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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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World AIDS Day is Today, December 1

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

World AIDS Day is today, December 1. It is a day to remember the 35 million people who have died from AIDS related illnesses, and show solidarity with the 78 million people around the world who are currently infected.  It is also a day to recognize that many people who are infected are unaware that they are HIV positive, as they have never been tested.

AIDS world_logo1Many partners of HIV positive people are unaware that they need to be tested, or that they are at risk for HIV and AIDS.

According to the World Health Organization, testing remains low among groups who are considered to be “key populations” and their partners.

“Testing also remains low among “key populations” and their partners – particularly men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in prisons – who comprise approximately 44% of the 1.9 million new adult HIV infections that occur each year.”  – World Health Organization

Yes.  That includes straight spouses.  We are partners of men who have sex with men. We are partners of  transgender people.

And many of us don’t know that our husbands are having sex with other men.  Many of us are unaware as of yet that our spouses are transgender, or struggling with gender identity.

Whether you are sure or not, whether you have proof or not, whether you have a spouse who you trust or not, you owe it to yourself to take care of yourself.  And if you know your spouse or partner is engaging in high risk behaviors, even if you believe they are taking precautions – you still have to take care of yourself.

Get tested.  HIV is not a death sentence anymore.  AIDS is not curable.  However, it is treatable, and people who have it lead long, productive lives when they have treatment.  But first, you need to be tested.

Getting tested is not as difficult or as scary as it used to be. If you are comfortable with getting tested through your family doctor or gynecologist, do so.  There are testing services offered by hospitals and clinics in many communities.  In some parts of the world,  self-testing is possible, meaning that you can perform the initial test in privacy, and then follow up with a medical professional for further testing if the results indicate that you need a second test. You can read the WHO guidelines on self testing here.

Find a way to get tested.  And do it.  Now.  Early detection is key to treatment having a good outcome. Community health clinics and local health departments offer testing, and many times it is free. Many clinics are opting for self testing, or rapid testing, with just an oral swab or a small needle prick.  Results are often available in as little as 20 minutes, and follow up is available for those whose rapid tests indicate a  person has HIV.

There are also HIV test kits that are sold through pharmacies.

Getting tested doesn’t mean you are unsupportive of your spouse.  It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them.  It means that you know or suspect that they are engaging or could possibly engage in high risk sexual behavior.  It means that you don’t trust the people they may be having sex with.  But most of all, it means that you are taking care of yourself.

Living in someone else’s closet can be dangerous to your health, even fatal.

Don’t wait until you’re sure about your suspicions about your spouse.  Don’t wait until you have “proof.” That day may never come.  But you have many more days ahead of you, and you deserve to live them in good health.

And if you’re wondering about all the powerful emotions you have about even HAVING to get tested – you are not alone.  You’ll find that many straight spouses understand the feeling all too well.

Stay alive.  Be well.

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