In the American classic “The Scarlet Letter” Nathanial Hawthorne wrote about Hester Prynne, a woman who conceived a daughter through an adulterous affair with a minister. Her community, in 17th century Massachusetts, forces her to wear a red-letter “A” upon all of her clothing as a constant reminder of her transgression, and to publicly humiliate her.
Since I left my closeted gay husband nearly three years ago, I can relate to Prynne all too well as I have felt like a giant “G” for gay follows me wherever I go. But in my case the symbolic “G” I wear on my heart is bedazzled like a disco ball and surrounded by flashing lights.
This morning, on a dating website I get the following from a man who lives in all places Northern Illinois…I live in Brooklyn, NY so I have no idea why he wrote to me to begin with…
You seem to have a history of dating gay guys, at least that’s how your answers look to the casual observer. What’s up with that? You also said you just got divorced, is that what happened? I feel bad for you if that’s what happened… 🙁 Also, sex with the lights on should be a bit different than with them off, not exactly the same.
There is nothing on my profile that indicates that I divorced a gay man. The questions section is a separate section that another user would have to dig deeper to read. A few of the questions are about having sex with someone of the same gender or bisexuality, I did make some comments in that section but I never once say anything as blatant as…my ex was gay. I write things like if you even think you might be gay, please keep looking I am not the girl for you. The man from Illinois who sent this lovely email to me this morning…looked gay himself. He had artificially streaked blonde hair, and a couple of modeling shots that looked straight out of a gay sporting magazine – hairless bare chest and all.
I debated if I should just delete the email and move on. The last line about “sex with the lights on” really pushed me over the edge so I decided to write a response. I basically told him he was projecting and that to most women he might appear gay himself. I also encouraged him, that if he was gay that he should come out of the closet. I even suggested he read a book about gay self-hatred called “The Velvet Rage”. I know I should have deleted the email and not given it a second thought, but I sort of snapped. And I wouldn’t normally try to forcibly “out” anyone but since he had done the same to me, I didn’t hold back.
I spend nearly every day of my life trying to talk myself down from the very things this stranger from Illinois put in his email. Every day, I reinforce the sentiment that I am worthy of a normal relationship, that I am not defective or sexually inadequate. But then something like this happens and I think to myself…
“Maybe that is why I have had such a hard time dating”
Maybe deep down that is how straight men see me, as damaged or frigid. They may think to themselves what kind of woman would marry a gay man?
Because I have been so public and open about my situation I cannot escape my past. A common saying in the straight spouse community is that when our spouses come out of the closet we retreat into our own. In many mixed orientation marriages, a straight spouse is forced to keep secrets for months, sometimes years to protect their partner. I understand why each situation is different, as there are no easy answers for many mixed orientation marriages on the right time to disclose the truth. In my example I really didn’t see the need to continue the lies as my spouse and I had no children, and his sexual orientation would not affect his career. When my spouse came out of the closet, I made sure the doors were open as wide as possible.
I don’t regret that decision, but there has been a cost. By putting it out there, I can’t decide when I reveal this information to a potential new partner. If I try to hide it and they find this blog or any of the articles I have written for the Huffington Post, I look suspicious. Even if I wanted to delete every article that I have written about my marriage on this blog, the Huffington Post pieces remain, and I honestly don’t regret writing a single syllable. And since I have been working on a memoir about my marriage for months, the topic dominates my thoughts anyway.
I assume that some men might think I am asexual, have a decreased sex drive or that I find them attractive because they read as gay. I have no idea, but I know that since I have been single, I have had very little luck dating anyone. I guess many think I must have had something seriously wrong with me to have ended up in such a marriage.
But what I have found when I have met other straight spouses is that the problem doesn’t lie with us, it lies with our spouses. Most straight spouses are if anything, too loyal, nurturing and understanding towards their partners. We attracted our spouses in part because they knew we were the type of people who would stand by them. And then we get stigmatized when we did nothing more but to love another person unconditionally. It hardly seems fair, but so much of being a straight spouse is not fair.
Since I started writing about my marriage I occasionally get insanely cruel comments from strangers who mock my circumstances. I know I would have laid down my life for my spouse if needed, and that I put my entire heart and soul into my marriage. I believed that marriage was a sacred institution and did everything to keep mine intact. But there was nothing I could do to keep a house of cards from falling over. And now despite everything I have done to improve my life and move on, there are some that would still blame me for the lies of my former partner. But thanks to the internet I know I am not alone and that straight spouses are some of the strongest people out there. Eventually this will be so far in my past that I will no longer be defined by it, I will be in a loving committed relationship and won’t have to deal with random closeted men from Northern Illinois sending me hateful emails.
- One Straight Spouse who supports Same Sex Marriage (julietjeske.wordpress.com)
- Let me count the 1,138 ways (wordofawoman.com)
- A straight support group fortifies the former spouses of gays (uk.reuters.com)