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Straight Out Loud

Posted by on Feb 23, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

By Jennifer Ferrante

An Ottawa radio station recently held a contest called “The New Normal.” It was open to Canadians identifying as transgender who want, or are in the process of transitioning.

During the contest I wrote the following to the radio station. Although I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get a response, it made me even more aware of the need to share my story.

help-and-supportI am a straight female but in the past two years my life has been directly touched by sexuality and identity issues. I am what you would call a Straight Spouse.

My husband was cheating since the day we met 7 years ago; with women from work as well as female escorts. We had only been married a year when I found out. Prior to discovery I always thought that if anyone cheated on me I would leave them immediately; but life is never as black and white as we think it will be.

We went to therapy for two years. He told me the cheating was because he felt self-conscious and insecure about certain aspects of his personal life. He seemed so heartbroken and was clearly hurting so deeply that I believed him and chose to stick by him to get help and work on things together.

Things got better and he wanted to start a family. We got pregnant and I gave birth to twins. While I was on maternity leave my contract ended and didn’t get renewed, so we found ourselves in a situation where the primary provider was unemployed. That of course is when I discovered that my husband was not only cheating again but he finally confessed that he was interested in pursuing sexual relationships with transgender individuals and possibly even men. I say confessed but really it was more him being found out because I discovered he used a secret credit card to pay female escorts in what I am told was a desperate attempt to convince himself that he was straight and to drown out thoughts of wanting to be with transgender individuals and men.

Not wanting to get caught, he left a balance on the card for two years, only paying the minimum by withdrawing more money from the card. Eventually he paid off the card by borrowing money from his parents, but asked them not to tell me. To this day I still have no idea how much money he spent over the years.

So now there I was, a first time mom of 6 month old twins who just lost her job and was now dealing with the total betrayal of her best friend and life partner as I dragged him kicking and screaming from the closet. We lost our house, our cars, and had to declare bankruptcy. Now I live in low income housing, even though I am well educated with a lot of experience.

This is the real damage that homophobia and transphobia causes. Despite everything I experienced I believe my soon to be ex-husband would be the first to say that I tried everything I could to support him and help him find the path to self-acceptance. Even though I was devastated and my heart was breaking, it was breaking even more for him. I can’t imagine hating yourself so much that you feel forced to live such an elaborate lie that even you start to believe. Although I still struggle  with some of his choices and the betrayal, I try to imagine how he must have felt growing up with family and friends he thought were too homophobic to confide in.

As a straight spouse we are the victims of the victims of homophobia. While my soon to be ex-husband may not be transgender, he is truly confused and full of self-loathing because of his attraction to the same sex. I think he is still a long way away from knowing and accepting who he really is, and that just breaks my heart. More than anything, I want him to be healthy, happy and to accept himself so that he can continue to be a good father and role model to our children as they grow, teaching them to love and accept themselves and others.

Although I am straight, I and my children are in many ways a living example of the collateral damage that the trans and homophobic attitudes of society have caused. Straight spouses are often silent in the background when a loved one comes out because they are ashamed, embarrassed or afraid of sounding homophobic, when in reality, most of us are allies and want equality.

There are support groups for those struggling with gender and sexuality issues. But sadly, there is little attention and even less support given to the straight spouses and children that are left behind when a loved one comes out. Too often this results in the straight spouse retreating into the same closet that their partner just vacated.

Everyone deserves the right to live the life they want; an authentic life unimpeded by fear or hate. I have seen firsthand the damage that fear and hate can cause because society has created a world in which people don’t feel safe to be their authentic selves.

There has to be a way to support both sides without playing a blame game. The conversation has to start somewhere and if there is any blame to be had it is not on the individuals but on the archaic prevailing social attitude of hate and discrimination. With proper dialogue, inclusion and support I believe that straight spouses and their partners can be allies and should both be able to hold their heads high and work towards a world where one day there will be no more straight spouses.

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Straight Spouse, Gay Marriage – a Family Question

Posted by on Nov 10, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

The legal struggles over gay marriage continue. Defeated in Maine, New Jersey appears to be the next battleground during the lame duck session.

Isn’t that a nice way to describe what happens to our families, too?  Battleground?

After all, we straight spouses are often referred to as “Collateral Damage”.  The dehumanizing of people with this term often happens in the context of a battle.  Actually, it happens during a war – and in our families, gay marriage is just one battle front, the one that is most often publicly acknowledged.

Proponents and opponents of gay marriage all have their own arguments about what happens to our families, and how gay marriage will affect society.  Those arguments never include us, unless of course, it is necessary to present some “collateral damage” to sustain an argument. Like the rest of America, the heterosexual men and women who are or have been married to gay and lesbian people are not unified on this issue.  It seems to be one of those mine fields that many of us avoid, where we’re told how we OUGHT to think and feel.

Some people honestly feel that gay marriage should be enacted at least on a civil level, and that if it were, perhaps there would be fewer incidents of “collateral damage”.  There might even be fewer incidents of straight people having their lives torn up after many years of living with someone else’s deception.

Others feel as though gay marriage is just another thing that is forced on them.  If they disagree or question anything or have any difficulty adjusting to the family situation, they are accused of “hate”.  Some of us have seen improvements in our overall family situation after divorce and adjustment to a gay or lesbian stepparent. Others have seen the same situation tear children apart, while straight parents weather accusations of “hate”, and bear the blame for “parental alientation” tinged with “homophobia”.

The current initiatives toward repealing existing laws that permit gay marriage do nothing for straight spouses.  Rather, they raise the vitriol that we endure as we seek to heal and move forward.

There is no discernable ministry to straight spouses among the religious groups that fund campaigns on both sides of the gay marriage question.  Some churches allow chapters of the Straight Spouse Network to meet in their buildings.  Beyond that, there is little attention paid to what we need on an ongoing basis from our faith communities and clergy.  Many straight spouses find that they are welcome in the faith communities of their origin only if they share the correct beliefs about gays and gay marriage, whatever those are supposed to be.  They find that clergy and secular counselors are entirely ignorant of what our needs are in counseling.  Instead, straight spouses are directed to resolve our conflicts in light of how counseling professionals and clergy feel about homosexuality. Join the struggle for gay marriage and gay clergy, or pray away the gay. Neither is an answer to our dilemmas and questions of faith.

We strongly suggest that those who are concerned with the state of marriage pay attention to developing resources for straight spouses to move forward with our honest lives.  We also believe that greater support from counseling, teaching, and social service professionals needs to be available for mixed orientation families coping with stepfamily issues. With or without gay marriage, these needs exist NOW.

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