January 10, 2010

Women Coming Out Later in Life Finding Acceptance

From the Minneapolis (MN) Star-Tribune (hat tip Twitter user CitizenChris):

Meredith Baxter recently went public about being a lesbian -- at age 62, after three marriages and five children. Instead of reacting with shock, many people thought, "Oh, there goes another one."

As being gay gains more acceptance in the culture at large, far fewer gays and lesbians have felt the need to be closeted. But we seem to hear a lot more often about middle-aged women who have married and raised families announcing they are lesbians than we hear about men in the same situation coming out as gay.

Census-data analysis from UCLA's Williams Institute found that 36 percent of women in their 40s with same-sex partners previously had been married to men. That percentage grew to more than half for lesbians in their 50s, and 75 percent for those 60 and older.

Recent media attention to the topic includes a More magazine story headlined "Over 40 and Over Men," dubbing older self-outers "the gay-and-gray generation." Oprah dedicated a show to late-blooming lesbianism, as did an episode of the WE reality series "Secret Lives of Women." The documentary film "Out Late," by Beatrice Alda, one of Alan Alda's daughters, looks at the lives of five women who decided to live gay lives after age 50.

Baxter, who has been with her partner for four years, came out at a later age than most, but her experience is typical of the most common pattern: She met someone and fell in love, rather than suddenly realizing she was gay after all those years.

While evidence is anecdotal, "the consensus in the field is that these late-life transitions are more common for women than men," said Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Her book, "Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire," posits that women's sexual feelings are more complicated than straight or gay, and may change over a lifetime. The book is based on her study of 100 women over 10 years.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


  1. I am one of the women who came out late in life. But I know I've always been a lesbian -- I just forced myself not to think about it during the 20 years I was married to a man. I didn't want to face it, as I was not unhappy as a straight woman. I did divorce him (for other reasons), am now married to a woman, and feel I am finally my true self!

  2. I came out later in life as well. I find some acceptance with people I have met after I came out. But my ex-husband, and the Christian friends I knew before I came out? Not a lot of acceptance.

  3. This is a great article! I love thinking that women coming out later in life are finding greater acceptance (and hopefully self-acceptance, as well).

    I am a professional writer and have a novel out about a married mom with three grown children who falls in love with her best female friend. It's getting great reviews and is called Seeking Sara Summers.

    No matter what age you are, I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage to live an authentic life.