Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #9

Here is the next article 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 earlier posts and topics in this series here.

STAYING WITH YOUR HUSBAND/PARTNER (Part 1)

by Laurel Peterson

The last several weeks, we talked about the difficulty of coming out to your straight partner. Now we’re moving on to the next step – once you have come out to your husband/boyfriend, your relationship doesn’t magically disappear. The next couple of weeks, we’ll explore the ways in which the late life lesbians in our group tried to make things work with their partners. This week’s question is:

If you chose to stay with your husband/partner after realizing you had a same sex attraction and telling him about it, why did you do so? How long did you stay together?


Still trying to make it work

Some of our members are still in their straight marriages and trying to navigate a way forward together:

I’m still married, and actually conflicted about whether or not I should divorce. We have a six year old son, and I’m currently dating someone pretty seriously, and my husband took all of that in stride. A part of me wants a new life, but I also feel responsible for him as he is quite a bit older than I am. I just can’t shed that sense of responsibility! – Diana

I told my husband about 7 months ago that I was gay and unhappy in our marriage. We’ve been in more of a roommate/friendship relationship for a couple years with him “being patient” with not having sex or having a romantic side to us. We still live together and co-parent. Our 3 year old son means the world to both of us and neither of us want to give up time with him. So for now, this is my life. It’s not by preference that I am still married and co-habitating. It’s my lack of knowing how else to do life.– Kari

I told my husband six months ago that I thought I might be a lesbian. I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation or the look on his face. We are still living in the same house with our two children but I’m not sure how much longer that will last because about two months after I told him I began a relationship with a woman and we are still together. He is a terrific guy and it’s very difficult to see him hurting. We both know that we need to be apart to be happy but it is hard imagining life without my kids every single day. – Karen

Made it work for years

Several other late life lesbians tried to find a way to stay with their husband and made it work for many years, but ultimately the relationship still ended:

When I first told my husband, we tried to make the marriage work as I “explored” my truth with a plan to stick it out until our youngest graduated high school. He was 12 at the time. Fast forward three and half years and we’re selling the house and officially divorcing. We’ve been together our entire adult lives, met at 18 and both turning 50 this year. The loss is tremendous. In hindsight, I’d dispense with the plan to stick it out for the kids and make a clean and abrupt break. The three and half years have eroded a once great friendship and sowed bitterness and anger and resentment. That’s the saddest part. – Annie

I stayed married even after realizing that I am a lesbian. I was a stay at home mom, with no outside support or financial resources. I felt imprisoned, but my situation was unique. I had a daughter with a life threatening illness and I put her life before my happiness. I have no regrets about my decision, but I sure am glad now to be divorced and free to live an authentic life. – Rose

I told my husband nearly a year ago that I was gay. We now have separate bedrooms in the same house. I don’t know what the future holds but for now it’s focusing on co-parenting our 8-year-old. I think short term we will continue living together while I finish my masters degree and our daughter starts middle school. It’s about a three year time frame. There really are no rule books for this situation. We are learning what works and what doesn’t as we go. – Nicole

Short lived efforts

Still others tried to stay with their partners, but it became apparent pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to work:

I started questioning who I was while with my second husband. I stayed married for a little over two years after I started identifying as bisexual. Toward the end of the relationship, I started to really need a relationship with a woman. My ex-husband and I decided to try a triad type relationship. While searching for a girlfriend to bring into the relationship, I discovered that I was truly a lesbian. I ended my search and separated from him. Now, almost four years later, I am engaged to the woman of my dreams. – Billi Jo

I moved out 3 months after I told him. I am just grateful I had the financial independence to do it. We are not officially divorced, but I haven’t felt “married” for a long time. Marriage is so much more than a paper, or organizing the house or co-parenting our daughter. Was I tempted to stay with him, for the stability that our life together used to offer me, and thinking of his and my daughter’s pain? Yes, very much. But I knew I could only stay if I could forget about being in love with a woman. In the end, I either had to leave and live life, or stay and die inside. It wasn’t really a choice. – Corina

I told my husband 18 months ago, after 21 years of marriage and three children. I went quickly through the rollercoaster that ensued: first having a catalyst*; then wondering if I was bi; then pondering whether I could stay married; then realizing I’m gay; then “wow, let’s do this!”; then the pain of unrequited feelings from a woman; then sexual exploration; then acceptance of myself; then making decisions; then recovering my self worth; and now, finally, I’m PASSIONATELY in love and TOTALLY gay! I’ve separated from my husband. He’s staying in the house with our teenagers. I’m moving in with my girlfriend. He and I are still excellent friends. He’s dating now and the children are fine. – Georgia

All late life lesbians must choose the path that’s right for them as far as whether they can remain in any kind of “together” relationship with their straight partner or not. Next week, we’ll explore how these efforts to somehow stay together have affected our straight relationships.

* – “catalyst” is a term frequently used among later in life lesbians to describe the woman we credit with “awakening” our true sexuality – either through a crush, a friendship or an intimate relationship. Not everyone has a catalyst 🙂

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #8

Here is the next article 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 earlier posts and topics in this series here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER (Part 4)

by Laurel Peterson

Now that we’ve covered the things that we wish our straight partners understood about our experience as late life lesbians, this week it’s time to get down to the big question – is it possible to stay together once you’ve had a realization about your sexuality? This week’s question was:

How did you and/or your straight partner decide whether to stay together or split immediately in light of your attraction to women?


Both wanted to stay together

For some, even though the realization of their sexuality was real, splitting up simply didn’t seem right or desirable for the late life lesbian or her husband/partner:

The first time it came up, there was no question whether we would stay together. We would no matter what. Eight years later, we decided I’d go to therapy to work through all my issues, but we said we would not split unless it was a mutual decision. A year and a half in, we chose that we would be better off separated, that we could support each other better this way and keep our relationship intact but in a different way. So that’s what we are doing. We’ve been separated three months, living in separate rooms but in the same house. It was never discussed about leaving immediately, neither of us wanted that. – Bonnie

Open relationships explored

Other women tried to manage their same sex attraction yet stay in their marriage by exploring open relationships. Although open marriages can work, as these two quotes illustrate, it can be very challenging and complicated:

We tried having an “open relationship” for about three months. It was very hard. I stopped sleeping, stopped eating. Adrenaline flowed and I was emotional all the time. I knew that it wasn’t going to work long-term, but it took time to get the courage to say, “I’m not bi enough for this. I’m just gay. And I can’t stay married.” I couldn’t keep having sex with him. More importantly, I wanted to be WITH my girl. I wanted a real partnership. I wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, yes, but what I really wanted was a LIFE with her. – Anna

 

We had plans to co-habitate and co-parent until all our kids were out of high school. We opened our marriage, and disaster ensued. We hadn’t established enough boundaries, and our lives just turned into a mishmash of anger, resentment, blame, and hurt. When we finally ended up in separate homes, we were all much happier…including the kids. – Katrina

 

Marriage of Convenience

Many other late life lesbians find themselves wanting to move on, but not being able to immediately for financial or other reasons, so they find themselves living in a marriage of convenience. This, as these quotes illustrate, is usually a only a temporary solution:

When I realized I was gay & admitted it to myself, I wanted to split immediately. I was so enlivened by the possibilities of a new life, my new understanding of myself & starting afresh. It wasn’t possible because of finances. I was a stay at home mom, with our youngest being only 2 years old. After a while, we tried co-parenting under the same roof while seeing other people. I hated it – it made me feel frustrated, angry, sad, confused and split between two worlds, but not completely in either one. I finally landed a great job a few months ago & eventually found my voice to suggest selling the house & moving on. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but we have agreed that it needs to happen. – Kerri

 

My husband and I are separated, but we haven’t told anyone. We live under the same roof, but have separate bedrooms and bathrooms. It feels odd, like when you superglued something back together the wrong way! Ugh…for now we don’t have a better “fix” for the situation. We’re stuck. – Joh

Splitting was the only answer

For others, even though they loved their husbands/partners, they immediately knew that they would have to move on from their marriage:

For me it was only a few weeks after I realized I was gay that I knew an open marriage would be too complicated. My husband wanted this; he wanted for me to always come back to him, but I knew how complicated this would be for me – to always be in the middle of my husband and a lover. I knew it would be unfair to everyone. It has been incredibly painful for him, but I remember him saying how he understood… how if he were gay he would want to walk down the street holding hands with another man and wake up to this man every morning. Though he has never said it again, I cling to this notion when I am feeling guilty. – Rachel

 

I knew that the only way to be true to myself was to live fully and authentically, and that meant separating and eventually divorcing. He tried to offer opening up the marriage, but I knew it would never feel “right.” I’ve held on to my guilt for a LONG time, knowing this would change our family forever. I didn’t want to give myself any reason to feel guilt or shame in a future relationship with a woman by starting it under circumstances that didn’t feel right for me. It’s not what he wanted, but I think he knows it’s the best way for us to move on, be happy, and live our lives fully. – Kristin

 

 

Some relationships were already irrevocably broken

Although a same sex attraction can be a major problem in a straight marriage or relationship, often times this realization isn’t the true cause of the demise of the relationship. Sometimes, there were other issues pulling the couple apart for years. In these cases, same sex attraction is the final straw more than the cause:

I was already in an unhealthy marriage. It looked good from the outside – deacons of the church and their wives are good at the masks. I believe the decision to split up was about three quarters an unhealthy relationship and a quarter because I met someone else. A healthier relationship with my ex to start with might’ve encouraged a more open though discrete marriage, staying together for the kid’s sake, allowing us each an outlet for intimacy without judgement. Or, if I had not met the one who helped me wade thought my sexuality questions, I might’ve lived miserably the rest of my life. – April

As you can see, same sex attractions do not necessarily mean your straight relationship is imminently over. In most cases, however, our members find that the only way to truly live authentically is to find a way to move on and end our straight romantic relationships. In our next blog, we’ll start a new series of questions regarding how our members have tried to make things work and find a way forward.

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #7

Here is the next article 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 earlier posts and topics in this series here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER (Part 3)

by Laurel Peterson

Last week, we discussed how our relationships with boyfriends, husbands, or ex-husbands had changed in light of knowledge about our same sex attraction. This week, we’re digging deeper into the complications that arise for our straight spouses/partners who are trying to understand us. This week’s question was:

What do you wish your current/former straight partner would or could understand about you being attracted to women?


Our attraction isn’t a kinky fantasy

Many straight men have sexual fantasies revolving around having sex with more than one woman, so it’s probably not a surprise that the first reaction of many of the men we’ve been with is to think about how our sexuality can help their fantasies come true:

I wish he knew that watching lesbian porn will not make us closer, or him more involved! – Hayley

I wish he could understand that being attracted to women doesn’t mean I wanted a threesome. I wish he could understand how hard this has been, and that I didn’t choose this, and I certainly didn’t do this lightly. I also wish he understood that although I wish I’d known far sooner, because our marriage gave us three wonderful children, I don’t regret marrying him. – Sian

Our attraction is more than just sexual

Not only is our same sex attraction not about having a threesome or a woman “on the side,” the attraction we feel is much more than just physical:

My ex thought that my being attracted to women was easily satisfied if I just had sex with women without attaching myself to them emotionally. He thought I could “see” women without falling in love, and still live a normal life at home with him. He thought it was sexy that I desired woman and that he could join in on the fun – but when he realized that my being gay would push him away, it was no longer sexy. – Shelly

Our sexuality isn’t a choice

Now that many LGBTQ people come out in their younger years, it’s becoming more accepted that your sexuality is just part of the way you were born as opposed to being a choice. When you identify as or live as straight for many years, however, this notion is harder to believe or accept for those who have seen us as straight for so long…especially our sexual partners:

I wish he knew that this wasn’t a choice. That everything we have been through; the life we lived, the love we shared, the beautiful children we brought into this world, wasn’t all a lie. It was real – but once I was awakened, there was no going back to how it was. – Becky

I wish he understood that I am not just “deciding” to be a lesbian. I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that I want to give up the security, comfort, and acceptance of my heterosexual marriage and be gay. It took me years to make this realization about myself – but now that I have, I can’t just turn it off and make it go away. – Karen

We have no ill will against them

Traditionally, the breakup of a relationship often means that anger, blame, and hatred are part of the territory. When an awakening of sexuality occurs, however, this isn’t necessarily the case:

I wish he didn’t think I hate him. Every time we talk about my bisexuality he asks why I hate him. I don’t – I love him, but I resent him for not letting me explore…He still just doesn’t understand. – Joanne

I wish he didn’t believe I planned this 15 years ago to “f*** him over.” – Kara

They deserve love we can’t give

In the pain and tumult of dismantling a marriage or relationship, it can often be hard to see that splitting up and/or choosing to live authentically isn’t just the best choice for us, but also for the long term well-being of our former partners:

I wish he would understand how truly sorry I feel. I wish he could understand the pain I have from spending decades disassociating from myself. I don’t wish him to feel the intense pain I have felt – just truly know deep in his bones that my intention was never to hurt him. He was more than a “beard” to me, and I wish him the best in life. Sometimes the greatest act of love is setting someone free. – M

He didn’t make me this way. Our trials didn’t make me this way. This is just who I am. What I can give him is limited, but in the end, we both deserve the world. – Carolyn

Hopefully, these quotes illustrate how much we want to be understood by our straight spouses/partners. Next week, we’ll take a look at the process of figuring out whether or not you can stay in your straight marriage once you realize you are attracted to women.

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, pt. 6

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 (Here is part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5). For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER, Part 2

by Laurel Peterson

This month we’re focusing on relationships many of our 600 plus members have or had with the men in their life. Last week, we discussed the different ways we as late life lesbians came out to our husbands or boyfriends, and also discussed why not telling them was sometimes the choice we made. This week, we’re taking a closer look at how revelations about our sexuality have affected how we relate to these men on a longer term basis. This week’s question was:

How has your relationship with your husband/boyfriend changed or evolved since coming out to him?


Good terms throughout

Some of our members were lucky enough to have a very open and supportive relationship with their husband from the start, which continued even in light of this difficult realization:

After I told him, he offered me the option of an open relationship on my side (which shocked me), because he didn’t want to lose me. Ultimately, I couldn’t do that so we separated, and 13 months after separation, we filed for divorce. He remains a close friend and he and my girlfriend have developed a friendship too. I’m very lucky! – Sandy

More honest relationship

Other members actually have a better relationship with their husbands/boyfriends now that their sexuality secret is out in the open and they can be honest with each other:

Our relationship has evolved to best friends with no sexual relationship. I feel like we are doing a better job at co-parenting now as well. I think this is partly due to the tension being gone. I had been feeling so frustrated for so long, a weight lifted when we discussed it. – Autumn

We’ve always been best friends but now we have “friend zoned” each other. We’ve become more honest with each other and essentially become closer while growing further apart. Ironically, we comment on girls together, talk about future girlfriends, etc. We both feel like this is right and this feels real and whole and like we can appreciate each other fully now. So overall, our relationship has improved. – Bonnie

Good relationships sometimes deteriorate

Not everyone had a positive experience with the changes to their marriage/relationship, however. Understandably, learning that your wife is attracted to women is a huge hit to the male ego and often times men can take it personally or act out in ways they hadn’t before:

When I first told my husband, he was sad, but supportive and wanted to be “included.” I soon had a breakdown, and he would hold me and comfort me. However, when I finally accepted myself and told him we needed to break up, it went downhill. He became angry, sometimes wouldn’t talk, and his moods became unpredictable. His moods are still there now that he’s moved out, but I am calmer and can handle it better…but I miss his friendship. I miss having him to talk to about the kids and what I am doing. I always said I hope we can be friends one day, but who knows. – Hayley

When I first told my husband, he was very supportive and accepting. We discussed the possibility of an open marriage and decided that if either of us met someone we’d be open and honest about it. Unfortunately, nothing else about our relationship changed. I kept up the facade for almost two years, despite losing myself to depression and becoming resentful of having sex with him while he grew more frustrated at my lack of interest. Then I met my girlfriend. I told my husband about her, and he became very angry. He tried to control me and my relationship with her as much as possible. We rode the rollercoaster of emotions for about three months before he moved out. He still feels anger and sadness about our situation, but has recently evened out and is now easier to deal with. – Cynthia

True colors come through…in the worst way

Sadly, some of our members through their coming out process realized that the men they were with weren’t the people they thought them to be, and splitting with them meant bringing out the worst sides of the men they had once committed themselves to:

My ex and I went from a peaceful though emotionally distant relationship in marriage, to an emotionally tumultuous relationship during divorce. Unfortunately, when you are raised to be extremely passive and submissive like I was, you don’t see the true nature of someone until you start standing up for yourself. I can now see that he is a narcissist, and I do not use that label lightly. While I was passive in our marriage, things were peaceful. Now that he can’t control me through religious dogma, he uses our kids as manipulation and spiteful retribution. – April

Civil but not close

Still more members had a rough split with their husbands/boyfriends, but have found a way to at least coexist peacefully:

My husband actually took the news OK. He was surprised, but hugged me and told me he knew that must have been hard and that there was no bad guy here. But after the first week, he disengaged. He has never brought up my sexuality again, even though we see each other every few days. Our communication is civil and polite, and always stays in “safe” territory. I was disappointed in his lack of interest in this life-changing experience I was going through, but it also makes it easier to move on and not be tempted to cling to him for comfort. – Danielle

My ex-husband was very sad at first. He felt lost and betrayed, and then the anger came and he was out of control for a while. Our talks with the mediator were tough. He was angry, made hurtful remarks all the time and it was hard to not feel guilty – which caused me to give too much away too easily. Since divorcing, we’ve gradually gotten into a mode of at least being able to communicate about our children. We inform each other and go to parent meetings at school together. I hope we can maintain doing this and perhaps even improve on parenting our boys together. – Simone

Still evolving

Just like life, even long after coming out to your husband or boyfriend, the relationship our members have with these men can continue to evolve for quite some time:

The relationship with my husband has been all over the map. At first he was sad and supportive. Then he was angry and resentful. For a time he wanted me to hurry up, find a job, get out so he could move on. But when I was finally ready to start moving forward, he suddenly became hesitant. When I told him I had become attracted to a woman I met online, he was astonishingly supportive – although at times he has been jealous and used it against me. We will be starting mediation in the next few weeks, and I am sure things will change again. However things end up between us, I will be at peace knowing I did the best I could to inflict minimal harm in a very complicated situation. – Mari Ann

My husband was supportive when I first told him I was attracted to women, but once I realized I was a lesbian and I had to leave the marriage and started dating my girlfriend, he became quite angry and verbally abusive. After over a year of tension and harsh words from him as I tried to keep my head above water around him, he settled down. Sadly, the damage had been done. He now sees me as a friend and confidant, but I’m at the point where the harshness of his earlier behavior has taken a toll on me and although we generally get along OK, I would rather have distance from him than maintain a friendship. Perhaps once I get that distance, then the desire for eventual friendship will return. Only time will tell… – Susan

As you can see, the effects of coming out on a straight relationship are as varied and diverse as our members and the men in their lives. Next week, we’ll take a look at what we wish these men could understand about our late life lesbian experience.

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, pt. 5

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 (Here is part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4). For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER

by Laurel Peterson

In last week’s post, we wrapped up our month of questions about making the realization that you aren’t “straight as an arrow” on the sexuality spectrum. Now that we’ve talked about making this discovery for ourselves, the next consideration in most cases for our members is “what about my straight spouse/partner?”

For the next few weeks, we’ll tackle how our 600 plus members have approached the difficult dilemma of how to address this issue with your significant other. This week’s question was:

How/when did you come out to your boyfriend/husband?
How did he react?


Supportive & kind

First, the good news. There are many men out there who were supportive of their partners when faced with their coming out. Here’s a few great examples of that:

I came out to my husband first as bisexual seven years ago. He took that news very well. I told him I was primarily attracted to women a few weeks after my personal “aha” moment. He took that news really well again. He said he was happy he had me for as long as he did. All along the way, he has been very supportive. Whenever I have gotten scared and tried to back track, he has talked me through it by putting words to my fears. I really couldn’t be happier with the support and strength he has shown me. – Autumn

Once we separated and he had moved out, we went to lunch to discuss divorce options. During casual conversation, he said he had heard that I’d been hanging out with a bunch of lesbians, and in the same breath asked if I was seeing anyone. So I laughed and soon just blurted out that I’m seeing a woman. His eyes got as big as saucers, and he sat in silence for all of one minute. He then grinned, gave me a high five and told me to be me. Of course, he had to end it like a typical man and asked if he could “peep through my window!” – Tasha

He suspected it

There are also several instances where the men our members came out to already had an idea that they might be lesbians:

I started by telling my husband I was bi. Seven months later, we were at a beautiful hotel in London and I was dreading it because I hadn’t been able to bring myself to sleep with him for four months. That night, in that beautiful hotel room, he asked if I was gay instead of bi, and I admitted it. I was in a floods of tears but tried to assure him that I would have therapy to sort it out. Of course, therapy didn’t make it go away. Two months later, I had a breakdown and finally told him it was over. He was devastated. It is so desperately sad to break your best friend’s heart, but I genuinely want him to be happy and I know he ultimately couldn’t be as happy with me as he would be with someone who could love him fully the way he deserves to be loved. – Emma

After several drinks one night, my soon-to-be ex-husband and I were sitting around talking, and with liquid courage, he asked me if I would ever be with a woman. I sobered up in a second. I knew this was finally my moment to come clean of the secret I had held for years. I answered truthfully and said yes. I shook uncontrollably through the whole conversation because I was so scared of what his reaction would be. Thankfully, he was very understanding and supportive. He had initially asked because he suspected that I was. I rediscussed the topic with him the next night without alcohol in our systems to make sure he understood what this meant for me, for him, for us, and our family. – Cynthia

Denial

The first stage of grief is denial, so it’s probably not a surprise that many other men don’t want to believe that what their wife or girlfriend is telling them about their sexuality is true:

I kept trying to tell my husband. He knew that things were strange between us and I tried a few times to tell him I’m gay. But he just didn’t get it – he knew I was bi when I married him, so he assumed I was referring to that and maybe I was feeling a bit more attracted to women than I used to be. I’ve explained to him – no, I am GAY. But now months on, he still seems to think it’s a phase and I’m bi. When he found out that I was having an affair with a woman, he assumed it was because I missed women after being with him for ten years, rather than because I needed to be with a woman because I AM GAY. He won’t accept it. – Jasmine

Holding on tight

Just because our members are attracted to women, it doesn’t prevent them from having very real and deep relationships with their husbands or partners. The following examples show that even when the truth comes to light, some men (and sometimes our members too!) want to do what they can to save the relationship:

I came out as bi to my husband (then boyfriend) when I realized it myself way back when I was 19. I was already in love with him, and he never approved of me exploring. We’ve had many ups and downs over the years, but now I need to explore, he knows this and is scared I’ll leave him for a woman. He says if I start, I won’t stop, which may well be the case, but I won’t know that until it happens. I don’t want to leave him, but I need to see where this takes me. – Joanne

I told him just over six months ago. He was giving me “the look,” and I did an internal sigh and realized I just couldn’t do it anymore. I blurted out that I didn’t think I was “into guys in general.” At first he said he was relieved, because he thought I was asexual. Then he suggested we have sex while watching lesbian porn. I was not keen on the idea, but tried it. We tried lots of “new things” that still didn’t do much for me. There was so much pressure. I ended our sexual relationship, but wanted to stay married. We tried counseling. I offered to try sex therapy, too. In the end, it just wasn’t there for us. We both deserve to be happy, and complete, and fulfilled. – Annie

Anger and hatred

Unfortunately, there are also several members whose husbands/partners lashed out, sought revenge, or expressed harmful anger toward the women who told them about their sexuality:

I came out to my then-boyfriend about six months ago and it was horrible. The look on his face was devastating, and I didn’t know how to make it better for him. We cried and screamed at each other, and that first night he tried to force me to have sex with him to show me what it’s like to be with a “real man.” I left my house that night and sat in a parking lot crying and just about having a nervous breakdown. He moved out and we haven’t spoken to each other since. – Melissa

I came out to my now ex-husband last year. I was having constant panic attacks, and he sensed things weren’t right. It was immediately clear we would divorce. He was totally out of control for a while, running around and outing me, not only to my brother and our best friends, but also to our dentist, the barber, and at the local supermarket. It culminated when he hacked my accounts and sent a text message outing me and trying to damage me to my boss. We are now on speaking terms and communicating when it comes to matters that concern our two sons. Otherwise, he still plays the guilt card whenever he can. – Simone

All over the map

It’s also common with men, just like our members, that their emotions and reactions to the news evolve and change over time:

I came out to my husband eight years ago. I told him, “I think I’m a lesbian,” and he said, “Well that’s cool, can we still have sex?” That ended that conversation. I then told him again two years ago, and explained that I was struggling with what this means for my life, my identity and our life together. He was very sad and hurt, and over time the hurt turned to anger, and now has slowly become accepting. – Bonnie

We’ll take a closer look next week at how these changing and evolving emotions on the part of our members and their husbands/partners has affected how they relate to each other long term.

Planning with pushpins

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, pt. 4

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 (Here is part 1, part 2, and part 3). For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go 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?


Involuntary outing

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

empty blue vintage room

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.

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, pt. 3

Female hands holding cups of coffee on rustic wooden table backgroundHere 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 (Here is part 1 and part 2). For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here.

MAKING THE REALIZATION, pt. 3

by Laurel Peterson

In the last installment, we discussed the emotions late life lesbians experience when they come to terms with their sexuality. This time, we’re moving on to labels. Figuring out you’re attracted to women isn’t as easy as thinking, “gee, I guess I’m not straight – I must be a lesbian!” Some of our members are attracted to women, but don’t identify as lesbian, and many resist labeling their sexuality at all because they find sexuality too complicated and personal to put it any one “box.” To give you more insight into this question, we asked:

How did you “arrive” at your home on LGBTQ spectrum, and how do you label your sexuality, if at all?

Always attracted to women

Many women were always attracted to women, but it took a while to realize they were on “the spectrum.” Now that they have “joined the rainbow,” some identify as lesbian, but others don’t.

I think I was always [attracted to women], I just needed to wake up to it. I label myself as queer, because I don’t feel I have a right really to call myself a lesbian. I’ve enjoyed straight privilege for most of my life, and I didn’t have to go through any of the trials and tribulations or assaults that women who can’t pass for straight have had to go through. – Anne

My entire life I’ve been drawn to women. After being outed as a teen for kissing girls, I was bullied, and sexually assaulted by a group of  boys who wanted to show “the lezzie” what she was missing. I went full on with boys after that. I soon became pregnant and married after dropping out of high school. I didn’t touch a woman again until I was in my early 30s while separated from my husband. I had a couple of relationships with women but couldn’t embrace that as my truth and went on to marry another man. When I met my catalyst* five years ago, it suddenly occurred to me that the key to my lingering unhappiness was that I am a gay woman who has been ignoring her own needs for her entire life. Once that passed thru my brain, I felt a lightness I had not felt before. It changed everything and now here I am. – Lily

Transitional identities

Many late in life lesbians took one or more “stops” along the way in figuring out their sexuality. They thought they were straight, but then tried on a few other labels before realizing they were primarily attracted to women. I, for example, spent six years identifying as asexual. Others considered themselves as bisexual or pansexual first.

I definitely identified as straight when I was growing up. While I found myself attracted to women, I thought that was the “normal” straight-girl experience. After I separated from my husband, I met someone and soon spent a lot of time thinking about it. I thought I was pansexual – because I really couldn’t reconcile how I had been with a man for 16 years, and then suddenly wanted to be with women. I had a brief fling with a woman, and felt that needle move a little more to the other side. Then I met my now-girlfriend and it became very apparent to me I was not attracted to men at all. I’m really comfortable and proud to call myself a lesbian now. – CK

When I started questioning my sexuality, I wasn’t sure whether I was bi or “all the way gay.” I talked to friends who identify as bisexual and lesbian, and asked how they knew. I tried on bi as a label. I walked around looking at strangers, men and women, asking myself if I was attracted enough to them to hypothetically sleep with them. The men did nothing for me. I wanted to identify as bi, so I could seriously consider staying in my marriage. But everything I was figuring out pointed to “all the way gay.” Now I identify as gay, although I use lesbian interchangeably. – Jennifer

Sexual fluidity

One of the things society is just starting to realize about the LGBTQ spectrum is that sometimes your sexuality can change or evolve over time, which is called sexual fluidity. Here’s a few examples of how this evolution took place for our members:

All my life, I never imagined the possibility of being lesbian or bisexual. I didn’t have anything against it, but I never imagined that I might be sexually attracted to women. After two frustrated marriages and two divorces, at age 47, I fell madly and utterly in love with a woman who spent one week in my hometown and bought some Portuguese classes which brought her to my classroom. My whole inner world turned upside down suddenly. Today, I know that I’m not straight and I believe I’m not bisexual, I’m sure I’m a lesbian because I can not even imagine having any intimacy with a man any more. I feel attractions for beautiful and feminine women, and this is a reality that has come to stay. – F

I had a very brief fling with a lesbian on my softball team at age 25. I was the only straight woman in the team at the time. Then I went back to loving men. In 2008, I left my marriage to a man for reasons unrelated to sexuality. By sometime in 2009, it was clear to me that I’m lesbian. I don’t know how it happened. Over time, I just became more and more attracted to women, and less and less interested in men. My sexuality has been fluid. – Carol

Bisexuality & more

Although our support group is for late life lesbians, not all of our members are exclusively attracted to women – and that’s OK. We have found in the process of sharing our experiences that we have felt many of the same emotions and struggles.

I still feel like I am in flux, which drives me nuts at 37. I suspect the continuing indecision of living in a heterosexual/polyamorous marriage drives this more so than my biology. Rather than being out of the closet, it feels more like I’m simply residing in a “bigger” closet. I often wonder if I can be attracted exclusively to women, yet still have an emotional, romantic bond to a man? It’s a stressful place to be. – M

I spent a large part of my life thinking there was something wrong with me, because although I liked some men and found them attractive, the sex was never great and the relationships never seemed to work. Looking back, I had physical attractions to women, but I labelled them crushes or my own neediness and let them go. It wasn’t until 2015 that I really began to question what I wanted in my life…and then began to consider being with a woman. I have had two female relationships thus far, but identifying as bisexual suits me better than lesbian. Though I am wild for the woman I’m with right now (who is trans), I still am not certain where I will end up. – Natalie

As you can see, finding your “home” on the LGBTQ spectrum isn’t an easy process, and one that our members don’t take lightly. In the end, though, we all support each other regardless of how we identify and applaud each other for living our individual truths, whatever they happen to be. Next week, we’ll examine whether or not our members chose to “come out” right away after realizing their sexuality, and why.

* – “catalyst” is a term frequently used among lesbians to describe the woman we credit with “awakening” our true sexuality – either through a crush, a friendship or an intimate relationship.