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.
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!