Someone I Love is GayÖ. Now What?
Learning that a loved
one is gay, lesbian or bisexual can be an emotionally difficult situation for
all involved. For the person sharing the secret they have long harbored, it can
be incredibly stressful anticipating the reactions of their friends and family,
while those who they come out of the closet to may be in shock or denial and
have a hard time dealing with the news.
Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, founder of the Straight Spouse Network and author of ďThe Other Side of the Closet,Ē says that there are five stages that ďstraight spousesĒ go through after discovering their spouse is gay:
1. Shock, denial and disbelief
2. Facing the reality
3. Acknowledgment and acceptance
4. Letting go of the past
6. Reconfiguring life and identity
7. Transforming and starting a new life
After you have time to accept the revelation that a loved one is gay, you may wonder how you can best support him or her. After all, it is the same person that you felt so close to before Ė they have just trusted you enough to reveal another side to you.
P-FLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides the following guidelines for dealing with the situation:
Do listen to what your loved oneís life is like, and what kind of experiences he or she has had in the world.
Donít blame your own feelings on your loved one.
Do take the time to seek information about the lives of GLBT people from parents of GLBT people, friends of your loved one, literature, and, most of all, directly from your loved one.
Donít rush the process of trying to understand your loved oneís sexuality or gender identity.
Do get professional help for anyone in the family, including yourself, who becomes severely depressed over your loved oneís sexuality or gender identity.
Donít assume that your loved one should see a professional counselor.
Do accept that you are responsible for your negative reactions.
Donít criticize your loved one for being different.
Do help your child (or loved one) set individual goals, even though these may differ drastically from your own.
Donít expect your child (or loved one) to make up for your own failures in life.
Do try to develop trust and openness by allowing your loved one to choose his or her own lifestyle.
Donít try to force your loved one to conform to your ideas of proper sexual behavior.
Do be proud of your loved oneís capacity for having loving relationships.
Donít blame yourself because your loved one is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
Do look for the injured feelings underneath the anger and respond to them.
Donít demand that your child (or loved one) live up to what your idea of what a man or woman should be.
Do defend him or her against discrimination.
Donít discriminate against your loved one.
Do respect your loved oneís right to find out how to choose the right person to love and how to make relationships last.
Donít try to break up loving relationships.
Do say, "I love you."
Donít insist that your morality is the only right one.
What Is Best for Your Kids?
Easing Your Children Through Separation or Divorce from a Gay Spouse
divorce are always hard and can become complicated after one spouse comes out of
the closet. As the straight spouse, you may feel shocked, hurt, angry and
confused. While no two situations are the same, keep in mind that many lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender people come out after they marry, and many couples
in this situation have children. While your pain and anger will hopefully lessen
over time, the steps you take concerning your children will have long-term
effects, so sustaining your and your spouse's relationships with your children
should be a primary goal.
When deciding whatís best for your family, remember that:
Your spouse is the same parent. There is no reason to believe that your spouse will care for your children any less or differently after coming out.
Many good parents are gay. Children raised by LGBT parents are as healthy, secure and happy as children raised by straight parents. Millions of children nationwide have lesbian or gay parents.
Your children need stable parental relationships. Your children need to continue relationships with both parents to help them adjust to your separation. Maintain continuity for your children Ė donít abruptly change or end visits Ė especially in times of change. When things get rough, consider the situation from the perspective of your children.
Children need comfort through separations. Let your children know that the separation or divorce is not their fault. Make sure that they know they are not loved any less and are not losing a parent, even though you and your spouse will not be living together.
Your spouse may have come out only to you. Your spouse may not be ready to tell others. Donít out your spouse. If possible, deicde together what you are both comfortable telling other people about why your relationship is ending.
You can try to work things out. You can work together, and with a mediator if necessary, to create a positive parenting plan.
You want to do the right thing. When youíre ready to make child custody and visitation decisions, donít use sexual orientation against your spouse Ė it doesnít affect parenting ability. Courts use a child-centered approach that looks at the best interests of the child Ė and you should too.
You are setting an example. You will help your children to accept change by modeling respect and acceptance for your spouse.
Thereís help if you need it. You can get support from others living through similar situations. Find a local group or talk with friends and family. The Straight Spouse Network (www.ssnetwk.org) is a great resource.
These tips are
courtesy of the Straight Spouse Network and Lambda Legal. The Straight Spouse
Network is an international support network of heterosexual spouses or partners,
current or former of GLBT mates. Lambda Legal is a national organization
committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay
men, bisexuals, transgendered people and people with HIV/AIDS through impact
litigation, education and public policy work.
For more information, visit: