Saturday, September 22, 2012

Straight Spouses - The Collateral Damage of the "Ex-Gay" and "Change" Myths

A topic that I've addressed before but which needs much more exposure is the damage done to straight spouses who find themselves in marriages to gay/lesbian spouses who have married typically under pressure to conform to societal/family expectations and religious brainwashing that tells them that sexual orientation is changeable and that one can become "straight."   Despite the fact that all legitimate medical and mental health associations now condemn the "change myth" as I call it and hold that sexual orientation is not something that one can change, the leading Christofascist and anti-gay hate groups and many churches continue to push the myth that "gay is wrong" and that "change is possible."  Indeed, just this week Joel Osteen engaged in some of this batshitery even though he conceded that he did not "choose" to be heterosexual.  

A piece by Amity P. Buxton, (pictured above left) founder of the Straight Spouse Network, in Huffington Post looks at the plight of these men and women who find themselves in a whirlwind because their wives or husbands, as the case may be, tried to be straight, married and often had children as they deceived themselves and their spouses until the whole structure simply collapsed.  I'm one such formerly married gay with children and I've seen the collateral damage that the ex-gay charlatans and religious leaders like Pope Benedict XVI cause.   The evil they do to countless thousands of gays/lesbians and their straight spouses needs to be exposed and stopped.  Here are excerpts from the piece in Huffington Post:

Tucked in a corner of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender closet is a little-known group: straight women and men in heterosexual marriages whose husbands or wives come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender after marrying them as "the right thing to do." Finding the marriages too difficult to maintain due to their hidden sexual orientation or gender identity, they eventually say, "Honey, I'm gay," or, "I need to become the woman or man I am .  .  .  .

Though some couples work out ways to stay together, most divorce, their children now in a broken family. As divorced LGBT partners begin to live their lives with integrity, their straight ex-partners are left in shock, their own identity, integrity, and belief system shattered. The spotlight on the disclosing partners, few outsiders think about their wives or husbands. "They're straight! They're normal. No problem."

Lately, many people -- of all orientations -- say to me, "Oh, this doesn't happen nearly as often now, right?" Wrong.  While conditions are improving for same-sex relationships and transgender persons, these marriages still occur to meet heterosexist expectations, and LGBT spouses in them keep coming out.

More importantly, the larger community remains unaware of this wider range of harm caused by anti-same-sex and pro-heterosexual marriage beliefs. Straight spouses are injured by the very anti-gay or anti-trans/pro-straight factors in our society that caused their mates to marry them -- "collateral damage," some say. 

Once they know the truth, the vast majority divorce and must pick up the pieces of their fractured families to create a semblance of normalcy for their children. In addition, a number keep their ex-partners' "secret," wanting to avoid the latter's rejection by community, workplace, or place of worship, and to protect their children from taunts.  .  .  .  .  Few find the knowledgeable professional help they need.

It's time to pay attention to this invisible group. A new book does just that. Unseen-Unheard: The Journey of Straight Spouses, of which I am a co-author, opens the window onto their emotional, sexual, cognitive, psychological, relational, and spiritual trauma.

We wanted readers to see and hear straight spouses' anger at being in their mates' closet unknowingly, their disbelief that the marriage they knew was a mirage, their fear that they don't have strength to cope, their anxiety that their children will suffer, and their grief from letting go of what they thought they had. 

The good news is that most spouses gradually become triumphantly self-confident. Many gain understanding of why their mates married them, and a number, like me, become LGBT equality activists. The bad news is that the societal factors underlying these painful journeys persist, and, until we change them, painful stories like these will continue to be told.

The next time you hear some pastor, priest, televangelist snake oil merchant, Pope, or self-enriching "professional Christian" railing against gays and the homosexual agenda or claiming that gays can "change" I hope you will picture in your mind the men, women and children who are being condemned to doomed marriages  - all so that liars and hypocrites can either feel superior and good about themselves or so that they can line their pockets with money.  Tawdry whores are more virtuous than these "godly Christians." 


Estraven said...

As a person who runs a Bisexual Support Group and is a bi activist, unfortunately SSN has done a huge amount of damage to bisexual marriages. The leadership may be kind and well-meaning, but the local chapters are full of bitter, angry women who do not believe that bisexuals exist. When I came out as bisexual to my husband, all he needed was some education about bisexuality, understanding that most bisexuals are perfectly capable of monogamy, and a few months to adapt to the idea. Fourteen years later our marriage is stronger than ever, and he is proud of my work as an activist. SSN, at least many of the local chapters, tells people that bisexuals do not exist, and they have to face reality and get a divorce. This has destroyed bisexual marriages that could have been saved. I tried to speak to the women of my local chapter of SSN, and tell them that bisexuals DO exist, and even standing right in front of them, they simply refused to believe me.

I realize that SSN is not responsible for the biphobic notion that any same-sex contact makes a man gay. Nearly all the books, research, and on-line information on mixed-orientation marriage confuses truly gay men, who cannot be sexually aroused by women, with bisexual men, who can. Research shows that there is not only a gene for bi/homosexuality (same gene) but a separate one for wanting more than one partner. If a straight spousefinds out that she is married to a truly gay man, and will never have physical intimacy, that is a lot to ask. On the other hand, if a straight spouse finds out that she s married to a bisexual man, with whom she can have intimacy, and who does not want more than one partner, she needs to struggle with a new idea of who he is, not easy, but much easier. A group that says he does not exist is enormously harmful; bisexuals are actually the largest group in the LGBT rainbow.

If the man has the gene that makes it difficult for him to tolerate monogamy, that is a tricky situation, and makes her need the support of a group that well understands both bisexuality and polyamory, while respecting her feelings. That group is not SSN. Groups like that are described here:

Michael-in-Norfolk said...

I understand your concerns and believe me, I do understand the part about angry and bitter women. I suspect that some of the bitterness may stem from the fact that some women - my former wife was one - want to at first convince themselves that the husband is bi-sexual rather than gay. Once that effort collapses in the face of the reality that their husbands are in fact gay, it's an easy step to argue that no bisexuals really exist.

I do not believe the overall effort of SSN is to deny the existence of bisexuals. But in my experience, I know many more gays than bisexuals, so in the minds of hurt, angry and bitter women, it's sadly an easy step to refuse to believe that one's spouse can be attracted to both genders.

I continue to believe that the attacks on gas and bisexuals - i.e., anyone not 100% heterosexual need to end so as to end the unneeded pain and anguish of the non-gay or non-bisexual spouse.