By Kevin Stevenson
Back in the 1990s, in the UK a young gay activist by the name of Peter Tatchell made a name for himself by ‘outing’ closeted politicians that were, in his eyes, being hypocritical. At the time I disagreed with him. Someone’s sexuality was a private affair, and not for public consumption, no matter what the justification. Each to their own, it’s nothing to do with me, was my opinion.
Until it became something to do with me.
You see I thought that being closeted was a decision that only affected gay people themselves. Since it wasn’t hurting anyone else, there was no problem. Indeed, I couldn’t conceive HOW it could hurt anyone else.
But then I found that I was married to a lesbian.
To say that this information came as a shock is an understatement, that she chose to disclose this information to me on the day of my redundancy from my job and on the eve of starting a business of my own was crippling. I cannot begin to describe the pain and confusion that this has wrought, and the emotional hole that I continue to dig myself out of. I lost my home, family and best friend, at a single stroke.
h. All the more reason to stay in the closet, you might think. But you would be wrong.
You see, my ‘best friend’ and spouse had hidden this from me for years. In doing so she had made me feel responsible for the decline in our relationship. She had isolated herself, (and me) from friends, withdrawn from family, begun drinking more. She had cheated and lied and deceived not just me, but also herself. Her faddy spendthrift nature, inability to hang onto a job, her tendency to feel victimised and multiple unidentified illnesses were all symptoms of the deep unease that she was no doubt struggling to come to terms with.
But of course, it was I who dealt with the fallout. I who had to work harder and harder at a one sided relationship and to maintain home and hearth. I who had to care and worry constantly, whilst all the time walking on eggshells.
Ultimately, I feel cheated. Not only in the relationship and materially, but cheated of the one thing that is irredeemable.
So I am speaking to you today, you who are gay and married to a straight wife, or a straight husband. I know that you fear coming out to them, that you fear their reaction towards you. Perhaps you are afraid of the effect that it will have on them. That they will be unable to cope. Much as it pains me to admit it, (because in doing so I recognise her as a human being) I understand the reluctance on the part of my ex wife to inflict that hurt upon me.
But every moment that you delay is another moment of disrespect. Every second of denial is not just denial of your own nature, but also denial of your spouses right to a happy life, a happy and fulfilling relationship of their own.
We cope. It’s what we do. You may not realise it, but we cope with you, your denial and your pain every day, even when we do not know WHY we are doing it. We will cope, we DO cope, when we do know the reason.
We will recover.
But our recovery will not begin until you grant us the opportunity, until you respect our right, our right as your wives and husbands, to the truth. You hold the key to our freedom, because you hold the key to your closet. Respect us, and respect yourself, because the truth shall set you (and us) free.
You cannot stop us from hurting, the effect of your disclosure will be the same today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. There are no good ways to do this, but there are more bad ways, and truth delayed is truth denied. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to US, to come out.
So whether you are secretly gay, on the down low, bisexual, bi curious, or just in love with someone who happens to be of the same sex, or whatever, we, as your partners, spouses, friends, have the right to know. Sooner is better. Honour us with honesty and give us the freedom to make informed choices of our own. Please come out.
You have nothing to lose but our chains.
Kevin Stevenson is a straight spouse living in the UK.