From 365 Gay
Many researchers who studied the concept of “late-life lesbianism” had previously concluded that these women had always been gay, but weren’t comfortable coming out until they were older, reports NPR.
A new study led University of Utah professor Lisa Diamond to suggest that this is not the case.
Diamond tracked a group of 79 women for 15 years; most of the women said they became attracted to women when they were in their late thirties.
From these women, Diamond has found that in fact these late-life lesbians had not in fact always been attracted to other women.
“It does appear to be that women’s erotic desires are pretty tightly linked to their emotional feelings. And so for some of these women, they authentically did not really feel attracted to women before they met one particular woman that they completely fell in love with,” said Diamond.
She added, “I think it’s hard to know whether that capacity actually becomes stronger over time. Probably what’s a safer conclusion to draw is that as time goes on, women have more opportunities to discover that capacity.”
Diamond said that in aging, women become more open-minded, meet more people and have a wider range of experiences, which can “create a context in which a woman might have always had that capacity to become attracted to women, but might never have had the opportunity until she reaches a certain stage in her life.”
Some opponents to same-sex marriage have sited Diamond’s research as evidence that sexuality is a choice, but Diamond said that is not the right conclusion to draw from her work.
“The problem there is the mistaken conflation of change with choice. The women that I have studied who have had these experiences did not experience them as chosen at all. So the idea that it’s chosen is really the mistake there,” said Diamond.
Diamond said the women were more confused than upset by their new feelings, and most of them said the experience was very satisfying. Diamond said, “Women would say, I don’t know what’s going on but, oh, I love this woman.”