Telling Our Stories by Speaking Out Loud
Our stories as straight spouses must be told. We are a diverse group of people, male, female, divorced, married, never married, from different countries, races, and cultures. The stories of our relationships with our LGBTQ spouses and partners are all different and distinct.
There are millions of us around the world. Yet our perspectives are seldom considered in any reporting of LGBTQ events and issues. So we have to do it. We have to tell our stories, speak our minds, give our opinions, come out of our closets.
We have to speak, because no one will speak for us.
This doesn’t mean outing your spouse in hostility or revenge. It means speaking up and speaking out.
Our voices must be heard. The Straight Spouse Network blog Straight Talk, and our social media outlets on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are dedicated to making the voices and experiences of straight spouses heard and seen.
Getting the word out through other news outlets can be frustrating at times. We’ve had some good coverage recently, including an article in San Jose Inside, and this Canadian broadcast. Dear Abby has mentioned us several times in giving advice. Several years ago a very expansive article appeared in Slate. But in general, when the Straight Spouse Network is approached by media, the story is already written and they just want a comment or someone to interview quickly.
You wouldn’t believe some of the requests we get.
There’s the purely exploitive request – you know, the one that wants “couples” so that they can film the big reveal of a gay spouse coming out, and then record the shock, grief, pain, and provide counseling to wrap it up in an hour, or over a series of a few weeks. Then there’s the “happy and gay” approach: they want “couples” again so that they can show how people really can get along, either remaining married or being best friends after divorce. (It’s never just amicable – it’s always “best friends”). Or they want to interview a straight spouse but first they need to use their real name and get permission from the gay spouse and nothing bad must be said that might offend LGBTQ people. So, the story of how humiliated you were when you told your doctor you needed testing for HIV is not likely to be shared there. Nor is the story about how things were relatively smooth with your lesbian wife until her girlfriend moved in and started shoving you around.
We do have media requests that we can help with occasionally. When they want a quote on research or statistics, we refer them to our founder, Amity Buxton. She also assists with some requests for couples that are from legitimate news sources. Sometimes we connect reporters with a local straight spouse who will share their story, but we do so carefully. We never reveal anyone’s information, and always have the approval of the straight spouse first. We never recommend that anyone who is new to this experience speak to the media. There is too much opportunity for distortion and exploitation – or misrepresentation.
It can be very disappointing to give an interview, be filmed, fill out surveys, and never have anything come of it, or find that what eventually is printed or aired is NOT the story you thought was being told.
Then there’s the comments in social media and on news sites. Most of us know that we proceed with those at our own risk.
It’s also painful to watch some author/celebrity interviews descend into the Grand Inquisition of “what did you know, when did you know it, how did you know”, or a request for the “Top Ten Signs That Your Husband is Gay”. (It’s never about the wife being a lesbian, guys, sorry….mainstream media doesn’t go there much, leaving the whole subject for discussion in “adults only after dark” programs where again, your point of view is discarded.)
That’s why it is important for straight spouses to speak out, speak up, and tell the truth about our lives, our families, and ourselves. Even if your LGBTQ spouse has forbidden you to talk. Even if they deny the truth that you know so well. Come out of their closet and live in your world. We know that for many people this is still impossible as some straight spouses have much to fear physically, legally, and financially from an LGBTQ spouse in denial as well as from society in general. But find someone you trust and tell your story, whether it is a close friend or relative, or another straight spouse. Find your voice and speak for yourself.
When you are ready, tell your friends and family. Sure you should be selective; it is not safe to tell everyone, and not just because LGBTQ people are targeted for hate. We are targets too. Many of us find that we become the target of bullying, hatred, jokes. Or we find out that they don’t believe us, or subject us to the Grand Inquisition.
We invite straight spouses and their adult children to share their stories with us. On our website, you can view different people telling their own personal experience. If you are not ready to be quite that forward, you can write about your experience to us for this blog. Guest submissions should be about 600-900 words. This is not to defame or out your spouse, it is to speak of your own experience.
Here are some suggested topics:
The coming out experience
Living with a spouse in denial
How your children have adjusted
Meeting your ex spouse’s new partner
Living with an STD or fear of having one as a result of same sex infidelity
“Pretzel logic” – twisted justifications from your ex about their behavior or statements about their orientation. For example “I’m not gay, I just enjoy having sex with men”, “everyone is gay what’s wrong with you”, “Its not cheating because you’re the only person of the opposite gender that I have sex with.”
Moving forward in a new marriage or relationship
We can publish articles under pen names if requested. For article guidelines and details, please contact Janet McMonagle, Communications Director.
We’ve all heard it before. Someone wants to be nice, acknowledging what happened in our marriages when our spouses came out of the closet. Sure, its bad for us, and not our fault but, hey, they’re so brave! They finally came out and are publicly living an authentic life. And….wait for it……you know it’s coming…..
They’re a hero.
That’s right. A hero. There is a widespread perception that coming out takes bravery, even if it is after decades of marriage to someone of the opposite gender who tried so hard to make things better, believing that perhaps they were not enough or were at fault for whatever problems surfaced.
Now it is true that coming out of the closet for LGBT people is very difficult, and being married to us makes it more difficult. Coming out is the right thing to do. Many of our spouses never come out; instead they deny the obvious and attempt to convince themselves and others that we are lying or crazy. But some of our spouses realize the necessity to do the right thing, and be honest with us, painful as that may be.
Doing the right thing takes some bravery. But is it heroic?
Does anyone ever tell the husband who cheats on his wife with other women that he’s a hero? Maybe they tell him that they understand why he goes outside the marriage for sex, maybe they sympathize with him. But even if he is doing what he needs to do, is he a hero?
Many straight spouses wonder on what planet is it heroic to lie to yourself and others about your sexual orientation, marry someone of the opposite sex, and then realize you have made a mistake and admit it. Yes, admitting it is the right thing to do. And sometimes our LGBT spouses are heroes. But not always.
We are heroes too. Maybe not always, but often. And few people ever recognize that or tell us how brave and strong we are.
Surviving a tragedy, a divorce, a disaster does not make us heroes. But we develop heroic qualities. We rebuild our lives. It is often not easy.
For one thing, when our husbands and wives come out of the closet to us and to our families, they tell their own stories. They don’t tell our story. Meanwhile, many of us go into a closet that is not of our own making. Many of us make a vow of silence at first, to not tell. After all, that would be “outing”. And of course, that would mean we are haters. Or, we feel the need to protect our LGBT spouse and our family from public discrimination and ridicule. So we are silent. And sometimes in our silence, we are blamed for the end of the marriage.
Sometimes when we break our silence, we have to stand up to our spouse’s anger. After all, you SAID you wouldn’t tell anyone and now you did! Some of our husbands and wives believe that when we tell the truth as we must, and stop shouldering the burden of secrecy alone, that this makes us liars too, and evens everything out. Or we have to face well meaning friends, family, co-workers, and counselors who tell us they know what we are going through, but…..
…but we shouldn’t tell. It’s not good to out someone.
…but we need to just get over it and move on. Now.
…but it’s all for the best. After all it can’t be easy for a gay person to pretend to be straight all those years.
…but everyone knew all along anyway so who cares what you have to say.
All the while, we discover the life we have been missing. We reconnect with ourselves. We do what we need to heal and move forward. Some people do not consider that to be brave. They consider it selfish.
When we do what needs to be done, moving forward, being civil, being honest, even in the face of unkind comments, misunderstandings, and even threats, we are being heroes as well. What’s important is that we are empowered to tell OUR stories, especially to those who give us strength, support, and courage.
Telling our own stories, not in anger or out of revenge, but as a way to speak the truth of our lives, is vital to our healing. It requires some bravery. And at times, it is heroic.
Just going forward into new relationships is heroic for some of us. We deal with our trust issues, and learn over time what intimacy can be – and what it wasn’t. Sometimes we do this at an advanced age.
Sometimes we never get the chance to have a sexual relationship with another human being. But we do go forward. We meet ourselves again.
Speaking the truth takes courage when others don’t want to hear, when others are more comfortable with silence or their own version of what our lives should be. There may not be a parade, a greeting card, a congratulation, a celebration, or a pass for everything we have done wrong. That’s ok. We are the heroes of our own lives.