Your blog and book have been real lifesavers for me, and they’ve helped me both frame my own experience and describe it to others. I certainly have seen several other LGBTQ+ people who routinely comment on your posts and participate in the related discussion forums elsewhere. I, for one, appreciate that your perspective is universal, and very welcoming of us rainbow chumps. Since June is Pride month, and we’re not able to gather in our communities the way we normally would, I wondered whether you would dedicate a post to some of the unique elements of our experience of chumpdom. I know it’s not the Pain Olympics, but you’ve focused in the past on the shared experiences of straight male chumps, for instance.
I can offer just a few thoughts to get you started. One of the biggest issues for me has been that our community and its allies have worked so hard in recent years to gain legal recognition of same-sex marriage and certain trans recognitions in the U.S. and other places – and many of those legal rights still feel uncertain. While mainstream attitudes certainly have shifted, many of us still fear having open conversations with new acquaintances about our families and identities. So I felt extremely isolated after having been chumped twice by my outwardly justice-loving partner. As though it weren’t enough for the world often to be a hostile place, suddenly my hard-won legal marriage was riddled with booby traps. (And I was the boob.) Talk about feeling unsafe! And the hypocrisy is strong with those who would fight for justice for themselves and others out in the world, but emotionally abuse their own partners with impunity back at home.
The consequences also suck in a slightly different way for kids of rainbow marriage, I think. While all children will likely suffer some effects of divorce — it’s considered an Adverse Childhood Event (ACE) for a reason, regardless of whether infidelity was the cause — I’m sorry to say I see my kids struggling with an additional layer: they have grown up in schools where they were no other families like ours, and one way they have coped was to internalize and promulgate the “Love Makes a Family” narrative. While I think that message can be helpful in certain contexts, it can be double-edged when love gets shredded, and the family blows up. Also, I realize that a lot of us chumps were invested in projecting the Perfect Family narrative regardless of our gender or orientation. But I bet that chumps who married outside of their race, ethnicity, or religion might be able to identify with the feeling that your marriage/family needs to be Extra Perfect in order to be accepted by extended family, old friends, and people in other communities to which you belong. Of course, ultimately nobody’s any more perfect than anybody else: we’re all still just as likely to be chumped.
Finally, I will just note that in my experience, LGBTQ+ people are more likely than the general mainstream population (at least in the U.S.) to know polyamorous people, and to question sexual norms and conventions. Of course, real polyamory involves extensive self-knowledge, emotional maturity, and rock-hard boundaries. But I can now see that polyamory offers yet another mirage for disordered people in our community, and another opportunity for manipulation and blameshifting. After my D-Day #2 (14 years after the first one), my ex tried to get me to accept their affair as a poly thing, and when I wouldn’t, they called me “rigid” and “judgey,” especially after they tried to claim that they were poly as a matter of innate orientation. Fortunately, I saw through that particular mindfuck, but I realize that a lot of younger rainbow chumps might be very confused when presented with polyamory as an excuse for cheating. I feel like I’m channeling you, Chump Lady, when I share what I’ve learned the hard way: we need to advocate for ourselves by getting very clear, with ourselves and our partners, about what is and isn’t okay with us, and voice any discomfort as soon as we experience it. There are many flavors of desire and partnership out there, and not all of them will be right for us as individuals. (I don’t have a problem with alternatives to monogamy, as long as they’re negotiated up front and without any lopsided power dynamics or bullying by people who consider themselves more “liberated.”)
The good news is that LGBTQ+ people are generally pretty experienced with advocating for ourselves. Thanks again for listening and for being an ally — to rainbow people, and to all chumps! — and I will be interested in reading your thoughts. Thanks, and Happy Pride!
A Rainbow Chump
Dear Rainbow Chump,
On this historic week for LGBTQ+ rights, in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that LGBTQ+ people have federal protections against discrimination in the workplace I’m thrilled to be able to run your letter and welcome you to the equal opportunity suckfest of chumpdom.
That’s the thing about being fully human. Some of us can be real assholes. I mean, of course there are LGBTQ+ cheaters, just as there are LGBTQ+ chumps. And insurance underwriters. And dentists. And maybe someday (a girl can dream) even Supreme Court justices. Could we please replace Brett Kavanaugh with RuPaul?
I’m sorry that being gay and chumped comes with an additional buffet of shit sandwiches, foremost among them having to be a Credit to Your Orientation. Or whatever you want to call that particular mindfuck. Many of us have felt the pressure of Failure Is Not an Option, and have clung to the RIC, thinking we could fix the impossible. Having an extra layer of societal expectation to be perfect must be awful. Like if you fail, they’ll snatch all your rights away.
I’m sorry Lesbian Couple, you may not adopt children, because Bob Haversham and Kip Kipperson of Boise have broken up. The experiment is OVER. Hand in your civil rights immediately!
After my D-Day #2 (14 years after the first one), my ex tried to get me to accept their affair as a poly thing, and when I wouldn’t, they called me “rigid” and “judgey,” especially after they tried to claim that they were poly as a matter of innate orientation.
Oh hey, join the Rigid and Judgey Rainbow Nation. We’re all huddled here under our Controlling flag.
Geez, what’s with the great poly realization after sworn monogamy? I wonder why more things in our ostensibly committed relationships aren’t poly. Kids have orthodontist bills — where’s the innate poly-ness? Why aren’t 14 different fuckbuddies paying your student loans or driving your mother-in-law to her chemo appointments? Why is your paycheck monogamous but your bedroom isn’t? It’s just the darnedest thing.
There are many flavors of desire and partnership out there, and not all of them will be right for us as individuals. (I don’t have a problem with alternatives to monogamy, as long as they’re negotiated up front and without any lopsided power dynamics or bullying by people who consider themselves more “liberated.”)
No one should be in a monogamous relationship that doesn’t want to be in one. I think the problem is not “innate polyness” but the desire to have all the benefits of one partner’s singular focus and investment, without making the same investment yourself. Cheating is always about rigging the game.
But speaking about that singular focus and investment — I believe in committed love. I believe in love stories like Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer. The comfort of decades of shared life. Of the sacrifice of caregiving. The kind of love that fights all the way to the Supreme Court to be recognized. (Talk about being a credit to your orientation…)
LGBTQ+ people are fully human. And if humanity includes the worst impulses — deceit, blameshifting, nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land — it also means being capable of the best qualities too.
There are many kinds of relationships. You deserve to be with your equal — someone who loves as magnificently as you love.
Happy Pride Month. Thanks for sharing.