Actress Charlotte Rae Says Her Husband Shamed Her When He Came Out as Gay After 25 Years of Marriage

Actress Charlotte Rae (The Facts of Life) wrote a memoir called "The Facts of My Life" that she's shopping around, Page Six reports:

RaeThe book describes how she discovered her husband of 25 years, composer John Strauss, was gay. Rae and Strauss, who won a Grammy for the soundtrack to "Amadeus," had just moved into a new house in LA when he confessed he was gay and had been unfaithful. "First came the shock of what he had done behind my back, then the sting of being deceived for years," she writes. "All I could feel was the betrayal and, worse than that, my shame." The pair, married in 1950, had two kids and divorced in 1975 after Strauss came out to her. Strauss died in 2011. "John’s secret confirmed my feelings of inferiority," Rae writes. "That I was less than a woman . . . That I didn’t deserve to be loved and valued."

In February 2011, Rae expressed support when one of her Facts of Life castmastes, Geri Jewell, came out of the closet, saying,  "Her coming out as a lesbian, well, it's a healthy time to come out, everybody is very open about it, which is wonderful, absolutely wonderful…I just wish her more and more good health and prosperity. She obviously knows how to love. We love her."


  1. candideinnc says

    “Shame” is a strange word to use in this context. I can understand “betrayed,” but what is the real difference between a man breaking up with a wife because of another woman and a man breaking up with a wife because of a man? Also, why would a woman have a sense of inferiority because she fell in love with and married a gay man? Is it simply because, again, she was rejected for someone else?

    Lots of marriages begin with gay men thinking (inccorrectly) they can have a loving marriage with a woman they have great affection for. Self deception is easy when there are so many social factors pressing on gays to conform to family and societal norms.

  2. DannyEastVillage says

    This is precisely why NOM and the rest of them are full of sh/t. They’re so sick in the head that they want this kind of scenario to be played out in people’s lives forever – as, apparently, does the pope and his minions.

    This woman was entitled to be loved the way any one is entitled to be loved, but the fake-religious garbage that inhibits that -and it’s perpetrators – are responsible for the miserly of countless people. Tony Perkins should be hauled up before the World Court in the The Hague.

  3. David says

    She’s misplacing her emotions. She would have felt shame, shock and inferiority had her husband been lying to her about anything else — like had been cheating on her all along with another woman. Has nothing to do with the fact that he was gay.

  4. Lars says

    The self-deception of the closet doesn’t just hurt the person locked inside. It hurts the people closest to them as well.

    Yes, this is why NOM’s strategy is doomed. Straight people don’t want gay people marrying them. Let gays marry gays, and straights marry straights. Time for some good old common sense.

  5. Lymis says

    She’s perfectly right to feel both shame and betrayal. 25 years into it, you have to seriously wonder how you could have missed knowing something this basic about your partner.

    What’s going to get lost in the public discussion of this story, though is, how different society was in the 1950’s, and how few other choices her husband had.

    And that this is exactly the world the right wing wants to push us back into. They feel that if they make being gay oppressive enough, people will just choose to be straight instead, but what will happen is this kind of marriage – I’m sure there was genuine love, or they wouldn’t have stayed together – but that’s two lives that could have been so much different if they were both free to be honest.

    Yes, things are different today, and people today have different options – but this is exactly what the Right wants to roll us back to, and one of the biggest reasons straight people should be supporting our equality.

  6. bandanajack says

    i married a woman 45 years ago, as an openly bisexual male, and the biggest fib was the one i told myself. i was 27, and i wanted to settle down and start a life with another person, and the only option i knew of was with the opposite sex. i don’t know where all these 50 year couples were hiding when i was in my 20’s, apparently they all were financially well off and lived in neighborhoods i could never have entered. it would have been nice if some of them had been public, but they had their reasons as i had mine, i suppose. after a dozen years together, my drinking ended the marriage, exacerbated in no small part due to the mental conflict of trying to be what i could not be.

    don’t judge those who made this choice in good faith, but could not, no matter how they tried, be what they were not.

    the issue though is shame, and if this issue had not been cleared up in ms rae’s mind, i would love to have a chat with her. there is no way one person can shame another. perhaps she was too “nice” to allow herself to feel rage and sublimated that to shame, but being defrauded is not a reason for shame, pure and simple…

  7. MB says

    I could see where she’s coming from. She was betrayed, but she also I’m sure felt a lot of shame that she got duped into such a situation and put that much of her life into it. I would be embarrassed as well!

  8. KJ says


    Regardless of the circumstances, speaking from personal experience, when one is on the “receiving end” of a broken relationship, the range of thoughts and feelings are legion. Perhaps some of them are “strange,” which does not make them any less real or painful.

  9. ron says

    Gay men who use woman as status symbols are criminals and should be tried for fraud. And women shouldn’t be so gullible – a man that looks or acts at all gay probably is.

  10. Derrick from Philly says


    thank you for you comment (I actually want to use the word “testimony”) I always admire folks who are brave enough to tell a personal life experience on the internet to help others.


  11. Jean says

    I also was married to a gay man for 15 years before he came out of the closet. I completely understand where her feelings of shame, betrayal and deceit come from. If he had left for another woman…I could have hoped to compete with that. I can’t compete with a man…I was devastated to say the least. His “lie” not only change the course of my life, it changed the course of our childrens lives and while we have moved on and are all ok there will always be underlying trust issues and doubt. It’s been 10 years since he left and I still cannot trust myself to commit to another relationship for fear of the outcome.

  12. Dastius Krazitauc says

    But David, “gay” isn’t a behavior, it’s an identity. It’s not simply dealing with an act of infidelity, it’s dealing with the knowledge that your spouse is someone different than you’d always thought. Different in a way that would make you question one of the core reasons you were together, your sex life.

    This all happened before 1975, a very different time in understanding this situation. Charlotte Rae is talking about how she felt back then, not how she feels now in this more enlightened age.

  13. says

    Poor thing, many who’ve been in her situation feel that particular sting. One of the sad things that the lied-to straight partner doesn’t realize is this: it’s no failing on their part. In reality, it’s not that she’s less than a woman, and unworthy of being loved – he chose her to try to make something work. Someone so special and wonderful that maybe they could make this “lie” of a relationship work. In its own convoluted way, it could be seen as flattering.

    But stories like this are still very important to share; this is what anti-gay culture does.

  14. says

    “Gay men who use woman as status symbols are criminals and should be tried for fraud.”

    Brilliant idea, Ron! If all the gay men who married women in 1950 (or lesbians who married men) were tried for fraud, there would have been some busy busy court rooms. Some people seem to forget that gay people marrying straight people was simply how life worked through history. Gay people marrying gay people wasn’t exactly an option. And gay men hardly had a lock on fraudulent marriages–fraudulent straight marriages are far more commonplace.

  15. Rod Roddy lookalike says

    I could have chosen that road (so-called “straight” marriage), but knew it was a lie, as it was so “NOT me,” and would have hurt someone else deeply, someone that I cared about, but could not “love” enough to make a marriage work. I feel sad that Ms. Rae was hurt, especially so after seeing what damage my gay/bi friends caused, when their deceptions were finally exposed, or confessed. Sadly, far TOO many men (yes, and some women, too) choose the path of opposite-gender “marriage,” hoping that something will change (them?). While some marriages where one or both partners are gay or bi may last, if the gay or bi partner(s) are open about their sexuality, I have yet to see ANY marriage where the closeted partner was “exposed” (by any means) survive the open-ness, be it forced or voluntary. There may actually be a few, however, I have yet to see one.

  16. Bill says

    Heterosexuals enter into fraudulent marriages ALL THE TIME.

    Yet, they view it as somehow just a little bit worse when a gay person does?

    No one should be entering fraudulent marriages.

    But people do.

    And it is no better or worse when a gay person does it.

  17. Chitown Kev says

    I get the betrayal part but in cases like this I always wonder…

    How did CR NOT know that her husband was gay. From the overwhelming number of cases that I’ve read like this, the signs were always there, she chose to ignore them for whatever reason.

    I suppose that in that case, I can understand the shame.

  18. says

    @Rod: When you talk about the damage gay men caused by marrying women over a half century ago, you’re leaving out the damage inflicted on those gay men by a society that deemed love between gay people impossible and sex between gay men illegal. It only stands to reason that many gay men married women back then. And often the love between partners was genuine even if the sexual attraction was not. Human relations are complicated and context matters. A gay man marrying a woman in 1930 or 1950 or even 1970 is quite different than a gay man marrying a woman in 2013.

  19. Houndentenor says

    I could see in high school and college that this would have been an acceptable path. Get married, have children, win the approval of my redneck family and neighbors. I just couldn’t do it. It’s one thing to live a lie, but it’s quite another to drag others who will inevitably be hurt when the lie is revealed. I understand how others do it. When I was in my 20s I saw at least a dozen of my friends marry men who were rather obviously gay. Many of them went to a trusted clergy member of counselor who told them just to get married and everything would be okay. That still goes on. And in many cases women suspected (or even knew) and were given the same advice.

  20. bobbyjoe says

    I hope you’re not trying to paint Charlotte Rae as homophobic by emphasizing the word “shamed” in the headline. She’s obviously not homophobic, as the quote at the end of the article strongly suggests. And notice that quote comes from a long time AFTER her husband came out to her (in 1975 when they divorced), so Rae didn’t let that experience turn into bitterness and bigotry toward the GLBT community. And who wouldn’t feel a range of emotions, some of them self-castigating and, yes, including “shame,” on discovering the person you thought you’d been closest to was cheating on you and deceiving you for 25 years? The shameful thing here was the closet, and it’s pretty clear Rae recognizes this, considering how much emphasis she puts on the word “open” in her pro-gay quote about Geri Jewell.

  21. Dastius Krazitauc says

    And to add to what littlekiwi said, the reality back then was that many men just like her husband were also married to women. If he had any stereotypical “gay” characteristics that she was supposed to have picked up on, so did many other husbands in straight marriages.

  22. Mike W says

    She invested 25 years in a relationship that was doomed to failure. She had a right to feel a range of emotions. Plus, societal views of homosexuality went through a lot of upheaval during the span of her marriage.

    What’s important to note is that she did not let her personal, negative experience overshadow her view of gay people in general. That she can be supportive of people coming out speaks volumes. One wonders how different her life might have been had her husband been able to come out long before he married her.

  23. Barton G says

    You take the good, you take the bad………..

    I can sympathize with any straight person who has been misled due to someone’s inability to be truthful with themselves. Low self-esteem, which Mrs. Garrett is stating she had, would be compounded greatly by such an experience.

  24. Warren says

    The thing is, she’s writing a memoir. If she’s doing it “right”, she’s describing her feelings at the time (not in the here and now). In 1975, when this was not something talked about openly–you can bet she would feel shame. She would not have felt that there was anyone she could talk to about it (even though we know now there was). She’s being authentic. Given her mindset (she speaks about her low self-image), she would feel ashamed, and would have to take some time to move beyond that. Give her a break (yes, I know that’s a different sitcom…)

  25. jaragon says

    This is a very common situation for people of her generation- sadly it’s still going on today- fear, religion and family obligation create these fake marriages.

  26. says

    A buddy of mine recently came out at age 52 with four adult children. He said..”I did not want to go to my grave without my kids knowing who their real Dad was..” His wife..after her emotional roller coaster..actually felt relieved in strange sort of way. She finally realized that his “lack of interest” in her physically was not her fault..something that she always blamed on herself.. He is so happy now. He has a BF and they have a blast at their rural farmhouse making homemade wine..maple syrup..and tending to their garden. It actually was a happy ending for all…

  27. Rich says

    Over the years, I’ve had women who told me that they could forgive a husband who strayed with another woman but not one who strayed with a man. And I’ve had women tell me just the opposite. Go figure.

  28. BigG says

    Gay people are the most deceitful, because of the climate of non-acceptance in which many were raised. Even with our presidents speech that highlighted gays, many will still exist in dangerous environments. Of course Obama is striving to make history, since his popularity only ranks with Carter’s and Ford’s among the Presidents since WWII.

  29. terry says

    Rich, I remember having this conversation with my sisters. They said at least with a woman they know they can compete with her. It’s not like the other woman doesn’t have anything she herself doesn’t have. But if it’s another man, how can a woman compete with him? I’ve heard those sentiments echoed on many talk shows about the subject of women marrying gay men. On another note, I’ve heard of women who say it was a relief that it was another man. It just showed that her husband went in another direction, not something she did herself. Go figure.

  30. Mikey says

    Shame on all those commenting who are critical of gay men who marry women. What else can they do when they want at least the appearance of a normal life–children, the rose covered cottae with white picket fence.
    In 1950, at the age of l7, with no knowledge of the world, what it meant to be gay, conflicted, even urged by parents and a priest to marry and “become straight,” I did it. I was a good husband in every respect, had two children, and cheated on her every chance I had (and there were a lot of chances. I lived in a constant state of shame that I was gay, guilty because I couldn’t keep my cock in my pants if some guy wanted it. My wife never suspected and ended up cheating on me with another man.
    Sooooo, I married again, stayed married for 24 years, cheated with men every chance I got (and there were a lot–I was a good looking stud who gay men came on to all the time). My wife bailed me out of jail because I was caught in an entrapment by a vice cop who came on to me, allowed me to suck his cock, and then arrested me for lewd behavior. She chose to stay with me, refused to believe I was guilty or gay. When I came out for good after 24 years, she still wanted to maintain the marriage and turned her energy into hatred when I refused. We had no kids. (lost one)
    Everyone who came into contact with us said we had one of the few “perfect marriages.” It was, except that I was sucking dicks on the side. I’m an old guy now and still live in guilt, and tolerate her bitterness when our paths cross.
    I wrote about that in The Stinger Is In The Tail.

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