Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Straight Spouses - the Other Victims of the "Ex-Gay" Myth

I've commented before on the manner in which the Christofascists who strive to keep the "ex-gay" myth alive care nothing about the harm they do to straight spouses who marry gays or lesbians who are either (i) in the closet trying to convince themselves they aren't gay, or (ii) deluding themselves into believing that they have "prayed away the gay."  Both categories of gays/lesbians are motivated, of course by those who condemn homosexuality and keep alive societal disapproval of same sex sexual orientation.  The motivation of the Christofascists - in addition to (a) making money running fraudulent "cure" ministries and/or (b) over compensating for their own same sex attractions - is to avoid admitting that the Bible is wrong about homosexuality so as to maintain their fantasy world religious beliefs.  With TLC having recently broadcast the ridiculous My Husband's Not Gay, one straight spouse has spoken out at Huffington Post and rightly blames the "godly folk" for the damage done to straight spouses and their children.  Here are post highlights:
As the hype around the TLC show My Husband's Not Gay begins to wane, I find it a shame that there has been little attention paid to the perspectives of straight women who have experienced being in a mixed-orientation marriage, where one spouse is gay and the other is straight.

The reality is too complex, hurtful and shrouded in embarrassment.  This embarrassment is also felt by the lesbian or gay spouse and is not to be diminished. The straight spouse, however, experiences these things from a different angle, and it is important to not overshadow his or her journey.

There are two things that are frustrating regarding mixed-orientation marriages. The biggest issue is how religious and archaic thinking exacerbates the problem of lesbian and gay people entering into "traditional" marriages. Secondly, straight women and men who have been blindsided by a spouse coming out experience shame and embarrassment, so much so that they often do not receive the help and support that they need from others, who remain unaware of how common this crisis is and how hurtful it can be.

 Straight spouses are often considered na├»ve, victims or even stupid. So it is not surprising that people who need support and empathy are too afraid to reach out during one of the most difficult times in their lives.

TLC used to be known as The Learning Channel. If they truly wanted to live up to their legacy, here are the things that they would help viewers learn about mixed-orientation marriages.

1. Finding out your spouse is lesbian or gay is one of the most painful experiences any straight spouse can go through. Many people who have experienced a spouse coming out of the closet hear the following from well-meaning comrades: "Well, at least you aren't being cheated on with another woman. I mean, who can compete with that?" This is not accurate. When a man comes out to a straight wife who never saw it coming, she often cannot grasp the possibility that her husband might be truly gay.  . . . . when a spouse comes out as gay, the entire marriage is called into question. There is an intense need to try to understand everything that the couple has ever been through, to figure out if it was even real or not. An affair with someone of the same sex is better? It isn't quite that simple.  

2. A straight spouse can try to stay married with the knowledge that their spouse is lesbian or gay, but they will always live with an enormous amount of distrust and suspicion. Many couples do try to stay together. While it is difficult to understand, some of the reasons include the number of years they have been married, a desire to stick it out for their children, a desire to work through it with the possibility of having an open marriage, or pressure from perceived religious or societal beliefs. . . . on the show on TLC, everything seems great for one of the couples until the husband, who is "same-sex-attracted," announces that he is going on a camping trip. His wife's face betrays her suspicions, and she has to talk herself into trusting him, even though he has cheated on her before in their own home. . . . This is not trust. This is not intimacy. 

3. Conservative religious views, including archaic ideas coming from society, keep many gay men and women from living honest, fulfilling lives. Instead, they pull other people into their world because they want to change, desperately. They get married. They have kids. They take positions of leadership in their churches and in civil society through politics. They wax eloquent about how fulfilling their lives are -- when all the while they are hiding, lying to themselves and others. Eventually, under extreme pressure, they often explode and ruin everything around them. . . . . Religion and archaic societal ideas are the very things that exacerbate an already difficult situation.

Legislating what marriage means in our secular world, keeping lesbian and gay people from having the same rights as everyone else, and preaching that being gay is a choice and a sin encourages people to be dishonest. It manipulates people into hiding this part of themselves by getting married to straight people, having children with them, and living a charade that will blow up in their faces -- and in the faces of those they don't want to hurt.

4. Until conservative religious people face the truth about what their beliefs do to people who are lesbian or gay and married to a straight spouse, there will be very little change in religious communities. The expression "Love the sinner but hate the sin" is not in the Bible. It is a philosophy that was devised by St. Augustine and has been taken out of context for entirely too long.

Until a religious conservative experiences a child or a spouse coming out of the closet, the degree to which this belief hurts people -- and even contributes to suicide -- cannot be fully understood. People who claim to know how to "fix" something that isn't broken, and haven't walked in those shoes, have no business trying to lecture, counsel or legislate on these issues, unless they truly try to understand the situation. It's impossible to "pray away the gay."

5. A relationship can go one of two ways after a spouse comes out as lesbian or gay: It can remain tenuous and bitter, or it can be beautiful. With a lot of time, work and compromise, a couple (especially one with children) can have a blended family without being married. Amicable divorce is possible. While it takes two people for it work, change is attainable and can turn tragedy into something wonderfully unique. Some people cannot move forward, especially if one of the spouses is unable to do what it takes because of selfishness or bitterness. This kind of thing is very sad, because it could have been avoided completely if our society and our religious leanings weren't so guilt- and pressure-oriented regarding lesbian and gay people. If lesbian and gay people are able to live openly and honestly, a lot of heartache can be avoided.

For people who are in this situation with kids, it can be a blessing. That may seem strange to hear, but ultimately, if it weren't for the marriage, the gift of being a parent would not have been experienced. This can be the silver lining that actually helps people choose the beautiful path of amicable divorce and living as a blended family. 
I suspect that my former wife will never fully forgive me.  From the perspective of the gay spouse, what is perhaps the hardest thing is convincing your straight spouse that you never meant to harm them.  For gays of my generation who grew up into early adulthood at a time when being gay was literally classified as a mental illness, one desperately sought to convince one's self that they were not really gay.  Adding to the pressure was the ever present poison of religion that depicted gays as depraved and headed toward Hell.   If these so-called mixed orientation marriages to be come a thing of the past, religion must be driven out of public policy and religious conservatives who out of laziness or a willing embrace of ignorance need to become the outcasts that they have tried to make gays. 

No comments: