By Karen Bieman
Before every rainbow there is a storm.
I am thinking of those who have suffered in the years leading up to the current rainbow-fest and those who will continue to suffer, due to lingering homophobia and religious intolerance or condescension.
I am also definitely thinking of the far-too-many brave straight spouses who have endured years of a mismatched marriage, because someone who was gay felt unable to be honest with themselves or accept their same sex attraction, choosing instead to marry a straight person, taking them (without their knowledge) into their closet of shame. For these straight spouses, the glut of rainbows all over Facebook brings up a mix of emotions, some of which are very, very painful, yet some of which have a scent of hope that perhaps others will not suffer as they have.
I am thankful for the brave souls who dared to be true to themselves even when most of society judged or bullied them. The ones who dared to come out when the world shouted, hide away!
I am hopeful that there will continue to be a growing acceptance of people, not “in spite of” their sexuality (eg. “love the sinner hate the sin”), but inclusive of it, recognising that someone’s sexuality is an intrinsic part of **who they are**, not an addendum, or a choice.
I am hopeful of a better tomorrow for all people, regardless of race or gender or sexuality. But as we welcome that better tomorrow, let’s not forget those who have suffered along the way and continue to do so.
I am hopeful that with a growing acceptance of homosexuality there will be less bullying, less suicides, less unhappy lives lived inside a closet of shame, and less suffering straight spouses who unknowingly marry someone who is definitely not straight but wishes they were.
A new and better tomorrow really is possible. It is up to us.
Today is National Coming Out Day. For the straight spouses of closeted gay people, this has special meaning.
Closets stifle us and our families. When we have to keep the secret of a gay spouse, and pretend to the world that all is well, that things are really just as they appear, it stifles us. Some of us keep those secrets for personal reasons, others for professional reasons. The secret has a cost to everyone who keeps it.
For the straight spouse whose husband or wife denies being gay while showing a sexual attraction to the same sex, the closet is particularly stifling – and dangerous. Many straight spouses of such people have found that once we know the secret, either through discovery or disclosure, great efforts are directed at keeping us silent – or should we choose to emerge from the marital closet, making sure that what we say is unbelievable.
Outrage is being shown on HBO this month. It’s an opportunity to catch a controversial film about closeted homosexual politicians who consistently vote or advocate laws and policies that are not in the best interests of homosexuals. Such powerful policy makers not only slam the closet door on themselves and their families, they manage to crush others caught in the emergence from that same closet.
Outrage features a few minutes with Dina McGreevey, as well as her ex husband, Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey. Their story of emerging publicly from the closet in 2004 is well documented, as is the tragedy of the public spectacle of their divorce. For many of us, that divorce and the publicity surrounding it was a lesson in what happens to straight spouses when we depart from the script of the gay partner, and speak with our own voice. It has been reported in several blogs that McGreevey was unhappy with the inclusion of his ex wife’s perspective in the film. We hope that is untrue speculation. For straight spouses, her testimony to her personal experience in this film confirms what many of us have also experienced.
Jim McGreevey is now out of office. Can you imagine the agony of a straight spouse whose husband or wife is still holding public office, or an important leadership position in business, clergy, or social policy making – and the silence they must keep or else risk humiliation, denial, and devastation? How many of those are there? We suspect that for every Dina McGreevey who is recognized and speaks out, there are several others who are unknown and suffer anonymously and in silence.
Today, we encourage all gay people to come out to their families. If you are married to a straight person, come out, honestly, compassionately. If you are a young person who is not out to your parents or siblings, share your secret if you feel it is safe to do so – you may find that although they grieve the loss of their expectations, they will still love you. Remember, as you come out, there are support groups for you and for your family. Tell your straight spouse about us. Tell your parents about PFLAG.
Today, if you are a straight spouse married to someone who is deeply closeted, come out of isolation by contacting the Straight Spouse Network. Our services are free, and completely confidential. Come out of that closet enough to know that you are not alone.