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.