Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category


June 27th, 2015 by Carol Grever


A major battle for legal gay marriage in the United States was finally concluded on June 26, 2015 in a landmark decision by a divided Supreme Court.  In a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority ruling that same-sex couples can now marry in every state of the union, establishing a consistent, nationwide policy that guarantees equal civil rights, regardless of sexual orientation or identification.  Same-sex couples now enjoy the same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples.

This long-awaited legal protection of same-sex marriage represents the culmination of a gay-rights movement that began in New York in 1969 with the “Stonewall Riots.”  The “Rainbow Revolution,” advocating equal civil rights, has simmered and exploded in various locations since.  Finally, this question has been settled in this country—for the whole nation and territories, not just one state at a time. 

In a remarkable display of high level support for the court’s decision, President Barack Obama ordered that the exterior of the White House be lighted up with rainbow colors to celebrate.  However, this progress cannot be taken for granted, particularly in the wildly unpredictable political climate ushered in by the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

For American straight spouses who have already suffered the consequences of ill-fated marriages to gays, this vital court decision came too late.  Their gay husbands or wives felt compelled, for a variety of individual reasons, to enter conventional male-female marriages.  Nearly all such relationships eventually fail, with the straight spouse the most obvious victim.  However, a mixed-orientation marriage that ends in divorce punishes everyone involved, including the gay partner and any children of the union.  No one wins.

Existing legal protections may have diminished the number of mixed-orientation marriages in the U.S., though it did not end these mismatches altogether.  Other significant societal factors remain, including family, social, career, and religious pressures. 

A fundamental change in public attitudes will be the ultimate deterrent to mixed-orientation relationships.  After a very slow start, public opinion here is moving toward broader acceptance of lawful marriage for any loving couple, regardless of sexual identification or orientation.  It took a half-century to reach this point, but the pace has finally quickened.  When societal acceptance advances sufficiently, that could end the straight spouse dilemma, as we know it.

The United States is only the world’s twenty-first country to legalize these unions nationwide and to guarantee all couples equal dignity in the eyes of the law.  Such legal sanctioning of same-sex marriage remains an open question in other places in the world, and familiar debates and arguments can be heard in Australia and elsewhere.  While this latest U.S. Supreme Court battle is won, there will certainly be continued push-back from states-rights advocates and others with strong negative opinions.  Dissenting Court Justice Antonin Scalia scathingly called the ruling a “threat to American democracy.”  It may take another generation for truly equal rights for all, but we appear to be moving in the right direction at last.


January 19th, 2015 by Carol Grever


       The United States is approaching a definitive answer to what the New York Times calls “one of the great civil rights questions in a generation.” Our Supreme Court agreed to decide if gay marriage must be allowed in all 50 United States.  More than 70 percent of Americans already live in places where gay couples can marry.  Same-sex marriage is already legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia.  Now is the time for positive Supreme Court action.The high court will hear arguments, probably in late April of this year. 

          This news is a relevant topic for Straight Spouse Connection.  Many readers of this blog are middle-aged or older and have already been victimized by societal pressures requiring traditional marriage.  Their gay spouses felt compelled to marry to hide their sexual orientation.  Many languished in mixed-orientation relationships for decades before one spouse came out.  They are already casualties, their damage done.  Other younger gay people continue to marry straight partners because of religious beliefs, family, social or career pressures.  This news about a Supreme Court decision is germane in all these scenarios.

          Though they can’t change their past, many older straight spouses are “paying it forward.”  Perhaps their closeted anguish helped build the current momentum toward a definitive decision to honor the dignity of same-sex relationships—to prevent future grief of straight men and women unknowingly entering disastrous mixed marriages.

          The future looks brighter for those just entering marriage, gay or straight.  Legal recognition of same-sex marriage nation-wide would measurably alleviate gay people’s need to hide their sexual orientation through secrecy, deception, and double lives.  It would diminish the significant legal and emotional burdens caused by local discriminatory laws, freeing people to marry as they choose and enjoy legal protections they previously were denied.  Thus, legalizing same-sex marriage would mean fewer mismatched couples entering ill-fated gay-straight bonds, with the inevitable pain of discovery.

          Legalization of gay marriage in the United States would not be binding anywhere else in the world, but many other countries have preceded us in this decision.  Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 18 countries, the earliest acceptance by The Netherlands in 2000.  The most recent countries following suit are England, Wales, Brazil, France, New Zealand, and Uruguay in 2013, and Scotland and Luxembourg last year.  After years of political posturing and religious protestations, world opinion is leaning toward broader acceptance. 

          Surely our Supreme Court will see the need, heed the trend, and make a positive decision to sanction gay marriage.  If even one mixed-orientation couple can be saved from a doomed marriage, coerced by family, religious, social, or professional pressure, efforts to legalize same-sex marriage have not been wasted.




June 22nd, 2013 by Carol Grever


    “Reparative Therapy,” the attempt to change a
person’s innate sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, has made
the news again, though this time in a more positive way.  Exodus International, a Christian organization
that urged people to repress same-sex attraction, has shut down its ministry
after 37 years.  Its leader, Alan
Chambers, apologized to the gay community, admitting that “We’ve hurt people.” 

    In an interview with the Associated Press,
Chambers said “The church has waged the culture war, and it’s time to put the
weapons down.”  Exodus International previously
claimed that gays’ sexual orientation could be permanently changed or “cured,”
despite the opposition of professional psychologists and psychiatrists who
concluded long ago that efforts to convert sexual orientation are unsuccessful
and do great psychological harm. In closing his organization, Chambers expressed
regret for inflicting “years of undue suffering.”  He plans to launch a new initiative to
promote dialogue among those on opposite sides of this issue.

    Repressive methods to change innate sexual
orientation are doomed to failure and may inflict irreparable harm.  The fact that Alan Chambers is now publicly
acknowledging these facts is extremely encouraging.

    Two earlier posts on Straight Spouse Connection examined the topic of reparative therapy
with additional background and case studies. To review that information, click Archives on the tool bar, August, 2009: Reparative Therapy Debunked—Again, August 19, 2009, and Emotional Damage of Reparative Therapy: One
Man’s Story
, August 28, 2009.

    Why is the news about Exodus International
important to straight spouses?  It is yet
another indication that public awareness and attitudes are slowly changing regarding
the realities of sexual orientation. 
When society accepts all of its members, gay or straight or variations
in between, individuals can live openly and honestly. If that day ever comes,
there will be no closet of shame, no ill-fated mixed-orientation marriages
based on secrecy, no more suffering of “straight spouses.”  If that day ever comes, this blogger can




April 23rd, 2011 by Carol Grever

The complexities of a mixed-orientation marriage increase exponentially when one or both partners suffer addictions.  A recent email from a straight spouse highlighted this multi-layered affliction.  Here is an excerpt from her message.

My husband and I met over 13 years ago. . . . Twelve years later he came out to me and to many acquaintances.  At first I did not see how it could change what we had.  Now that he has been out for a few months, I am having difficulty coping with my feelings.  We still love each other, but I have lost my trust in him . . . .  I feel all alone.  We both suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction.  We have over six months of recovery and are active members of AA.  That is why this all came up.  My husband was working on clearing the wreckage of his past, and his true self came to the surface. 

Addictions themselves add enormous difficulty to the problems of a coming-out event.  Two major life changes are happening at once—getting sober and revealing one’s true sexual identity.  The entire family is affected by both challenges.  While the12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous has effectively helped millions recover from dependence on alcohol and drugs, working through the steps transforms people in fundamental ways.  They set out to conquer their addiction, but in the process they alter their ideals, standards, and daily life.  An elemental shift is happening, whether it is the gay or the straight partner engaged in the AA program. 

These psychic alterations further complicate their marital dilemma.  For example, AA’s Step 4 requires a deep and fearless moral inventory of character defects and wrongs done.  Step 5 demands openly admitting those wrongs to a neutral party.  Steps 8 and 9 require making amends to anyone harmed by earlier actions.  People spend months or years occupied with these steps toward sober living. 

The drama is even more complicated when both partners are in AA.  If they both fully participate in the 12-Step program, each understands the transformational process.  But if only one partner experiences this psychic shift, the mate’s alienation increases.  The chasm widens and the probability of saving their marriage diminishes even further.  Still, the indisputable benefits of overcoming a drug and/or alcohol addiction make recovery efforts intrinsically worthwhile. 

Perceived dangers to a rocky mixed-orientation marriage should not deter an alcoholic from joining AA.  Day by day, recovering addicts and alcoholics reconfigure their very lives.  Sincere adherence to AA’s 12 Steps can lead to freedom from addiction, while simultaneously mapping a very different life path.  The work involves total honesty around self-centeredness, resentments, fear, and sexual behavior.  A spiritual awakening often occurs as a person’s “Higher Power” is identified.  Viewpoint, values, and lifestyle all drastically change.  Lies and secrecy are no longer tolerated.  Minds are clear, not muddled by chemicals.  Ongoing personal assessments fuel even more change. 

At best, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and humanitarian service are evidence of the personal growth encouraged by AA.  The downside is that the partners may grow in different directions and recovery from addiction becomes another catalyst to separate.  However, statistically, these gay-straight relationships have less than a 15% chance of survival under any circumstances, even if addiction is not present.  The most positive conclusion, of course, is to have both partners living the life they choose, clean and sober, productive and proud, whether gay or straight, single or together.   



August 28th, 2009 by Carol Grever

    My interest in exposing the dangers of reparative therapy grows from my experience as a straight spouse.  If gay people were allowed to be open about their sexual orientation, and if society accepted them as they were born to be, they would not be forced into the closet.  There would be no mixed-orientation marriages.  Gay or straight, people could live their lives authentically. 

    My previous post on reparative therapy brought a slew of comments and emails, some from people who were subjected to this wrong-headed approach.  These are the real experts on its long-term damage.  One of these emails came from Dr. Jerry Bigner, a professional in the field of psychology who specializes in GLBT issues and has written widely on these subjects.  He also was a recipient of reparative therapy as an adolescent.  Here is his story, used here with his permission.

~ ~ ~

    Reparative therapy is evil in that it represents
another institutionalized form of heterosexism and homophobia that is used as a
tool to oppress GLBT people. The name itself shouts that we are desperately
flawed as humans, and that one facet of our personalities makes us in desperate
need of repair in order to be OK. Now, as we come to terms with the ill-gained
outcomes of this unethical therapeutic tool, we will hopefully see the end of
marriages that take place to facilitate the reparative message, the production
of children who are completely innocent victims of this process, and the deep
emotional wounds that are experienced by all who are affected when gay and
lesbian people attempt or are coerced to deny their basic nature.  

      I experienced a form of reparative therapy after
being forced to admit to my father that I was gay in 1959 when I was a young
adolescent. At the time, homosexuality was considered to be a medical mental
illness and held an official designation as such in the American Psychiatric
Association’s Diagnostic Manual. Because he was hesitant to share this
revelation with our minister, he turned to the local psychiatrist to help him
“straighten me out.” Unlike many other unfortunate people in a similar
position, I was never subjected to being shocked while viewing naked male
bodies, given shock treatments, or other incredibly harsh treatments. Instead,
the message was driven deeply into my psyche that I would never be OK as an
openly gay man, I would always be unloved, I could never hold a decent job, I
would die lonely and alone, I could never be happy and have a normal life like
everyone else, and so on. I knew at the time how I felt about being attracted
to males, I liked it, it felt good, and I deeply resented the efforts being
made to take these feelings away from me and to convince me that they were
wrong. When you put these two psychological events together, the result became
accepting my gay feelings while acknowledging the reality that to survive in
that family and in this society, I would need to learn to pass as heterosexual.
And so, I worked very hard to do just that.

      I learned how to date girls, how to swagger like the
other guys, but to honor my feelings secretly and on the sly. I don’t think
I’ll ever know how good I became as an actor but it was good enough to help me
become a member of a fraternity in college and to eventually hold several
important offices such as president. My father engineered my marriage to a
woman I came to love very much in my last years of college, and in this union
there were three beautiful children who were produced. However, I was never
completely happy and this became evident in a number of ways.

      My depression deepened as I considered the hole I
believed I had dug myself into and had been forced upon me. What sprung me from
this emotional black hole was the death of my father. Interestingly, his death
coincided with my mid-life transition experiences. These are the developmental
events that lead one to question the direction that life has been taking, the
veritable meaning of life itself, and what it will take to make one
happy—finally. Additionally, the AIDS epidemic was surfacing (the time now was
in the early 1980s), and I was frightened for myself as well as for my family
in being exposed to this fatal disease. However, it was obvious that I could
and should finally act to stop the charade and learn to be authentic. I would
soon find the price that this would exact on myself and others. 

      While I don’t have the time or space to go into sufficient
detail here, I came out to my wife and eventually to my children. We went
through all the emotional ups and downs that Carol describes in her text; we
went through a divorce that has taken years to reconcile; I was spurred into a
new area of research (I was a college professor in human development and family
studies); and all of us in my immediate family have had to build new identities
and new lives.  

      I don’t know if I will ever have the full insight
about what my life would have become or how it would have unfolded had I not
experienced that form of reparative therapy when I was young. I do know now
that I could become a parent if I wanted to and that I could be in a loving,
committed relationship with another man. I didn’t know that then, however; and
so there are no regrets except for the hurt that was caused to my ex-wife and
to my children. I have made my amends, but I don’t know if I will ever be able
to forgive my family of origin. I am one of the lucky ones who have had many
people who have loved me as I am; I have found a sense of family in many others
to whom I have no blood relationship for I have learned that we are seldom born
into our true families. I only hope that others in the future will not have to
experience what the closeted married gay men and women of today have had at the
hands of reparative therapy and a culture that endorses homophobic and
heterosexist attitudes about gay and lesbian people.

~ ~ ~

    Jerry's moving account demonstrates the anguish of both the gay and straight partners in mixed-orientation families.  Everyone connected to these families suffers when the truth comes out--parents, offspring, extended family and friends.  The repeated rejection of reparative therapy by the American Psychological Association is one more indication that society is finally realizing the folly of trying to change a person's inborn sexual orientation.


April 12th, 2009 by Carol Grever

    Is homosexuality a sin to be condemned? Is it a “choice”? Does “reparative therapy” work? According to many conservative religious groups, the answer to all these questions is “Yes.” For believers who are also straight spouses, these religious teachings create great conflict and yet another layer of suffering for both partners in a gay-straight marriage.

    My article about “The Haggards’ Dilemma” sparked an interesting exchange in the comment section that I wanted to share here. A woman who identified herself as a “fundamentalist Christian” spoke of her struggle to balance the judgmental position of her church with her own belief that God’s love extends to both gay and straight people. Her comment was answered by “Jens H.” in a very wise way. His reply is quoted in part here (in italics), with his permission.


    First of all, I’m sorry you are going through this struggle because I know it’s unfair and extremely difficult. But I commend you for having an open mind trying to find answers. I think finding truthful answers about homosexuality is especially hard for religious people because they often turn to their church for information as opposed to science. With the exception of Christian Scientists, if you were having a heart attack I wonder if you would seek medical expertise from a pastor or a cardiologist. I’m going to guess you’d seek emotional support from your pastor and heart know-how from a doctor. Why then do people seek expertise on homosexuality from the religious?

    If you seek information from the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and other viable non-biased research institutions on the subjects you mentioned, you’ll find the following answers to these questions:

1) Being molested as a child does not turn that child gay.

2) The vast majority of child sexual molestations are perpetrated by heterosexual men and not homosexual men.

3) The age of the sexual target (the child) is what is important to a pedophile not necessarily the sex of the child.

4) Gay people cannot convert anyone into being gay.

5) Homosexuality is not a mental illness.

However, many religious organizations such as Focus on the Family perpetuate the following [erroneous information]:

1) Gay people try to convert children and other people into being gay.

2) Gay men molest children.

3) Gay people are mentally ill.

    While there is not direct proof that people are born gay in the same way that straight people are born straight, the vast, vast majority of gay people feel they were born with a homosexual sexual orientation and it is not a choice issue. For the most part, it’s only religious people and those who do not like gay people who hold onto this choice concept.

    This then ties into your personal beliefs that gay sex is much like any other addiction or maladaptive behavior. However, gay sex is only considered maladaptive for religious people who believe it’s somehow spiritually wrong or others who are turned off by the idea. There are plenty of studies showing that same-sex couples can have equally loving and strong relationships as straight couples. So in a sense, it’s really about personal judgment as opposed to any fact about being maladaptive. . . .

    In terms of personal judgments based on religion – think of this. There are religious people who believe that ANY sex, including that in a monogamous and loving marriage, which is not solely for the purpose of procreation, is sinful. Once again, it’s seeing something through religious judging.

    If you haven’t read Carol’s books then I would highly recommend them because they are considered some of the best books on this topic. They are non-biased and full of accurate information. As you come across information on this topic always look for the source – is it coming from an organization with a religious prejudice or is it basing its information on sound science. You will see a large disparity. . . .
The more truth [we] learn about this topic the better [we] will be able to cope with it and make appropriate decisions.                                                                                    Jens H.


    I’m very grateful to Jens for submitting these thoughtful comments on Straight Spouse Connection. His insights bring balance to some confusing, conflicting issues. Debate will continue, but if we approach these painful questions with inquiring minds and careful research, clarity will surely follow. If you would like more information about my books and documentary, please visit my Website at