The murder of forty-nine people and the wounding of fifty-three more in the early morning of 12 June 2016, represents not only the irrational violence of a man who pledged allegiance to ISIS with his hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It also represents one of the greatest fears of straight spouses.
We mourn those who have died because they are LGBTQ, particularly in a place where they were intended to be safe. We hope the physical wounds of those victims who survive will heal speedily, even as the emotional wounds take much longer. Our hearts go out to friends and family members, children and spouses who grieve for those who were killed and will keep vigil for the wounded survivors.
We know that quite likely, among those who mourn or keep vigil, are one or more straight spouses or fiancées of the LGBTQ victims. Perhaps they are learning for the first time that their spouses are LGBTQ when receiving a call from the authorities informing them of the wounding or death of their loved one. The Straight Spouse Network stands ready to support to those straight spouses.
As straight spouses, often bound by parenting children together, we know better than most the prejudices that face LGBTQ individuals. Even as we have to build new understanding of our lives after we learn of our LGBTQ spouses’ orientation, we continually fear that prejudices against them will bring them harm. In a nightclub in Orlando, at the hands of man whose hatred led to violence, our fears were realized – not for our own LGBTQ spouses, but for those who could be. For their sake, for the sake of their friends, and for the sake of their families, including straight spouses, we encourage every effort to undo the patterns of prejudice against LGBTQ people.
One of our stories is finally told in song and video. And it’s pretty real.
In Far Away, Marsha Ambrosius gives us the gift of a lyrical and soulfully poetic expression of all the emotions women have when they discover the man they love is gay. The video shows her coupled with a man who kisses another man full on the lips and is seen walking hand in hand in the park. That alone has attracted some controversy. Later, as the gay couple is walking in the park, a mother pulls her children away from them and the same hooded teams beat the man who is Marsha’s friend. The video ends with his suicide and a plea to end suicide. The images of the video don’t really suggest much about a sexual relationship between the man and woman, but the words are clear:
Ooh tear stains on my pillow
Tryin to forget you
Don’t know what I’m gonna do
More days and counting
I’ve been laying and staring
Myself in the mirror
All alone in my room
I can’t feel this way again
Gotta think with my head
Cause my heart is what got me here
So hurt from what you’ve done
More than enough reasons for me to move on
This is so much a piece of all our stories. The grief, the humiliation, the anger and shame – and the fear that if we speak too loudly, if we tell our stories, our gay exes will be the target of violence.
Some of us have also lost a gay relative or former spouse or lover to suicide.
In an interview on NPR, Marsha speaks of a gay friend who attempted suicide. She also says that she wanted to put the experience into song that was not like the usual loved and lost type of lyric. She has certainly succeeded.
The NPR commentary continues on to cite Pew foundation research that Black people are reluctant to deal with the real dynamics of having a gay man in the family because of the Black churches and other social factors. We find this type of over generalization to be very harmful. Black women are not the only ones affected by having a gay husband and facing up to his double life. Relegating the experience to the “down low” suggests that it is not as mainstream or as common across races, cultures, and religions as it is.
The other songs on the album are unusual, individual, clearly Marsha’s unique perspective. How refreshing!
We want to thank Marsha for singing about what was on her mind and in her heart. Finally, a song that many straight spouses fully understand, a song that tells of our feelings, our conflicts, and what is on our hearts.