When my husband came out all those years ago, I didn't know, or even know of, any other spouse who'd had this type of experience. As a therapist, I felt like a fraud. As a woman, I felt like a fool. I was embarrassed, devastated, and utterly alone with my grief.
"Didn't you know?!"
"Just pretend he died."
Or the most hurtful, from a fellow mental health professional --- "Well, that wasn't a marriage!"
Well, it was, actually. It was my marriage. My dream. My love. My trust. All shattered by a lie. A completely avoidable lie.
In a 2009 Washington Post article I referred to straight spouses as "collateral damage" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/06/AR2009110602953.html). The Department of Defense defines collateral damage as "unintentional or incidental injury or damage to [a] person..." as the result of combat. The 19 children who died in the Oklahoma City bombing? Also "collateral damage." Dramatic comparisons, perhaps, but those of us whose spouses come out feel just that incidental.
C'est la guerre.
In war, the total collateral damage can't be precisely counted. The same is true of straight spouses. We don't "come out" for any number of reasons -- embarrassment; trying to maintain a certain image; protecting our spouses and families; and on and on.
It's time to come out and be counted. We are not incidental. We are not collateral damage.
There are a surprisingly large number of us who have not made public our situation. We are loving, trusting people who, every day, work to overcome pain, embarrassment and the ultimate betrayal to piece together new, authentic lives.
And, we count.