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September 28th, 2012

Collateral Damage

The culture war is a battlefield with many dead hopes and dreams, mostly unseen and forgotten…

‘Collateral Damage’ in the LGBT Community: Straight Spouses, Still in the Darkest Corner of the Closet

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,” or their mates discover signs of a same-sex lover or an opposite-gender wardrobe. 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.”

No problem…   For the culture warriors anyway.   Years ago, when I became involved in the struggle of a gay teen who was forced into ex-gay therapy against his will, I had my eyes opened to a bitter little corner of the culture war that was mostly under the radar of mainstream notice. The many good and decent people scarred horribly from the experience of putting themselves, or having been put through, a relentless gauntlet of shame, allegedly for the sake of saving their souls.   But as is usually the case, the saviors were less interested in the people they were theoretically saving then in building their own stepping stones to heaven.   They didn’t follow up, they didn’t give a shit whatsoever about the fate of the saved.   It was all just theater.   Grist for their bar stool conceits about their status as God’s own right hand. And you never saw it more clearly then in the human suffering of straight spouses, mostly heterosexual women, who were nothing more then useful tools for the haters of homosexual people.

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. Those in mixed-orientation marriages, like their partners, feel unfulfilled by the sexual mismatch, often blaming themselves and accommodating their partners’ wishes at the expense of their own.

There were the gay folk themselves, but also parents shamed into believing that their son’s homosexuality was their fault.   And there were the spouses of homosexual men.   One thing you notice right away listening to the stories of the survivors of ex-gay therapy is how little attention is paid to women.   In the manner of righteous misogynistic patriarchal thugs, those women never mattered.   Lesbians were seldom a target of the ex-gay outfits.   They were focused almost exclusively on male homosexuality.   And so of course, heterosexual women lured into marriages with gay men didn’t matter, except as tools to cure men of their homosexuality.

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. If their partners disclose publicly, they are rightfully praised for their courage, while their straight ex-spouses are forgotten. Keeping the secret or feeling discounted, straight spouses retreat into their own kind of closet, invisible. Some find peer support through the Straight Spouse Network. Few find the knowledgeable professional help they need.

There is another victim of this human tragedy as well, unseen, unacknowledged, possibly even unaware themselves: other gay men, who might have loved, and been loved by those gay men, had they grown up in a world where their sexual nature was not used against them, for the sake of the righteous.

So much love lost to the world, to so many hearts left to wander the world alone.   So the righteous could make their stepping stones to heaven out of other people’s hopes and dreams of love.

I am not an atheist because I have a grudge against religion.   I stopped believing simply because I had to finally admit to myself that belief had stopped making sense to me.   But I will acknowledge that it was helped along by that relentless torrent of hate flung at me and at so many other good hearts simply for what we were.   It forced me to question the biblical truths I was raised to believe.   I think eventually the questions would have come anyway.   Having had the father I did, the whole concept of original sin, and being held guilty for acts not of my own doing, struck me as monstrously grotesque the moment I began of fully understand it.   But there is no doubt the questioning came sooner, and more forcefully, because I had to think about why such a wonderful, beautiful, life affirming thing as falling in love was, for me, proof that I was an abomination.

I’ve had it good, golden even, compared to what other gay people have had to endure.   I was never thrown out of my house, never had to hear my own parents tell me they hated me for what I was.   But I am alone.   I have been alone my entire life.   And I have seen the faces of others, so terribly alone as am I.   We homosexuals are a minority.   In the best of all possible worlds it would still have been a harder road to that place of peace and joy for us.   It didn’t have to be made worse.   Yes mother, yes father, I will take my heart, and all its hopes and dreams of love and devotion, and put them in this little coffin and bury it.   Because I am your good son…

I am an atheist. I love life, and this good earth, and I try to love the people who come my way in it.   I try to be a good neighbor.   I want love to succeed, if not for me then for others.   There is no despair in me in knowing that the end is the end.   It means that this life I have now is what I have to make right, make good.   To leave this world in some better way because I have walked in it is enough.   There is nobility there for me.   And hope.   But if there is a judgment day coming, I would rather answer for the life I’ve lived then have to answer for the life of someone who told a gay man to get himself married so God would not abandon him, and then be shown all the broken and destitute hearts that he thought on that day would be the proof of his love of God.

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