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Unreal Reality

Posted by on Jul 17, 2017 in Blog | 7 comments

By Janet McMonagle
Communications Director, Straight Spouse Network

From time to time, the Straight Spouse Network receives requests from media organizations who claim they want to connect with real live straight spouses. They want to tell the stories of our mixed orientation marriages, and feature actual people as part of the story.

These organizations appear to be interested in actually telling our stories. But many times, the story has already been written, and they want to dress it up. The truth of our experiences may or may not survive in their version of our own reality.

To our disappointment, such was the situation when we were contacted by a producer of popular reality show company. The producer had previously established a personal connection with our Facilitator Liaison, Linda Ehle-Callens, who is also our Creative Director/Web manager. Representatives started to informally float the idea for a new docu-series about Straight Spouses. Linda told them that we are so much more than straight wives, and the “club” spans the globe, with men and women of all ages, races, cultures and religions.

Wow. That was REALLY interesting. Representatives of the production company set up a meeting to discuss thenext steps with the Linda, our Executive Director Daphne Callen, and me, the Communications Director.

During our hour-long telephone meeting with the company’s top executives, producers and creative team, we shared our stories and spoke at length of the many situations that straight spouses encounter; divorce, staying married, discovery without disclosure, the increase in spouses of transgender people seeking our support, single parenting, the challenges of raising LGBTQ children, and the often perplexing attitudes of family and friends. They assured us that their idea was not a tawdry “straight wives club” but a more in-depth presentation, such as found in “Born This Way.”

We asked that the Straight Spouse Network be engaged as a consultant, not just a supplier of names and phone numbers or source to research potential cast members. We emphasized that the real reality cannot be scripted by people who have not experienced what we have experienced, and that the Straight Spouse Network input would be needed throughout the project. We also wanted some means of ongoing support for our real people, who would be telling real stories but might encounter the spin of some alternate reality in the name of ratings and social media traffic either during or post production.

In short, we wanted the assurance that our people to be allowed to really tell their real stories. We also told them that any involvement of the Straight Spouse Network would need the involvement of the Board of Directors, and that they would need to consult with our Founder, Amity Buxton, the most renowned expert in the sadly not too populated field of support for straight spouses.

At the end of our meeting, we were promised an outline of their creative concept. A week later we received a one page presentation; a potential pitch to networks that would air the show. It featured a headshot of Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, and stock photos of mostly white people in their 30s in fairly standard poses suggesting marital discord.  One featured a gay male couple in bed with the wife sitting on the edge pouting. (Yes, really.) The promotional text emphasized an “ensemble” of straight spouses, more along the lines of a group of people who form a false community in one location, similar to the real housewives shows.

We repeated that our group is diverse and many are a lot older than the models, having been in long term marriages. We also repeated our terms that the Board and Amity would need to be involved, and the Straight Spouse Network would do more than just supply names and numbers.

Suddenly they were not so interested in our help. They wanted the ensemble format, and did not want to cede any creative control. While this is certainly understandable, creativity in the realty show genre can take on an interesting meaning, where alleged reality is semi-scripted or a situation is set up.

Also, they preferred to deal with Linda as a sole contact, and not even involve Amity. Linda was not willing to take this on as a private project since s represents our organization, along with the rest of the Staff and Board.

In the end, we told them we chose not to go forward with supporting the project at as presented. They were not willing to deviate from their regular Reality format. So, yet again, there went our hope for true recognition. Perhaps they will come around again, and it will be workable.  Perhaps not.

We needed to tell you this story because, if you are contacted by anyone from a reality show, know that it didn’t come from us, and you need to tell us about it right away. More importantly, we realize that no one can tell our stories like we ourselves can.

Here’s the true reality of our lives – We ourselves need to tell our stories, and get them to be heard. Listened to. Acknowledged.

Many of us cannot even safely share the truth about our own personal experiences with our friends and family members. This is why the Straight Spouse Network is important. We must keep telling the truth about straight spouse experiences, male and female, married and divorced, around the world.

We do this through our website, and through social media. We do this when contacted by media for quotes and information about straight spouses. We do this when our people are contacted to speak to organizations in their communities about the straight spouse experience and share the support offered by the Straight Spouse Network. We do this when our people attend events sponsored by other organizations in the Rainbow World, such as PFLAG, or the Small Change conference, or the Human Rights Campaign.

WE. Do. This.
This is OUR reality.

In the future, we hope to create a regular podcast on our website which will highlight the experiences and perspectives of straight spouses, letting the world know about the truth of our lives, in our own words. We want to educate people who think we’re crybabies, or that we all hate LGBTQ people.

We’re still developing the programming and process for that, along with the funding. And we even have bigger dreams of one day finding funding to make our own documentaries and short films.

If you have experience with creating podcasts, and would like to volunteer your support, we would love to hear from you. In the meantime, if you have a story to tell, you can contact us about sharing it on our blog. Though I will need to know your true identity, your name need not be published. Our guidelines for submissions are here:

Blog Guest Writers Guidelines

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We’ve Been Busy

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Its been a busy month in the news for women who discovered they were married to gay men.  Take a look at our Facebook page this month, and you will find all sorts of stories.  Charlotte Rae, the house mother on Facts of Life, disclosed in her autobiography that she divorced her husband in 1975, after 25 years of marriage, because she learned he was gay.  Chinese courts are considering allowing women who are married to gay men to have their marriages annulled.  Cosmopolitan ran an article “I Married My Gay Best Friend“.  Huffpost Live featured Amity Buxton and others in an illuminating discussion about what happens when the gay husband leaves the marriage. And just this week, Judge Alex repeated a two part episode featuring a straight woman who had not known her husband was gay, even though they had been friends since adolescence.

Its very clear that the media is starting to notice the phenomenon of gay people marrying straight people, and all the different scenarios and outcomes.  There dont appear to be many mainstream media pieces about straight men who marry lesbians, but at least the topic is being recognized.  And its not just in the USA and Canada!  This phenomenon is truly global.

In the land down under, the Straight Spouse Network has an active network throughout Australia and New Zealand.  This is due in large part to the efforts of leaders Hannah and Michael, a married couple who were the straight spouses in their previous marriages.  At the beginning of January, they were featured prominently in Australia’s popular Take 5 Magazine.  It’s a nice look at how “happily ever after” can happen even in the midst of a devastating experience.  Its great to have two people who help so many others get some recognition!

The Straight Spouse Network is the only international support group for heterosexual people who are or were coupled with someone who is LGBT.  We are here for you whether you are married, divorced, never married, staying together, split apart, male, female, young, old, around the globe.  Check out the media in these links, and then share your story with us.  We are here to listen and understand.

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We’re Famous – Or is That Infamous?

Posted by on Sep 22, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

The Straight Spouse Network had a bit of fame this week.  After quite a bit of time between interviews, the Associated Press published an article about Amity Buxton and other California Straight Spouses, and their opposition to Prop 8.  You can read the widely distributed article here.

Now we are very happy to have the attention!  Thanks to this article, there are now several hundred thousand more people who know two things they didn’t know before:

1 Straight people actually need help when they find they are married to a gay person.

2. Yes, there’s a support group for that.

Nevertheless, among many of our straight spouses, there is a discomfort with supporting gay marriage.  Our fifteen minutes of media fame might lead some to believe that we’ve organized to support gay marriage.  While many of us are supportive of marriage rights for gay people, quite a few of us are not, or are undecided about this.  Our main purpose is to support straight spouses, not gay marriage.  To that end, we support all straight spouses, regardless of their politics or position.  Our board has taken a position, stated here, that affirms the right of all adults to marry, whether they are same gender unions or not, and opposes codifying marriage as between men and women only.  The purpose of that position is to remove a source of deception and pain to many of us.  It is not a call to rally the troops and join the struggle.

Of course, our moment of recognition in the national media is not caused by recognition of issues that are of importance to us.  It is focused on those straight spouses who support gay marriage.  There’s a perceived irony in some of us supporting gay rights – but it is no more ironic than the fact that some of the Straight Spouse Network’s most generous donors are gay.

It may surprise people, but there are gay spouses who recognize that we are a part of the rainbow family, whether we want to be or not.  They know that the best hope of building a bridge and strengthening an ongoing family relationship between divorced couples with children is for the straight spouse to connect with other people in similiar situations, and move forward with our own lives.  So they support us, and many of us support their desire for legal marriage to each other. Many straight spouses view this as a bridge to be built within their own family.  Others want to totally separate from gay spouses and the people with whom they have sexual relationships.

It may also be a surprise that we are not a large “gay agenda” funded pro gay group with large donations and professional grant writers.  We are a peer to peer support network for straight people who are picking up the pieces of their own lives and that of their families after they discover their husband or wife is gay.  We operate on a shoestring and depend on volunteer support.  We depend on contributions from those whom we have helped in the past, in order to be visible to those who will need our help in the present and future.

It will be a great day when we get mainstream media attention focused on our own experiences and needs, and not just as a peripheral group to gay concerns.  We have so many questions that we face all at once with discovery and disclosure – questions that most people would need to face in a larger time frame, but we face it all at once.  What do we tell the kids?  What do we tell the family?  What if we or our children don’t get along with the new gay partner, or want our children to have nothing to do with a spouse’s gay sex partner(s)?  What if we have HIV? How do we adjust to all this, and cope with the stress of divorce, financial questions, and heal and move forward?  Where can we find a therapist or counselor who gets our need for affirmation as we drown in a sea of self doubt, isolation, and sometimes degradation?  How do we cope with the spouse who is having a same sex relationship, but insists that they are not gay?

Somehow the discussion of all matters affecting families like ours is never about us.  But as long as the Straight Spouse Network maintains some visibility,even around “popular” topics like gay marriage,  people who thought they were the only one facing a highly dysfunctional situation with a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered spouse will know that there is at least one safe place where someone will listen, understand, and help.  You’ll find us, and we’ll help you!

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