We’ve all heard it before. Someone wants to be nice, acknowledging what happened in our marriages when our spouses came out of the closet. Sure, its bad for us, and not our fault but, hey, they’re so brave! They finally came out and are publicly living an authentic life. And….wait for it……you know it’s coming…..
They’re a hero.
That’s right. A hero. There is a widespread perception that coming out takes bravery, even if it is after decades of marriage to someone of the opposite gender who tried so hard to make things better, believing that perhaps they were not enough or were at fault for whatever problems surfaced.
Now it is true that coming out of the closet for LGBT people is very difficult, and being married to us makes it more difficult. Coming out is the right thing to do. Many of our spouses never come out; instead they deny the obvious and attempt to convince themselves and others that we are lying or crazy. But some of our spouses realize the necessity to do the right thing, and be honest with us, painful as that may be.
Doing the right thing takes some bravery. But is it heroic?
Does anyone ever tell the husband who cheats on his wife with other women that he’s a hero? Maybe they tell him that they understand why he goes outside the marriage for sex, maybe they sympathize with him. But even if he is doing what he needs to do, is he a hero?
Many straight spouses wonder on what planet is it heroic to lie to yourself and others about your sexual orientation, marry someone of the opposite sex, and then realize you have made a mistake and admit it. Yes, admitting it is the right thing to do. And sometimes our LGBT spouses are heroes. But not always.
We are heroes too. Maybe not always, but often. And few people ever recognize that or tell us how brave and strong we are.
Surviving a tragedy, a divorce, a disaster does not make us heroes. But we develop heroic qualities. We rebuild our lives. It is often not easy.
For one thing, when our husbands and wives come out of the closet to us and to our families, they tell their own stories. They don’t tell our story. Meanwhile, many of us go into a closet that is not of our own making. Many of us make a vow of silence at first, to not tell. After all, that would be “outing”. And of course, that would mean we are haters. Or, we feel the need to protect our LGBT spouse and our family from public discrimination and ridicule. So we are silent. And sometimes in our silence, we are blamed for the end of the marriage.
Sometimes when we break our silence, we have to stand up to our spouse’s anger. After all, you SAID you wouldn’t tell anyone and now you did! Some of our husbands and wives believe that when we tell the truth as we must, and stop shouldering the burden of secrecy alone, that this makes us liars too, and evens everything out. Or we have to face well meaning friends, family, co-workers, and counselors who tell us they know what we are going through, but…..
…but we shouldn’t tell. It’s not good to out someone.
…but we need to just get over it and move on. Now.
…but it’s all for the best. After all it can’t be easy for a gay person to pretend to be straight all those years.
…but everyone knew all along anyway so who cares what you have to say.
All the while, we discover the life we have been missing. We reconnect with ourselves. We do what we need to heal and move forward. Some people do not consider that to be brave. They consider it selfish.
When we do what needs to be done, moving forward, being civil, being honest, even in the face of unkind comments, misunderstandings, and even threats, we are being heroes as well. What’s important is that we are empowered to tell OUR stories, especially to those who give us strength, support, and courage.
Telling our own stories, not in anger or out of revenge, but as a way to speak the truth of our lives, is vital to our healing. It requires some bravery. And at times, it is heroic.
Just going forward into new relationships is heroic for some of us. We deal with our trust issues, and learn over time what intimacy can be – and what it wasn’t. Sometimes we do this at an advanced age.
Sometimes we never get the chance to have a sexual relationship with another human being. But we do go forward. We meet ourselves again.
Speaking the truth takes courage when others don’t want to hear, when others are more comfortable with silence or their own version of what our lives should be. There may not be a parade, a greeting card, a congratulation, a celebration, or a pass for everything we have done wrong. That’s ok. We are the heroes of our own lives.