Here is the next part in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the other posts and topics in this series here.
MAKING THE REALIZATION, Pt. 4
by Laurel Peterson
In last week’s post, we covered the many different ways the almost 600 late life lesbians in our online support group choose to label themselves on the LGBTQ spectrum. Once you’ve realized you have a same sex attraction and you’ve found a “home” on the spectrum, what’s next?
You guessed it, figuring out whether you can or should come out of the closet is the next step. This week’s question was:
Once you realized your sexuality as you currently know it, did you “come out” right away? Why or why not?
Unfortunately, some women have been outed by those around them before they were ready:
I was outed by my ex husband in our very small town when I was 30. It was incredibly traumatic and painful. I was gossiped about and had significant backlash from my family and some acquaintances. I then moved away and went straight back into the closet. Once I decided to come out for myself, it was a positive and enlightening experience. I will never forget the loss of control of not being able to tell my own story in my own way. I’m a lesbian. I’m proud, and now so very happy to be out on my own terms. – Sian
You mean you knew?
Several more members started out on the journey of telling those around them about their same sex attraction…only to realize that those around them knew before they figured it out for themselves.
I didn’t really come out so much as figure it out. My husband was the first person I said the words out loud to, but he sort of knew already. It surprised him that I didn’t know sooner. Then we told the kids, who were in disbelief that this was something I just figured out. Then my mom – she too said she’d wondered from way back in middle school when I crushed hard on a teacher. Then my best friend, who, when I told her I was divorcing, said it before I could tell her! – Annie
At 46, I finally looked in the mirror and said “I’m a lesbian” to my reflection. A few weeks later, I told my good friend who is gay and he said, “yeah…not surprised!” My two other closest female friends said the same thing. At this point, many people know and many do not. I am very proud of who I am, and I have told those closest to me, but I don’t think you have to tell everyone everything all the time. Sharing should be a privilege! – Carma
Long term denial
Many other members were pretty sure of their sexuality for years, but chose not to acknowledge it or come out for decades until it felt “safe.”
I waited 22 years because at the age of ten, my mother said to me, “If you are ever going to bring a black man or a woman home, don’t bother coming home.” This mentality was drilled into me through my parents, their family, their church, their actions, their words, the looks they gave out couples in public. I still have to listen to them talk about how “the gays” will burn in hell at our weekly Sunday dinners. – Kristi
I knew I liked girls way more than boys at around the age of 12 but being gay was not allowed in my household so I suppressed it until I couldn’t anymore. After I had my first encounter with a woman at the age of 42, I came out rather quickly. Family & friends knew within three months. And the amazing thing was, each time I told someone on my “list of people I had to tell” it felt like more weight had been lifted off of me. It’s an incredibly freeing feeling not having to hide anymore. – Terri
Let me out of this closet!
On the other hand, there are many other members who came flying out of the closet as soon as they could.
I came out pretty fast. My girlfriend and I were moving pretty fast and I just didn’t want to hide her or our feelings for each other. It wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to be my true self. I knew the people who loved me would always love me and the ones who had a problem with it weren’t that important in my life anyway. – Melissa
I told everyone in my life in real time, either as I saw or spoke to them. For important people I don’t see regularly, I reached out to them to let them know. I couldn’t keep it to myself and it was all quite dramatic. I wanted to explain what was going on as much for support as anything. – Emma
Coming out in slow motion
Many others took their time in deliberately telling the important people in their lives as the need arose, but chose not to come out to everyone in their lives.
I was 43 when I first started questioning my sexuality. A year later, I came out to my sister, my brother, my husband, and then slowly, my family and friends. It took roughly six months to come out to the important people in my life. The first time it was a feature length movie, with lots of back story and explanation, tears, and drama. Now when I tell someone, I just say, “I’m not sure if you know, but I’m gay.” – Sandy
I told my husband and my kids, then some friends. It’s been a year now and I’m still not out to everyone. There doesn’t seem to be a need. My husband and I are living separately in the same house, so my life looks “the same” from the outside. – Alison
Still not out
Last but not least, we still have several members who aren’t yet out, at least, not publicly.
At age 17 I knew I was attracted to women, and recognized it for what it was. Still, I followed society’s expectations and married a gentle guy. Years later, the pull became stronger and my thoughts of being with a woman led to kissing a woman. I left my husband in my early 50s, and set my mind to become my authentic self. At 58, having not yet found Ms. Right, I feel it not necessary to come out to my family (my parents are frail at 86) because it won’t make sense to them until they can see a loving couple standing in front of them. I’m certain my sister and brother, and my two grown sons will be fine with the news should I ever have the good fortune to have a reason to come out. – Y.
Each member in our group has her own coming out story, and each of these stories are just as beautiful, individual, and unique as the women telling them. One thing we all have in common, however, is that coming to the realization of who you are and blossoming into your authentic self is a huge turning point in life.
After four weeks of discussion on how we made the realization that we were primarily attracted to women, next week we’ll start a series of questions relating to the men who are/were by our side when this unfolded for us.