I’m excited to introduce a new feature on the blog, which was conceived by Laurel Peterson, one of the members of our online support group. In one year, our group has grown to over 500 members–all of whom bring their own unique story and perspective to the group while having the shared experience of being late life lesbians.
In order to give you a glimpse into the world of the women who belong to this group, every week we will be posing a question to our members and sharing their responses with you here. We hope you find their answers as honest, inspiring and eye-opening as fellow group members do.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, Week 1
by Laurel Peterson
In my experience, most people in society at large believe that late in life lesbians must have somehow known they were lesbians their whole life, but instead suppressed it.
This was not my experience as a late in lifer, and in posing the question below to our online support group, it quickly became apparent that their experiences were also not as simple as living in the closet for years and then finally deciding to come out. Some of our members felt a non-specific same sex attraction as a young person, and some didn’t discover it until they were in their 60s. This week’s question was:
How old were you when you first realized you had an attraction to women? What prompted that realization?
Some identified as bisexual
For several women, they discovered early on that they weren’t “straight,” but it also wasn’t clear that they were primarily attracted to women:
I always knew something was different about me since I was a child. I had crushes on my friends, teachers, actresses etc. I first kissed a girl at the age of 19, and made out with a couple more after that. Then I fell deeply in love with a girl named Lori. We had an on-and-off relationship for about 3 years. Eventually, she broke my heart – and I went from her straight to my ex husband. For 15 years, I repressed my attraction and thought I was bisexual. At the age of 39, I met the woman who awakened me. It took me another year to finally accept that I am a lesbian. Now I am a very happy woman, and so proud of who I am. – Laura
From as early as I can remember, I always “noticed” women and thought they were beautiful. In my freshmen year of college, I met an insanely gorgeous actress. I developed an enormous crush on her, and realized it was something more than admiration. I thought I was bi – because I’d had relationships with men – and came out to friends and family as such. At that point, I was too scared to fully explore relationships with women, so I met my husband at 23 and never looked back. A few months shy of 40, I met the love of my life…a woman. Ironically, it wasn’t until after I’d fallen in love with her – after I’d made the decision to turn my life upside down to be with her – that I finally realized I was flat-out gay. It was like putting on glasses and having corrected vision for the first time in my life. Suddenly everything made sense! – Erika
For some it wasn’t allowed
Several women also realized their attraction to other women at a young age, but had been so programmed to believe that being a lesbian was a sin, they essentially talked themselves out of it:
I always had attractions to girls but I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church and “homosexuality” was something that happened to nonbelievers. I always had intense friendships with girls and was always called a lesbian by bullies at grade school. (To this day, I don’t understand how they knew!) I made sure I always had a safe, “non-threatening” boyfriend. I thought everyone was attracted to women, and never connected the dots – even when making out with girls in college. When I was 18, I met my future husband. We married five years later, had three kids, and I was very depressed for most of our marriage. At 40, I fell deeply in love with my best friend, told her, and found she returned my feelings. It was a revelation. I’m gay and always was. – Anna
At about 10, I had crushes on my female teachers & some friends, but I didn’t understand what it was. I knew I wasn’t straight when I first kissed a girl at 18, but promptly went back in the closet after coming out to my mum. She strongly insisted that I not give up on men because it was a hard life being a lesbian, and I would never have a family. I married a man, had two kids, and “drank my gay away” (not my original quote!) Eventually, I got sober, and at 35 I fell in love with a woman and couldn’t ignore the truth anymore. Since allowing myself to live authentically, I’ve never felt more like myself, or more comfortable in my own skin. – Kerri
Some of us didn’t see the signs
We all grow up in a society where you are presumed to be straight unless something comes up to make us think otherwise. Many of us had clues that we weren’t straight, but we couldn’t interpret what they meant:
I had a weird view of how “gay” should feel. I’d had several female friends who were on a different “level” for me. I wanted to be around them all the time and had butterflies when I saw them – but I never realized that it could mean I am gay, especially because I had been attracted to guys over the years as well. My current girlfriend was definitely my catalyst. Being with her, I felt that almost “addicted” feeling for the first time, and it was returned. The closer we became, the more we craved each other. It’s like we were and still are in our own bubble when we are together, and the rest of the world fades away. If I had experienced something like this before I married my husband, then I wouldn’t have married him. I still question if I am a lesbian or bisexual or somewhere in between. But I think accepting the grey areas of my sexuality has helped me get where I am with all this. – Carrie
As a teenager, I fantasized about making out with my female friends but never thought much about it. I was part of a conservative Christian church, and I looked down on the gay “lifestyle” like the good girl that I was. I married my first real boyfriend when I was 20 years old. I knew from the beginning I didn’t enjoy sex with him, but it was my duty as a wife. Three kids and ten years later, these same feelings toward women surfaced again. I was watching an episode of Glee and suddenly realized – holy s*&#, I’m gay! Soon after, I crushed hard on a friend of mine. The way I was with her was the exact opposite of how I was with my husband. I was quiet and reserved with him and kept him at arm’s length. With her, I came alive. I was bold, affectionate and I couldn’t get enough of her. It took six more years to admit this to my husband. My soul began to wither until I just couldn’t hide it anymore. Now I’m out to family and some friends and have an amazing girlfriend. Even though the road was terribly hard, I am so happy to love and be loved in a fulfilling way and am looking forward to the future. – Cynthia
Some of us were completely clueless
Last but not least, several late in life lesbians (me included, by the way!) truly had no inclination that they were attracted to women until it hit them like a ton of bricks as grown women. If there were any signs of their same sex attraction earlier in life, they completely missed them:
I was 32, living with my long term boyfriend and my four children. My sex life was nonexistent – I wanted nothing to do with sex, and thought I was asexual. Still, I knew something was missing. Years earlier, I’d started withdrawing emotionally, and one way I coped was to read romance novels. I downloaded a new book, and realized about 3 chapters into it that the story was leading to a lesbian romance. Something clicked, and I was completely blindsided by the fact that this could possibly be what had always been missing…a woman. I tried to deny it for months after that, but eventually I developed my first crush on a woman. After that, there was no denying that this is who I am. – Becca
I was at a “female” party in Saudi Arabia when I was 50. I could “feel” the feminine energy in the air. It took me some time to accept why I was able to “detect” the energy. – Corina
In my case, sexuality most of my life was centered around NOT being attracted to the opposite sex. I had been raised to believe that heterosexuality was the only truth, so I thought I was “broken” for lack of a better word. I wanted closeness and sex, but the thought of that type of intimacy with men turned my stomach. My same sex awakening happened much later, when television started showing occasional same sex couples. While my friends or family scrambled to change the channel and talk about how “gross and disgusting” it was to see that, I secretly hoped they’d be too late or the scene wouldn’t end before the kiss. And then I met HER. We were just friends at first, but I knew she was a lesbian. This allowed me to ask the questions I needed to ask – first of her, then of myself. And then, I knew. The pieces of the puzzle fit into place and I was suddenly not broken, but whole. – April
In short, there is no one time when “the light bulb turns on” for late in life lesbians. Our experiences of how our attraction came about is as individual as we are. Stay tuned for another “Making the Realization” question next week.