New Feature: “The Late Life Lesbian Diaries” (part one)

I’m excited to present a new feature on the blog called “The Late Life Lesbian Diaries.” This feature is written not by me, but by another later in life lesbian in our support group who wants to share her story. She goes by the initials RM, and I’m happy to showcase her work.


Part One

What was I doing that night when I first clicked into a world of unknown? Sitting on my couch, laptop warming my thighs, cats curled up next to me. Maybe an episode of “Frasier” playing on Netflix for background noise. I’m pretty sure I was lost in my thoughts – thoughts that spill into Google searches. “Coming out after divorce,” “married to a man now I love women,” “I’m old and I’m a baby dyke,” who knows what search terms I used that night, the night I found this blog and launched myself off the safe shore of who I’ve always been. I send my introductory email off to Andrea and waited. A day or so passes, and my overactive brain stumbles through every conceivable scenario. My brain is highly fertile, and it worked hard those couple of days. It turns out, that was only a warm-up for more questions. Will I fit in? Will I find love? What kind of lesbian am I? Do I need to know? Will I find that although I’m terminally attracted to females, I feel completely out of sync with everyone in the group?

Ding Facebook notification, I have been approved and am now part of the Later in Life Lesbian group. I scurry into the group and poke around, getting my bearings, seeing if anyone I know is already a member. I read a few introduction posts and click my first likes, make my first comments. What I find is a group of women in all stages of transformation and transition. I read posts that are cry-worthy, a lot that make me laugh, and a more than expected number of posts that make me realize I am not as alone as I previously thought. I had found a safe place, a place for new friends, a home.

This is a place for us to be our true selves. There is sarcasm, bantering, inappropriateness, compassion, support, and wholeheartedness. I am overwhelmed and the doubts of fitting in swell. I currently live in a city known for people who are friendly but painfully slow to let you into their circle. I could pick out the women who had been in the group for a while. There was familiarity among them. I worried about jumping into their banter. I stepped away to open my email, and copy and paste my original email to Andrea. A few edits and I had my intro to the group. Cut and paste again, and I’ve tossed myself out to 200+ women.

Ding. Ding. Notifications keep coming, I’m reading through them as new ones pop up. I am welcomed, I am home. Most of all, I am understood.

Ding, new friend requests roll in, after little to no interaction with the women wanting to be my friend. Having Facebook friends I don’t know in “real life” is something I’ve always avoided. Feeling like I was home now, I accepted the requests. Transformation, change, and growth all require some variance of risk. I was sick of sitting still, doing nothing. I left my husband for many reasons and a big one was that he is happy being stagnant. I am not.

A few days pass and I comment here and there, mostly click ‘Like,’ continue to get a feel for the land. There is a flower theme in the group, and I see lots of posts about them. Being in the veterinary field, I post about some flowers being toxic to cats, and I threw in another word for cat to show my humor and inappropriateness.  Within minutes, I get a comment from a woman I will call BG. She takes my post and carries it, unabashedly away, followed by a meme post noting her status as that friend who turns everything sexual. My response, “I love you already BG!!” An innocent comment that 6 weeks later snaps back, flipping me into an unruly pile of emotions, with each one of them having a different say in how I should proceed. Romance is sticky with the unabashed sappiness. Rational’s stern face tells me that Rational and Romance will be the fight to watch this year.

I check in with the group everyday, read posts, but am not a frequent commenter/poster. Lurking among the familiar strangers satisfies me. I am absorbing, learning, and gaining insight to where I am and where I want to go next.

Ding. A new FB message from BG. A simple, “You are so funny!” GIFs come flying across my screen, irreverent comments come and go. It was easy – fun, and flirty. I was funny, cute, attractive to someone. To a woman. I was giddy with the fun, lightheartedness of it.

She is on another continent, across far too many time zones. The chatting starts late for me, early for her. My usual time for bed comes and goes. “WTF time is it there?” she asks. “1:30am,” I answer, but I don’t care. I want to keep talking to her, and I find that I’d rather have her next to me, in my bed than through a computer screen. What crazy fuckery is this?

Finally, we sign off. I sleep fitfully, waking up frequently, and look at my phone each time I do. I wake up to her, hold her throughout my day, and take her to bed the next night. This continues, day in and day out, across an ocean, and far beyond my understanding of rationality.

 

What does Elizabeth Gilbert’s coming out have to do with me? (Lots, apparently!)

Last Wednesday, I was up early checking email when a request popped up from the Telegraph, a UK newspaper.

“Hi, I’m writing from the Telegraph Women’s section, wondering whether you’d consider doing an article for us? It would be linked to the news about Elizabeth Gilbert. I saw you quoted in a previous piece, and thought you’d be perfect.”

I don’t always wake up to requests for articles from a British newspaper, but when I do, it’s a very good day! Soon, I had another request–this time from The Guardian–for a 5:30am (US time) phone interview the next day for an article on women coming out later in life.

After these two articles were published last Friday, the emails started pouring in from the UK and beyond–from women wanting to join our online support group.

I’m beyond thrilled that our group is growing! We’re now up to over 300 members, and I have about 20 more emails in my inbox right now–more women who are looking for support and connection on this journey.

One of the worst parts for me when I decided to come out was thinking that I was the only one who had ever done this. I had a difficult time finding resources for coming out later in life, and after I did it, I promised myself that I would find a way to help other women on this path.

Whether you identify as questioning, bisexual, lesbian, queer, or “beyond labels,” if you are in the process of coming out and coming to a greater understanding of your identity, you are welcome in our group!

I’m so glad to see this issue getting more publicity as I firmly believe there is power in visibility.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for speaking your truth! It’s helped countless women feel less alone today, and that’s a very good thing.

lgilbert
Author Elizabeth Gilbert (left) and Rayya Elias. Photo credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images

 

 

 

Support Group Success!

A few months ago, I told you about the Facebook support group that I was starting for women coming out later in life. My hopes were that women could finally find a place to really connect with other women on the same path. This blog and the group were born out of my own experiences with loneliness, isolation, and fear as I navigated this path alone.

Well, my hopes were exceeded in every way! The women who have helped me create this community are some of the most courageous, supportive, and all-around beautiful people I have ever known. There are daily instances of them taking their pain and transforming it into strength. It’s a safe place to be vulnerable, but also a place to share laughs and triumphs.

But don’t take my word for it–here is what the ladies themselves have to say about the group:

“This group has truly become a source of support, love, strength, happiness, laughter as well as a place to shed a tear when needed. I really feel connected to the women here. More connected to them than people who I spend most of my time with and have known for years. It really is like a family.” 

“This is only my second day as part of this group and I just have to say how very impressed I am with the support, kindness, and authenticity of those who post. I am proud to be with you.”

“This group makes my day like nothing else.”

“I wish it had been around when I was first coming out but the reality is that we can relate and help each other no matter where we are in our personal journeys. Society (usually) understands that some people are straight and some aren’t, but they have a hard time grasping someone who’s straight (or thought they were) into adulthood and things changed later. You all have lived this and will understand, listen and offer support without judgment which is so needed for me!”

“I had researched and read everything I could find to try and understand what was happening to me. It was so amazing to find this group, who validated my experience and embraced me with love and support.”

“I get strength from this group, which makes me have the courage to do the hard things, so one day I can live authentically and just be who I am.”

“This place is more than just a page, its more like a community. A place where women can come together and share their stories without fear of judgement, more like a home where everyone is welcomed.”

“Even though I have never met all of you, this group walked into my life when I really needed it. I have been privileged in knowing truly authentic wonderful women I will likely never meet. The first step happened during this very vivid moment of desperation on a Friday afternoon last month that I will never forget and included jotting down feelings in a notebook and searching for help on the internet. Something (synchronicity) brought me to Andrea Hewitt’s blog and moved me to have the courage to send an email…and in doing this, I learned I am not alone.”

“For a long time I felt so alone/confused/scared by my experience and like I was the only one. Who could I possibly talk to who could really understand what this feels like? This group has helped me feel normal!”

If you are a women who is in the process of coming out later in life, you may want to consider joining our group. Send me an email at: latelifelesbian@gmail.com and tell me a little bit about your situation so that I can make sure you’re a good fit for our group. I look forward to hearing from you and introducing you to this wonderful group of women soon!

WomenSupportRainbow

New Facebook Support Group

The number one request I get from women coming out later in life is “where can I find community and support?” A year ago, I started the Later in Life Lesbian Support Group to address this need. I choose Google Groups as the platform mainly for the anonymity factor, which is a big deal for those questioning their sexuality and needing support.

While I’ve had great response to the Google support group, the platform is really lacking in ease of communication.

So, I made the decision to move the Later in Life Lesbian Support Group from Google Groups to Facebook for these reasons:

  1. Facebook is the number one social networking platform. It’s where everyone is connecting these days!
  2. With the option of a “secret” Facebook group, anonymity is protected. The group will not show up in any internet search, and it definitely will not show up on anyone’s Facebook news feed.
  3. Facebook makes it easy to share resources, articles, photos, and anything else that might be helpful for women coming out later in life.

Join us in the new group! It’s a secret group, so if you want to join, you need to send me an email at latelifelesbian@gmail.com. Tell me why you want to join the group so that I can make sure you’ll be a good fit.

I look forward to growing our support network and I hope to see you on our new group soon!

 

Hey, we made HuffPo!

I was approached by the blogger and writer Hélène Tragos Stelian a few months ago to be interviewed for a Huffington Post article she was writing about women who come out later in life. She was a delight to work with and was very receptive to learning more about women coming out later in life.

Well, the article is now live on Huffington Post! It includes great quotes from a variety of women, including my friend-in-real-life and amazing poet Lisa Dordal.

It’s an honor to be included in the article and even more of an honor to be a part of getting the word out about the excitement and challenges of coming out later in life.

Leave your comment about the article at the link above–I know that Hélène would love to hear from you!

Lesbian Dating Coach? Sign me up!

Hi, everyone!

Well, this just happened today! I had a great chat with Rachel at Magilla Entertainment about a new docu-series that they are developing about people who want to change their lives. And one of the episodes will feature women who are considering coming out or who are newly out and ready to make a change in their dating strategy. They will be paired with a lesbian dating coach (possibly me!) and the episode will follow us as we go through 21 days of this new experience. So, I’m posting their casting call below in case any of you are interested in applying.

“ARE YOU A WOMEN READY TO EXPLORE SAME SEX ATTRACTION?

Are you a woman who has felt same sex attractions in the past and are now ready to see where it leads you? Have you just gone through a serious breakup or divorce and are ready for a big change? Magilla Entertainment and a major cable network are now casting women who are jumping back into the dating game and are looking to change their approach for 21 days. Following the “21 Day Myth” in which people can mentally and physically make changes after this specific time period, this docu-series will capture the excitement and the fears of the women as they test out this new lifestyle change with the help of a coach. If you think you are ready to embark on this journey, contact us ASAP at castingdirector@magilla.tv with “SAME SEX ATTRACTION” in the subject along with your name, age, location, occupation, contact numbers, recent photos and a brief paragraph about why you want to experience dating women.”

I think it is cool to see more acceptance of women coming out later in life, and this is just more proof of that fact. I’ll keep you posted on the process, and my possible new job as lesbian dating coach!

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?