Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #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. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the other posts and topics in this series here.

MAKING THE REALIZATION, pt. 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?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #3”

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #2

Thanks again to Laurel Peterson for collecting the responses from other women coming out later in life in our online support group, and then writing the articles. We hope that by sharing our stories, others will find recognition, support, and self-acceptance. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the other posts and topics in this series here.

MAKING THE REALIZATION, pt. 2

by Laurel Peterson
 
In our initial post,  we discussed how realizing you have a same sex attraction can happen at any age, and can come about due to any number of factors. But what about the emotions of this incredibly difficult realization? This question to the over 500 members in our late life lesbian support group was:

How did you react when you realized you weren’t 100% straight and tried to wrap your head around that?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #2”

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

“The Late Life Lesbian Diaries” (pt. 2)

Here’s part two of our new feature written by RM, a later-in-life lesbian. Start with part one here:


The chatter of those first couple days quickly settled into a back and forth banter that was reminiscent of a friendship cascading back through the years.  She was out shopping with her kids, sending pictures of things that brought me to mind–stores bearing my name, girl’s bedding that would in a few days spawn a nickname. Me at work, yawning through my work day, responding with silliness and sarcasm, and letting my work float away unnoticed.

I got a message telling me she is flying out that night, across country for work, but will also be meeting another woman from our group.  The words pass through my eyes, up the optic nerves into my brain. Suddenly my stomach is involved, my skin joins in moments later. WTF is this sensation once again taunting me and my rationality? I crack a joke, “Don’t have too much fun! Totally kidding, go get it girl!” Truth be told, I didn’t really mean that second part. Or did I? I decided to roll with it, enjoy the banter and let it take us away to a land of Subarus, flannel shirts, Birkenstocks, toaster ovens, and U-Hauls.

“…but I wish I was having dinner (and other things!) with another woman.” U-Haul – reserved.

A picture of her in her hotel room jumps onto my screen. My heart twitches, the forbidden zone tingles. Shit. On our first night of chatting I had already let things go further than I ever intend to. Society and years of fighting to gain the attention of a man has taught me to use my sexuality. Boobs, flirting, and being quick into bed worked in the past and also reduced the need for conversation, of which my skill can rival the storytelling of a four-year old.  That first night, she jokingly asked what I was wearing after I told her I’d moved from the couch into bed. I immediately sent a photo showing my bare shoulders peeking out from the sheets and told her that was indeed an inappropriate question to ask this early in the game. I began to talk about my first time with a woman as the urges and desires rumbled under the sheets. The conversation stopped for a few minutes and when we returned, with a new sense of relaxation and release, we picked right up and continued on. For another hour.  Was this life with a woman? We didn’t need confirmation or validation at what had happened behind the screens of our phones. We continued on with the playful banter and became two teenagers in lust, “No you hang up! No you hang up!” We eventually did  and now my mind wanders back to the present moment. She is in her hotel room and we send a few pictures back and forth. Before things go any further, I ask the question I need answered – “Are you interested in just flirting or also getting to know each other? Because I’d love to do both…” I wait.

“Ditto. I see us being great friends with the delightful possibility of added benefits at some point.”

I smile. We begin to talk about the two places we live, me in the western U.S., her in Australia. We talk about how we first knew we were not living our authentic lives, and when we knew we wanted to explore life with the ladies. We shared the stories of our ex-husbands and divorces.  The conversation continues to be comfortable, familiar, and most importantly, vulnerable. I don’t want to be her first, I already know I want more than that. She has yet to even kiss a woman – “go sow your oats and then tell me about it,” I tell her.  She promises to do just that and then a couple videos and voices files cross the ocean and we hear each other for the first time. I listen over and over, her voice trapping me, sucking me into a place I hadn’t intended to go. I mention another woman who had recently joined the group and was from the same city as BG. An answer, that I will soon learn is classic for her, comes back, “And throwing you up against the wall and kissing you among other things…Yes, a newbie here in town!”

We start to jump in and then immediately pull back. Instead we begin to talk about body shapes and sizes, our own and those we are attracted to. I allow the rolls and bulges of my belly to relax and unfold as she tells me how much she loves curves on a woman – soft, cuddly curves.  She tells me how beautiful I am and even with the distance, I still feel the the deep buzzing sensation I get when someone looks at me with adoration and attraction. Shame and unworthiness absorb the warmth and kindness, shielding my heart from being fully open. I tell her this, because I know I don’t have to pretend or hide my true self.  We knew this immediately, both of us feeling a warmth and familiarity we were attempting to comprehend. The gushing of compliments tapers off and the conversation meanders back to getting to know each other. The silly little things that make us US, like we both dislike talking on the phone, and we both love to communicate in writing. I live in a weed-legal state and we laugh about marketing edible THC underwear. BG heads out to explore and I settle into bed, mind overly active and unable to rest. It’s the weekend. I have nowhere to be the next day and I allow my mind to wander. Would I move out of the country for someone? How the fuck can I feel such a strong connection to someone I’ve never met? Will she still like me once we meet? Will I still like her once we meet? Can I take my cats with me? Do I need a more lesbian style? Will her kids like me? Her family? Will my friends and family like her? I worry that I’m not as funny as she thinks I am. I worry that we will have no chemistry. I worry that we’ll have too much and I’ll fall for someone half a world away.

She was pulling me – hard and fast – I couldn’t explain it. My brain needed a break, it needed to stop thinking and allow this crazy fuckery to unfold, organically. I glanced at the world map on my wall and stared at the vast ocean that separates us.

I attempted to read, but then she sent a picture, and then another. I respond and questions pour in. Siblings, favorite movies, celebrity crushes, to shave or not to shave, top travel destination. Each question leads down another path to further discovery and I am enamored with every bit of it.

I mention that I was in bed and what I was not wearing and we head down a very secluded and intimate path taking us both to a place that neither of us knew existed. Pictures and words are exchanged as my mind and body drift away to a place 8,000 miles away. Rationality attempted to pull me back, but the forces of a libido in the wrong hands for far too long, left rationality standing alone and silenced. I imagine her, lying in her hotel room, hopefully in a similar state. When I recover and can type again, I tell her this. “OMG. Me too” is all I need to hear. And then, “In the beautiful foreplay of minds, then the body just explodes.” I sink deeper into a state of beautiful bewilderment. Without hesitation, the chatting continues and we open ourselves up even more. I share Pablo Neruda quotes and question if this is what girl sex is like. The easy balance of sensual and cerebral, by way of giggling and chatting that picks up easily after our pleasureable interludes.

We cannot hold out for long and we are back to describing, in much more detail, the things we imagine doing to each other. I remember that moment clearly. I was sitting up in my bed with my laptop, reading her words, imagining her doing to me the things she was describing. With both hands on the keyboard, contemplating my next move, I froze and tossed the laptop aside. What happened next left me confused and unsure of my surroundings.

“That was beyond words. You are touching me, without even being here. What the hell are you doing to me woman?!?”

“I know, me too!”

We continue again with the easy banter and chatting until she has to relent and head out to dinner. With eight minutes to put herself together. It’s 3am my time, I say goodnight and snuggle down to attempt sleep.

Her words pass through my mind, “what crazy fuckery is this?” It will become our mantra.

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

 

 

 

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!