Connie Marshall

Straight Spouse Network offers help to those whose partners have come out — without bashing LGBT people

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Connie Marshall had been married to her husband for 30 years and had two children when, on the evening her older son returned from his honeymoon, her husband sat her down for a talk.

He told her he was gay and that he was moving to New York, and he handed her a list of what he wanted to take with him.

Marshall, who is now retired, owned several restaurants in San Antonio. Not only did her husband leave her with her business, but also with his car and their house to sell.

A few weeks later, her younger son left for college. So within a month, her household shrank from four to just one and she was suddenly facing a life alone.

“This kind of divorce is so different from the run-of-the-mill divorce and those of us who have walked down that path need support,” Marshall said.

The first thing Marshall assured is that Straight Spouse Network not about gay bashing. It provides support to the heterosexual current or former partner of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person to constructively resolve coming out issues.

In fact, Marshall said, the group encourages LGBT people to come out when they’re young so that what happened to her doesn’t happen to others.

The heterosexual partner is just one more victim of homophobia, Marshall said.

When Marshall moved to Dallas from San Antonio several years ago to live near her older son, she was surprised that this city didn’t have a straight spouse group. A group did exist in Dallas previously but disbanded. After speaking to members of PFLAG and people at Northaven United Methodist Church, she decided to start one.

Marshall points out that there are all sorts of groups for people in the LGBT community. Straight Spouse Network is the only organization that meets the needs of the heterosexual partner.

Her experience with the group is that some people who attend are angry but most just need the support of knowing they are not the only person that this happened to. Actually, she said, the group estimates that about 2 million people have found themselves in this situation or are still married to a gay or lesbian spouse.

Marshall said her former husband has always been a good father, and she wishes they had been able to maintain their friendship. She said that since he left 10 years ago she has reached out to him a number of times but he keeps his distance. She imagines that guilt on his part keeps him from re-establishing their friendship.

After being on her own for 10 years, Marshall said she has created a new life for herself. But she hopes to help others facing this situation.

The Dallas Straight Spouse Network will meet for the first time on April 12.

Straight Spouse Network meets the second Tuesday each month at Northaven United Methodist Church, 11211 Preston Road at 7 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.