Today is National Coming Out Day. It is a day that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has designated as a day to celebrate and support those who live openly as LGBTQ people or as their allies.
This year, the HRC honors all who have come out as LGBTQ or as straight allies for equality. They recognize that this takes bravery.
The Straight Spouse Network is an LGBTQ ally organization that serves straight spouses who may or may not be what the HRC considers allies. We serve the people who have it together. We serve the people who are falling apart. We serve the angry, the devastated, the isolated. We serve the recovering, the wounded, the people who have healed and are moving forward.
National Coming Out Day is a very difficult day for us. Here is why:
- Every year, the Straight Spouse Network sees an increase in the number of people who need us. National Coming Out Day triggers just that – an increase in the number of people who come out. And we, their straight spouses, are among the people they come out to.
- Coming Out Day reinforces the pain of those of us who are still forced into a closet by our LGBTQ spouses and ex-spouses. Many would like to come out as a straight spouse or as an LGBTQ straight ally, but cannot do so because it might endanger their lives or their livelihood. The threats are not always posed by the general culture. Sometimes the LGBTQ spouse threatens retribution or legal action if the straight spouse speaks openly.
- Some of us do take the opportunity and support provided by National Coming Out Day, to come out of our straight spouse closets. We may or may not be LGBTQ straight allies, but we make the decision to live in truth and stop hiding what happened from others who matter to us. Sometimes our coming out is welcomed, sometimes it is a cause for more ridicule, abuse, and attempts at gaslighting and isolation. Our coming out is seldom seen as a cause for celebration or an example of personal bravery. Yet it is a milestone in our lives which requires courage and strength.
We encourage all straight spouses to live honest, authentic lives in accordance with what is best for you and your family. Coming out for a straight spouse is not a matter of revenge, or getting even. It is a matter of refusing to live in someone else’s dark closet.
On National Coming Out Day, coming out is for straight spouses as well. When you are ready to tell your story – your own story, not the one other people think you should tell – we are here to support you taking a brave step forward. And we are here to support you as you struggle to find your way out of a closet that is not yours.
Today is National Coming Out Day. It’s a day that has some painful significance to many straight spouses.
We wish the LGBT people we married had come out much earlier; come out to us, and to themselves.
With all the publicity around coming out, it can feel like the stigma is gone, and coming out as a gay person might even seem trendy. It can seem like every day, a new celebrity or sports figure makes the announcement.
Yes, coming out is still difficult, and often unsafe, for gay people. Many people recognize that it is difficult for gay people to come out. But no one ever considers that while there is much celebration when a gay person comes out and is lauded for their honesty and bravery, their straight spouse is hurting and not flying the rainbow flag in celebration. Yes. we also are part of the rainbow family, even when we are angry, hurt, grieving, or just plain nasty.
That’s right. Straight spouses should be able to come out too. We should be able to tell our stories without fear, shame, or punishment. We had no control over what happened to us. We didn’t make our husbands gay or our wives lesbian. And we aren’t stupid.
Rather than being discarded as “collateral damage” by the gay community, we straight spouses have a need to come out as well. Our coming out stories are not causes for celebration. They are a chronicle of pain, deceit, and sometimes abuse.
Sometimes, it seems that there’s one person in our families or among our (former) friends who thinks that we are the punch line in bad jokes. Whether we are ridiculed for having no gaydar or cast aside because our anger is really inconvenient right now, or shunned or shamed for not trying hard enough to keep the marriage together, we experience all the homophobia that is heaped on gay people. Only we are not supposed to talk about it. If we talk about it, someone may be offended, or uncomfortable. Or someone may try to hurt our gay spouse. Or someone may hassle our children. Hey, does the apple fall far from the tree?
Or we might have to listen to the misbegotten advice of others who do not see us or our experience, only their own feelings about gay people and gay marriage. We might have to hear again that the way for us to heal is to join the fight for gay rights and march in the next gay pride parade. Or we might have to listen to another lecture about saving the marriage, God hating divorce, and living together as brother and sister (as if that were marriage).
So, for those of us who cannot come out, the Straight Spouse Network has done the job for us. This press release was widely circulated in the media today, and has been shared on Facebook and social media. It caused quite a stir in some of our networks. Here are some comments:
“I wish I could post this on my wall. I can’t be out because my ex is not out.”
“Oct 11 is the anniversary of the day she told me she was a lesbian and my world changed forever”
“October 11 is my wedding anniversary”
“People don’t realize ‘the closet’ includes wives, husbands, and children who had no say in how they were used by someone they love to hide behind”
“I never thought of myself as an LGBT ally – thanks to my ex, I am part of their family.”
“I decided to come out on National Coming Out Day as a straight spouse. I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper explaining about the Straight Spouse Network and what my experience was like. The following year, the paper contacted me in advance of October, and featured a piece on straight spouses for coming out day.”
Some of us cannot safely come out about being straight spouses publicly. But we should be able to come out to family, close friends, counselors, pastors, and whomever we choose to tell, without fear of recrimination, ridicule, accusations, and shame.
We must live in truth in order to complete the healing journey toward being our authentic selves as we rebuild our lives. For most of us, coming out is a private experience, involving our families, close friends, counselors. There’s no parade. No one tells us how heroic we are. Some fear how honest we are.
National Coming Out Day is our day too. Our lives matter.
This article originally appeared in 2014.
The Straight Spouse Network, an often invisible ally, offer their support on National Coming Out Day. Straight spouses are men and women who are or once were married to LGBT people. It is estimated that up to two million gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals have ever married.
Mahwah, NJ (PRWEB) September 26, 2010
The Human Rights Campaign has declared October 11 as National Coming Out Day. On this day, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and allies celebrate. The Straight Spouse Network, an often invisible ally, once again joins in support.
Straight spouses are men and women who are or once were married to LGBT people. It is estimated that up to two million gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals have ever married. In addition, an unknown number of transgender persons marry. When they come out, their spouses are devastated, feeling betrayed, and sexually rejected. Most family members and friends, even professionals and clergy, ignore or do not understand their pain and minimize their concerns. As a result, each straight wife or husband has to heal the wounds caused by the unexpected disclosure while dealing with their own identity crisis in isolation.
Spouses who find the Straight Spouse Network and its personal, confidential support system and research-based information begin to heal their personal trauma. They also gain understanding of the larger issue of homophobia that caused their partners to enter a traditional marriage in the first place.
“Many concerns of a straight spouse relate to anti-gay and anti-trans attitudes and behaviors in communities across the country,” says Kathy Callori, Executive Director of the Straight Spouse Network. “They, and their children too, are often stigmatized or isolated in social or religious groups. They also fear their LGBT partners will lose their jobs or community status if they come out publicly.”
For information about the Straight Spouse Network and how you can help them continue to help spouses heal and grow in understanding, see www.straightspouse.org
Today is National Coming Out Day. For the straight spouses of closeted gay people, this has special meaning.
Closets stifle us and our families. When we have to keep the secret of a gay spouse, and pretend to the world that all is well, that things are really just as they appear, it stifles us. Some of us keep those secrets for personal reasons, others for professional reasons. The secret has a cost to everyone who keeps it.
For the straight spouse whose husband or wife denies being gay while showing a sexual attraction to the same sex, the closet is particularly stifling – and dangerous. Many straight spouses of such people have found that once we know the secret, either through discovery or disclosure, great efforts are directed at keeping us silent – or should we choose to emerge from the marital closet, making sure that what we say is unbelievable.
Outrage is being shown on HBO this month. It’s an opportunity to catch a controversial film about closeted homosexual politicians who consistently vote or advocate laws and policies that are not in the best interests of homosexuals. Such powerful policy makers not only slam the closet door on themselves and their families, they manage to crush others caught in the emergence from that same closet.
Outrage features a few minutes with Dina McGreevey, as well as her ex husband, Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey. Their story of emerging publicly from the closet in 2004 is well documented, as is the tragedy of the public spectacle of their divorce. For many of us, that divorce and the publicity surrounding it was a lesson in what happens to straight spouses when we depart from the script of the gay partner, and speak with our own voice. It has been reported in several blogs that McGreevey was unhappy with the inclusion of his ex wife’s perspective in the film. We hope that is untrue speculation. For straight spouses, her testimony to her personal experience in this film confirms what many of us have also experienced.
Jim McGreevey is now out of office. Can you imagine the agony of a straight spouse whose husband or wife is still holding public office, or an important leadership position in business, clergy, or social policy making – and the silence they must keep or else risk humiliation, denial, and devastation? How many of those are there? We suspect that for every Dina McGreevey who is recognized and speaks out, there are several others who are unknown and suffer anonymously and in silence.
Today, we encourage all gay people to come out to their families. If you are married to a straight person, come out, honestly, compassionately. If you are a young person who is not out to your parents or siblings, share your secret if you feel it is safe to do so – you may find that although they grieve the loss of their expectations, they will still love you. Remember, as you come out, there are support groups for you and for your family. Tell your straight spouse about us. Tell your parents about PFLAG.
Today, if you are a straight spouse married to someone who is deeply closeted, come out of isolation by contacting the Straight Spouse Network. Our services are free, and completely confidential. Come out of that closet enough to know that you are not alone.