.”

      If we would say that to them instead of scolding them, there would be no need to tell them to stop hiding from us.

    • Well, to be fair, the gay community isn’t going around saying, “Psst, if you want to get ahead in this world, you have to fake being straight and get married.” They deplore that. It’s our unquestioned beliefs and traditions that do it; we don’t learn to question any of it until it happens to us.

      And I don’t think it’s the gay community who blocks our stories. A few years ago, Out.com did an interview with Bonnie Kaye, she was saying that our stories don’t get told. The irony is that there she was, complaining about being ignored, to a gay news site! They didn’t ignore her; they published her! That same site did a story on a 95 year old holocaust survivor last year, they told both his and his wife’s story in detail, photos and all. But when that story hit the mainstream (straight) outlets a few weeks later, the wife’s story got dropped. So I don’t think we can blame the gay community for blocking our stories, I’d say they want our stories to be included with theirs, because they see we’re on the same side – and they see how our stories show even more of the damage caused by homophobia. It’s the straight news outlets that don’t want to hear about that.

      And the gay community doesn’t shout “Hurray, you hurt another straight wife!” when someone comes out. They don’t hand out “Most Damage Caused” awards either. What they do say is “Hurray, you finally broke free of your homophobic upbringing. Let other people see your example.” That is not about hurting us even more, it’s about preventing others of us from getting hurt. We need to be clear on that.

    • “It’s nearly an impossible task…. to have each “group” understand each other.”

      When it’s couched like that, with “nearly impossible” as the starting point, and [A] “VS” [B] at the center of it, yes, it will be nearly impossible. This is a setup for competition.

      If we view it as [A] “AND” [B] instead, it’s a setup for teamwork. It’s all in how we view it. Maybe we have to establish a different paradigm but we have to be able to see it first.

      I would find it hard to work alongside a teammate who blames me for the same arrows our common enemy is shooting at both of us.

    • “young LGBTQ folks…. DO NOT deceive someone… Ever!”

      If you mean as an adult, don’t deceive someone by marrying them, then of course I agree with you.

      But if I had a gay or lesbian child or teenager who was being harassed or bullied or threatened, and I or another adult wasn’t there to protect him, if he has to lie to get away from his tormentors, or protect himself, I’d say he was justified, I sure wouldn’t hold it against him. But I’d invest in teaching him how to defend himself once I was aware of it, too. I’d rather have him lie than get beat up or murdered or commit suicide. We have to keep our anger focused on the appropriate target.

      And I’m not comfortable with the presumption that young LGBTQ folks are going to deceive someone by default, either. “Don’d deceive anyone” applies to ALL of us, not just LGBTQ young folks. I’m sorry to say it, Kathy, but I don’t see how singling out LGBTQ young folks for that instruction is anything other than homophobic for excluding others. Straight young folks deceive people too, you know.

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