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, Pt. 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.

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?

Shame and denial

For many, just as in the LGBTQ community at large, our members initially tried to deny their truth or change themselves before accepting who they are.
 
It took me years to admit I had a same sex attraction. When I started to come out, I felt like I was flying and crashing all at the same time. I hurt myself for awhile, I begged God to take it away, and I contemplated electric shock or conversion therapy. I’m still in the bargaining/acceptance stage of grieving, and it’s been six years since I started moving away from denial. I want to love who I am – and luckily, I feel it’s just around the corner. – Carolyn
 
I was excited – like holding in a secret that was too exciting to keep in; but then the worries and fear of what it all meant hit me. How could it be? I thought, “I’m a married Christian woman whose life is (or appears) perfect.” I had a great husband, two decent incomes, three healthy & over-achieving kids, two cars, a cat…everything is awesome. Of course, it really wasn’t. I was dying inside a broken marriage and felt so lonely. My kids were seeing the emotional rollercoasters of their parents. It wasn’t healthy, but it appeared stable. I was scared straight twice – almost giving up on me. After I came to terms with it, I was finally at peace. – Elizabeth

Confusion and shock

Other late in life lesbians accepted their new truth, but had a hard time making sense of it or realizing it could be true.
 
I had no clue about my sexuality until it came crashing down on me. At 37, I actually googled, “How do I know if I’m a lesbian?” My catalyst* truly awakened me to figure out parts of me that I had no clue existed. As I started to look back on my life, I could see things I didn’t see before. There were so many echoes that had been calling me, but I hadn’t listened or paid attention to them. I felt scared and confused – like I didn’t know or trust myself. I actually prayed quite a lot and found a lot of comforting answers in my faith. – Jennifer
 
I really could not believe at 67 I was telling my therapist on my very first visit that I thought I was a lesbian. I was so shocked. – Carol

Exhilaration and relief

Not all of the emotions that hit you when you realize you’re a woman attracted to women are negative, however. For many, discovering their truth was a largely positive experience.
 
It felt awesome. I wasn’t broken. All my life, I felt weird – like something was missing, or I was a freak. I was always interested in women but hadn’t explored it because of religious influence. After I separated from my ex-husband and met my beautiful fiancée, I felt finally whole and complete. I could take on the world…and I have. – Amaris
 
It was the most exhilarating (yet scariest!) feeling one can experience. I thought I knew all there was to know about myself, only to discover I was still learning. It enlightened me to realize why I’d never been able to fully enjoy or give myself to a man. Falling in love with a woman has been the best experience I’ve had in my life – and ever since then, all I’ve wanted to do is live life in this “self” and see where it takes me. – L’Shaunese

Mixed emotions

Regardless of what the first emotions are to hit late life lesbians as they come into their own, most go through a whole range of emotions, up and down, over time. Some seemingly experienced all these emotions at once.
 
Initially I was hard on myself that I had missed such an enormous part of who I am. After a lot of self reflection, though, the relief, joy and excitement set in. My attraction to women answered so many questions I had blamed on other things. There was also a lot of guilt and fear for what will happen with the people around me that I love. This is not something that is accepted in my world, but ultimately I cannot help who I am. I still feel the relief and excitement – knowing and feeling that the pieces of who I am finally fit! – Christy
 
It was like every emotion one can feel all at once: happy, excited relief; but also sadness and grief. Once I finally allowed myself to see women that way, it was amazing; but it also felt terrible when I was at home with my ex-husband before I came out to him. It was like my whole life was a lie – a lie that I had deeply convinced myself was truth for a long time. Luckily the excitement of finally finding my true self and the potential for the future spurred me forward and motivated me to make changes. – Kara
 
I felt insecure, scared, ashamed and lost. I had no idea where things were heading – but it also explained so much. So in a way, I also felt more whole. – Alice H.
 
The emotions of coming out of the closet, at any age, are very real and palpable. As you can see from the quotes above, late life lesbians are no different in this regard. In the next installment, we’ll examine how members of our group arrived at their “home” on the LGBTQ spectrum.
 
 
* – “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.

“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.