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Coming Out / Disclosure / Suspicion

In this section:

  • My Spouse Came Out.  Now What?
  • I think my spouse is lesbian/gay/bi or transgendered (LGBT) but I'm not sure.
  • He or she says that they are "bi"; how is that different from being gay? Is bisexuality a "stepping stone" to being gay?
  • I'm LGBT. How do I come out to my spouse/partner?

My Spouse Came Out.  Now What?

You've taken the first step by finding us. Now it's a matter of taking time to decide what is right for you as you move forward in your life. The Straight Spouse Network supports whatever path a you take, as long as it is not harmful to yourself or to others.

Finding a face-to-face support group, joining an email support list, or just talking with another person who has been in this situation can help immensely. You can find face-to-face groups, email lists and personal contacts by clicking on "Find Support" above.

Taking care of yourself should be a priority at this point in your journey. It can be very easy to allow yourself to be caught up in taking care of your spouse/partner or your children rather than taking care of yourself.

There is no specific path for people who discover that they are  straight spouses. Each person needs to decide what is most important to them and make their decisions based upon individual circumstances. We are here to help you with information and support during that process.

I think my spouse is lesbian/gay/bi or transgendered (LGBT) but I'm not sure.

Having suspicions and having true disclosure are completely different things. Not knowing for certain can cause a great deal of distress to some straight spouses who never actually hear the words "I'm lesbian", "I'm gay", "I'm bisexual", or "I'm transgendered" from their spouse.

There are websites that give checklists of how to tell if your spouse is gay, how to tell if he or she is cheating, etc.  However, they can be of limited value because at best they can only lead you to ask the right questions. They cannot, in and of themselves, tell you that you spouse is definitively LGBT.

Some websites will recommend "spy software" to track your spouse's internet activity and learn the truth that way. We don't agree that this approach is a healthy way to find out the truth. For most straight spouses, the fact that we were deceived is one of our biggest issues; spying to find the "truth" can harm us emotionally. If you do decide to use some sort of "spy software" be sure to check your local laws regarding the use of such products.

Instead of spying, we recommend asking the question as many times and different ways you can, to discover the truth. Counseling can be a good venue in which to approach the conversation, if your spouse/partner is open to that.

With that said, we need to emphasize again that you may never get "confirmation" that your spouse is LGBT. You may need to make decisions about your life without having that confirmation.

He or she says that they are "bi". How is that different from being gay? Is bisexuality a stepping stone to being gay?

The American Psychological Association describes Sexual orientation as follows:
"Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes." Using this description, people who have an enduring pattern of attraction to people of the opposite gender are referred to as heterosexual, those who have an enduring pattern of attraction to those of the same gender are referred to as homosexual (gay or lesbian) and those who have an enduring pattern of attraction to both genders are referred to as bisexual."

The APA further states, "Sexual orientation is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior)."

As you see, this can be a confusing subject. The Straight Spouse Network finds it most helpful not to worry about individual "labels", it is more helpful to focus on behavior and healing.

At our support group meetings, participants frequently relate that their mates came out to them originally as bisexual, but later changed that description to gay or lesbian. That change causes many straight spouses to feel that "bi" is merely a stepping stone to gay. In reality, gay spouses who do this are usually trying to "soften" the blow to their straight spouses/partners, not knowing that it adds to the confusion and feeling of betrayal.

Understanding Transgender Mates

Technical terms and acronyms:
Transgender, TG:  a person whose behavior, appearance, or identity cross, transcend, or do not conform to their biological or assigned sex. Transgenders include cross-dressers, transvestites, and transsexual persons.

Cross dresser (CD): a person, usually male, who  privately enjoys wearing the clothing, hair styles, makeup, etc. and uses mannerisms typical of someone of the opposite sex. 

Transvestite:  persons of either sex, generally males, who publicly and often flamboyantly use make up, dresses in the clothing of, and acts in the manner of the opposite sex. Sometimes called drag queens or kings.

Transsexual,TS; M2F, Male-to-female transsexual;  F2M, Female-to-male transsexual 

This is the medical condition of a woman being “trapped” in a man’s body or a man trapped in a woman’s body. One of the biggest decisions a transgender/transexual faces is making a plan for Sexual Reassignment Surgery preceded by hormone therapy and counselling. In these procedures sexual organs are removed or added to change a person’s body into that of the opposite sex. Some individuals are Dual gender: presenting themselves as one or the other sex alternately. 

As with straight/lgb couples, the trans partner’s struggle has a different focus from that of their spouse. Their’s is a struggle about something initiated from within. They are trying to create a different identity that matches their inner reality and to integrate that into their physicality. Their heterosexual spouses are attempting to integrate their partners’ new gender identity into their marriage, family, and future. In addition, the visibility of the trans partners’ physical changes can’t be hidden from public view. The straight spouse has to cope with all the emotions of their partner becoming another gender.

I'm LGBT. How do I come out to my spouse/partner?

With honesty and compassion. Generally speaking, you have been dealing with the fact that you are LGBT for much longer than your spouse has. You've had time to come to grips with how it affects you emotionally, so you have had time to consider how it will affect the family.

We have a more detailed entry on our blog with tips on how to come out to your spouse. View Blog Entry