Gay Widows

[9/24/07: As with the rest of my website, this page is badly in need of updating. -- rpj]


Gaywidows Yahoo Group

About this page...

This webpage is for gay widows, men and women who have survived the death of a life partner and who now face life on their own. As far as I can tell there is not currently another page out there on the World Wide Web that provides:

-- Written, online and in person resources for the gay man or woman experiencing widowhood

-- A first person account of gay widowhood

-- A place for other gay widows to tell their stories

Why do I think a page like this is needed? As Michael Shernoff (, the Manhattan psychotherapist who has written more on this topic than anyone else, points out:

The most striking dynamic facing the surviving partner of a same sex relationship is that the relationship is not universally recognized, validated and valued. Psychologist Steven Schwartzberg explains: "The heterosexual widow or widower who loses a mate receives a tacit level of social support and condolence. Gay men who have been widowed may be more apt to encounter scorn, ostracism, fear or blame." Thus many gay widowers' mourning is complicated by the fact that theirs is a "disenfranchised grief."

This webpage is about enfranchising gay widows, providing them an online space to learn and reflect, make connections and reach out. In this fashion it's a companion to A Coming Out Guide for Gaydads, a very similar resource, also born of personal experience.

[One stylistic note: I'm using "gay" to refer to all not-straight people, regardless of whether they self identify as gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgendered, or something else. Likewise, I'm using "widow" to refer to men as well as women. I think "widower" has about as much utility in today's world as words like "aviatrix" and "mailman." -- rpj]


A cursory glance of the literature shows there's precious little out there. Here's what I've managed to turn up thus far...


Michael Shernoff, Editor. Gay Widowers : Life after the Death of a Partner. New York: Haworth Press, 1997.

Shernoff, a social worker in Manhattan, has the only book on this topic geared towards a general (non-literary) audience.

Journal literature:

A search of the PsycInfo database turns up fewer than a hundred scholarly articles on gay widowhood, more than 2/3rds of which are really more focused on the phenomena of grieving AIDS-related multiple losses and survivor guilt than life as a gay widow, per se. Look here for a bibliography of these articles.

Several of Shernoff's articles are available online:

Gay Grief and Gay Widowers (From LGNY, Issue 62, September 1, 1997) Excellent oveview article

Gay Marriage and Gay Widowhood (From The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, Vol. 4, No.4, Fall 1997) An editorial discussing some possible and perhaps unexpected consequences of legal recognition of gay partnerships

Gay Widowers : Grieving in Relation to Trauma and Social Supports (From Journal of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, Vol. 2, No. 1, March 1998) Describes the psychosocial issues relevant to gay widowers

Some other online articles:

AIDS Culture: The Next Wave (Richard Goldstein, The Village Voice, March 28-April 3, 2001) Looks at new literary works on AIDS and bereavement, including those of Edmund White and Ned Rorem

Counselling Gay Men with Multiple Loss and Survival Problems : The Bereavement Group as a Transitional Object (As far as I can tell this is an online version of the article written by Thijs Maasen in AIDS Care, Vol. 10, Suppl. 1, April 1998) From the introduction: Gay men are confronted with loss of partners, friends and health because of AIDS. If AIDS is becoming a chronic disease, they can easily turn into a forgotten group of widowers with grief issues.

Web resources:

Search Google for "gay widowers" and you'll get hundreds of hits but iff you eliminate links page references to Shernoff's book there are probably fewer than a dozen webpages (out of more than a billion) devoted to the topic. (When I have a chance to do some updating) I'll include links to the ones that seem relevant.

This page is brought to you by Richard Jasper, a gaydad librarian who lives in Houston, Texas.

Feedback? Send e-mail to Richard Jasper