Words from A Gay Dude Who’s Been There

I recently have had some interesting happenings in the world of connecting up with people from the LGBTQ community who have come out of the closet during a heteronormative marriage. I won’t go into lengthy detail here, but I ended up chatting (and recording a podcast) with Rick Clemons.

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He is a professional speaker, author, podcaster and life strategist. To be honest, I didn’t know much about him in the beginning, but some of my friends here in Reno knew exactly who he was. This speaks volumes about his popularity, for lack of a better term. I can see why; he’s pretty rad when you chat with him, listen to his podcasts and read what he has to say.

He also is a man who came out of the closet to his wife. I reached out to him to offer any kind of support that I could for her, and I am grateful that he and I ended up chatting. I feel he has a platform that may help shed some light and acknowledgement of both sides of this closet, and I am thankful for him.

I will share more about the podcast we recorded when it is aired on Oct 11, 2016, which is National Coming Out Day. He kindly wants to acknowledge the straight spouse experience on that day, because for many of us, it is a day that will be a trigger for emotions and memories.

The link that I will attach here takes you to his Coming Out Lounge podcast blog section, and he speaks frankly about some pieces of advice. I felt it was spot on and may be something of interest to you as you go through your unique and often painful experience.

Here are his main points of what NOT to do and possible unrealistic expectations, and I encourage you to click on the link to read the whole post.

  1. Don’t tell anyone!
  2. Okay, you can be gay, but not in this town.
  3. Let’s not tell the children.
  4. Hey, I gave you what you wanted; now it’s my turn.
  5. Let’s make this work.
  6. Let me just go explore.

Now, to truly understand what he means, you really do need to click on the link below and read it. I found what he shared to be quite insightful, and he truly does understand that “there is no easy answer.”

Coming Out In A Marriage: 6 Unrealistic Expectations by Rick Clemons

Chat with you soon, Rick. Thanks for being a part of this thing called life.

And now I have that Prince song stuck in my head.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily Reese

 

Here is his website if you are interested in knowing more: Rick Clemons

 

 

Grace and Frankie and the Huff Post

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I follow, fairly religiously, the Huff Post Queer Voices section. Partially this is because I am an Ally, but I also like to see what’s going on with Straight Spouses, which is sometimes a topic that is discussed there.

In the article link below, the series Grace and Frankie is used as a framework for a discussion about Straight Spouses and the reality of their experiences. I happen to enjoy the series very much, and while it may be a trigger for some serious emotions, it is a great show that uses humor and condenses a lot of the issues that we straight spouses deal with into each episode.

Watch it if you can; but remember that it may trigger some intense emotions in you.

Here is the Huff Post article, and I encourage you to read it so that you know you aren’t alone. Hugs to all of you on this roller coaster. It’s not easy, but there are so many of us out there cheering you on!

Thanks to Amity Buxton and  Kimberly Brooks Mazella for being a part of that article. You ladies are amazing and I am grateful to be able to know you.

3 Women Share The Moment They Found Out Their Husbands Are Gay

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily Reese

Concise Advice for the LGBTQ Spouse

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I often refer people to the Straight Spouse Network. While there are philosophies that people may or may not agree with on their site, overall, it is a wonderful place to connect and help the straight spouse to not feel alone.

For the LGBTQ spouse, the advice and encouragement I give is definitely filtered through my own experience and those thousands of people I have witnessed over the years of being on this journey. While I believe I empathize well as an Ally, I certainly don’t have all the answers. This blog article that was posted on the Straight Spouse Network was quite concise with tips for the LGBTQ spouse, and I believe it is worth the read.

If you do, please bear in mind that it may hit your heart and raise emotions in you. Go into it with an open mind, and look at it strictly from your straight spouse’s perspective. There are some golden nuggets of wisdom in it.

Thank you for caring about what your straight spouse is going through and wanting to help them, too.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily Reese

http://www.straightspouse.org/how-can-lgbt-people-support-straight-spouses/

Politics and Tango-ing

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Since my experience on the TED Talk stage this winter, I have been mum on my website. Politics became my world and it was difficult to filter my life through anything but policies in education during my bid for our school district’s Board of Trustee position. I didn’t win in the primaries, but had an amazing time learning firsthand the process of grassroots campaigning and stretching myself in the world of civic duties.

 

Right after my TED Talk, my ex husband, Devon, also threw his hat in the ring for a position with the Nevada State Senate. He is still in the running and doing well; I have joined his campaign, along with my three kiddos and his husband, Felipe, to walk and knock on doors to help overturn the Republican majority in our state’s capitol in Carson City, Nevada. He stands an excellent chance, and the support at the national level to help him get there has been amazing.

When I look back on our lives, before the disclosure of him being a gay man living in a Mixed Orientation Marriage without my knowledge while he did all he could to become straight, I often pictured myself standing by him on a stage, supporting him as he sought an office with the Republican party. How ironic that I am still standing by him in a different way, as we all marched in the Reno Gay Pride parade with so many supporters, cheering him on to make a difference in the lives of people in Northern Nevada.

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I am glad I did my Ted Talk about my experience with him. Little did I know that when I was chosen for this opportunity, my transparency would help us both in showing that while there are many troubles in this life that we cannot predict, healing is possible and impacting others can happen in real, tangible ways. We are real people with real struggles that want to make a difference in the lives of others.

Life is definitely stranger than fiction, to be sure.

Politics aside, I have met many straight spouses along this journey. Most of us want harmony and peace in our relationships, and strive to make things amicable. Unfortunately, the adage “it takes two to tango” is more true than I can sometimes relate to. So many straight spouses experience narcissism, selfishness and untruthfulness from our LGBTQ spouses, that it is difficult to know how to encourage those who ask questions that I cannot relate to through my own experience with Devon. We had our tough times, to be clear. He messed up, but so did I. Somehow, with time and hard work, we made it to where we are today.

(Are there relationships that cannot be healed? Of course, especially those that are damaging to a person, emotionally, physically or spiritually. If that’s the case, tango-ing should not be attempted. I am speaking pragmatically to those that stand a chance.)

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When there aren’t two people tango-ing, bitterness and defensiveness occurs, often from both sides of the isle. We feel the need to protect ourselves and salvage something from a relationship that was based on dishonesty, particularly from a spouse who was hiding their sexual identity. There really IS no how-to book on how to make it through this road that so many have travelled because we are dealing with people and hurts that happen in relationships.

It seems that there are more negative outcomes than positive ones from the perspective of straight spouses. The advice that I gave in my TED Talk for the LGBTQ spouse in a Mixed Orientation Marriage is often unheard and unheeded. It makes me sad, but that does not mean that I won’t continue to speak out for both sides, within the perspective of my straight spouse experience.

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The one thing that heartens me when I hear from people, are the messages coming from LGBTQ spouses who have come out to their straight spouses, especially when they ask: What can I do to help my spouse who is hurt? My heart feels some hope for their relationship and future healing.

I wish there were more of those emails than the ones of pain and betrayal, though I welcome all dialogue. One of the things that I see as a common thread is many LGBTQ spouses who write OpEds in places like the Huffington Post Queer Voices section who make it all about the gay experience and overshadow their spouses who were hurt. In all honesty, I would love to see more LGBTQ people write in defense of their straight spouses and their experience. There are a few out there who do, but it isn’t happening enough.

I recognize the few of you who do attempt to show the same kind of empathy that many of us straight spouses try to show to the LGBTQ experience. People like Chet DeRouen, who speaks lovingly and transparently about his own experience and that of his ex-wife’s, Christa. They have a beautiful family, even though we differ politically. Here’s Chet’s blog if you want to check it out: https://whyamigayblog.wordpress.com

I have recently befriended a lovely couple in Northern California who have been on quite the journey together. They have taken their time, exhausted all possible avenues of keeping their marriage intact, and have made the difficult decision to divorce. They have finally announced their decision and life experience to the public, and I am thankful for their transparency. I know that they will still have difficulties, but the thing is, they are traversing this road together as much as they can.

Luanne, you have my heart and my ear anytime you need support. Matt, I am thankful that in our conversations you were willing to acknowledge the need to not overshadow the straight spouse experience, even while traversing your unchartered territory of coming out. It is people like you and Luanne who help ME to know I am not alone, and that healing really is possible.

Here is their most recent blog post that is short and sweet. Hopefully other LGBTQ spouses in Mixed Orientation Marriages will read it and take to heart the delicate issues that are not one-sided.

https://medium.com/@mattnightingale/living-the-truth-d2058f937516#.6kzb018wd

It is also my hope that more LGBTQ spouses who have come out of the closet to their straight spouses will begin to share with humility, in places like the Huff Post, how to support the ones who often feel overshadowed: the straight spouse. When two actually do tango, things can be stranger than fiction, and a safe place for healing can happen.

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If it isn’t possible to Tango and make things amicable, take care of you. Below is a little something I like to look at with frequency. It keeps me focused on the larger picture of my own personal motto: Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others.

Love,

Emily Reese

InTheEndBuddhasInstructions

TEDxThrilled

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My TedxTalk is up and running. I am thrilled with it. I hope you like it, too. Many blessings and will write more later.

If you need to contact me, you may do so in the comments below or through email at contactsamesides@gmail.com.

Click here for the link to the TEDxTalk. Thank you Wendy Damonte, Bret Simmons and the board of TEDxUniversityOfNevada for believing in my proposal and pitch way-back, last summer. What a ride!

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily F. Reese

 

 

TEDx Crying

  
Life is truly amazing. It really is, especially now that I am at a place in my life, 10 years removed from my husband coming out of the closet.

In the picture above, I am starting to shed tears of gratefulness on stage at the TEDxUniversityOfNevada event on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016. It was at the end of my talk/story, with advice for both the straight spouse and the LGBTQ spouse. I shared how thankful I am for Devon coming out to me, as it set me on a path to knowing and loving myself, apart from anyone or anything else, including loving my imperfect life. I pointed to him in the crowd, and teared up.

After the audience stood and clapped, I walked off the stage and bawled like a baby. It was surreal. 

I am so thankful for coming to this place in my journey. I am here to witness that you, too, can get to this place. No matter what, you are loved, loveable, and not alone. 

As soon as the video is edited and posted on TEDx’s YouTube channel in about three weeks, I will post and share it here. 

Thanks for the love people. My life is blessed and I am thankful to be able to be transparent.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily Fay Reese 

 

Advice for the LGBTQ Spouse

  

I have established a new tab on this site specifically for the other side; it is a blessing to me when I get inquiries from those of you who are willingly seeking encouragement to understand your straight spouse’s journey after you come out. My responses often turn in to a lengthy email, which says similar things that I have shared with others previously. So, I am going to write about topics that you might be interested in. You can find the tab under “For the LGBTQ Spouse” in the menu selection.

It gives me hope and encouragement that you are interested in how you can help healing be possible for your spouse. It is more rare than you realize. With that, I will copy here what I have written under my first entry for that tab, titled “Telling the Truth – The Other Side“. Reading my posts from my home page will also help. Thank you for caring.

Blessings to you and your loved ones.

  

Telling the Truth – The Other Side

For the spouse who comes out of the closet, willingly or unwillingly, you are dealing with your own harsh realities, no doubt. One of the things that helped me get through my own situation with my then-husband was trying to understand where he was coming from. Empathy for his situation truly did sprinkle some healing glitter on my life.

I will be bold and say that I didn’t initially feel that he did the same for me. His lack of empathy toward what I was feeling was definitely lacking. At times, especially in those early days, I felt as though I was struggling through everything for the sake of our relationship, while he was thinking and acting very selfishly, whether he felt that he was or not. It was my valid perception, and I felt very alone in my struggle.

This especially seemed to be the case when I would ask him questions and he either dismissed them as not mattering or he would only give me half-truths, of which I would later discover the missing pieces; this led to more anger and hurt on my part, and defensiveness for us both.

Getting half-truths did nothing to help me heal or move forward. I understand now why he didn’t want to tell the truth. Sometimes, it was out of his own shame and not wanting to feel worse than he already did. Sometimes it was because he felt a burden lifted and didn’t want anything else weighing him down. Other times, which was usually the case, he didn’t want me to feel hurt anymore than I already had.

If I could give the LGBTQ spouse any piece of advice about the truth, it would be this: we need the truth. All of it.

Even if it hurts us more in the moment.

As the straight spouse in your marriage, there are gaping holes in our narrative, our life, that we didn’t know existed until the truth about you was revealed to us. And now? There is an overwhelming desire to make sense of our lives. The only way we can truly move forward is to know the truth and put the puzzle of our life back together, without pieces missing.

Please…don’t dismiss our questions as trivial or unimportant. It may seem menial to you, but it means the world to us and our healing.

Please…don’t walk away just because your burden feels lighter and you now want to explore and live your authentic life. Of course, feeling free is understandable. Your burden that you have carried for your entire life, whether you knew it your whole life or not, was very heavy.

However, you have a responsibility to help pick up as many pieces as you can in the wake of the tidal wave that just washed over us. We are now carrying a part of your burden squarely on our shoulders, which we never knew we would have to deal with. Can you understand how this could be difficult for us? Most of us desire to have empathy toward you, because we love you. Please return the favor in kind, and understand that it will take us more time than you realize; maybe as much time as it took you to grapple with your sexuality.

Living truthfully, telling the truth when asked, and helping your spouse to heal the things which are within your control, is an act of integrity. Part of living your future authentic life will mean so much more if you do what you can to help your spouse heal.

I certainly hope you can take much of what I have said here as non-offensive. I am an Ally, now, but I didn’t always feel that way in those early years of my husband’s Big Reveal. Thankfully, we both learned to handle truth; we now have a good relationship. Part of this is because I was willing to grapple with the tough stuff, and with time, forgive. The other part is because he finally began to understand and have empathy toward my journey.

Be a part of the healing. Live and speak truthfully. It is the gateway to healing.

Blessings on this Journey,
Emily

*In my next post, I will discuss the ideas of humility and the “Sorry, buts”.

The Life Changer

How are you feeling today? What are you dwelling on? How are your thoughts and circumstances affecting you, right now?

If you have found my blog through a search engine on Google or because someone recommended it to you, then my guess is that all of the questions above could be answered with some version of the word crap.

That’s okay. I get it. Been there…done that…bought the Tshirt. Some days, I am still in that place; however, it has gotten better for me overall.

I am going to let you in on a little secret this Thanksgiving holiday. Here is why my life has improved:

One of the best things I ever did for myself, to keep making the best choices possible during my second bought with colon cancer, was to write something everyday that I was thankful for. I did this publicly on The Book of Faces, because that’s how I live: out loud. Plus, as a writer, I like the feedback (and let’s be honest: I like an audience and attention).

When you are going through the crap, like all of the shtuff that happens to your marriage and relationships after a spouse comes out of the closet, it is tough to see anything in a positive light. But you know what? That is okay. If I could be trite for a second, that is actually a part of the process.

Once I commited to doing this gratefulness exercise everyday for a week, a week turned into a month, and suddenly a year had gone by. Even when caca happened, I accepted the challenge to find something…anything…to be thankful for that day. One time, I was even thankful for my Mexican Blanket, and another, I was thankful for a much needed shower.

Even if I missed a day (and at one time a week), I willed myself to write something. Forcing myself to find cause to be thankful changed my life. It allowed me pause to analyze my heart and my mind. It gave me the opportunity to know myself at my core.

And knowing who you are at your core, apart from anyone or anything, is one of the best key points of advice I can give to someone who is struggling in life. If you don’t know who you are at your core, despite the hurt and devastation going on around you, you are unsettled with a mind that races 24/7, and this ship that you are sailing on will sink faster than you can say the word help.

So do something, starting now, to help find out who you are at your core. How about you start by committing to write something you are thankful for and why? What’s the worst that can happen? You feel a little better for two minutes? That’s a win in my book.

Then, during one quiet moment tomorrow, write something you are thankful for again. If you forget, do it the next day. Keep a journal with these writings in some fashion. Even one year later, I can go back and see myself transforming and getting to know who Emily is at her core, apart from anyone or any circumstance. It is pretty amazing to see how far I’ve come.

One of the interesting side effects of this commitment to gratitude is that it was contagious. My thankful heart became full and it was natural for me to encourage others, even when I was in the throes of battling for my life against cancer. That, my friends, was amazing.

You can have this experience, too. Invite others to go on this journey with you. If you are a visual learner, like myself, attach a picture, a symbol, or a drawing you make to your Thankfulness Journal entry. It can truly be a life changer.

Feel free to comment below with what you are thankful for and why. Challenge yourself to find something that can be perceived as bad, and turn it on its head into a silver lining.

Change the crap into something that helps you know your core. Be thankful. Know yourself. Watch yourself grow. The attitude of gratitude is one of the most powerful life changers the human spirit has. Tap into it. You will feel like a winner, at least for a moment, everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, with love, from me.


Be Thankful, Live Life, Love Life, Imapact Others,

Emily

The Conflict Avoider

 

Check out TEDxUniversityOfNevada’s Facebook page for details of the Jan. 23rd event. Find it here at https://www.facebook.com/events/840345259417185/

 

Without revealing too much of my upcoming TEDxTalk in January, I have received some feedback about it that has been deemed controversial.

This is quite weird to me, because I have been a conflict avoider for much of my life. It has always been my goal to heal, to bridge gaps and to encourage. When I laid out my plans and practiced my speech in front of others, I never dreamed that what I would be saying would be controversial.

Clearly, if you have read my writings, you will know that I consider myself an Ally, even though it took my ex coming out of the closest a decade ago to get me to that point. I can relate to those who think that homosexuality is a choice and a sin, because I used to think that way. It was easy to think that way until I actually experienced my husband coming out of the closet, which is something many people can relate to once they are deeply touched by his issue, because of a spouse or a child leaving their closet. I had all of the answers before that…you bet I did. But once I knew the truth, I was forced to grapple with my beliefs.

The interesting thing is, the above isn’t even the controversial part of my TEDTalk. I am not even going to address it. It is controversial because I speak directly to the LGBTQ spouse who comes out and call on them to make the situation better by telling the truth and asking for forgiveness for specific things they have done to hurt their straight spouse.

What is so controversial about that? Isn’t that what everyone should do who is worth their salt in life and who wishes to live in integrity? It’s not like I am asking an LGBTQ person to seek forgiveness for being gay. It is about their actions and choices that hurt someone who didn’t deserve it.

I can guarantee that all of us straight spouses want to hear humility from our LGBTQ spouses, after the truth has been revealed, because so many times we don’t hear that. If you are one of the lucky ones to have experienced your spouse asking for forgiveness with humility, you will get it. It really helps us to heal and move forward.

As a side note, isn’t that what every spouse needs to hear from their husband or wife, no matter what the betrayal is?

So, even though this is apparently controversial, I have been encouraged to own my content and say what I plan on saying. If that causes controversy, then maybe in needs to be said.

So much for conflict avoidance. Sally forth, Emily. Let’s do this!

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily

Giving Advice


When your spouse comes out to you, the burden that they have secretly carried is lifted off their shoulders, more or less, and gets placed squarely on your back without consent from you. It is an awful thing to grapple with, and while they can finally be free to begin some sort of a process of usually moving on (even though it certainly isn’t easy for them), you are left holding a huge weight that you never expected to have to carry.

Unfortunately, our modern world often leaves us feeling ignored while their bravery is celebrated. It is most often left to us to pick up the scattered pieces of our narrative, without much support from society…and sometimes from the people closest to us.

This happens time and again to us Straights.

I am preparing a TEDx talk for this coming January that addresses the above issue in part. It is pretty exciting for me personally, and I hope I represent us well.

This is the first thing my students see when they walk in my classroom at Rainshadow Community Charter High School.

 

This morning I read an excellent post on the Straight Spouse Network’s blog section. In it, they set the record “straight” about some poorly handled advice given in a column from the UK. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I thought I would share it with you. My hope is that it helps you feel encouraged and lends insight to those who may need to support you, when they are unsure to how to help.

The Straight Spouse Network is an excellent resource for many straight spouses. Thanks for stopping by here to get encouragement, too. You can email me anytime and I will always do my best to NOT say the things that the advice columnist in the UK did.

I get you. I love you. You are not alone.

Here’s the link: Giving Good Advice in the Worst Way -Straight Spouse Network

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily

 

One of my favorite songs ever by Stevie Nicks, “Landslide”