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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…and Soon, Don’t Worry!

Posted by on Aug 1, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

On September 30, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the law which compels military personnel to not reveal their homosexuality will be gone. President Barack Obama certified its repeal on July 22. The time for military bases and communities to prepare for this change is growing short.  What does the repeal of DADT mean for the straight spouses of closeted LGBT soldiers?

It means freedom from fear.  It means that now we can proceed with counseling, HIV testing, consulting an attorney about separation or divorce, without worrying that if our privacy is compromised in any way, someone will out our military spouse and deprive our families of income, health care, and benefits.  It means that we can stop hiding.

It may take a while for military chaplains and counselors to catch up with the dynamics of working with our families of mixed orientation marriages.  It’s an adjustment. The Straight Spouse Network is here as a resource for all counseling professionals who need to learn about our perspectives and experiences.

Changes will come to the social life of military families as LGBT partners and children of previously closeted soldiers become visible.  As this visibility becomes more acceptable, it is our hope that military personnel will not feel it is quite so important to marry a heterosexual to appear “normal”.  We hope that straight spouses who are currently isolated into silence and complicity by fear will be free to seek support for themselves, and free to be honest about their marriages and the effect on their families.

Already, straight spouses of military personnel contact the Straight Spouse Network for free and highly confidential peer to peer support.  We expect that there will be an increase in their numbers as gay spouses come out or are outed by others. We have had a 25% increase in the number of spouses who seek our help in just this year alone.  Clearly, as the times are changing, so is the demand for the information, support, and affirmation that we offer.

The Straight Spouse Network is a nonprofit volunteer organization.  We rely on donations from those whom we assist, and the people who love and support them.  If you are a professional who makes use of our resources, if we’ve helped you in the past, if we’ve helped someone you love, please consider making a donation.  You’ll receive our newsletter and be able to keep up with all the latest developments affecting mixed orientation families.  Best of all, you’ll help families like ours gain stability, understanding, and healing as we go forward.

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Our Reality – On a TV Near You?

Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

There has been a lot of interest and comment  in our face to face and online chat groups about last week’s NCIS episode, which portrayed the straight spouse of a murdered naval petty officer. Whether we like the portrayal squeezed into a one hour murder mystery or not, one thing is clear:  the repeal of Dont ask Dont Tell has caused mainstrem media to actually NOTICE us, and the effect of a gay husband “at least being honest with himself” on the family.  Here at the Straight Spouse Network, we’ve seen some military spouses who have been dealing with the imperitive to keep hiding the real reason behind their divorce, separation, unhappiness.  With the repeal of DADT, we expect we will encounter more military straight spouses, as their gay spouses and the lovers of those gay spouses come out

We wont give away spoilers, and you can still catch the episode online or in repeats.  Don’t worry, the angry, bitter, hateful, drunken straight spouse didn’t do it.  But for those of us who have been through this experience, watching the interrogation scene where the wife of the murdered man’s lover is brought in for DUI and questioned about the murder is downright painful.  When told of the death of the officer, she replies “I hope it hurt”.

Oh, that is not nice.  Not nice at all.

But so true for so many of us, especially in the first months after disclosure or discovery.

In the interrogation scene, the emotions of hatred, embarrassment, shame, desire for a “real man” are shown.

Not nice.  Not nice at all.

But so true for so many of us, especially in the first months after disclosure or discovery.

The wife seeks solace in alcohol.

Not nice.  Not nice at all.

But so true for many of us, especially in the first months after disclosure or discovery.

She says she’s fighting to save her marriage, and a few seconds later admits to having been at a bar the night of the murder, “looking for a real man”.

Not nice.  Not nice at all.

But so true for so many of us, especially when our own sexuality is in shreds after a long term marriage to a gay person.

Its a bit much to expect that in a one hour episode focused on a murder that the journey for the jilted straight wife beyond the darkest point will be shown.  That would likely wrap it up in a nice neat package.  In fact, there is nothing nice, nor neat about this process for the straight spouse or the family.

We’re getting noticed, in all phases, and in different ways.  Did anyone catch the line on Modern Family, when an old girlfriend is asked if a character had a beard in high school she replies “You’re looking at her”?

What important now that media is actually noticing our existence, is to be truly visible in real life – as a real, honest human person who copes with this experience and finds solutions to move forward.  The anger is not politically correct, desirable, easy, or pretty.  But it is very real, and very normal and honest.  It is not a reason to dismiss the straight spouse as an angry, bitter, vindictive person who cannot deal with the truth.  It is not a reason to shun us, or our families.

We’re more than a joke, but as time goes on, we do find that humor helps!  Sometimes our gay spouses find our ability to be humorous a sign that we are somehow homophobic, bitter, angry, mean. Poliitally incorrect. After all, we sometimes laugh at them, the changes in appearance, the choice of friends.  Or we make jokes like the one in Modern Family.

The fact is, as we recover, we reclaim more of our true selves.  Humor is a healthy sign, even if it has a caustic edge at first.  Many of us supress that humor, that perspective, as it is considered by some to be politically incorrect.  Its not part of someone elses’ story of who we are supposed to be.

Anger, humor, self destructive behavior, crazy desire – these are all part of the range of the highs and lows of the roller coaster of being married to a gay person.  Anyone who has ever taken a long ride on a modern extreme roller coaster knows that once you get off, you could be a bit dizzy, disoriented, even sick.  But you get better.  And of course, there are people who never should go on a roller coaster for reasons of their health.  In an amusement park, they have that choice.  When it comes to dealing with a gay spouse, they have no choice or control.  They need help getting better, staying alive, remaining healthy, growing strong.  But all too often they are shunned, ignored, or patted on the back and told to get over it.  Fast.

The Straight Spouse Network is here to help all straight spouses find their best solution, gain support for their journey, regardless of the outcome of the marriage.Now more than ever, it’s possible for military straight spouses to seek the help they need in a confidential setting.  We are here for you!

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Shh! Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell! Gay Soldiers Have Families!

Posted by on Dec 16, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

If Congress gets its act together, and puts aside bickering in order to get the job done, we may finally see an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy that requires homosexual members of the armed services to keep their sexuality a secret.

The usual scares about combat and morality and morale are still being flung from the mouths of our statesmen.  What is never mentioned are the children.

The children of gay service members.

Right.

Gay soldiers have children.  Who knew?

Well yes.  They have children whom they adopted.  They have children conceived by artificial insemination, or surrogacy.  And of course as most of us on this website know, they have children by marrying a straight person who either doesn’t know or thinks oh well it doesn’t matter.  After a few years of marriage and children, we discover how much it does indeed matter.

Now, the children of gay soldiers married to straight spouses will be probably participating in base life.  Daycare.  School.  After school. Swimming lessons. Tennis lessons.  Baseball team.  Shopping at the commissary.  And going to reunions on base when the soldier returns.

Meantime the straight spouse is told by the soldier to keep it quiet. Don’t get tested.  Don’t go for counseling.  Don’t file for divorce. Don’t consult an attorney.

Don’t tell.  Or else it is all YOUR FAULT if they lose their job. Because YOU TOLD.

Besides, for the straight spouse who lives on base or takes advantage of services for families there, it is downright embarrassing. Because, you see, gay people don’t have families.  Gay people are obvious.  You should always know em when you see em, just don’t tell on em.  Besides, if there really were gay people on base, how could we keep telling all those great jokes?

Meantime, there are life partners of deployed gay soldiers who wait daily for an email or text message that says “I’m alive”.  Because if the soldier is not alive, no one will be paying that official condolence call.  The official next of kin, parents, siblings, might not “approve” of the gay partner or the children.  So they may not tell them.  If they do, it will certainly add to their burden of grief to have to break the news.

Even where gay marriage is legal, gay soldiers do not get married to their life partner.  Because that would be telling. And you know, gay people do not have families.  Because they’re so gay.

Meantime, when soldiers return home from Afghanistan and Iraq, their families show up on base for a big celebration and reunion.  Their spouses and children are all there, celebrating, experiencing the joy of the safe return in community with all the other families who have endured deployment.

Except the gay partners of gay soldiers and their children.  They cannot be there.  That would be telling.  Someone might notice the two mommy or two daddy family. And tell.

They rendezvous somewhere off base.  Somewhere no one will see. Sometimes the returning soldier has to hike a distance away from the base to return secretly to their family.

Because that would be telling.  That would be telling that gay soldiers have families.

While Congress dithers as usual, we want this question in front of all directly affected by Dont Ask Dont Tell:

When you are on the base, who do you want to be your neighbor, or share community activities at daycare, sports, commissary, clubs, golf?  The gay person whose straight spouse is keeping the secret, often in an emotionally abusive situation, or the gay soldier or officer who is openly gay and in a relationship, who may have a family?

Oh thats right, we forgot.  Gay people don’t have families.  Thats why they have to hide.  So you never find out that they do.  Shh.  Don’t tell.

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Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Lt. Choi Discharged

Posted by on Jul 23, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Lt Dan Choi was discharged from the United States Army today for the crime of revealing that he is homosexual.

You may remember Lt. Choi, as we wrote about him earlier in this blog.  Members of our group had the pleasure of meeting him at an event in Rockland County, NY.  Choi is a graduate of West Point, and has been twice deployed to Iraq.  He is an Arabic linguist, with skills that are in high demand.

But he’s gay.  And he’s honest about it.  So he’s gone.  Honorably discharged for a reason that requires him to be dishonorable, and dishonest.

What does this mean for straight spouses and our families?  Plenty.

While Lt. Dan Choi and others who serve honorably are required to be discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell if they disclose that they are homosexual,  there are plenty of straight spouses who are married to gay people who are still active in the military.  They are unable to seek help for themselves because they are afraid of outing their spouse, and losing the benefits active military and their dependents rely on.  They are afraid to get counseling, see a lawyer about divorce, or confide in a friend, for fear that someone will “tell” and their family will be financially ruined.

Some of those wives are in abusive relationships, and know about the homosexual activity their husbands are engaged in, both on base and while deployed.  They suffer in silence, afraid, isolated, cut off from the normal support systems of military families, because they are terrified that someone else will learn the secret.  The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy actually enables spousal abuse.

Gay people who have families with a partner cannot divulge that relationship.  If they are killed in action, it may be days before the partner knows.  The partner is not notified, because after all, there are no gay people allowed to serve in the military. The partner cannot legally marry them, even in states where gay people can be legally married, because that would be telling. The partner does not receive survivor benefits, and they and their children cannot take advantage of support systems for families of deployed soldiers.  After all, people who serve in the military are not gay, remember?

As the government sanctioned oppression of all spouses and partners of active duty soldiers who are gay but not supposed to be continues, we here at the Straight Spouse Network wish nothing but the best for Lt. Choi.  We are confident that he will continue to display the honor, valor, courage, and honesty he has shown in service to his country.  We also have reason to believe he will continue to practice the West Point Honor Code  “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do” in all his future endeavors.

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