Jun 28, 2024, 06:24AM

Live Laugh Late Life Lesbians

There’s nothing gayer in Pride month than being gay.

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In my four-part series this month so far, I’ve written about how baseball, zombies and homophobia are gay. 

Now I’d like to cover what it’s meant to me to come out over the age of 50. Don’t worry, closeted homo/homophobes, we won’t be “shoving it in your face” much longer, and you’ll be back to the regularly scheduled 11-month programming of your Hallmark-channel “straight pride” white bread comfort zone soon.

Coming out has been a process; this feeling of being not straight enough for a straight world as a mom who raised kids in suburbia, and not having a wardrobe or hairstyle that’s gay enough for the queers. I’ve never even been to a lesbian bar, though just read an article about them and was curious to discover that of the 32 official lesbian bars in the U.S., two are in DC about 90 min from me. I’m still finding my way. 

I chose the headline for the article after noticing around the internet the term seems to be “Late Life Lesbians” and there are communities on TikTok, Instagram, Reddit groups championing the music of Chappell Roan and other places, and every time I’ve tried to spit out the tongue-twister, I seem to end up with some mixed-up version of “Live Laugh Late Life Lesbians” so it’s become a tongue-in-cheek nickname. (If you can get behind the paywall, the New York Times is also covering the social media aspect of late-life lesbian networking.)

In The Gloss article "Switching Sides: The Realities of Late-Onset Lesbianism," author Emily Hourican writes: “Women are already so physically comfortable with one another through female friendships, that moving this forward into a sexual relationship isn’t the kind of leap it would be for men, more a sort of easy slide into the welcoming arms of a best friend.”

There’s a theory that once the biological drive for children is either satisfied or relinquished, some women discover, often to their own surprise, they prefer sapphic sex. More and more recent news articles are covering stories of women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond discovering that “thrilling, visceral, semi-spiritual moment of locking eyes with a person across the room and thinking, This is unavoidable for me, and my life isn’t going to be the same.”

Sex itself is another reason for coming out late in life—apparently, lesbians have better sex lives than straight women (the Kinsey Institute found lesbians orgasmed 86 per cent of the time during sex, while only 65 per cent of straight women did). When asked to rate their sexual satisfaction and how often they orgasm, those women who identify as gay consistently hit higher notes than straight women. Simply knowing the territory anatomically, or not engaging in perhaps more traditional heteronormative sexual activities, creates potentially more compatibility when it comes to sex, and may explain many  "straight" women out there who have “lost their sex drive.”

Joanne Fleisher, LCSW, author of Living Two Lives: Married to a Man and In Love With a Woman, told Women’s Health: “The process [of figuring out your sexuality and coming out] is extremely painful and uprooting, and there are a lot of losses in the process.” But many of the women she’s connected with have also described the happiness and authenticity they eventually stepped into as something that’s “worth the struggle.”

Finding community isn’t easy. There's gatekeeping. I don’t technically identify as a lesbian in the first place—mainly after being married to a man and raising a family for nearly 40 years, but in using (and avoiding) what I feel is a limiting label of bisexuality, I’ve learned many lesbians are biphobic in addition to being transphobic and TERF-y. To me within a marginalized community there should be acceptance of all, period, so it's unfortunate to see in-fighting and gatekeeping. After being an outcast part of the straight world for more than half a century, it’d be nice to be welcomed into the queer world without judgment by the women there. Like anyone else, I simply have a goal of a balanced and happy life.

I’m fortunate my husband has accepted my coming out, we’ve had separate houses for over a decade and have talked about concepts like ethical non-monogamy and polyamory which seem to at least be interim measures to divorce; discussions in the late-life-live-laugh-lesbian groups of immediate dramatic divorce are harsh and hurtful to many women who still love their husbands, at least during a time of navigation. There’s an in-between place and it’s been helpful to find other women and know I’m not the only one who exists in this space. 


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