Thursday, August 19, 2010

Late Life Lesbians. Let's Discuss.

It has been a hot topic all over the airwaves lately - on Oprah, the Today Show, and The View. Women who had traditional marriages and families are leaving their husbands for other women.  
Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni

Okay, I admit it, this is a trend I'm curious about. I'm married, I'm a mom, I've always been attracted to men and I'm hot for my husband. Is there something about middle age that's going to make me start playing for the other team?


Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon spent 15 years with the father of her two children before falling in love with education activist Christine Marinoni in her late thirties. Had Nixon always been a lesbian? She says no.
"It wasn't something in me that was waiting to come out. It was like, this person is undeniable. How can I let this person walk by?"
Meredith Baxter, who played the liberal mom from the hit 80's TV show "Family Ties," was married three times and had five children. It wasn't until she was in her mid-fifties that she realized that she preferred being with women. She spoke with Matt Lauer about the experience on the Today Show.
"I am a lesbian, and it was a later-in-life recognition," Baxter said. I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening.  I never fought it because it was like, oh, I understand why I had the issues I had early in life. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships.”
While Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View thinks women turn to other women in middle age because "all the older men are going for younger women, leaving the older women with no one" (click here to see her make her case to astonished co-host Joy Behar) I highly doubt desperation for companionship is the motive.

According to Shayna Goldstein, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in LGBT issues at the Family Institute of Northwestern University,  women who leave their marriages for other women tend to follow two paths. The first group of women, like Cynthia Nixon, feel they happened to fall in love with a person who happens to be female. Their romantic feelings are specific to an individual and they don't necessarily identify themselves as lesbian.

The second group of women have known they were attracted to other women for a long time, but never gave themselves permission to act on those feelings. It isn't until later in life - when they'd developed more self-awareness and confidence - that they were able to admit and act upon their true desires.

When writing about this topic for an upcoming issue of Make it Better Magazine, I interviewed Maureen Watson, a dynamic gallery owner and former business executive who lives with her female partner of eight years in Florida. Maureen, 62, has been married twice - spending a total of 25 years with her two husbands. When she was younger, she liked men and had satisfying physical relationships with them, but in between marriages, she also had "flings" with women.

"When I wasn't with a man, I was with a woman," she told me.

But Maureen was brought up in a strict Catholic household and in her community it was inconceivable that a woman be with another woman. So, despite having had female encounters, it wasn't until she was 48 and divorced for the second time that Maureen allowed herself to fall in love and have a real, committed relationship with a woman. She she decided to tell the people close to her about her relationship.

"I realized, I'm older now, so who the hell cares what people say? And society had become more accepting," she said. Her conservative parents certainly had.

"My mother simply said, 'that's nice dear, you always did think differently, now what should we have for lunch?'"

Since then, Maureen has only been with women and has no intention of dating men - "Relationships with women are just much more interesting!" - but coming out as a lesbian has been a gradual process that even talking to me for this interview is a part of.

"It's an evolution of finding out who you are," she said. She thinks sexuality falls along a bell curve. "Some of us are probably born gay and some of us are born hetero, but the rest of us fall someplace in between. It's hard to label yourself."

Labels about women's sexual orientation may becoming a thing of the past anyway. There's a new concept emerging called "sexual fluidity." In her book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire, psychologist Lisa Diamond presents a study of women who have had relationships with both men and women over time, but don't fit into any fixed definition of gay, straight, or bi-sexual.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one, girls!

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too am a late life lesbian. I was married with three children when i realised I had feelings for a woman. I honestly believed I had a hormone imbalance and needed to go to the doctors to get 'fixed'. Nothing ever materialised with the lady I fell for but the attraction to women only grew stronger.

I later met another lady, she too was married with children. we became friends and the attraction just grew. Sleeping with her the very first time was amazing, i knew i was finally home. i had been with my husband from the age of 15, I was then 38 and finally I knew what had been missing from my life.

I ended my marrage and had four of the best, happiest and most loving years of my life with this lady. I was asked once what's the difference for me, being with my husband and my girlfriend. The response is easy. When he and I had sex I'd always felt that I was stood back watching me. With her I was, it was all consuming.

since we broke up I have had relationships with two other women. I love making love to women and never see myself sleeping with a man again. I strongly identify as a lesbian and when asked if I still felt I hhad a hormone imbalance my response was and is, if I do I do not want it fixed. I love my life now, I'm home

Marjie Killeen said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for sharing your story!

Christopher said...

Pure hogwash. The only justification for it, is the biochemical makeup in the body, just like someone born congenitally with a disorder. Unless something in the atmosphere causes the brain chemistry to change.

Marjie Killeen said...

Christopher - I appreciate you reading this and encourage you to keep exploring the topic with an open mind. Whatever role biology plays in being gay - which is still undetermined, and seems more complex for women than men - it is not fair to compare it to a congenital disorder. This is a difference, not a disease.

Anonymous said...

oh my,
interesting....i thought i was the only one who felt an emotional connection to another female in mid life .....i was married twice and did have children,but this is a connection i never experienced with a man ."she reads my thoughts ,puts me first and will never say no ,even a silly simple request-the answer is always yes.

Anonymous said...

actually christopher if you really thought it was hogwash--as you put it;why are you visiting?
its an emotional connection that a man just cant connect to.

Michelle K said...

Amen to that! I just fell head over heels for a woman at age 45. It was just as much of a surprise to me as everyone else.....including my children (married for 13 years and currently in divorce proceecings). However, I simply could not deny the fact that I loved this woman and wanted/needed to be with her. The connection I felt immediately was like no other I had ever experienced. I cannot explain it and won't.....it simply is......She is the only woman I am attracted to this way and the only woman I want to be with. I simply adore her.

Marjie Killeen said...

Michelle, wow! I'm sure this is a tumultuous time for you, but I like that middle age can be as full of discovery and surprise as any other age. I wish you much happiness.

Anonymous said...

Married 20 years in an emotionally abusive relationship,thought that was why i didnt enjoy the sex. Seperated and met younger women also in emotionally abusive relationship. Have fallen in love with her,dont know if i will ever have same feelings for another women or only her.She is now in another abusive relationship with a man, sure it is because she cant accept her true feelings, I am too scared to tell her how i feel.

Tracey I said...

I am a later in life lesbian. When I was younger, I had experienced occasional attraction to very masculine women (butches). But I told myself that I was only attracted them because they looked and acted like men. Which was true, but not the whole story. I met this one butch professionally and was just incredibly attracted, but never did anything about it - still, it shook me up because the attraction was so strong. At the age of 48, I realized that I was attracted to butch women as women, in their own right, and very powerfully so. I found myself joining an online lesbian dating site and met a wonderful butch. We are in love and planning to get married (luckily we can in my state). I never in a million years dreamed this would happen to me, but there it is, and this is a better relationship than I have ever had with a man. It is HARD to come out late in life, but I did, and now am open with everybody. I also think that as your fertility declines, there is a biological component - you no longer feel a need to be with a man to procreate (this may be subconscious, but I do think it's a factor for many later-in-life women). Allow yourself to feel what you feel, and to be what you are, even if it is a change from the way you used to be for many years.

Terrance Siler said...

Applause to all of our friends out there who value their happiness by not keeping their true identity; instead proudly express their love for the same sex. A gaycupid member once said that acceptance is the most special gift you can give them.

Anonymous said...

I like what is beeing said by woman who fell in love with another woman thumbs up

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm a married woman in my fourties with three children still staying with hubby and kids I'm strongly in love with a woman how do I tell my hubby that I'm in love with a woman

Marjie Killeen said...

Anonymous -
You could consider talking with a therapist who specializes in LGBT issues to help you sort it through. Also, my recent piece on Polyamory might be of interest, because it presents people living in unconventional situations that seem to work for them.

http://www.makeitbetter.net/better-you/sex-and-the-suburbs/4977-polyamory-no-limits-to-love

Anonymous said...

I am an unhappy married woman who would love to find a woman to share my life with. I started noticing and finding other women attractive after I got in my 40's. I have never had any opportunities to be with a woman but would like to. Any suggestions to go about finding someone would help.

Anonymous said...

Great read! I am in the same "pickle". I have found myself so undeniable attracted to women... I just don't know how to go about meeting them... or communicating with women on that level... or even where to meet other women.

Thanks for sharing!

Vince Stead said...

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Anonymous said...

I am forty nine years old always new I was a lesbian since I was able to know before that I just felt different.I married my husband for 20 yrs and had two kids.I always told him I was gay he never believed I just thought I was confused.I eventually just did what was expected of me and lived strait.Last year I met my partner fell in love and we have been together for a year .I am finally happy not suicidal or battling eating disorders of anorexia or Bulimia.I am happy.My kids father died two months ago at 46yrs old of a heart attack.Brian (kids' father) said before he died I can see you are happy I can see the peace and glow about you.My kids except me and my partner.We are the modern family . Thanks GIGI

lambchopxoxo said...

I'm in my early 50s and for the first time am WILDLY attracted to a woman.

Its certainly not because I can't attract men (I still do, unfortunately) and she definitely can its just that I find her hot. Nothing has happened between us yet, but I hope it does. I don't know for certain that she feels the same way, but I suspect she does. She's an amazing woman.. .I could definitely see being with her.

I had experienced attraction to women through the years, but would never admit this to myself.

Interestingly, I had a feeling from the beginning that she was somehow attracted to me.

I think about her CONSTANTLY and it feels so good. I'm not afraid of her like I am of many men, I dont feel like I have to walk on pins and needles with her and I can be myself completely. Its the most amazing feeling. This is how it should be. :)

Anonymous said...

I am 39 years old. I have been with my husband for about 19 years and in recent years found myself attracted and wondering about women. I told my husband about this and we experimented with swinging. That didn't work out as I expected it too and we do not involve ourselves in that lifestyle anymore. However, my feelings never subsided. I told my husband I wanted a girlfriend to which he responded in the typical way, saying he would want to watch. I didn't want that. I wanted private time to explore myself and my sexuality. Looking back on my life, it dawned on me that I have always been attracted to women, I just didn't understand what was happening and didn't really think of it as an option. About 6 months ago I met a married woman who was looking for the same thing I was. We hit it off immediately and on our 3rd date we had an awesome sexual experience. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It felt like I was finally awake. We are still seeing each other. I do feel guilty about keeping her a secret from my husband. I have no desire to break up my marriage, I just want to be happy with her in the here and now, and to enjoy her when I can. The intensity builds so much looking forward to seeing her, it makes for the most amazing sexual experiences. I would have never thought of myself as the cheating type and I never was before this. It feels like I can't stop myself if I wanted to. Feel free to comment with advice or support, not judgement or criticism.