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Straight Spouses – Fake News and the Real Story

Straight Spouses – Fake News and the Real Story

It usually starts out like this:

A reporter or writer contacts the Straight Spouse Network.  They want to tell the story of actual real straight spouses.

This makes us really excited!  We want our experiences to be known and acknowledged. We want more people to know about the Straight Spouse Network, so they can know they are not alone when they find that their husband or wife is LGBTQ.extra-extra-paper

Sometimes it’s not all that exciting however.  Sometimes it’s downright infuriating.

We never respond to the people who want to cast a reality show where the big secret will be divulged on camera, and the straight spouse will be “helped” by an “expert” to move beyond their pain – quickly.

Sometimes when we respond, we find that the story has already been written, and all that is needed is a few quotes to back up the story that has already been written.  “Don’t you have any people who stay married?  Can they tell us what that is like?”  Well, yes we do, and yes they can, if they choose.

But sometimes they don’t choose to allow their names to be published. There are many reasons why a straight spouse or a mixed orientation couple might want to tell their story but still maintain some privacy.  It’s not always life in a homophobic hating world.  Sometimes they want to consider the effect on family members, children, their relationship, or their place in a community of having personal and intimate information out there in public.

Sometimes the straight spouse wants to tell their story and speak with a journalist – but wait, we need the permission of your ex spouse to write about it…..or confirm it…..For us, this is often a huge roadblock, along with having to divulge our own identity.

It’s also a deterrent to acknowledging the truth – the real truth – the real news is that our experiences are surprisingly common, and yet there is surprisingly little information available outside of what the Straight Spouse Network is able to supply. Unless of course, it comes with juicy details, or can be used as an affirmation of being out and proud.

denialism1finalSometimes writers have specific criteria.  They may want to speak with wives only, in a certain metro area.  They may want wives who are friendly with their husband’s new partner. They may want only spouses of transgender people.  They may only want to speak with people whose husbands or wives actually came out, and not those whose LGBTQ spouses remain in the closet of denial. They may want a happy ending.

We are always careful about guarding confidentiality and introducing straight spouses to writers.  It can be very painful to tell the whole truth to a writer only to find it has been rewritten to minimize some of the pain. One freelance writer once said to us “Don’t you have anyone I can speak to who isn’t so…. so…angry?  I really don’t want to write anything that might offend gay people.”

Truth must be told.  Anger is part of the straight spouse experience. Grief is  part of the straight spouse experience. Surviving for a long time with complicated emotions, financial, social, and family fallout is part of the experience.

Our experiences are diverse.  They are painful to us, and may be painful to hear about.  But truth is not offensive.  Sometimes truth is painful.

Being forced into a closet is offensive, and many of us are forced there by our LGBTQ spouses and our families.  Being forced into a closet because someone might be offended at your response to being a straight spouse – finding your story is “cleaned up” for publication – being silenced – now THAT is REALLY offensive!

We’ve had a few good mentions in the press, and were encouraged last year by this excellent article. Dear Abby mentions us in her column at least once a year. We are the go-to resource for global information on straight spouses and mixed orientation marriages.

fake-newsAnd in this era of “fake news” and not being able to believe what you read, we will continue to tell the true story. That true story is yours.  And you can share it with us!

If you’d like to contribute your experience to this blog in the form of an article, please see our guidelines here. Yes, you may use your real name, or an alias.  The important thing to us is that straight spouses get to speak and have our say.

Straight spouse truth is shared every day on our public forum, in comments to our blog articles, and in our private online groups. It is peer to peer support like no other. We will continue to speak the truth of our lives.

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25 Comments

  1. First time on. New to the experience. Husband is transgendered prefers pronoun “she”. I am naive. I love “him” as a person and I thought that if he dysphoria was painful, what difference did it make if he wore girl clothes. I love him. So this has been gradual, leaving out tons of info here to get to the point. I realized that I am “in a closet” and never expected it. I do not know how to comfort him when he struggles with all the emotions and confusions and shame of being transgendered. I listen, I hold. But, I didn’t really think about how this was going to effect me. If he decides to “come out” to his family and friends, then I will be shopping with another woman, going out with a transgendered woman. What about my co-workers, whom I share very little about my life anyway. I am a teacher, which adds another dimension. I have been living comfortably with his he/she situation, he during the day and in public and the she when we are home alone and it was ok. Now we are looking at the looming stress of telling his children and friends. Now all of a sudden I am looking at her being around me dressed and girly outside of the house, and that is new to me. I love him for him, so I should love her for her, for him. So why is this so hard for me. It has nothing to do with sex cause I am not all that interested in sex anyway. I need a place to talk and share about how this is effecting me.

    • Hi Deanne,

      Please know that you are not alone. Your feelings are very normal.

      To connect with a support group, or support contact or confidential online community, please visit us here: http://www.straightspouse.org/test-2-home/how-to-find-support/

      Once you fill out the confidential form or call us, you will receive a response usually within 48 hours, connecting you to someone who can help you further.

      It’s not uncommon for spouses of transgender people to feel what you are feeling right now.

  2. I am a straight spouse living with my gay husband. It’s coming up to our 10 year anniversary and he has finally fully come out to me. I know first hand about the grief that the straight spouse feels. The hurt. The betrayal. The disrespect. I understand that he’s gay but I don’t understand the dishonesty and the years of infidelity. You cannot forgive that.
    Gay or not. They free themselves and are congratulated while we remain imprisoned pushed into solitary confinement as if we have committed some crime. It’s high time that people recognize who the real victims are. The wives and children of these shams of marriages.

    • Going through a PR professional is not a bad idea. And some of these posts exemplify why our message doesn’t always get presented.

      Where I used to work, the head of PR gave us a brief training in media management. One thing he always said “you have to work the media” to get their attention. He meant we had to establish working relationships with them, interact with the reporters and journalists as people and on a personal level, and not as your personal secretary to take dictation. You have to show them that having them tell your story will be a benefit to THEM – it can build their reputation; it can be scoop; it speaks directly to their readership; it makes them stand out from their competition; etc. If you approach the media out of anger or righteous indignation (even when merited), that’s a surefire way to have the media ignore you. Don’t demand or force them to say or print something just because you think they should. In the end, the journalist is another person, don’t irritate him or get him pissed off.

      Think about how that applies to us: it benefits them to show sympathy for the gay spouse, it shows their readers that they are gay friendly, gay supportive, or least gay neutral and not gay condemning. We need to show the media how it also benefits THEM to offer a platform for our stories. For example, it shows “fairness;” willingness to listen and present both sides of a complicated issue; “balance,” etc. It does not benefit them to give us a platform to spew anger (however justified) or to denigrate a gay person or the gay community. That will drive some of their readership away.

      • “We need to show the media how it also benefits THEM to offer a platform for our stories.”

        to clarify what I meant:

        We need to show the media how it also benefits THEM (the media, the journalist) to offer a platform for OUR stories, IN ADDITION TO, and alongside, our spouses’ stories.

    • We need to put ourselves in a journalist’s shoes, recognize that he’s doing his job, and not get defensive. He has to verify the facts he reports. Remember what happened to Dan Rather when he didn’t bother to check his facts or corroborate his sources? Yes it’s his reputation on the line and especially if a story doesn’t fit or feels inconsistent, he’ll want back up.

      Did you talk to a journalist? He might have smelled something was off – you say your husband “finally fully” came out to you. Does that mean he had partly come out to you some time ago? Or that you suspected all along and waited for him to confirm it? What does “finally fully out” mean? Then you refer to “years of infidelity.” The best reporters usually are skeptical and keep digging. Whether your husband was partially or fully out, if you already knew about years of cheating, he might reasonably ask, what more did you need? He could turn your story against you. Cooperate with him, be his friend and help him. Asking for verification isn’t a lack of trust, it’s the ethics of his profession.

      It doesn’t mean he’s “pushing” you into a closet, either. Personally, I don’t believe anyone “pushes us” into a closet; I think we do that to ourselves. I think what more often “pushes us” into a closet is our own (undeserved) sense of shame. At least that’s how it was for me. Once I got that, it was easy to leave it.

    • “You cannot forgive that. Gay or not.”

      Certainly you can, if you want to and if you work towards that as a goal. It is work, and hard work, but as is so often the case, the best rewards require some of the hardest work. I have been able to forgive, and I know I am not alone in that, and I know the feeling of release and freedom that comes with that.

      I understand where you are coming from, because I was once there, but if you rephrase and own it, saying “I cannot forgive that” you would be taking control and reclaiming some power.

      • How about I don’t want to forgive that?

  3. ” we need the permission of your ex spouse to write about it…..or confirm it”

    If the journalist seeks the true story, why would the word of the gay spouse be used to “confirm” the story? In my case, he is the one who has lied, hidden, betrayed all his life. I’m the truthful one. Yet somehow, my story needs to be verified. He would deny that he had a role in the shattering of our family and our dreams, that I caused the divorce. He would not confirm my story at all — it is MY story, not his.
    Again, someone, in this case a journalist, dismisses me as a person and as a woman and seeks a higher authority over my own word. Again, I am invisible.

    • When a journalist attempts to verify or get confirmation of a story, it’s often a matter of avoiding charges of libel or defamation, as much as proving the content of the story. Of course your story is your story, but if you try to speak in your husband’s absence and without his knowledge, and provide his story for him or put words in his mouth, you could be opening a can of legal worms. You could also be putting the journalist’s reputation and career in jeopardy. That’s why he wants corroboration or verification. It doesn’t automatically mean he devalues your story, or dismisses you as a person (or as a woman – where did that come from?).

  4. Re-reading this post, something struck me for the first time. What if the difficulty in getting our stories told isn’t so much about the writers wanting to be gay friendly or not be gay offensive, or avoiding perceived homophobia. What if our anger is what makes writers or readers skittish about telling our stories?

    Hear me out: I absolutely agree that anger is healthy and a normal human response; we’ve earned the right to be angry. We have. It’s nothing for us to be ashamed of.

    But – from another person’s point of view – it’s never comfortable to be around someone who’s angry. It’s not easy to carry on a conversation with an angry person, let alone conduct an interview for a news piece. I don’t like being around angry people, but boy, oh, boy, when I’m angry, damn right I want someone to listen to me. This section of the blog really struck a chord with me:

    “One freelance writer once said to us “Don’t you have anyone I can speak to who isn’t so… so…angry? I really don’t want to write anything that might offend gay people.” — Truth must be told. Anger is part of the straight spouse experience.”

    Both points of view are honest and valid. I doubt any straight spouse wants to offend gay people on a broad scale. We know that would be self-defeating, cutting our noses off to spite our faces. More than most, we WANT gay people to feel safe to come out because we know what happens when they don’t feel safe to come out.

    At the same time, we want to be heard, understood and treated fairly. It’s the journalists (straight for the most part, I assume) who resist telling our stories. Is it because of a homophobia issue, or an anger issue? Or is it that our justified anger is interpreted as homophobia?

    It seems to me the straight spouse community needs a PR expert to help craft our message. This mix of earned anger, perceived homophobia and support for LGBT people is too confounding to be left up to us to figure it out, especially when we’re…

    • Excellent point about the anger. One simple point that I find very few who’ve not been our road can get: it’s not like a ‘normal marriage breakdown’, where couples can and do drift apart, move on, change. Marriage to a gay or lesbian means that from the very beginning, the first day, there was something off in the relationship. I can’t say to myself, ‘It was only from that point that things started to go downhill.’ From the very start, there was an unseen, unaddressed, unspoken gulf/crack/ failure waiting to come out.

      • All of that is true. And all of that is reason to be angry. But I don’t think we are as clear about the anger as we could be. It’s not very convincing to say that we are sympathetic to gay rights and be angry at our spouses. That’s a difficult concept to put across, because to an outsider, it seems to contradict itself. What are they hearing from us? That we support gay and lesbian people, but not our gay or lesbian spouse. That’s what they hear. I can imagine how difficult that must be for an outsider to resolve and make sense of it.

        The other thing that comes to mind is when we say nobody else gets it, who are we talking about precisely? Isn’t it usually our families and our shared friends? In other words, other straight people, for the most part. Is it really that they don’t “get it,” or is it that it’s awkward or unnerving or uncomfortable for them to discuss it? I imagine it sounds to them like we are asking them to take sides, to share in our anger. I’m not saying that is what we are doing, not consciously anyway, but that is likely the way they hear it from us. And from their perspective, that puts them in the unfair and difficult position of having to choose sides.

        That’s why I think a PR expert or a PR firm could be helpful. These are complicated ideas and strong, conflicting emotions and I think it could be very instructive to get an outsider’s objective opinion about how we come across. I mean the whole kit and kaboodle: focus groups, surveys, committees of straight spouses and gay and lesbian activists, questionnaires, interviews, all of it. We talk among ourselves, but how often do we ask for honest feedback and constructive critiques from the world outside the straight spouse community?

        Sometimes I think we shoot ourselves in the foot without realizing it.

    • This may sound angry :-), but seriously, the amount we obsess over not wanting to offend gay people is simply infuriating.

      Perhaps the answer lies in us differentiating between gay people as a whole and gay people who marry straight people after having deceived them. So perhaps it is time to find another term for the latter. Perhaps that will make our own responses more palatable to the outside world.

  5. I wonder how many of the journalists doing these stories are gay or straight – statistically I think nearly all of them would have to be straight. Then I wonder if any of them have been cheated on in their marriages or significant relationships, and if maybe it’s going to take them being cheated on to make them become just a wee bit more thoughtful or inquisitive about us in our marriages.

    Assuming most of them are straight themselves, I would have thought they’d try to imagine being in our shoes when they are getting ready to research or publish their stories. Journalists used to be trained to cover all sides of a story, and present all the sides factually and without prejudice, but these days it all seems to be about headlines, ratings and sensationalism. My theory is that our realities are too upsetting or bewildering for them if they were to imagine themselves in our shoes, and rather than “go there,” they demonstrate their “feel-good” acceptance of gays; as if reporting on our side of it would make them feel uncertain about their own lives.

  6. We’ve just had a three-day training-retreat time with the staff of the faith-based NGO that I’ve spent all my life working for. About 25 people, a handful of old friends and colleagues of many years, but mostly new and a lot younger. A very positive experience overall, but a renewed trauma for me.
    In the past, our movement stood for ‘absolute moral standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love’. So we were talking a lot about values and ethics. The trainer picked participants to act out a sketch, the couple with two children, and a female lover for the wife. In the very simple, brief scenario, the affair was over, but the husband asked his wife, ‘Is she your lover?’ And the wife answered from her script, ‘No. She’s just a friend. I love you.’ And all the participants were invited to move in the room to one of two positions: the wife was right or wrong to lie. So there was, for me, an elephant in the room that I couldn’t mention. I couldn’t say, ‘This is my/our story, but without the children.’ There were two friends there in whom I’ve confided, but neither of them showed any sign that they understood that my trauma was being re-triggered.
    So I had a terrible night. And there’s not a single day that goes by without me feeling this pain, and wondering how I can face another 20 years like this. My wife’s been away, and would I/could I share this with her? Well, I did. She was a little afraid that I might have outed her, which I didn’t. But I realized, again, that although she/we are ‘out’ to a handful of people, we’re not to ‘the world’. There I’m firmly in her closet.
    I feel that there’s little life left in me. No children, no grandchildren. Not one nephew or niece. And there’s this great divide between this inner desert, and the life that others see in me, in us both. Our sexuality is an un-adulterated, un-ambiguous disaster area, for us both. Most trauma fades into the past. We move on and away in time from a separation, a divorce, a disease. Not this.

  7. The need here, and in all articles, comments, media representations etc. is to make make the distinction clear between gay and lesbian orientation which is just there, and has to be dealt with, handled as best we all can. And lies, cheating, trust – breaking, behaviours that are ethically wrong and harmful whether they’re hetero or homo.

    I’ve just experienced a new trauma related to my ongoing MOM in my professional environment, and I think I want and need to write that up. So you mat see another post from me here!

    • You are more than welcome to write an article for us! Please see the guidelines, and contact janet@straightspouse.org for further information.

  8. Even worse are articles that fail to recognize the spouse and family that lay in ruins, devastated, and often destitute. The article goes on to only rain affirmation on the gay spouse pitying how brave they are and how difficult it must have been. Whether born out of fear of being labeled homophobic or just out of insensitivity, the writer compounds the pain of the straight spouse and reinforces and validates the cowardly and cruel behavior and decision making of the gay spouse. Straight spouses feel forgotten not just by their spouse but by society who fails to look for the complexities and casualties that are the real aftermath of someone else’s epiphany.

    • Excellent reply to an insightful article.
      In the U.K. This week, there has been yet another article about a brave and heroic young sportsman coming out…..with a brief mention of a broken marriage and the gay ex’s pain of explaining facts to the young children.
      It’s 5 years post separation for me after 25 years with my gay ex.
      Yes, I have moved on, and yes I fully support all people living life to the full irrespective of their sexuality. However, my pain, hurt, anger and resentment have, on occasion been almost immeasurable. These feelings have been compounded with the realisation that, as well as a closet gay for 25 years, in retrospect and most definitely now, my ex is a person with strong narcissistic traits and, put simply, is just not a nice person. We have no relationship whatsoever, despite having two children who are young adults. They each need to live their lives as 2 separate entities, 1 with me and one with their father.
      I do hope that, for their sake, one day that might change.

    • Well said, Dave!

    • I have been contacted by a program twice and each time they want to represent the gay spouse’s point of view. It does feel like our views need to be sanitised.
      I want to share the pain and how it has impacted my family of six children and five grandchildren.
      My ex left me suddenly 19 months ago and I now know he had an emotional affair set up.
      I still feel betrayal and grief but so many people want to minimise that and feel sorry for the gay spouse. They would not do that if I had been left for a woman!

      • You are exactly right, Julie. I am all for the LGTBX community. I am NOT for those who hide behind unsuspecting spouses for decades and leave us devastated while they go on to their happy lives.

    • Exactly right, Dave, and thank you for expressing it so well.

    • You are speaking from the heart!! Excellent response, few care about the reality of the casualties left behind by the gay spouse who decides the family outlived their usefulness. There seems to be a great deal of empathy for the gay spouse. The cruel behavior often has not as much to do with being gay as with being a narcissistic sociopath.

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