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Straight Spouses: Homophobia – An Equal Opportunity Destroyer

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I have a litmus test that I use when meeting new people.  When I reveal why I got divorced – the way a person responds tells me all I need to know about them. Because of this blog, and my advocacy for the straight spouse community, my story is extremely public.  I’ve gotten comments like:

  • That’s impossible, you had to have known he was gay.
  • Then he was bisexual because no gay person can have sex with a straight person.
  • Homosexuality is sinful, disgusting, immoral, against God.
  • What an asshole – I hate f*ggots.
  • You turned him gay.
  • So do you hate gay men now?

Many who start trashing LGTB people expect me to chime right in.  It usually unnerves them when instead of joining them I immediately defend the LGTB community.  The gay haters expect me to agree with them because my life was negatively impacted by a gay person’s actions.  What they don’t understand is that I believe that my ex-husband was born gay, and that his sexual orientation was in no way shape or form a choice.  I also understand that if he wasn’t filled with so much self-hatred about being gay, he probably wouldn’t have married a straight woman.  He was desperate to try to suppress his sexual orientation and a lot of his motivation was due to self-loathing.  I also know that my ex-husband does not represent the entire LGTB community and his actions are his own.  The factor that indirectly lead to our marriage was – homophobia – the fear and hatred of homosexuality.

At the same time because I keep writing about the topic of Straight Spouses, some LGTB people have accused me of being homophobic. Some comments I’ve gotten:

  • Mixed orientation marriages are very nuanced.
  • Gay issues have nothing to do with you.
  • You are not allowed to write about your marriage – only your own experience.
  • It’s impossible for a straight person to be victimized by a gay person, because gay people have such a rough time of it.
  • You have no idea how hard it is to grow up as a gay child.

These same people will also say I’m playing the victim, yet in their own statements they are proclaiming their own greater victimization.  I admit I don’t know anything about growing up gay, but then a LGTB man or woman doesn’t know anything about being in a fraudulent marriage or living as a straight spouse.   Trying to compare each other’s personal experience or pain is a circular argument that gets both sides nowhere.  We have both suffered and the cause of our torment is from the same source – homophobia.

I could show the people who accuse me of being anti-gay the stacks of hate mail I’ve gotten when I’ve been published in support of the LGTB rights.  I might show them screen shots of the pure vitriol on my twitter account when I’ve dared to speak out in support of same-sex marriage or criticize a company like Chick-Fil-A for it’s anti-gay policies.  In fact my destroyed marriage has made me even more passionate about gay rights.  Homophobia is an equal opportunity destroyer, it hurts not just LGTB people directly but radiates out to negatively affect loved ones, family members and of course straight spouses.  My ex-husband’s self hatred and fear of his sexuality is exactly what motivated him to enter into a sham marriage.

No two straight spouse situations are exactly the same.  Some met their partners at a young age before either one of them truly understood their sexuality. Others are so deep in denial that they truly can’t comprehend their own sexuality and have no intention of misleading their spouse.  Some closeted partners remain faithful and do not have any sexual encounters outside the marriage.  However in the majority of cases our stories are far more tragic.  Many of our spouses had homosexual encounters before marriage and hid their background.  Lying about one’s history is a form of deception or fraud, regardless of the circumstances.

A few Straight Spouses I’ve known have had to bury their husbands with full-blown AIDS, some have even contracted HIV from a cheating spouse.  Others find themselves embroiled in vicious custody battles which drag on for years.  A few are completely abandoned physically and emotionally once their spouses are finally open about their sexuality.  Many Straight Spouses are financially ruined.  In the most twisted cases a closeted spouse will retreat even deeper into denial and marry another straight partner.  Many won’t even identify as bisexual but will insist they are straight, despite hard evidence of numerous affairs and sexual trysts with same-sex partners. Some create complicated lies to push all responsibility and blame on their spouses.  A few even claim their former spouses made them gay.  All of this behavior is a direct side effect of the hatred and fear of homosexuality.  Without homophobia there would be no reason for a LGTB person to enter into a mixed orientation marriage under false pretenses.  These marriages often leave both partners extremely damaged and is hardly a victimless crime.

When people in the LGTB community want to negate what happens in mixed orientation marriages they are hurting their larger cause. Straight Spouses are living proof that the hatred of homosexuality impacts more than just LGTB men and women.  If anti-gay forces could actually see what their policies were causing – divorce and broken families – they might reconsider trying to pressure LGTB people to live as heterosexuals.

Every group of human beings includes a few narcissistic, selfish and even sociopathic individuals.  Many people who marry others under false pretenses tend to share some of these personality traits.  It is not to say that these few represent the majority of the LGTB community.  Most LGTB people would never marry a straight person.  A generation ago it happened much more often, because hatred towards LGTB people was far more pronounced.  Hopefully as LGTB men and women are more accepted, and have equal rights, fewer LGTB people will feel the need to live a lie.   I have empathy for those who hate themselves so much that they enter into these marriages, but they lose my sympathy when they will not take responsibility for any harm they caused.  In many cases the deceptive spouse refuses to take any accountability.  Being gay and having a difficult childhood does not absolve anyone of the responsibility of hurting other people. Just imagine if every minority group tried to argue that every individual in their group had immunity for their actions due to their oppression – no one would buy that argument.  Homophobia is a mitigating factor, but a liar and a cheater is still responsible for his or her infidelity and deception.  Of course some mixed orientation marriages are open and honest.  If these marriages work for the two people involved in the partnership, good for them.  Unfortunately most mixed orientation marriages are based on massive deception.

I can’t speak for all Straight Spouses.  I’ve met a few who for religious or personal reasons, do no agree with homosexuality.  I can say though with some confidence most Straight Spouses want what the majority of LGTB people want – a culture that accepts being gay as normal as being heterosexual.  By speaking our truth and sharing our stories we are proof that a life inside “the closet” has real victims. Both spouses are harmed by these sham marriages as are our families.  It would make my life much easier to hide and not speak about this, but people need to know the ugly reality of what happens when LGTB men and women try to force themselves to live a lie.  There is nothing wrong with being gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or any of the many varied forms of human sexuality between consenting adults.   Straight Spouses do not hold the entire LGTB community responsible for the actions of our spouses.  We do NOT condemn LGTB people for being authentic and living their lives openly – no matter what their orientation.  Deception and lies, however wreck nothing but havoc and the reality of our situations needs to be exposed.  This is not a Straight Spouse vs. LGTB situation.  We’re really on the same team. Straight Spouses shouldn’t be forced into the closet our former partners just left.  As uncomfortable as our stories might make some people, they need to be heard.  A gay person may have hurt us badly, but that doesn’t mean we are against gay people.  In fact we want LGTB men and women to live as normal a life as anyone and for all marriages to be based on love and honesty – not deception and fear.

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How did you not know? – The worst thing to ask a Straight Spouse

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It’s the one question we all cringe when we hear it.  The one thing that brings more resentment and anger than any other.  The one inquiry that if people stopped and thought about it before they said it, they might not even think to ask.

It starts with the obvious

  • How did you not know he/she was gay?
  • How could you not tell he/she was gay?

The there is the mildly accusatory

  • He/She must have given you signs.
  • Didn’t you always have a suspicion from the start?

To the downright shaming

  • I just don’t understand how a person wouldn’t know their spouse was gay.
  • Didn’t you guys have sex?  How could he/she have sex with you if they were gay?
  • You knew before you married him/her right?

Straight spouses are men and women who end up in a mixed orientation marriage.  For the vast majority of us, we had no idea that our partners were homosexual or had any gay tendencies.  There is a saying in our community.  When our spouses come out of the closet we go into one.  Many straight spouses don’t want to bring added shame and stigma to their kids.  They also don’t want the judgment for something their spouse did.  So most straight spouses don’t openly talk about what happened to them.  It’s estimated that there are about 2 million straight spouses in the United States.  It not that we were all so sexually repressed we didn’t know the difference, we just married liars.  Our sex lives started out normal, and became dysfunctional.

Would anyone think to ask these types of questions to someone who had a spouse who was a serial cheater?  Would they think it was appropriate to blame a person who married a charming and habitual liar?  Would they assume that a person somehow should have seen signs of a well orchestrated cover-up?

Another one we get is along the lines of logic

  • Well I just don’t see why logically he/she would do that
  • That just doesn’t make sense, no one would care if he/she was gay

When anyone uses logic in the same breath as human sexuality I have to laugh.  Did it make any logical sense for Arnold Schwarzenegger to cheat on his beautiful, well-connected wife with the family’s average looking housekeeper?  Did it make sense for Anthony Weiner to repeatedly send explicit text messages and images to women he didn’t know, AFTER he had to resign from congress for the same behavior?  Did it make sense for Rhianna to date Chris Brown again AFTER he brutally beat her?  When it comes to sex and relationships, people act illogically all the time.  Gay men and women who marry straight partners are absolutely desperate to live what they see as a normal and healthy life.  Deep down they hate themselves and will do anything to try to fix what they see as a major flaw.  In most cases, our spouses viewed us as little more than props for their illusion.  They might have cared for us a great deal in their own twisted way, but ultimately we were means to an end.

Sex is relatively easy for most adults to pull off.  If we felt like our lives depended on it, most of us could stomach having sex with just about anyone.  We probably wouldn’t really enjoy ourselves, but if the alternative meant losing everything we held near and dear to our hearts, we might be able to find away through it.  That is basically how a lot of our spouses compartmentalized sex in our marriages.  As harsh as it may seem, most of our partners admit to fantasy, imagery and role-playing in order to have sex with their straight spouses.  The entire time they really wished they were with a same-sex partner.  For some of us, our partners could only pull off the charade for so long until our marriages basically became celibate.  Some used excuses such as past sexual trauma, erectile dysfunction or lowered hormones.   Meanwhile most if not all of these closeted gay men and women were actually having some type of homosexual sex outside of the marriage.

What is even worse is the assumption that sexual orientation is always so obvious.  Not every gay man speaks with a lisp, swishes when he walks, or spends an inordinate time on his appearance.  Not every gay woman dresses in a masculine way, has a short mannish haircut or refuses to wear makeup.  In fact, very few gay men and women act like a two-dimensional stereotype. There are many shades in the sexual orientation rainbow.  For a lot of straight spouses, our partners would appear heterosexual to most people.

When my ex-husband officially came out of the closet, even his close friends were in a state of disbelief.  Some even thought I may have started gay rumors to slander him.  My ex was notorious for leaving our apartment in shabby clothing, cheap shoes and looking generally disheveled.  He also aggressively pursued me and had multiple ex-girlfriends.  His last was a long-term relationship with a stunningly attractive Asian woman.   I didn’t know until I was many years into the marriage that he had sexual dysfunction or lack of sex in all of his previous relationships.  I didn’t know until after our divorce that he probably had same-sex relationships or at least homosexual sex long before I met him.  My case is typical, not exceptional.  Most straight spouses really do have no sign that their partners are living a secret life.  Much like the spouse of a philanderer is often the last to know that their spouse has had multiple affairs outside the marriage.

Ultimately people want order and rules in life.  They want to believe that bad things don’t happen to people without a reason.  They also want to think that somehow if they were in a terrible situation they would figure out a way to get out of it.  Well two-year olds sometimes get cancer while a few horrible people live well in their nineties.  The wealthy are sometime the nastiest most undeserving people, while some with very little have no limits for love and compassion.  Bad things sometimes happen to good people.   A wife or husband might be betrayed by the person they most adore.  I know these concepts might seem fairly obvious but I honestly wish more would think of them before asking:

How did you not know?

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