Hélène Tragos Stelian
At an event earlier this year, I met two women who, as it turned out, were not only business partners but also life partners. They left their marriages and grown children in their 50s and have been together ever since. My curiosity piqued, I’m afraid I monopolized their time with my many questions. As someone who writes about midlife reinventions on my site, Next Act for Women, I am always on the lookout for women who have made major life changes, whether personal or professional, later in life. This certainly qualified.
As luck would have it, soon after, I received an unsolicited request from Lisa Ekus, who fell in love with another woman at 51 and wanted to share her story. It was kismet. After hearing more about Lisa’s background, and talking to my sister, Kat, who also came out late, I felt there was a lot we “straight” people needed to learn. Starting with my most glaring misconception…
1. I DIDN’T “BECOME” GAY
Most of the women I interviewed were adamant that they did not suddenly turn from straight to gay, but rather only awakened later in life to their attraction to women. They feel this attraction has always been there but had been previously inaccessible, for reasons individual to each situation.
Lisa Dordal, who came out after being married to a man for five years, explains, “I finally embraced the fact that I was a lesbian when I came out of the closet at age 30. I believe strongly that I was knit in the womb as a lesbian. In retrospect, the clues had been there all along. In high school and college, I wrote poems about girls and women I had crushes on and can also remember falling in love with my best friend at 14–as much as one can ‘fall in love’ at that age.”
Candace Talmadge agrees: “It’s a question of acknowledging that which is already within you and deciding to act on it instead of ignoring or burying it in the closet. I tried to act straight and dated men without any success. I could have continued on that unhappy road but I found a person who loves and respects me and has been my best friend since 1986, and my spouse since last year. She just happens to be female instead of male.”
Dr. Lauren Costine, Psychologist, LGBTQ Activist, and author of Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong, shares her journey: “Once I had worked on my internalized LGBTQ phobias, I finally felt good enough about myself to be my authentic self. I stopped worrying about what anyone thought about my identity and who I loved and had sex with–especially my mother, who made it very clear she did not want me to be a lesbian. It was very hard on me for a long time because I did not want to disappoint her and I know her inability to love this part of me affected my ability to come out earlier in life. Unfortunately, she never accepted my lesbian identity but I finally moved past needing her approval and started living my life. And it’s amazing! I love my life. I love being different and don’t want to be like everyone else. Life was way harder when I was trying to be straight. Being an LGBTQ activist–trying to make the world a better place for LGBTQ folks–takes away any discomfort I may have being a sexual minority.”