In this episode:
Luanne and Matt met at a small Christian college in Indiana trying out for a music ensemble. As their friendship deepened, with shared values and interests, they fell in love.
Luanne and Matt married and have four children. They were The Nightingales. A true team, Luanne and Matt created a close and loving family. While not perfect, they had a stable, happy home environment that was joyful. It was the family Luanne had dreamed of.
Nine years into their marriage, Matt could no longer hide his same-sex attraction and admitted it along with a brief affair and a porn addiction. Taken by surprise, Luanne was numb; she was heart-broken and devastated. She knew her life was forever changed and didn’t think that she would survive.
Committed to their faith and their marriage, Luanne and Matt, who was a full-time worship pastor at a large Evangelical church in the San Francisco Bay Area, turned to reparative therapy in the hopes Matt could be “healed” and overcome his same-sex attraction. With time, it became clear therapy wasn’t going to overcome Matt’s attraction to men. Matt began to identify as a gay man.
Luanne stayed in their marriage. They both wanted to keep their family intact, and despite all of the hurt, there was much good in their relationship. Luanne loved their relationship, their family; she didn’t want to walk away.
After 23 years, Matt decided to end their marriage. Luanne was devastated. Coming out as gay and intending to divorce Luanne, Matt had to resign his position in the church. The congregation was notified, and overnight, their private story became a very public one. Luanne is a private person, so having their lives in the spotlight was challenging. But Luanne was relieved to no longer have to bear the weight of their secret.
Wanting to have an authentic relationship with his children, Matt revealed the truth about his sexuality to all four of them at different times in the months leading up to his public coming out. This was shocking to them, but Luanne and Matt assured all of them that they could ask questions, and they provided them with names of individuals who they could turn to for additional support. It wasn’t that Matt is gay that was hard for them to accept, but that Luanne and Matt were getting divorced. Luanne’s advice for others in this situation:
“Choose friendship and hope as your guiding forces. It’s not the end of your family.”
The first few months after Matt left their marriage were challenging for Luanne. Matt was public about his coming out, dating, and advocacy work. Although there was so much good in that, it was hard for Luanne to navigate and it magnified her feelings of loneliness. She poured herself into creating her own life and life-giving experiences.
Their children have been Luanne’s strength and inspiration throughout this journey. Some days it was a struggle, but in her desire to be a mom, she was motivated each day to love and guide their children. This drove her to pursue what would be life-giving for their family even though it was taking a new form.
Initially Luanne didn’t know where to turn for resources. With time, Matt connected Luanne to individuals who were in her same situation. The ability to connect with other women was helpful. Luanne connected with three other women in similar situations for encouragement and support. They called their group text message “Life Support.” Although in different stages, they were all moms who either were or had been married to gay men. It was lifesaving to reach out to someone who understood and could share their wisdom. Counseling was helpful to process her experience and emotions. Having a safe place to talk through her emotions and feelings of being overwhelmed was essential.
Losing her community of friends has been the most difficult aspect of this journey. Loneliness and missing a partner in life is challenging. Accepting that she’s in this place, a place she does not want to be, has been difficult. The biggest gift? Finding joy. For many years, Luanne walked through life with a heaviness. In carrying this secret, she lost herself and experienced sadness and discontent. Now, living free from the secret has paved the way to authentic joy.
In their Tedx Talk, Luanne and Matt commit to choosing truth, hope, gratitude, and friendship. Luanne’s greatest hope is that they continue to move in a positive direction as they face their new normal, The New Nightingales. She’s hopeful their family can continue to have a healthy outcome from this shift in their lives.
There were so many times when Luanne was consumed by hurt and pain; she couldn’t find hope in the devastation. Yet as she reflects upon her journey, she knows that:
“Healing is possible, and there is life on the other side. The best is yet to come.”
Luanne and Matt’s Tedx Talk
COLAGErs are people with one or more LGBTQIA+ parent or caregiver—they are skilled, self-confident, and just leaders in our collective communities. Our stories are important, and so is yours.
Thank you for listening!
May our stories help forge your path forward. I hope you’ll stay tuned for our next episode and in the meantime, learn more about my story on my blog.