Coming Out at Midlife

Married women who realize they are lesbians face coming out of the closet as gay later in life.

By Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW
Strock, who in addition to writing also works as a dating counselor for gay women, elaborates on the difficulties, "Gay women used to think they had to fit roles: butch, femme. Women don’t do that anymore. Or maybe out in the world you carry the packages, but in the bedroom you’re more feminine." She recounts other ticklish dilemmas she and her clients have encountered: straight women being nervous around a suddenly lesbian friend, for example, and gay women not knowing if being asked out for a cup of coffee is a date or just chatting over java.At least nowadays a more open societal awareness makes it easier to meet dates. Strock points out, "Universities have gender study courses and women’s centers. And Curve magazine is a great resource." Additionally, a little Googling uncovers numerous online dating sites and chat rooms, such as, which has special content for late bloomers.Few bloom as late in life as Elaine Weber. Now 82, by age 13 she was aware of, "a liking for girls." The Ocala, Florida, native admitted, "There was a little ‘kissing and fondling’ in high school." But at 24, she gave in to parental pressure and married, raising two boys. While she remembers it as "a good marriage," in the late 1970s Elaine had a four-month fling with a woman that threw off more sparks than she’d experienced in the entirety of her relationship with her husband. After 51 years together, he died of Parkinson’s. The Showtime series The L Word, showcasing openly gay women, was the tipping point in Elaine’s long inner struggle. When she finally outed herself three years ago, one of her sons initially went ballistic (he’s since calmed down). More gratifying was a granddaughter’s initial reaction: "You go for it, nana."Still, according to Elaine, it’s necessary in her town, "to be conservative in public and wait to be affectionate when behind four walls, unless you’re in the gay community." Partnerless at the moment, she’s signed up for an all-woman cruise to Alaska, sponsored by lesbian travel company Olivia.Her advice to women tussling with sexual identity problems: "Be yourself. Life is too short."For more information on topics mentioned in this story:Carren Strock: Married Women Who Love Women Barb Elgin, relationship coach for lesbians Curve magazine Olivia: lesbian travel and entertainment Do you have a tough question about dating or relationships?E-mail Sherry at and your question might be featured in an upcoming column.E-mail Sherry About Sherry AmatensteinSherry Amatenstein, LMSW, is the author of Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and Q&A Dating Book. She runs dating seminars around the country and does private coaching — not to help singles marry in 60 days, but to uncover their blocks. She has given relationship advice on the Early Show, Regis, Inside Edition, CBS News, VH1, BBC, and many other programs. Her philosophy is that the most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.Schedule a one-on-one coaching session with Sherry Buy Love Lessons from Bad Breakups Buy The Q&A Dating Book Originally published on, October 2007.

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