What About the Kids?
Lately, in the USA it‘s news that gay people can create children. Its news that they can parent children. And it is beyond the stretch of many people to realize that they can have children without marrying a straight spouse.
The children of straight spouses have a gay parent. They may also have a gay step parent, and a straight step parent. Some of our children live with us, the heterosexual parent. Some of our children live with the gay/lesbian parent. Some of these children may themselves be LGBT. Our children face many of the same issues in their lives as children of any other divorce. But they also face something unique.
At least one of their parents is gay. And for some, that affects how other people view them. Peers, teachers, neighbors, parents of peers. Sometimes its a pretty easy transition. Many times it is not.
Even if children of mixed orientation families are not bullied by their peers, it can take some adjustment for the families of those peers to accept their gay parents. Sometimes children of gay people are bullied by their peers and we straight parents must cope with school personnel who do nothing or who blame the victim – or blame us and our gay spouses. Sometimes children of gay parents see their parents being treated hatefully by others for loving a partner. Sometimes they arent bullied directly but hear constant “thats so gay” insults among their peers and wonder if they will be targeted because they have a gay parent. They live in a hostile and indifferent world that often denies their existence or the more positive realities of their familiy life. Sometimes, our children are gay themselves.
And sometimes, our children from our mixed orientation marriages are living with the gay parent, being raised by a gay couple in joint custody with us. Many resources have evolved to support gay parents, and to lift up the public perception that they are truly capable of having and raising children. There still remains scant awareness of the straight parent, or the parenting and step parenting conflicts that can commonly result and be resolved.
When we straight parents are the primary custodians of the children, we face dilemmas such as telling the children about the other parent’s homosexuality in an age appropriate way, communicating with the other parent and new same sex partner or spouse in a constructive way, and supporting our child with the social adjustment. We also face frustrations. We may delay getting involved with a new relationship but find that the gay spouse has moved on very quickly. Sometimes our children will notice multiple new friends, and ask us the questions they dont want to ask the gay parent.
The Straight Spouse Network is here to support us through these transitions, build bridges, help us find solutions. Our families matter.
The new year for many straight spouses means changes: new opportunities, new routines, new family life. Not all the changes are happy ones. Some are profoundly disturbing. The key is to look at these changes in our lives as new opportunities to learn, grow, and heal.
As we go forward in the new year, many straight spouses will face challenges of divorce, child custody, and the adjustment of all family members, including children and other relatives. They’ll face tremendous difficulties while coping with their own grief, loss, and anger. Some will bear the brunt of the anger of children and relatives, or the doubts of family and friends about themselves. It is not an easy path. The support of straight spouses by their peers is critical at this time.
The Straight Spouse Network is full of people who really do get it. Whether you are separating, divorcing, or remaining married we get it. Whether your spouse came out to you or continues to live in denial of the obvious, we get it. The peer support that we give face to face, on line, and on the phone is invaluable to straight spouses who face this monumental upheaval in their lives. So often we feel as though we are the only people in the universe with this experience, and wonder if something is really wrong with us. This is often confirmed by well meaning friends and family, and even counselors who are ignorant of our issues.
In putting our best foot forward, we benefit from the company of people who acknowledge our feelings and observations, and are unafraid and unashamed to share with us. We also benefit from resources provided by the Straight Spouse Network which we can share with supportive friends and family, our spouses, and our counselors.
The new year is always about new beginnings, new paths. No straight spouse has to go forward alone.