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. 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.

Your Story, Your Timetable

A woman in our Facebook support group asked a question recently about coming out to a work colleague, and wanted to gather opinions about it from the group. The heart of her question was: “do I owe it to this person in this particular situation to let them know that I’m gay?”

The consensus of our group was that, no, she did not owe it to anyone to come out to them on any specific timetable. And I have to say I agree with them 100%.

I think it is especially difficult for women coming out later in life to manage the coming out process–it can be overwhelming to come out individually to so many people when they have known you for so long as a straight person living a straight life. I see the appeal in a “one and done” Facebook post or mass email to everyone: “Hey, world, I’m gay!”

But I think that rarely happens in real life because, being women who have lived a lot of life already, we have many different relationships we have to consider–the talk we might have with our teenage daughter will be very different from the conversation we might have with a work colleague. We have more complicated lives at 45 than we did at 25!

But, regardless of how you choose to do it, the most important thing to remember is: this is YOUR timeline. No one is owed a special conversation with you about it, and no one is owed to be told before another person, or in a certain order. You get to decide how that happens.

I remember that one of the disappointments I encountered in my own coming out process was that certain friends were upset that they didn’t get a private conversation with me about it, and instead found out via Facebook posts about my new girlfriend.

Coming out individually to every friend can be exhausting! Sometimes, you just want to put up a post about your girlfriend and have people learn that way. And that is okay!

Want to come out at work? No problem! Want to keep that part of your life private for now? Absolutely fine! It’s your story and your timeline. No one else can tell you when is the right time to disclose that info about yourself.

I think that in some ways, women coming out later in life are a curiosity. People feel entitled to know our story and all the juicy details. But you own your story, and you get to decide who to tell and how much to tell them.

So, please remember this as you walk your own path on this journey. I empower you to think about who you want to tell and how you want to tell them (and how much). It is incredibly powerful to own your story and to tell it when you are ready to share. But don’t feel compelled to do that a minute before you are ready!

Late Life Lesbian Own Our Stories

My Coming Out Mistakes–Er, Lessons!

Today, I’m going to be 100% honest with you.

I have made many mistakes over the last few years on my coming out journey. I really do wish I had the “one plan fits all,” “money-back guarantee” to end all guarantees to help you have the smoothest, best coming out ever, but I don’t.

What I do have is my story, filled with stops and starts, ups and downs, trials and many errors. I think it’s worth sharing to simply let you know, “Hey, I’ve been there, too!” I believe that by sharing our stories, we gain the confidence to move forward on our coming out journeys.

So, here is my list of “coming out” mistakes that I hope might help you to feel better about your own:

  1. I didn’t trust myself: It took me years to be able to sit still enough to hear that inner voice telling me my truth. I gave too much credibility to what other people thought and what society wanted for me instead of listening to myself.
  2. I didn’t trust others: I was scared to come out to some of my close family and friends. I worried what they might think of me and how my coming out might change our relationship. But, some of the people who I worried the most about coming out to are now among my biggest supporters (Hi, Dad!).
  3. I trusted others too much: A few of my friends who I simply assumed would “get it” did not. In some cases, they initially supported me, but further down the road, their support disappeared. You really do learn who your true friends are during your coming out journey.
  4. I wanted to know the entire path up front: I have always had big issues with wanting to know everything ahead of time. Part of the reason it was difficult for me to come out was that I kept spinning all of the possible scenarios in my head over and over again. But, in the end, I had to trust that all would be revealed in time. I had to trust that if I took that first, difficult step, the staircase would appear. And it did!
  5. I wish I had done it sooner! I know that my coming out was timed perfectly for my life, but in so many ways, I still wish I had done it sooner! On the whole, it went much better than I ever imagined it would. The best part is that I finally get to live my authentic life.

As I always tell my daughter, “it’s only a mistake if you didn’t learn the lesson.” And I’m still learning lessons from my coming out journey. Leave me a comment below and let me know some of the lessons you learned on your own journey!

Once, I was just like you…

I’ve been catching up on posts on a website for married women who are attracted to other women. Reading the posts from newcomers always gives me such a sense of perspective. It seems like so long ago that I was in their shoes, but it was only about 3 years ago.

So, I decided to write to those women who are just starting out on this journey. You who are still married, but now discovering your attraction to other women. Or perhaps you have always known this about yourself, but you buried it so deeply that you hoped no one (including you!) would ever find it again.

I’m here to tell you: I was once just like you. Waking up every morning knowing that something was wrong, but not able to put my finger on exactly what it was. Being angry for no reason at the people in my life because I was so unhappy, but not ready to face why. Longing for connection to another woman, but scared to take that first step.

I remember the days leading up to that final realization, and then the fear afterwards, knowing that I had to change now–there was no going back. It was a mixture of exhilaration and dread that paralyzed me at first. What if I was making the wrong decision? How would I ever know for sure what the right decision was? How could I change my entire life over this?

Now, living my fabulous life with my girlfriend and partner of two years, it’s amazing to me that I ever could have accepted anything less. But if I could get in a time machine and go back to my 3 years ago self, here is what I would say to her:

  • Be kind to yourself: Sometimes, you just can’t have all the answers. But you can choose to have compassion for yourself. You’re doing the best you can right now.
  • Know that everyone’s timetable is unique: What seems like a slow journey to some may be just right for you. No one can tell when it’s the right time to make a decision to leave or stay in your marriage. No one can tell you that you’re moving too fast. You are the ultimate authority on what’s best for you.
  • Be thankful for each small victory: All of these small moments add up to something larger. Take comfort in each step of your journey, whether it’s coming out to a friend or finding a gay-friendly therapist.
  • It’s not a straight path (surprise!): You will have good days and not-so-good days. You may not know which way to turn on some days. Practicing listening to your inner voice and you’ll soon get much better at figuring out which turn to make.

I’m so grateful that I stopped pushing down and pushing away those feelings that I’d had my whole life, but chose not to follow. I’m finally living my authentic life, and I know that you will find your way to your true path on your own terms!

Leave me a comment and let me know what are the roadblocks that are causing you to stumble today. Maybe we can work together to come up with some answers for you!

Start Here Now

Hello, again! So, how many times have you told yourself, “Oh, I just can’t do [insert difficult thing, easy thing, or anything, really] because I meant to do it yesterday, but I didn’t, and now I feel horrible and guilty…” And then you look at the calendar, and it’s been three months since you said that. Yep, that’s where I am right now!

It’s been way too long since I wrote a blog post, and I’ve heaped gobs of guilt, regret, and bad feelings on myself in the meantime. I’m human that way! No matter that I’ve had good reasons for my hiatus. Life happens. Blogging gets delayed.

But, here’s the thing–like many times in life, sometimes you simply have to Start Here Now.

Trying to do something difficult can feel daunting. Looking at the whole project can make you want to take to your bed, refuse all calls, and eat chocolate all day!

I promise you that even though I know the solution to this problem, I have to be reminded to implement it all the time. And here’s the solution….

Start. Here. Now.

Do one thing towards your goal today. That’s it.

If you are at the beginning of your coming out process, write down a list of positive aspects of coming out. Make plans to come out to a friend or relative. Check out one book or article by an LGBTQ writer. Attend one Lesbian Meetup event in your area. Make an appointment with an LGBTQ-friendly therapist. Or perhaps just write a list of planned actions in your journal.

It may not sound like much, but when you string together all of these steps, you will find that you have created a wonderful pathway to your new self. Your authentic self. And how wonderful is that?!

(Whew! Blog post done! I feel so much better now).

Thanks for reading and please leave me a comment with your tips for starting here now. What do you do when you feel stuck along the way? How do you motivate yourself to get back on the path?