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Straight Spouses are Coming Out Too

Straight Spouse NetworkToday is National Coming Out Day.  It’s a day that has some painful significance to many straight spouses.

We wish the LGBT people we married had come out much earlier; come out to us, and to themselves.

With all the publicity around coming out, it can feel like the stigma is gone, and coming out as a gay person might even seem trendy.  It can seem like every day, a new celebrity or sports figure makes the announcement.

Yes, coming out is still difficult, and often unsafe, for gay people. Many people recognize that it is difficult for gay people to come out.  But no one ever considers that while there is much celebration when a gay person comes out and is lauded for their honesty and bravery, their straight spouse is hurting and not flying the rainbow flag in celebration.  Yes. we also are part of the rainbow family, even when we are angry, hurt, grieving, or just plain nasty.

That’s right.  Straight spouses should be able to come out too.  We should be able to tell our stories without fear, shame, or punishment.  We had no control over what happened to us.  We didn’t make our husbands gay or our wives lesbian.  And we aren’t stupid.

Rather than being discarded as “collateral damage” by the gay community, we straight spouses have a need to come out as well.  Our coming out stories are not causes for celebration.  They are a chronicle of pain, deceit, and sometimes abuse.

Sometimes, it seems that there’s one person in our families or among our (former) friends who thinks that we are the punch line in bad jokes.  Whether we are ridiculed for having no gaydar or cast aside because our anger is really inconvenient right now, or shunned or shamed for not trying hard enough to keep the marriage together, we experience all the homophobia that is heaped on gay people.  Only we are not supposed to talk about it.  If we talk about it, someone may be offended, or uncomfortable.  Or someone may try to hurt our gay spouse.  Or someone may hassle our children.  Hey, does the apple fall far from the tree?

Or we might have to listen to the misbegotten advice of others who do not see us or our experience, only their own feelings about gay people and gay marriage. We might have to hear again that the way for us to heal is to join the fight for gay rights and march in the next gay pride parade.   Or we might have to listen to another lecture about saving the marriage, God hating divorce, and living together as brother and sister (as if that were marriage).

So, for those of us who cannot come out, the Straight Spouse Network has done the job for us.  This press release was widely circulated in the media today, and has been shared on Facebook and social media. It caused quite a stir in some of our networks.  Here are some comments:


“I wish I could post this on my wall. I can’t be out because my ex is not out.”
“Oct 11 is the anniversary of the day she told me she was a lesbian and my world changed forever”
“October 11 is my wedding anniversary”
“People don’t realize ‘the closet’ includes wives, husbands, and children who had no say in how they were used by someone they love to hide behind”
“I never thought of myself as an LGBT ally – thanks to my ex, I am part of their family.”
“I decided to come out on National Coming Out Day as a straight spouse.  I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper explaining about the Straight Spouse Network and what my experience was like.  The following year, the paper contacted me in advance of October, and featured a piece on straight spouses for coming out day.”


Some of us cannot safely come out about being straight spouses publicly.  But we should be able to come out to family, close friends, counselors, pastors, and whomever we choose to tell, without fear of recrimination, ridicule, accusations, and shame.

We must live in truth in order to complete the healing journey toward being our authentic selves as we rebuild our lives. For most of us, coming out is a private experience, involving our families, close friends, counselors.  There’s no parade.  No one tells us how heroic we are.  Some fear how honest we are.

National Coming Out Day is our day too.  Our lives matter.

This article originally appeared in 2014.

26 Comments

  1. Dear all,

    Today it is exactly 5 month sins my husband told me he needed some time and space to think over his life and sexual orientation.
    I know in that moment that I lost him and that I was the one that had to let him go.
    For 20 years I had known that he was bisexual.
    I think deep down in me, I had a fear that I was not enough for his desire in life. But I never thought he would leave me like this and discover that he was more homosexual than bisexual..

    Even if he was and still is so honest to me I still cray and grief over my lost love.
    We have been married for 25 years. We have two lovely sons 20 and 24.
    We are still good friends and big support for each other.

    We live separate in two different countries because my husband works abroad.
    I moved back home to Sweden in our house here. Thanks to Skype we can talk to one another about our feelings and what we are going through.

    We are still married and want to go slow in this big change in our life.
    We want to keep each other in our life

    I try to organize my life here in Sweden but it is still hard because we have not told everybody about our situation. Only my sister knows. I wait for my husband to take that last step to go out and tell his parents and friends that he is homosexual.
    Ones it out there you can’t take it back..

    He told our sons 4 mont ago so they know as well.

    It is so much bigger than you could ever imagine to go thru this separation and the new picture of your life.

    I doubt my self. I can’t see myself in a knew relationship. He is my first and only..
    I feel totally lost in the hole dating thing.
    I have not been working for 17 years. I have lived abroad and giving my husband all support for his career.
    In my bad moments I blame myself for not thinking more about my one life and ambitions.

    I have joined a computer course and a program to become a therapist.
    And maybe focus on helping people in our situation when my program ends in 2 years time.

    I try to look at the future with optimism.

    My husband is such a happier person now. He lives again in a way I haven’t seen for a long time.
    I think I will also become happier in time but I have to cray and be angry and let all my different emotions come out from my body and grief until I’m done!

    I,m so glad I found this support site. It made me feel less lonely.

  2. I am the mother of a straight spouse son, and two lovely grandchildren, ages 4 and 6 when she came out. She decided to announce she was lesbian after a ten year relationship, seven years of marriage. Did she just want a wonderful sperm doner with a dedicated family? She already had a house and significant gay other when the divorce papers were served by her to my son. My son has had to be friendly for the sake of the jointly shared children, as have we. But I hate her lying, deceitful, guts. I have no problems with gay people, but any charity towards those who have lied and cheated is obscene. The children and straight spouse are collateral damage. What are we to tell the children or relatives who flew to the wedding from Italy? How long can I keep a false charitable face in front of her so she will allow us to see our grandchildren? She was lauded by her gay friends on Facebook. While my son has been open and honest about the situation, he has been left alone as a devoted single parent half time. The children are just coming of an age to feel the fall out. Yet she claims to be a loving parent. Gay parents married to straight spouses are the worst of selfish, deceitful, liars. No matter how much I support gay rights, and I do, I can never feel good about this particular group of people. And how dare they think they are good for the children!

  3. I’m a gay guy who has never married or been involved with a woman. I hope you will allow me to share a few thoughts. The women here have been lied to. You have been victimized. You have had your lives upended. And you have every right to be angry and to vent that anger at your spouse. I would suggest, however, that it is counter-productive – and even harmful – to lash out at gay people in general. Some of these posts and comments seem to express anger and resentment at gay people who had absolutely nothing to do with what your husbands did, and who would condemn your husbands’ actions.

    We don’t celebrate or defend lying “closet cases.” In fact, the gay rights movement from the very beginning has tried to end the “closeted life” which leads to the kind of deception that you experienced. There are far fewer gay men deceiving women today because of the gay movement. The goal is to get that number to zero. In sum, we are on the same side. So it makes little sense for victims of the closet to snipe and attack an people who want to end the closet.

    A few posts make reference to unsympathetic responses from the “gay community” towards a deceived spouse. I have never seen that. There is no gay organization or gay spokesperson that has ever disparaged or belittled the plight of a deceived straight spouse. No gay organization has ever championed the cause of a deceitful, closeted spouse. The only time that I have seen antagonism is in certain high-profile cases in which the straight spouse – either out of genuine belief or in order to gain the upper hand in divorce/custody proceedings – hooks up with anti-gay organizations and turns the marital breakup into an culture war battle against gay people or homosexuality. This happened a few times in the 1980s and 1990s and there was one case about 2 years ago. But it is a fairly rare phenomenon, and the negative reaction by the gay community in those cases is directed at the anti-gay attacks; it is not an endorsement of spousal deception, the closet or any other misconduct by the closeted spouse. Well, that’s about it. I appreciate the opportunity to share my 2 cents and I wish all of you the best as you move forward.

    • We have been married 21 years and are in divorce right now. He had been having unprotected sex with men for years and some in our house If I raised any question he beat me My husband tells everyone he is straight and I am a liar. He told the court that he is gay he just gave another woman a diamond ring. People talk about how great he is on facebook to servived a marriage with a crazy woman
      I dont blame the gay community I blame him. He could have come out and we would have supported him. There was no fear of coming out. He and people like him just like being on the down low and torturing their family while looking like he victum he gives the gay community a bad rep not the wife and children

      • I understand your pain Lisa. My wife came out to me (and a few other people) after 16 years of marriage and four children. Before this we had (at least I thought) a good marriage and rarely argued. After this I had a hard time knowing what was real or trusting her, we argued a lot more. While I was away on a business trip, she left me and tried to take the kids. We are now divorcing but she now seems to be lying about being gay and is now making up lies to hurt me. People are now treating her like some victim. While I know it probably would have ended the marriage, the kids and I would have supported her if she came out publicly. It hurts to have someone you thought you knew treat you like this. I hope you find healing.

    • David,

      I appreciate your attempts to empathize with the straight spouse situation. In my journey to this point I have tried really hard to empathize with the feelings my ex-husband obviously wrestled with. But, no one will ever convince me that imy ex’s actions don’t boil down to selfishness and weakness.

      I have made multiple gay friends since moving and starting over who have helped restore my faith in humanity. Additionally, My minister at church says that “it’s not who you love, but how you love.” Truer words have not been spoken.

      You obviously belong to the brave, honest, and non-self-centered sect of the gay community who was courageous enough to be yourself from an early age… despite the social ramifications. You may not cheer the actions our husbands (or wives) took to come out or the wake of pain they left behind, but it’s also not fair for you to discount our (the straight spouse’s) immediate feelings as we process the grenade blast that destroyed what we thought was a family.

      I’ll be the first to admit that my anger was misplaced at the beginning. I was mad as hell at the group who ran a subculture which allowed my ex-husband to experiment and hide for so long. Being honest, I’m still mad about that. I realize straight culture is ripe with casual hookups, but I’ve learned a lot since he came out about the depth and breadth of the gay community that operates outside of straight society. My husband of 23 years hooked up with randoms from Craigslist for a decade and spent the last 2years of our marriage at gay bars, clubs, etc. in our town. Apparently there were men I knew as friends and acquaintances who saw him out, yet didn’t call him out on his betrayal of our vows. I find that unacceptable.

      Maybe you’re the type of person to walk up and say “hey, what you’re doing is wrong”. I wish there had been at least one during his journey that would have stood up for me and told him that I didn’t deserve to be treated this way. But, alas there was not.

      I respect your 2 cents, but I hope you can respect our anger when it’s directed toward the gay subculture that operates parallel to our lives and allows our spouses to cheat, lie, and betray without consequences. People who know me look at me with pity now while he gets a pat on the back. If I hear “didn’t you ever suspect” one more time, my head might explode. No. I. Did. Not. Know. I knew who I loved, and it turned out, even though he was apparently a brilliant play-actor, he loved me really crappy.

      Sincerely,
      Working toward better, not bitter

  4. My husband wants to be a woman. We will be married 26 years in December. We live in different cities now, but are still married. Just don’t understand after all this time. I am too old 56 to start again.

    • Hang in there Sue. My husband came out 6 years ago after we had been married 30 years. It is still a struggle. I have never had anyone else in my life. I totally understand how you feel.

    • I am 55 years old , my husband came out two years ago after 28 years of marriage. I was devastated but I have picked myself up and am getting on with life. You’re never too old to start again and do all the things you want to do. Consider it a second bite at the cherry of life.

  5. Would things be different if our laws were different? Section 377 was repealed? If there wasn’t widespread homophobia in our society? Would we as women not fall into traps, where we actually thought we were marrying for love and realized that we were merely being used because it was convenient to someone spineless enough to ruin a life for his personal gain?

    Are there support groups for straight spouses in Bangalore? I received an e-mail about an online group but don’t have it currently.

  6. My relationship of 16 1/2 years broke down after I discovered his double life which he still denies although he has admitted to having homosexual encounters in highschool. He is still dating women and it is a difficult thing to watch. I have decided that these women are responsible for their own decisions as to their sexual partners and that I am not responsible for ‘saving’ them from him though I do wish someone had ‘saved’ me. At the same time I am finding it impossible to get even remotely close to another relationship with a man and have questioned my own sexuality as a result. It’s been such an incredibly difficult time and also so hard to open up and talk to people about because of his denial, because of my own confusion, because of the myriad emotions swirling about inside me not least of which is an overwhelming feeling of regret over our years together and remorse that I didn’t leave earlier.

  7. I will be making my announcement publicly when my son turns 21. I am his second victim in marriage of a closet gay and sit back helplessly as I watch him in the beginning stages of betrayal to another (third) woman whose life is about to be raped, which luckily for her, will be short lived. I will provide the evidence necessary to stop him in his tracks from harming another innocent woman.

    Closet gays hiding in the dark while destroying lives need to come out or STAY AWAY FROM WOMEN! Those are your ONLY choices!

    • You go girl! I am married to a man for 21 years his 2 nd marriage. he lied about having sex with men. When Intried to tell people they all said I was crazy and he was the victium now he is still married to engaged to another women

  8. I recently attended a play at Castillo Theatre in Manhattan that had a brilliant message. It depicts the issues people have with coming out. Amazing message for all. Accept, Except directed by George Faison. Will be running til Nov 23. Families will be blessed and understand the need to support LGBT and straight spouses.

  9. So let’s have ourselves a National Straight Spouse Coming Out Day and tell our stories too! What are we waiting for?

    • Hi you are India? Would love to get in touch with you.

      • No I am not in India. But let me know if I can help you.

  10. Its really good news.
    Wish straight spouses from India can also come out from their closet.

  11. Anyone in the UK reading this -there is a straight spoyse support group there. If you get in touch I can tell you more about it.

    • I’d like details of UK networks please.

  12. I have been a straight spouse for 15 years. Being in THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CLOSET severely impacted my health. I still feel alone in my dad to day life because I don’t have any straights near me. The good news is I have support via the internet.

    • Karen, I have been a straight spouse for over 4 years now (25 year marriage) – and yes, it is having an impact on my health. I’ve developed AFib due to all the stress. I was in the hospital last weekend with it. I just can’t keep living like this – and he will never, EVER come out of the closet – he is far, far too homophobic (but spends just about every spare moment online, staring at gay porn). And no – he doesn’t know that I know. I also am on the outskirts of a large city (Chicago), but all the SSN get-togethers are, at a minimum, 20 miles away and always seem to meet at night. I am looking to re-enter SSN to see if things have changed in that regard. All I know is, the stress of having to live his lie is having serious effects on my health.

    • Hi I am
      Straight spouse and I have a sone too my gay husband got married to me at the age of 29 … he says he did not know his sexuality then we had a baby after that bought a house on joint loan now we are 36 now he tells me that he has been playing gay … accusing me for that … that it was becoz of day to day fight he turned gay .. I live in India where being gay is still a crime … my son told has crashed he is happy that he has come out he is happy that he does not have to cheat on me … he tells me people have accepted him
      His friends and they are his great friends coz they don’t judge him. And I am not as good as I am not able to live with this … coz it’s not just sex which is not their any more there is no love no affection sharing no friendship between us any more he hates to see me after 7 years into marriage ..I gave him the greatest joy of becoming a father … but still he doesn’t realise my worth …. I am the one who is most traumatised by sexual status not his mother or friends or brother or sisters …. I can’t march with other straight spouses and LGBT their support coz they don’t come out in India

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