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All 2 Million of Us and Counting – Because We Count Too!

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Blog | 6 comments

June is Pride month, a time when LGBTQ people tell their stories out loud. Once upon a time, they could not do that without fear of being arrested, beaten or killed. Now, it is a time for straight spouses to tell our stories as well, because we count too.

Pride month occurs in June to commemorate the Stonewall uprising.  On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided a popular Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.  The reason given was that Stonewall was serving liquor without a license, but it was well known that police often targeted gay bars for raids at that time. However, this time was different. No one had ever fought back before.

As gay men and drag queens were being loaded into police vans, the crowd started throwing bottles.  The police called for backup, and rioting ensued on the neighboring streets.  In the following days, LGBTQ people demonstrated for their civil rights – the first time that demonstrations for their civil rights had ever taken place. Today, it remains important for people to live authentic lives, without fear or shame because of their sexual orientation.

And that includes us, the heterosexual current or former spouses and partners of LGBTQ people. There are millions of us – all around the world.

The long-held estimate of 2,000,000 straight spouses in the United States was always a conservative one.  Our founder, Amity Buxton, arrived at this figure when performing research for her book “The Other Side of the Closet” in the 1990s. She said:

“The 2,000,000 figure is derived from a conservative estimate of the incidence of more or less homosexual behavior (a mid-range figure of four accepted percentages of gay men who marry (twenty percent) and of lesbians who marry (eighteen to thirty-five percent), the percentage of bisexual men and women (at least twice as many as homosexuals) and the percentage of married bisexual persons (undetermined). 

– Amity Buxton

The Other Side of the ClosetObviously there is a greater likelihood that as more LGBTQ people tell their stories and live openly, the numbers change.  What was a conservative estimate of 2 million 20 years ago is now likely to be a very low estimate.  It remains difficult to calculate these numbers with certainty.  However, there is one thing we do know: the demand for assistance from the Straight Spouse Network has grown exponentially.

We used to get a few requests a week for help.  In April 2017, 188 new requests came in through our triage system. In addition, our website has seen a spike in hits.  We seem to attract a lot of hits from the Googled question “is my husband gay?” People seeking information on transgender spouses and lesbian wives also find us through Google. They comment on this blog, Straight Talk, on articles they find from these searches that we published years ago.  They message us on Facebook, thinking they are alone.

They join divorce support groups, only to find that there is much about their experience which is unique, and not understood. They join groups for spouses of recovering sex addicts, only to find that again, their experience is different. Some LGBTQ people are sex addicts.  But not all. They try talking to good friends and family, clergy and counselors, only to find that other people want to back off once issues pertaining to  having an LGBTQ spouse are raised.

Amity stated the problem for us clearly in the forward to “The Other Side of the Closet:

“Because the trauma is so profound, the process of recovery and transformation is long and arduous, requiring courage, patience, and persistence. It typically takes at least a year to resolve the pragmatic issues of damaged sexuality, changed relationship and conflicting parent-spouse roles. Two or more years are generally needed to resolve the more complex issues of fragmented identity, integrity, family configuration and belief system.  All told, it usually takes more than three years to construct a new life, and far longer to look dispassionately at the experience.”

– Amity Buxton

The Other Side of the ClosetIt’s an uncomfortable truth for many LGBTQ spouses, advocates, clergy and counselors to acknowledge – that the effect of living in a marriage or long term partnership with an LGBTQ spouse or partner is devastating to the heterosexual spouse, requiring, time for recovery, support, adjustment, and eventual healing. But it is true. This isn’t the same as any other infidelity.  It isn’t the same as any other lie.  It causes us to question our own sexual self worth, our ability to trust in relationships. And it takes TIME to work through it all.

Many of us do become advocates for LGBTQ rights.  Some of us are parents of LGBTQ children. And for some, being among advocates who seek positive changes in society while living honest authentic lives themselves is refreshing.

But for so many of us, it remains difficult to tell our stories, or have anyone truly listen without proposing a quick fix, or an admonition to “just get over it”.  And that is why the Straight Spouse Network is invaluable in the global support we provide. It often shocks many straight spouses to discover that they indeed are not alone – and that there are millions of us. 2 million in the USA and counting.  There are active chapters of the Straight Spouse Network in Canada, Australia, India, the UK, and there are contacts in Asia, Europe, and South America.

We don’t have a chapter or contact in China – not yet anyway. Scholars believe that 80% of the male homosexuals in China marry a woman, who is known as a tongqi. Approximately 31.2% of all tongqi marriages end in divorce.  Being married to a gay husband is not recognized as legal grounds for divorce in China, and many tongqi are financially dependent on their husbands.  Estimates of the number of tongqi in China range from 10 million to 20 million.

And that’s just wives of gay men. We haven’t found any statistics on men who marry lesbians in China.

When LGBTQ people cannot live authentic lives, that creates a greater likelihood of mixed orientation marriages. So during Pride month, as we support the rights of LGBTQ people, we remain dedicated to telling the stories from the other side of the closet. There is no need for a straight spouse to suffer in silence. We offer free, confidential peer-to-peer support, either in local face to face groups, or in secret online communities.

And we will continue to tell the stories of all straight spouses, male and female, married and divorced, whether there has been a “honey I’m gay” disclosure, or a denial resulting in questions that never seem to end.

2 million and counting in the USA.

 

Millions more across the planet.

 

We are not alone.

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Hate Crimes and the Absurd

Posted by on Oct 28, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

Things must be pretty quiet in Norwich. The police there appear to be excited by the distastefully mundane.

Pauline Howe, 67, is the wife of a Baptist minister living an apparently ordinary life in Norwich. When a gay pride parade was held locally, she showed up to participate in a counter demonstration. While handing out Christian leaflets, she claims she was subjected to verbal abuse by someone who whispered something nasty in her ear.

After the demonstration, she wrote a letter to the local council, expressing her displeasure that the demonstration had been allowed to happen at all. She alleged that homosexuals are Sodomites, contributed to the downfall of every empire, and that gay sex is a major cause of sexually transmitted diseases. Describing the march as a public display of indecency that was offensive to God, she wrote “It is shameful that this small but vociferous lobby should be allowed such a display unwarranted by the minimal number of homosexuals.”

OK, so she’s not going to be your gay husband or wife’s best friend. Or your gay child’s best friend. She’s probably not interested in being your best friend either. But does that make her guilty of a hate crime?

Mrs Howe received a written response from the council to her letter, informing her that ‘The content of your letter has been assessed as potentially being hate related because of the views you expressed towards people of a certain sexual orientation.

“Your details and details of the contents of your letter have been recorded as such and passed to the police.”

Sure enough, Mrs. Howe received a visit from the police. Her crime was that her letter had caused offense. Not surprisingly, Mrs Howe found the visit to be intimidating, frightening, and unwarranted.

Stonewall, the gay rights organization in the UK, has stated that the response is disproportionate.

NEWS FLASH: Being clueless is not illegal. Especially when you’re taken down for it by public servants who cannot even bring themselves to utter the words gay, lesbian, homosexual. A certain sexual orientation indeed. What a proper closet it is.

Things are definitely less quiet in Liverpool and Trafalgar Square, where two gay men were viciously attacked two weeks apart, after enduring verbal taunts. In Trafalgar Square, a 62 year old man was beaten to death after he responded to two girls who were screaming taunts at him. The girls and a 19 year old young man have been charged with manslaughter.

The Liverpool assault started when a mob of up to 20 boys descended upon a small group of homosexual men and women leaving a bar. 22 year old James Parkes, a policeman in training, announced he was with the police and ordered them to stop. Instead, he was set upon and given several skull fractures, a fractured eye socket, and a broken cheek bone. Two teens have been detained by police.

Did someone say “hate crime”?

Hmm. An elderly woman finds the going gets a bit verbally rough at the counter demonstration and expresses her indignation to her elected representatives.  OK, STRONGLY expresses her indignation, disgust, and loathing of the gay lifestyle.  Somehow that is supposed to be a hate crime, just like the young folks who hang out in the city street with nothing better to do than start a fight so they can call in a mob to finish it.

Perhaps the Norwich council needs to consider loaning their police force to Liverpool. The police might actually get training in how to respond to a real hate crime. And the council representatives might actually have to respond to people like Mrs. Howe all by themselves, and engage in actual conversation and dialogue.

Imagine a world where it is safe to express strong politically incorrect opinions in a civil manner without a visit from the police.

Imagine a world where it is safe to be openly gay and walk the streets without fear of death.

Imagine a world where people actually have better things to do than harass each other.

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