Today was an emotional day. It was all together challenging, rewarding, beautiful, sad and happy. All the feels of life and in particular the past two years condensed into one day. As individuals my ex and I have come a long way the hard way in the past two years. This was the first time he felt comfortable enough to ask us to attend the PRIDE parade with him as a family. For many reasons, some of which I blog about (www.straightoutloud.com) and even though I still feel that the LGBTQ+ community could and should be doing more to help acknowledge and support spouses/partners left behind after discovery or a partners coming out and after all the heartbreak and hardship of the past 2 years I still went to the parade today because I know how important it is to teach my children that love is love and that everyone deserves the freedom to live authentically. During the parade I felt a lot of love and warmth and was happy to see so many people celebrating and supporting but at times I also felt waves of sadness knowing that people were looking at my ‘family’ and thinking we were a happy hetero ally family, and while we are allies we are so much more than just that. My goal this year is to continue raising awareness and connecting with LGBTQ+ organizations to foster support and partnership for mixed orientation families, straight spouses and other partners who’s loved ones come out as LGBTQ+. There are more of us then you realize and likely to be even more in the next 5 years. We too are victims of homophobia/transphobia and need to feel loved and supported, not silenced and shamed. Maybe next year there will be a straight spouses/partners/mixed orientation family banner and community presence in the parade…. And maybe just maybe, one day there will be no more straight spouses/ partners left behind at all. #loveislove #healing #straightspouse #mixedorientationfamily
PRIDE (and prejudice)
Tomorrow is the start of PRIDE week in my city and it always fills me with mixed emotions. While on one hand I think its great that PRIDE exists and that the LGBTQ+ community can celebrate, raise awareness etc. However, ever since TGT it no longer feels quite so easy and simple. After the initial shock and turmoil that comes with the discovery that your spouse isn’t straight; I started trying to raise awareness and advocate. I became a facilitator for the straight spouse support network and started a local face-to-face support group in my city. Our first meeting was held in a room we rented from a local community organization whose mandate is to provide mental health support for all citizens. However, when we shared our poster and information about our Straight Spouse Support group, to help people who’s partners have come out as LGBTQ+ with that community organization they told us that we would no longer be able to hold meetings in that space. They used the rationale that this was because our group excluded people of the LGBTQ+. To me this didn’t seem fair as they had a poster in there lobby about an LGBTQ+ event they were hosting that didn’t include straight people and that didn’t seem to be a problem with them. This organization was not specifically an LGBTQ+ but an organization meant to serve the entire community and yet her they were excluding us from having a safe place to meet and share our feelings and work on healing. That just didn’t seem right. After that I tried meeting with their senior staff to better explain our purpose and goals and to create awareness and educate that we are not a homophobic group. Would straight people be invited to a lesbian gay or bisexual support group? No because then people wouldn’t feel comfortable exploring and expressing their feeling authentically. Does that mean those groups are deliberate excluding or even hate straight people no, absolutely not. True equality does not mean everyone has to get the same treatment, or access the same programs or eat the same food or do the same thing all the time. It means everyone has the right to feel safe and express themselves and live authentically while respecting each other’s differences. How could this organization not understand that? Still we were turned away.
Next I tried to reach out to LGBTQ+ organizations, as my ex spouse who was using there services shared with me that some of the people in his support groups had recently come out to or left their unknowing partners and that maybe these people would like their partners, spouses or love ones to know that they were not alone and that there is a group where they to can get support for the grief, and transition they are dealing with being the partner left behind. I approached these groups to explain who we were and what we offered, if they weren’t willing or able to build a partnership at that time I would understand but would they at least be open to sharing the news and contact information about our group with their members and clients so that it might help other partners who have been left behind when their spouse came out. Most of these organizations didn’t even acknowledge my emails or calls, some said no and one said maybe but a year later we are still waiting to connect and move the issue forward and news of our group still isn’t being openly shared.
I contacted media too and very few wanted to print a story, have an interview or talk about the issue. All I wanted to do was raise awareness and let other straight spouses or partners of people who have come out know that they were not alone and that there is somewhere for them to see support.
So all this turning us away really started to send the message from the LGBTQ+ community that they want straight spouses or partners of people who have come out to remain silent or to hide quietly in the closet their spouse/partner just vacated. And that is why I struggle with supporting PRIDE this year. I know that not all LGBTQ+ community members have betrayed a straight loved one by coming out of the closet later in life and I know that the reason this stuff even happens is because of societies fear and long standing homophobic, transphobic attitudes but still I struggle with how it is possible to celebrate PRIDE without full disclosure and honesty, as a larger organization or movement how can the LGBTQ+ community in this city truthfully celebrate PRIDE when they are excluding, or turning a blind eye to part of their rainbow family ( straight spouses, or betrayed partners who may not even be straight but weren’t aware of their partners own LGBTQ+ identity, and children of mixed orientation marriages) To me true PRIDE comes when we acknowledge all the parts or ourselves and our actions, even the parts where we may have been afraid, or hurt people or made poor choices etc. I think we can only really celebrate PRIDE when we acknowledge and celebrate it all, the whole beautiful, messy wonderful and painful journey that makes us human.
I wonder will we ever see a PRIDE week where straight spouses, or betrayed partners who may not even be straight but weren’t aware of their partners own LGBTQ+ identity, and children of mixed orientation marriages are openly included in the festivities? Where they can have a voice and share their stories, where we can celebrate life and differences and work toward healing, co-parenting and loving one another together? Will there come a day when myself, my children and their LGBTQ+ dad can walk together proudly in the PRIDE parade and acknowledge that yes it is great that he can now live an authentic life but that there was some hurt there Will there ever be a day where it is acknowledged that we too are part of the rainbow family, and that whether we chose to be or not it doesn’t have to take away from or tarnish the LGBTQ+ community. A day that we can be acknowledged loved and accepted: a day that we can all truly have PRIDE.
I was looking through my phone history to share a picture of the girls when they were 6 months with a friend because her daughter just turned 6 month so we were swapping pictures. (Even though my twins are 2 now. Anyway, point is I stumbled across a screenshot I took back then from when I found out my spouse was in the closet and I just had to share. My hope in sharing this is not to shame or embarrass anyone but rather I hope to enlighten some people who want to brush off what we s a straight spouses go through so easily. You know those people, the friends and family who refuse to acknowledge or believe all this shit is real, or that we are exaggerating or better yet that ‘supportive’ friend who tells you that you just need to get over it.
For me it’s not the fact that these are same sex relations. It’s the underhanded, sneaking, dishonesty of it all. More than that, it’s the betrayal of it all. If these were straight men or women sneaking off to publicly and randomly hook up like this while their unsuspecting spouses or significant other were unaware, or worse still at home breast feeding their 6 month old infants, I’m pretty sure society would be in an uproar about this type of abhorrent behaviour. Don’t misunderstand, I am fully aware of the fact that that very society and its homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic attitude and in some case policies and laws, have created a situation where some in the LGBTQ+ community don’t feel safe, accepted, respected or proud to live openly, to live authentically and that is absolutely wrong and not OK and needs to change. The bifurcating reality though is that it is also not ok for these hurting members of the LGBTQ+ society to commit lateral violence toward their spouse. Most people are quick to support the LGBTQ+ member coming out, and while they should be and do need support. That support should not come at the expense of the unknowing betrayed partner. The partner left behind did not have any agency in what happened to them; the only thing they are guilty of is falling in love with someone. They should not be made to feel silenced and shamed because of it; just as the LGBTQ+ partner should not be shamed or made to feel less because of their sexuality, gender or identity. But too often when the LGBTQ+ community promotes acceptance, equality and safe space of inclusion for everyone they generally mean everyone except heteronormative, straights. There are some fantastic LGBTQ+ inclusive groups in my city that promote being a space for everyone, for all types of people. I have lots of friends and people I love and respect that use those services and yet I myself don’t feel reflected, included or welcomed there. Even though I am part of the rainbow family, I am the co parent of two beautiful children with an LGBTQ+ former spouse. One day our own children may or may not have questions about their own gender, identity or sexuality. I would love for my ex spouse and I to teach them to love and respect for every human being and to be proud and love themselves no matter what. I would love to share in LGBTQ+ activities and events because whether I chose it or not it is part of my life, my family and the core of who I am now. I too have been a victim of homophobia, transphobia and hate. But the problem is I don’t belong and am not accepted by these organizations and spaces, my voice isn’t reflected there because I am straight and I was the victim of a victim of homophobia. So to admit my existence or to allow me to have a presence or a voice would mean what, that ‘hurt people hurt people? Well good we already knew that. And betrayed spouses, and children of closeted spouses are another very real example of that.
Sometimes I think the LGBTQ+ community is hesitant to acknowledge us because they may feel we are hateful or blaming them. While we maybe be angry and we are definitely hurt that doesn’t mean we are homophobic or that we want to spread hate or blame. In fact quite the opposite, we loved our spouses, we are also suffering because of society’s homophobia and transphobia. We need support and healing and love and acceptance. Partners who have discovered their spouse/partner isn’t straight or have had a spouse/or partner come out after years in a relationship have experienced a very deep betrayal by the person they loved and trusted most in the world, and even though that partner was hurting too, they were aware of what they were doing, aware that they were queer or questioning or having confusing feelings about their gender and identity and even though it may have been for valid understandable reasons like family, religion, social pressures, fear etc. they still chose to wrap up another person in their lie, to hurt and betray another person. Some cheated, some stole and some even jeopardized the health of their loved ones and their children in the process of hiding that they were LGBTQ+. Some are still doing it.
A lot of us need and want to connect with, understand and support our queer or questioning partners feelings, challenges, experience and journey but instead we are excluded, silenced and shut out by a lot of straight and LGBTQ+ people, and organizations it’s almost as if they don’t want to acknowledge that we exist. Many of us have lost friends and family. Would u tell the child of an alcoholic who doesn’t drink that it’s ok they don’t need support because their life isn’t really affected by alcohol? Would you tell the child of parents who went to residential school to suck it up because it doesn’t affect their life? Would you tell someone who was abused as a child that it’s ok to abuse their own children because it’s the hurt they had to live with and experience so it’s all they know? I don’t think as a society most people would be ok with any of the above. We know for a fact that lateral violence and intergenerational trauma exists. Recent studies even show that it can impact changes to our DNA. Bottom line, we know that people who have been hurt or are hurting hurt other people. So why doesn’t society want to hear from partners and family’s that have been left behind. Is it because then they would have to admit that on the whole homophobia and transphobia still exist and maybe as human beings we aren’t as loving and accepting as we claim to be? Why does the LGBTQ+ community want to exclude us, or gave us stay silently in the closet out spouse just left? Is it be because as a whole the LGBTQ+ movement is still in its infancy and still fighting for equality and a safe space, basic things that those of us who are straight are privileged to have and take for granted? I don’t know, I’m genuinely asking. If that’s why I can understand it more easily but it still hurts and I don’t think it needs to be that way. Partners who have discovered a spouse/partner isn’t straight or have had a spouse/ partner volunteer that information need to be included in the conversation. We need to have a voice, we need be respected and not feel shamed and silenced so that we can all heal. Maybe people aren’t ready for this yet but I think we need to work together to find a space to truly love respect and honour all aspects of gender, identity LGBTQ+, and rainbow family. True inclusiveness means excepting every part if our stories, and ourselves even the parts we don’t like, the parts where we hurt people, or made poor choices or were scared or angry or the parts that shame us or that we wish we could change, erase or forget. Everything all of it. We don’t get to pick and chose, we are human beings this is how we heal, how we grow, how we learn and most of all how we love and how we live.