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last modified April 2, 1996


The Other Side of the Closet

In two million marriages, one spouse is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Having a spouse or parent disclose his or her same-sex attraction is a shattering experience fraught with pain, confusion, anger, and a profound loss of self-esteem. Amity Pierce Buxton spotlights this exploding phenomenon and reports constructive coping strategies that spouses and children have used to resolve problems of sexual damage, family breakdown, deception, and homophobia. Illustrated throughout by riveting personal narratives, this expanded edition of The Other Side of the Closet traces the family's journey from initial trauma to eventual transformation.

This valuable source of information for spouses, families, and professionals is based on Dr. Buxton's eight years of research, including interviews with 1,000 straight spouses and children, her own personal experience, and her counseling work with spouses of gay, lesbian and bisexual partners.

Excerpt from Preface:

In 1986, the Gay Fathers of San Francisco asked me to research what happens to spouses when their partners come out.... For five years, I talked with four hundred and fifty spouses and partners across the country....

In the three years since the first edition went to press, the pace of social and political changes relating to homosexual and bisexual persons escalated. More married lesbians came out, the bisexual community became more visible, and gay issues gained media attention and entered the political process....

During the same period, I talked at length with six hundred more individuals, including children and grandparents from forty-six states and several foreign countries.

Gradually, an initial hunch grew stronger: the coming out is a family matter and, to understand it better, children's reactions need to be examined directly.

To fill a gap in the literature regarding children's experience over time as well as to reflect current trends, it was decided to reissue The Other Side of the Closet in an expanded edition....

The new edition, based now on accounts from more than one thousand spouses and family members over eight years, broadens our understanding of what the coming-out crisis means to the family and to the larger community....

As a parent and spouse, as well as researcher, I feel that a closer look at such families is needed at this turning point in the nineties. The intensity of the debate over gay rights, from Congress to church pulpits, drowns out legitimate concerns raised on both sides about social justice and community stability. As with any societal change, the future of our children will be built only after the debate quiets down. Do we leave its design to whoever wins the shouting battle? Or do we look seriously now at damage already incurred and call for a society that promises personal security and full community participation for everyone regardless of orientation? To do so may require questioning long-held beliefs. Not to act will perpetuate coming-out tragedies for thousands of families, year after year....

Amity Pierce Buxton

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