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It's never too late to be your authentic self

"The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live;

love has been our survival."

Audre Lorde

Hi Siren,

The song goes, I kissed a girl and I liked it! I was 27, drunk, and on the dance floor of Mr. Goodbar in Oxford St Sydney. I had just been crowned Queen of Oxford St by a national fashion magazine and my friends and I were celebrating a little too hard.

She was beautiful, appeared older than I, and was certain in her sexuality and she clearly knew what she wanted. I was drunk but still straight so I refused the offer of her phone number.

Years later, in my early forties and after many failed relationships, I contemplated whether I was batting for the wrong side. I spoke to many of my lesbian friends who encouraged me to stay open and explore the possibility that a woman would be a better partner for me.

It made sense to me, women understand each other, and I fantasised about no more fights over washing up or towels left on bathroom floors. The idea of hours of deep conversations dissecting family and relationship dynamics really appealed to me too.

But I was still straight so after a few dates, I had to drop the hope that I would find romantic refuge in the arms of a woman and I return to the search for my perfect man.

LILL or Late In Life Lesbian is not a term I had come across before researching speakers for this year's event. I spoke to many of my gay friends who hadn't heard of it either.

Coming out at any age would be confronting so I tried to imagine how much more difficult it would be in midlife. For many, the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance is very challenging, which is compounded when it occurs later in life.

In my private practice, I've had the opportunity to work with a few women coming out and I've distilled my observations to the key points below.

The Awakening:

Like in any life transformation, many women who come out in midlife, will have an awakening. There will be an initial realisation and self-reflection that led to questioning their sexual orientation. This period will include a myriad of emotions anxiety, depression, and self-doubts, which in most cases will lead to the gradual acceptance of their true self.

Navigating Internal and External Obstacles:

Coming out in midlife often involves confronting a myriad of internal and external obstacles. These can include exploring one's own internalised homophobia, and societal expectations. Existing personal responsibilities can complicate the process. Additionally, the need to navigate the impact of family dynamics, friendships, and societal attitudes on the journey toward self-acceptance.

Embracing Authenticity:

If you are in fact gay, then coming out in midlife is an opportunity to embrace your authentic self fully. There can be a sense of liberation and empowerment that come with living openly and authentically, as well as the positive impact it can have on my mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.

Navigating Relationships:

Coming out later in life can have a significant impact on existing relationships, including marriages, friendships, and familial bonds. Navigating these relationships requires open communication, understanding, and empathy.

Seeking Support:

Support systems play a crucial role in any coming-out journey. It is important to seek support from friends, family, and the LGBTQ+ community. It is also crucial to find safe spaces, connect with others who share similar experiences, and embrace the transformative power of support networks.

Embracing New Beginnings:

Coming out as a gay woman in midlife opened doors to new beginnings and opportunities for personal growth. There can be an exciting life ahead including the joy of discovering new relationships, exploring new interests, and embracing a newfound sense of freedom and authenticity.

Coming out as a gay woman in midlife is a transformative and empowering journey that deserves recognition and celebration.

Remember, it is never too late to embrace your true self and live authentically.

Two women share what it's like to come out later in life

Excerpt from ABC Everyday

By Tahnee Jash for Ladies, We Need To Talk

For many years, Marija was happy but knew deep down something was missing in her relationships.

She had been in two long-term partnerships with men. The first led to marriage, and the second to a son.

It wasn't until she was 40 that she met, and fell in love with, a woman.

"Before I came out, I met someone I decided to act on," Marija, 76, tells ABC podcast, Ladies, We Need To Talk.

"That was a turning point that I wish to God I had done in my teens but then of course, I wouldn't have had my son."

She has now been in a committed relationship with a woman for the last 25 years.

'I was afraid of being judged'.

Marija, who came to Australia as a WWII refugee, says she was always attracted to women but wasn't sure how her family would respond.

"[I come from a] migrant background and everyone was married, they were building up a new life in this country, and I don't think my family would have understood," she says.

"I was terribly afraid of being judged by them and losing their love."

Marija had a great relationship with her second partner, who has since passed away, and when she made the decision to come out, he was very supportive.

"I think he suspected [it]. Then when I did tell him he kept saying, 'The only thing that matters is your happiness'," she says.

While Marija's son took some time getting used to seeing his mum with another woman, he now has a great relationship with them both.

"He withdrew for a little while and then after he got to know my partner and realised that she wasn't taking me away from [him and his dad] he did a flip and became her best friend.


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