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For the more general concept, see Mixed marriage
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A mixed-orientation marriage is a marriage between a man and a woman in which one of the partners is heterosexual and the other is either bisexual, homosexual, or asexual.[1]

LGB spouse[]

There may be many reasons why an LGB person may enter into a mixed-orientation marriage. A study on 26 gay and bisexual men indicated that the two most frequent reasons for marriage were that it seemed natural, and a desire for children and family life.[2] The New York Times reported "On the whole these are not marriages of convenience or cynical efforts to create cover. Gay and bisexual men continue to marry for complex reasons, many impelled not only by discrimination, but also by wishful thinking, the layered ambiguities of sexual love and authentic affection."[3] A mixed-orientation marriage used to cover up one's sexual orientation, especially for their career, is called a lavender marriage.[4]

Joe Kort, a counselor specializing in mixed-orientation marriages, said "These men genuinely love their wives. They fall in love with their wives, they have children, they're on a chemical, romantic high, and then after about seven years, the high falls away and their gay identity starts emerging. They don't mean any harm."[3] Others cite spiritual reasons for getting married.[5][6] One married homosexual man said his "spiritual identity" had always been "marriage and family."[7] While many hide their orientation from their spouse, others tell their spouse before marriage.[7] LGB parents must also decide how and when to come out to their children. For many, this may be a difficult process.[8] It is also possible that a woman was exclusively heterosexual in behavior and fantasies before marriage, but grew toward a more homosexual orientation during marriage.[9] If a change in sexual orientation after a period of relative stability in sexual orientation causes anxiety or depression, especially if the person is involved in a relationship, they may have a sexual maturation disorder.

Heterosexual spouse[]

There may be many reasons why a heterosexual person may enter into a mixed orientation marriage. One study states that heterosexual women in mixed-orientation marriages may be attracted to homosexual men and proceed to marry them.[10] Kort said "straight individuals rarely marry gay people accidentally."[11] He theorized that some heterosexual women find homosexual men less judgmental and more flexible, while others unconsciously seek partnerships that are not sexually passionate.[3]

Heterosexual wives of homosexual men who did not know of their husband's sexual orientation may feel deceived or stupid for not having known. It is often difficult for them to seek support from family and friends because of fear of encountering social disapproval or ostracism.[12] Findings suggest that heterosexual wives struggled less with the homosexuality itself than with problems of isolation, stigma, loss, cognitive confusion and dissonance, and lack of knowledgeable, empathic support or help in problem solving.[13] Heterosexual wives often feel they are not feminine enough, while heterosexual husbands feel they are not masculine enough. The heterosexual spouse may feel sexual inadequate. If a gay or bisexual husband had an affair, the heterosexual wife may fear having contracted sexually transmitted diseases.[14]

Sexual relationship disorder[]

Main article: Sexual relationship disorder

A person who is either in a mixed-orientation marriage or wishes to enter into one may go to therapy or support groups to deal with issues involved in that type of marriage.[15] A significant number of men and women experience conflict surrounding homosexual expression within marriage.[16] Although a strong homosexual identity was associated with difficulties in marital satisfaction, viewing the same-sex activities as compulsive facilitated commitment to the marriage and to monogamy.[17] Research by Coleman suggest that some develop a positive homosexual identity while maintaining a successful marriage.[18] Therapy may include helping the client feel more comfortable and accepting of same-sex feelings and to explore ways of incorporating same-sex and opposite-sex feelings into life patterns.[19] Peers provide the most support, while therapists are often unfamiliar with sexual orientation, mixed orientation couples, or societal attitudes that impact mixed orientation families.[20]

Approximately one third of marriages end immediately when the bisexual or homosexual spouse reveals his or her sexual orientation, whereas another third end after a short period of time. The remaining third try to make it work. The most successful ones reassess their relationship in light of the sexual orientation, where less successful ones try to make the marriage the same as it was before. Most successful marriages are either open marriages, where neither partner is expected to remain faithful, or monogamous marriages, either with or without lovemaking.[14]

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A person with a bisexual or homosexual orientation may attempt conversion therapy, often because of religious/moral conflict, opportunity for opposite-sex marriage and family, maintenance of existing marriage and family, or desire to avoid the non-monogamy and risky sexual behaviors that create serious risk for HIV infection.[21] They may also attend ex-gay groups, either before or after their marriage.[22] Dr. Robinson interviewed seven men in a mixed-orientation marriage who had been through an ex-gay group. They believe they had a spiritual transformation and that their orientation was changed. They were no longer troubled by feeling different or rejected by heterosexual men, emotional attraction to men, sexual attraction to men, feeling bad about same-sex desires, social isolation, or compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors. Robinson found that their change came from a new understanding that prior same-sex attractions did not require them to be gay.[23]

Some bisexual men express with minimal conflict their homosexual and heterosexual impulses within the framework of a mixed-orientation marriage,[24] with openness and communication being a key factor.[25]

Support groups are available for those involved in a mixed-orientation marriage. The New York Times states "Although precise numbers are impossible to come by, 10,000 to 20,000 wives of gay husbands have contacted online support groups, and increasing numbers of them are women in their 20s or 30s."[3]


Divorce is one possible resolution for the homosexual partner, potentially with re-marriage to person of the same sex. Many gay and lesbian people who come out late in life have children from a previous heterosexual marriage.

In media[]

The theme of mixed-orientation marriages in literature dates back at least to 1899 with the publication of A Marriage Below Zero by Alfred J. Cohen (writing under the pseudonym Chester Allan Dale). Cohen's heterosexual female narrator was married to a homosexual man. Cohen believed that women should be aware of the sexual orientation of a potential husband so they would avoid marrying a homosexual man.[26] Lesbian pulp fiction sometimes included married women exploring their attraction to other women. Other examples of the theme include Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, which features two married cowboys in love with each other.

The filmed version of Brokeback Mountain helped bring the issue of mixed-orientation marriages to public attention,[3] but several other movies had already dealt with the issue. Talk shows, such as Oprah, have also dealt with the issue.[27] Some of the movies that deal with mixed-orientation marriages include:

  • Brokeback Mountain
  • De-Lovely - The story of Cole Porter, a bisexual man and his wife, Linda Lee Thomas.
  • Far From Heaven - The story of a woman whose husband has an affair with another man.
  • Imagine Me & You - Story of a straight woman who falls in love with a lesbian at her wedding.
  • The Wedding Banquet - Story of a gay Taiwanese immigrant man who marries a mainland Chinese woman to placate his parents and get her a green card.
  • Mulligans - The story of a gay man who spends the summer with his best friend's family and begins an affair with the father.
  • American Beauty

Famous couples[]

There have been several famous celebrities who are in a mixed-orientation marriage, including:

  • Anne Heche married Coleman Laffoon after breaking up with Ellen DeGeneres. She told Advocate "I have been very clear to everybody that just because I'm getting married does not mean I call myself a straight."
  • Julie Cypher married Matthew Hale after breaking up with Melissa Etheridge.
  • Margaret Cho is married to Al Ridenour and identifies as queer.[28]
  • Anthony Perkins married Berry Berenson. He had previous relationships with Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, dancer Rudolf Nureyev, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and dancer-choreographer Grover Dale, but underwent therapy after meeting Victoria Principal.
  • Cole Porter, who was described as "an openly closeted gay man,"[29] was married to Linda Lee Thomas. Their marriage was the subject of Night and Day, but his sexuality was ignored. A later film, De-Lovely, dealt more openly with his sexuality.
  • Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day married Adrienne Nesser in 1994 and together they have two kids. In a 1995 interview with The Advocate, he said "I think I've always been bisexual. I mean, it's something that I've always been interested in."[30][31]
  • David Bowie came out as bisexual in 1972[32] and married Iman Abdulmajid in 1992.
  • Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd, but may have had significant sexual relationships with Frank Miles, Robert Baldwin Ross, and Lord Alfred Douglas.
  • Little Richard was married in 1959 and his biography, The Life and Times of Little Richard details his involvement with homosexuality.
  • Andrea Dworkin and John Stoltenberg were a lesbian and a gay man who were married to each other and continued to be gay rights activists.
  • Actress Liza Minnelli's first marriage was to impresario Peter Allen, who was gay.
  • Painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived together for forty years and had a daughter together, but had a sexual relationship for only a short time, as Grant was openly gay.
  • Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson were married for over forty years and had two sons together, although both were homosexual. Their younger son Nigel wrote the book Portrait of a Marriage about his parents' relationship.
  • The love between writer Lytton Strachey and artist Dora Carrington is the subject of the film Carrington (1995). Although Strachey was openly gay, the two lived together for many years, and Carrington committed suicide upon Strachey's death from cancer, unable to live without him.
  • Poet Kathleen Raine had an enduring deep relationship with gay naturalist and writer Gavin Maxwell; she famously cursed him by wishing him to suffer as she had suffered from her love for him.
  • Adrian, a costume designer, was openly gay, but married Janet Gaynor in 1939. Together they had a son named Robin Gaynor Adrian, born in 1940. They remained married until Adrian's death on March 3, 1959. Though Gaynor later remarried, she & Adrian are buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
  • Megan Mullally married Nick Offerman in 2003. She commented in an interview in The Advocate magazine, "I consider myself bisexual, and my philosophy is, everyone innately is."[33]
  • Alan Cumming has been married to a woman and then a man. He has identified himself as bisexual.
  • Alla Nazimova and Charles Bryant (actor) were married from 1912 to 1925, though Nazimova was romantically involved with Eva Le Gallienne, director Dorothy Arzner, writer Mercedes de Acosta, and Oscar Wilde's niece, Dolly Wilde.
  • Mercedes de Acosta was married to Abram Poole, though having several affairs with other women.
  • Marlene Dietrich was married to Rudolf Sieber. Together, they had one daughter, Maria Elisabeth Sieber.
  • Tamara Karsavina was married to Henry James Bruce.
  • David Bacon and Greta Keller were married. Keller later said that Bacon was homosexual, and that she was lesbian, and that their marriage allowed both of them to maintain a respectable facade in Hollywood, where they were both attempting to establish film careers.
  • Guthrie McClintic and Estelle Winwood were both LGB and were married for 40 years.
  • Artist Frida Kahlo was married to fellow artist Diego Rivera. Both Frida and Diego had multiple affairs, some of Frida's affairs being with women.
  • Gay porno star Jack Wrangler was married to Margaret Whiting from 1994 until his death.


Template:No footnotes

  1. includeonly>Hentges, Rochelle. "How to tell if your husband is gay", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 4, 2006.
  2. Gay Men from Heterosexual Marriages: Attitudes, Behaviors, Childhood Experiences, and Reasons for Marriage
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 includeonly>Butler, Katy. "Many Couples Must Negotiate Terms of 'Brokeback' Marriages", New York Times, March 7, 2006.
  4. Lavender marriage.
  5. Gay, Mormon, married
  6. includeonly>"No Easy Victory", Christianity Today, March 11, 2002.
  7. 7.0 7.1 includeonly>Moore, Carrie A.. "Gay LDS men detail challenges", Deseret Morning News, March 30, 2007.
  8. Dunne EJ (1987). Helping gay fathers come out to their children. J Homosex. 14 (1-2): 213–22.
  9. Coleman E (1985). Bisexual women in marriages. J Homosex. 11 (1-2): 87–99.
  10. Büntzly G (1993). Gay fathers in straight marriages. J Homosex. 24 (3-4): 107–14.
  11. Kort, Joe (September 2005). The New Mixed Marriage: When One Partner is Gay.
  12. Hays D, Samuels A (1989). Heterosexual women's perceptions of their marriages to bisexual or homosexual men. J Homosex. 18 (1-2): 81–100.
  13. Gochros JS (1985). Wives' reactions to learning that their husbands are bisexual. J Homosex. 11 (1-2): 101–13.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Jerry J. Bigner, Joseph L. Wetchler Relationship therapy with same-sex couples
  15. Rust, Paula C. (2000). Bisexuality in the United States: a social science reader, New York: Columbia University Press.
  16. Wolf TJ (1987). Group psychotherapy for bisexual men and their wives. J Homosex. 14 (1-2): 191–9.
  17. Schneider JP, Schneider BH (1990). Marital satisfaction during recovery from self-identified sexual addiction among bisexual men and their wives. J Sex Marital Ther. 16 (4): 230–50.
  18. Matteson DR (1985). Bisexual men in marriage: is a positive homosexual identity and stable marriage possible?. J Homosex. 11 (1-2): 149–71.
  19. Coleman E (1981). Bisexual and gay men in heterosexual marriage: conflicts and resolutions in therapy. J Homosex. 7 (2-3): 93–103.
  20. Buxton AP (2005). A Family Matter: When a Spouse Comes Out as Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual. J GLBT Family Studies 1 (2): 49–70.
  21. Rosik CH (Jan 2003). Motivational, ethical, and epistemological foundations in the treatment of unwanted homoerotic attraction. J Marital Fam Ther. 29 (1): 13–28.
  22. Top Stories
  23. Throckmorton, Warren (June 2002). Initial empirical and clinical findings concerning the change process for ex-gays. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 33: 242–248.
  24. Brownfain JJ (1985). A study of the married bisexual male: paradox and resolution. J Homosex. 11 (1-2): 173–88.
  25. Coleman E (1985). Integration of male bisexuality and marriage. J Homosex. 11 (1-2): 189–207.
  26. Fletcher, Lynne Yamaguchi (1992) The First Gay Pope and Other Records. Boston, Alyson Publications. ISBN 1-55583-206-7. p. 93
  27. My Husband is gay
  28. Margaret Cho geared up for 'Dead'
  29. includeonly>Frontain, Raymond-Jean. "Porter, Cole". Retrieved on 2007-10-17.
  30. "Coming Clean" January 24, 1995
  31. Libertarian Celebrities - Advocates for Self-Government
  32. includeonly>Collis, Clark. "Dear Superstar: David Bowie", 'Blender', 2002–08.
  33. includeonly>"The Advocate's 25 Coolest Women", November 23, 1999.

Further reading[]

  • Bozett, Frederick W. (1987). Gay and lesbian parents, New York: Praeger.
  • Latham JD, White GD (1978). Coping with homosexual expression within heterosexual marriages: five case studies. J Sex Marital Ther. 4 (3): 198–212.
  • van der Geest H (1993). Homosexuality and marriage. J Homosex. 24 (3-4): 115–23.
  • Gay husbands and fathers: Reasons for marriage among homosexual men ET Ortiz, PR Scott - Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 1994

External links[]

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