Straight spouses are a diverse group. The one thing we can all count on having in common is that we have been married to a gay person. Sometimes we have our experiences in common, sometimes not. This is also true of our paths to recovery and healing.
Some straight spouses experience a desire to avoid all things gay. We may have not been bothered by this before, but now we change the channel when programs featuring LGBT performers or characters are on television. We wonder if the clerk in the store is gay. We wonder if our neighbor’s son is closeted, and if they know. We wonder if we’re the only one on board who is annoyed by the flamingly funny flight attendant who has passengers laughing through a flight. We avoid gay friends – or our relationship changed with them. Somehow we want all things, and all people, who are LGBT to disappear from our personal lives.
Some straight spouses do exactly the opposite. We find a path to healing by getting involved in advocacy for gay rights. We cultivate friendships with LGBT people. We read books about the LGBT experience, about coming out, about sexuality. For some of us, understanding who the gay spouse is and why they have behaved as they did is a big part of our own moving forward.
Both approaches are correct. Some people need the space away from LGBT life and culture to focus on who they are, what they want, and what their new direction is. what their new direction is. Some people need to connect with gay people, if only to assure themselves that they can still relate to them as friends, or to learn more about the experience. This is a reassurance that we did not cause our husbands or wives to be gay, and that gay people who are completely out of the closet do not behave as our spouses did.
One common frustration of straight spouses is that while we struggle to understand the gay experience or avoid it, few people within our general society or the LGBT part of it are attempting to understand us with the same zeal. While the Straight Spouse Network does support LBGT advocacy with two position papers concerning gay marriage and reparative therapies, our prime focus is on support of straight spouses and advocacy for our own needs. Sadly, we are forgotten by those supporting our former spouses in their new life, and are often ignored or marginalized by those who assist families in crisis.
Our own needs include a greater awareness among counseling and healthcare professionals of our perspectives, experiences, and the sheer number of straight spouses in society. Our own needs include recognition of our existence by the general public, and awareness of our need for help and ongoing support. Our own needs include more research on the topics of mixed orientation marriages and the straight spouse experience, across gender, culture, age, and nationality. Our own needs include defusing the homophobia that is targeted at us and our children through no fault of our own.
Our hope is that someday, the experiences of straight spouses will be just as commonly featured in the mainstream media as the experiences of gays, the debate over gay marriage, or the sensationalism of stories of closeted public figures being “caught”. In order to achieve the visibility necessary to reach all who desire our help, the Straight Spouse Network will need the financial and personal support of many people.
We’re here to help. Will you return the favor?