South Florida Connects (SFC) is a sister organizations of Family & Friends Connection, Inc. and provides straight spouse awareness expertise to the South Florida Community and beyond. Debbie Thomas-Brown is the CEO/Founder of SFC. SFC provides information to distressed men and women who find themselves unknowingly in a relationship with a secretly gay person. SFC specializes in straight spouse peer support for information, education, validation and affirmation. Debbie was recently interviewed on radio WAVS 1170am, a popular Caribbean- American station in South Florida.
1. Who is a straight spouse?
You are a straight spouse if you are a heterosexual person who is, or was in a relationship, is married to, separated or divorced from someone who is LGBT, (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender.) Transgender may include but is not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, or individuals who have had a sex change. Some people are straight spouses by choice, but most straight spouses unknowingly dated or married someone who is secretly gay.
2. Why are you interested in helping straight spouses?
I nearly married a secretly gay man and that made me so acutely aware that if I am so vigilant in my choice of companions and he was able to hide his true sexual orientation so well, what about my other sisters and brothers in the church who are not even aware that such situations exist. So after the embarrassment wore off, I got mad.
When I know of a problem I usually try to find a solution for it. After much research I found out this was not unique to just myself. There is a very big problem in our immigrant community, and all over the world. I prayed about it and God has been using me to help others who may find themselves in the same situation or worse, being already married to the person. Straight spouses often feel alone with no one to talk to.
So SFC decided to take on straight spouse awareness as part of our community advocacy to teach, validate, empower, and support anyone who feels that they are a straight spouse and need support and also to help prevent others from becoming straight spouses.
Our website Connecting The Down Low Clues at southfloridaconnects.com is family friendly and provides much information to help straight spouses, pastors, community professionals, parents, teenagers, and family and friends of straight spouses. We also have a straight spouse awareness hotline 954-983-9751 where people can call and leave messages. If someone leaves a message with contact information, they will be contacted in the manner they requested.
3. Why is intuition and discernment so important in straight spouse awareness?
Where there is smoke there is fire. All humans have a built in bad vibes detection system. God made humans like that for a reason, so we can help to protect ourselves. Usually one of the first clues that a man or woman may have that their spouse is not on the up and up, is through their intuition, that nagging feeling that something is just not right. It might be something that was said or an action, but it made you uncomfortable enough for you to wonder about it. Women are gifted with a great internal alarm system and too many of us fail to use it.
If you are in the bedroom and you smell smoke or like something is burning wouldn’t you get up and go and investigate? So why don’t women in particular investigate more when the alarms go off and you even start loosing sleep about it? Sometimes your investigation only requires a few smart questions or a little more keen attention to sometimes insignificant looking details. Some people don’t look at their spouses; refuse to look them in the eye. If you do that you may find that your weird feelings are not because you are crazy, but because something is very wrong.
4. Some people are afraid to ask questions, why should women and men ask tough questions, especially when they are dating someone new, and what are some of the questions that should be asked?
Some women are afraid to ask a man if he is married. A new man you meet may never volunteer that information if you do not ask it directly, as some people believe if it was not asked they don’t have to tell. Likewise if you don’t ask someone their HIV status they don’t have to tell you. This should be a must ask question, but please know your status before you start inquiring about others.
This is the fair way to operate. Knowing your HIV status places you in a position of empowerment. For those who don’t know their HIV status, if you live in the USA you can find out by texting your zip code to 566948. You will receive a text with the name and telephone number of a testing location in your zip code. You should contact them to set up a time for you to get a free HIV test. Health centers do more than HIV testing so no one has to know why you are going there. You can get a test done by your private doctor if you have one. You can also get information at www.hivtest.org. There is no stigma in getting tested. Knowing your HIV status is powerful.
If you are negative you will know to guard your negative status and if unfortunately you are positive, you will be able to start a medical regimen early, so you can continue to look good and remain in satisfactory health for a very long time.
5. You said the computer and cell phone are big tools secretly gay individuals use to make contact with other gay individuals, how can straight spouses use this information to their benefit?
If you suspect, or even if you don’t suspect infidelity, weird computer usage by your spouse can set up red flags to tell you that something is wrong. Are they hiding what they are doing on the computer? Do they cover or delete screens when you walk by? Do they watch to see if you are looking before going to certain web pages? Do they hide their emails, or test messages? Do they make a big fuss if you touch their cell phone or try to answer it when it rings? Have you ever seen text messages with weird abbreviations and language you do not understand? If you answered yes to these, they are RED FLAGS! Investigate discretely; your life may depend on your vigilance.
You won’t be able to find any computer red flags if you don’t know how to use the computer. At least let your computer savvy kids teach you how to use the computer for basic stuff such as web browsing or checking emails and instant messages. You can get free lessons at some local libraries, adult evening classes, or if you can afford to, pay a high school student to teach you.
Using web browsing history can tell you what sites have been visited on the computer. Using the CRTL+H keys will usually bring up the browsing history for today, last week, two, three weeks ago or longer. If someone is using the computer to visit gay dating and hook up sites such as manhunt.com, adam4adam.com, Craigslist personals and any other such sites, porn sites, gay support sites, and gay divorce advice sites, you will see that in the history if the history has not been deleted.
If the browsing history has been deleted, that means someone has something to hide. You may want to find out what they are hiding. Even if it’s only financial stuff, that too can hurt you.
People lie, cell phones don't. You can get a lot of information from a cell phone if you really want to.
6. We have too many straight spouses in the church. What is the main way people can protect themselves and avoid becoming straight spouses?
Asking for spiritual guidance is key to avoiding danger and protecting yourself. Never ever underestimate the power of prayer. Don’t bother to ask God for guidance and protection if you are not willing to listen and follow what he shows you. Always put God in charge of any decision you want to make and follow His guidance. Sometimes we self help but God does not need our help.
We should not try to make important decisions based solely on our selves. Use your sense of discernment and follow that small voice. It may be telling you something that is so not what you want to hear, but if you ignore it you will end up regretting that you did not listen.
If I never asked for guidance in choosing a mate, and listen to what God was saying and paid attention to what he was showing me, I would have married a man who would have just used me to cover up his same sex orientation. It was not easy to back off, but I believed God and I knew He was showing me everything for my benefit. If I had self helped and ignore what I was shown, I would be in a messy marriage right now.
Please use your intuition and your sense of disernment. God’s intention is to help you not hurt you. So when Mr. Right seems too good to be true, please pray and ask for guidance.
Hebrews 13:4 NIV: Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.