…AFTER BRONX COUNCILMAN JAMES VACCA REVEALS ON TWITTER HE IS GAY“
A straight spouse (Kristin Kalbli) wrote this op-ed piece in response to this NY Times Article. It is posted here with her permission.
“While it is undoubtedly a good thing for Councilman Vacca to be out of the closet, there is one often overlooked story here: that of the straight spouse. I know. I am one. My ex husband is gay (and now out, after 2 failed marriages).
Amid the congratulations and public support Mr. Vacca is already receiving, the collateral damage, his wife, will not get the spotlight, or public support. She receives no mention in this article; it is merely noted that councilman Vacca is “getting a divorce.” She’s not even a person in this story.
Hopefully, if this experience is as traumatic for her as I know it to be from personal experience, and from many others whose stories I share, she will receive lots of support, although that support will likely be privately and discretely shared away from the op-eds of the NYT.
I am a straight spouse. While many LGBT spouses handle the coming out process with as much integrity as possible, and deserve support and congratulations, many do not. Many spent years lying to straight spouses, covering up the truth, in ways large and small, so as not to be discovered, severely damaging their straight spouse’s sense of reality, sanity, and often, their sense of self in the process. Lying and denial on this scale, and in a relationship this intimate, takes enormous effort, and therefore the sense of betrayal is proportionally enormous. Especially if there were reasons for the straight spouse to suspect, and if confrontations were met with more denial and deception. It is crazy-making. You doubt everything: your sanity, your goodness as a person, even the very air in your home doesn’t seem to be made of oxygen.
And especially when the lack of physical intimacy in the marriage is laid at the straight spouse’s doorstep, as it often is to throw the sent off the trail. (That trail leads to a whole ‘nother world of trauma, self doubt and personal betrayal on the most intimate of human levels).
While the reasons for the gay spouse’s hiding and deception are complex and nuanced, and often understandable, they are NOT always noble. And sometimes, they are downright unconscionable. They just are. I promise you.
I am not making that claim of Councilman Vacca. I know none of the private details. However, we have to stop seeing only the side of the story that indiscriminately celebrates a gay spouse when he/she finally has the courage to come out. Before that, there was a husband or wife who may or may not have been traumatized, cruelly sexually rejected, gaslighted or used as a prop in a play of the gay spouse’s construction.
I promise you, it is beyond devastating to find out you, as a person, were merely a prop, a bit of set dressing, a trompe l’oeil, a “beard.” It is beyond enraging to learn, as we eventually do, that someone you loved and trusted felt your life could be sacrificed for their illusion, a mere currency they exchanged to buy and build a decoy life. That a choice was taken away from you each successive year you were kept in the dark and deceived.
Gay columnist and sex advice podcaster Dan Savage is famously unsympathetic to closeted people, stating about one closet case in one advice column: “He is being dishonest, and his chickenshit closet-case games require you to be dishonest, too.” This is what many straight spouses experience, only without their knowledge or permission.
This is not about demonizing closeted gay people. (Many straight spouses stay quiet about their pain and trauma precisely because we don’t want to hurt or offend our LGBT loved ones and friends, and we don’t want to seem “too angry,” or too unsympathetic to the gay spouse’s coming out journey).
This is an acknowledgment that wherever homophobia permeates a society, forcing people into a closet so deep and so dark that they themselves cannot bare to leave it, and will conscript unconsenting others to maintain it, no one, not even straight spouses, are left unscathed. There is real, and lasting trauma. Let us acknowledge it.”