Reaching Out to Clergy

Sooner or later, someone like me—who finds out he or she is married to a person with unresolved sexual orientation issues—will show up at your door, asking for prayer and guidance.

How have you developed empathy for the so-called straight spouse? Formal training or was it an on-the-job “thrown into the lion’s den” experience? What resources do you have handy to help in such situations?

I was brought up in the tradition that when something serious happens—something personal, private, and overwhelming such as a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, a family member dies unexpectedly, a marriage is in trouble—it’s time to slam on the brakes, stop everything, and make a beeline to one’s clergyperson. It’s a matter of talking to someone who can be trusted, someone who will listen, someone who may not have all the answers but will offer a prayer and guidance for the next step. That would be you!

That’s why I recently mailed a postcard to clergy who may have an open mind and an open heart to my love story.

I was so bold (and even controversial?) to take it a step further and encourage clergy to consider asking a couple before they make their marriage vows this question:

“Do you have any unresolved questions about your sexual orientation? Have you talked about this with your partner?”

I welcome candid reactions to my suggestion. Good idea? Bad idea? Too uncomfortable? Distasteful? Not clear enough? Rewording needed? It’s worth a try?

As I wrote in my epilogue:

I would love to encourage any clergyperson who performs wedding ceremonies to  include some discussion of sexual orientation as part of the premarital counseling process….It may or may not have made a difference when Victor and I met with our pastor as an idealistic, lovestruck couple at 22 years of age. But such a question just might open the door as a conversation starter and serve as a point of reference for further conversations with a caring and competent clergyperson.

A note about my book: No profanity and no curse words, but it does have alcohol use, adults behaving badly (including me!), and a couple of sex scenes.

Most important, I give thanks for all those precious clergy who can indeed check the box:

□ “I have respect and empathy for the straight spouse.”

I welcome opportunities to serve as a panelist alongside caring clergy to explore what we all can do to make the church a place of emotional support—more so than gossip—when people have disruptions in their personal life as well as visit as a guest author for book club discussions.

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