Telling Our Stories by Speaking Out Loud
Our stories as straight spouses must be told. We are a diverse group of people, male, female, divorced, married, never married, from different countries, races, and cultures. The stories of our relationships with our LGBTQ spouses and partners are all different and distinct.
There are millions of us around the world. Yet our perspectives are seldom considered in any reporting of LGBTQ events and issues. So we have to do it. We have to tell our stories, speak our minds, give our opinions, come out of our closets.
We have to speak, because no one will speak for us.
This doesn’t mean outing your spouse in hostility or revenge. It means speaking up and speaking out.
Our voices must be heard. The Straight Spouse Network blog Straight Talk, and our social media outlets on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are dedicated to making the voices and experiences of straight spouses heard and seen.
Getting the word out through other news outlets can be frustrating at times. We’ve had some good coverage recently, including an article in San Jose Inside, and this Canadian broadcast. Dear Abby has mentioned us several times in giving advice. Several years ago a very expansive article appeared in Slate. But in general, when the Straight Spouse Network is approached by media, the story is already written and they just want a comment or someone to interview quickly.
You wouldn’t believe some of the requests we get.
There’s the purely exploitive request – you know, the one that wants “couples” so that they can film the big reveal of a gay spouse coming out, and then record the shock, grief, pain, and provide counseling to wrap it up in an hour, or over a series of a few weeks. Then there’s the “happy and gay” approach: they want “couples” again so that they can show how people really can get along, either remaining married or being best friends after divorce. (It’s never just amicable – it’s always “best friends”). Or they want to interview a straight spouse but first they need to use their real name and get permission from the gay spouse and nothing bad must be said that might offend LGBTQ people. So, the story of how humiliated you were when you told your doctor you needed testing for HIV is not likely to be shared there. Nor is the story about how things were relatively smooth with your lesbian wife until her girlfriend moved in and started shoving you around.
We do have media requests that we can help with occasionally. When they want a quote on research or statistics, we refer them to our founder, Amity Buxton. She also assists with some requests for couples that are from legitimate news sources. Sometimes we connect reporters with a local straight spouse who will share their story, but we do so carefully. We never reveal anyone’s information, and always have the approval of the straight spouse first. We never recommend that anyone who is new to this experience speak to the media. There is too much opportunity for distortion and exploitation – or misrepresentation.
It can be very disappointing to give an interview, be filmed, fill out surveys, and never have anything come of it, or find that what eventually is printed or aired is NOT the story you thought was being told.
Then there’s the comments in social media and on news sites. Most of us know that we proceed with those at our own risk.
It’s also painful to watch some author/celebrity interviews descend into the Grand Inquisition of “what did you know, when did you know it, how did you know”, or a request for the “Top Ten Signs That Your Husband is Gay”. (It’s never about the wife being a lesbian, guys, sorry….mainstream media doesn’t go there much, leaving the whole subject for discussion in “adults only after dark” programs where again, your point of view is discarded.)
That’s why it is important for straight spouses to speak out, speak up, and tell the truth about our lives, our families, and ourselves. Even if your LGBTQ spouse has forbidden you to talk. Even if they deny the truth that you know so well. Come out of their closet and live in your world. We know that for many people this is still impossible as some straight spouses have much to fear physically, legally, and financially from an LGBTQ spouse in denial as well as from society in general. But find someone you trust and tell your story, whether it is a close friend or relative, or another straight spouse. Find your voice and speak for yourself.
When you are ready, tell your friends and family. Sure you should be selective; it is not safe to tell everyone, and not just because LGBTQ people are targeted for hate. We are targets too. Many of us find that we become the target of bullying, hatred, jokes. Or we find out that they don’t believe us, or subject us to the Grand Inquisition.
We invite straight spouses and their adult children to share their stories with us. On our website, you can view different people telling their own personal experience. If you are not ready to be quite that forward, you can write about your experience to us for this blog. Guest submissions should be about 600-900 words. This is not to defame or out your spouse, it is to speak of your own experience.
Here are some suggested topics:
The coming out experience
Living with a spouse in denial
How your children have adjusted
Meeting your ex spouse’s new partner
Living with an STD or fear of having one as a result of same sex infidelity
“Pretzel logic” – twisted justifications from your ex about their behavior or statements about their orientation. For example “I’m not gay, I just enjoy having sex with men”, “everyone is gay what’s wrong with you”, “Its not cheating because you’re the only person of the opposite gender that I have sex with.”
Moving forward in a new marriage or relationship
We can publish articles under pen names if requested. For article guidelines and details, please contact Janet McMonagle, Communications Director.
Springtime brings a lot of family holidays and celebrations with the beautiful blooms and warm weather. For straight spouses, these can be occasions of joy, but they can also be occasions for conflict. Even when we have moved on for a number of years, the joy of a wedding, a graduation, or the birth of a new grandchild can also come with a mixed feeling of dread at having to once again deal with our ex-spouse.
Unresolved issues often are at the heart of our anxiety at this events. Some awkward scenarios might include the following:
- Is the closet door open all the way? Who in the family or group of friends knows your spouse is LGBT? If we are out of the closet, we may not know what they have told their family and friends. Or, we may be sworn to secrecy only to find out that everyone else has known for a long time and accepts our spouse’s new life.
- Party Time! The in-laws that you were previously close to are hosting a big party for your child’s graduation, engagement, baby shower. And they have to invite you. You can come. Sure. You wonder if you should go, and probably be uncomfortable, or not go, and be perceived as being difficult.
- Maybe you are hosting the party. Your child makes the list and your ex in-laws are at the top of that list. So you invite them, but aren’t really sure about how they will receive the communication. You’re also not sure if the messages they pass to you through your son or daughter are actual responses.
- Or you WERE going to host a party, and only then did you find out that your ex-spouse or in-laws were planning a big bash which your son or daughter had no idea you hadn’t been invited to.
- Or maybe there’s a party, and everyone knows except you. Your child wonders why you aren’t coming.
- Other people’s unresolved issues. You and your ex are getting along pretty well now. But your parents, cousins, siblings have just never gotten over what your ex did to you. They make it clear that they WILL NOT speak to him/her. Or they are uncomfortable with the reality that your ex will bring their new partner/LGBT spouse.
There are dozens of scenarios that make family celebrations involving our adult or near adult children tough, even years after our separation or divorce. How do you approach these occasions, and make them memorable for the right reasons?
First, tune out the unimportant people and focus on the reason for the event itself. Your son or daughter is getting married, graduating from high school or college, having a baby, starting a new job. If they want you to be a part of the celebration, it has meaning for you. It means something to them that you will be there. You might turn down an invite to a party, but you should never exclude yourself from their wedding, graduation, ceremonies honoring them, or a major religious event such as a christening, a bris, or a naming ceremony for a grandchild.
Sometimes we think we just can’t go if our ex is there. But we must, if our children want us there.
So many of us have dealt with situations in the past that were beyond our control or our anticipation. Its normal to worry that something will go wrong. If you have experienced abuse or gaslighting in the past, it’s perfectly normal to wonder if your ex will attempt it publicly.
It’s important to recognize that the event is not about you – it’s about your child. It’s about your teen graduating high school, your son or daughter getting married and starting a new life, and the celebration of their happiness. If you can work things out with your spouse, great. If not, you still can go and make the day one of happiness for yourself and your family.
Some straight spouses who are still pretty emotional about contact with the ex at family celebrations have found that it is helpful to have a plan for avoiding drama. Find a private area, such as a rest room, to escape to if necessary. It helps to know who your friends are, and stay close to them if you don’t bring a date or have not remarried. If your ex has a problem with how your participation in an event, refer it to your adult son or daughter. For a teenager you may want to enlist the advice of a school counselor or teacher if possible. They can give you an idea of what is expected – and what is not. Remember, the day is about your child, not about you, and not about your ex either.
Stay sober. You cannot control yourself or the events around you if you have too much to drink. After all, you want a wedding or family celebration to be remembered as a wedding – not as the time you got plastered.
Give yourself permission to be emotional. Weddings are always emotional events for parents. Graduations are times that we remember the whole journey of raising a child, and birthday parties often take parents back to the day the child was born. Have some sense of how you will show your emotions. Its ok to show them. OK, don’t break down and collapse and turn on the flood of tears. But show your emotions. It really is ok.
Have an exit plan. Know when you plan to leave (for example, after the bride and groom leave, or when your friends start to leave.) While you are there, carry on with your head high. Look your best, and feel good.
Focus on the reason for the celebration – your child – and save the rest for later. It’s a day in your life, and then it is over. But the memory for your son or daughter and other family members will last.