Embracing the authentic self
Latebian Life, By Kathryn Martini, PQ Monthly
It’s April. The first quarter of the New Year is over and many people reflect on how well they’ve done with their plans for gym memberships and healthy eating. I’m not typically a “New Year’s Resolution” type of person. One year I resolved to eat a higher-fat diet, gain weight, and drink more. I was wildly successful.
Most years, like this one, I have good intentions that are thwarted by a busy schedule, the stress of raising a family, and the rain. It’s unfortunate, but I think the rain has a lot more power over me than it should. It’s depressing, inconvenient, and messes up my hair and I don’t like to be out in it.
No, I’m not the kind of lesbian who likes the outdoors or snowshoes, runs, or hikes (unless it’s in the mall). I’m content reading, watching movies, playing games, and enjoying lovely food and wine. I wasn’t a feeder lesbian. I didn’t start on the softball field or the basketball court and figure it out from there. I didn’t know anything about being a lesbian until I was an adult, and then I learned as I went.
When I was 35, I was a middle-class suburban soccer mom, married to a man, with three daughters. I had an awakening and realized I wasn’t living the right life. I quickly figured out where I was supposed to be and made some huge changes. I went through a divorce, became a single mother, and remained in the suburbs with no one but an ex-husband and a long line of ex-friends who thought I was horrible for breaking up my family.
“If you want to be a lesbian, do it when your youngest daughter is 18,” one friend told me. “I wish you could just have electric shock therapy and snap out of this,” expressed another. “I cannot support your decision to be gay,” came from my best friend of 20 years, who was also my daughter’s godmother. Since that day, we spoke once and I’m pretty sure she only called to see if I was still a lezzie. I was. I still am.
I’m a Latebian — a woman who comes out as a lesbian later in life. I’m not alone, although I certainly felt like it at the time. Several academic studies have shown that nearly 30 percent of all women who identify as lesbian were once in heterosexual relationships and had children. Since Oprah featured some of these women on a show in 2008, even notable celebrities have declared themselves latebians, including sometimes-criticized Cynthia Nixon, who claims she is gay by choice.
Nixon took a lot of backlash for her statement; many activists thought her words would be used as ammunition against LGBTQ causes, which perplexes me. It’s very true that many people have identified as gay since birth, but it is also true that a great many others did not. Why is that bad? If we’re born this way we can’t help ourselves but if we choose to be, we can? The question I have is why would we? As Nixon said, “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay and gay is better.” I wholeheartedly agree!
I suppose one could say that I had a choice to stay in my heterosexual relationship and never explore what I consider my authentic self, but what good would that have done? It would have made my ex-friends happy; I would have stayed in my society-drawn-gender-dichotomous box and helped them to remain comfortable in theirs. I could have waited until my children were all grown and then told them that everything they thought about their parents’ relationship was a lie. I could have told my husband the same thing. I had a choice to be heterosexual but instead I chose to be a lesbian because that’s who I am and there is nothing wrong with it.
Changing sexual orientation is a part of sexual fluidity and where we fall on the Kinsey scale can vary throughout our lives. In our community, those who “choose” to be there count just as much as those who were always there. Don’t define someone else’s gayness; acceptance needs to branch out to everyone under our rainbow. Authentic selves don’t belong in a box. Boxes are for shoes — pretty ones with bows, or Keens — whatever you like, but they shouldn’t be used to keep people from being who they want to be at the moment, or for the rest of their lives.
Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of friends and acquaintances make major changes in their lives. A few of them focused on living a healthy life, losing a lot of weight, and changing eating and exercise habits. Some have set education and career goals and bravely re-entered academia or a different employment path. I admire that; it takes courage and the ability to take a chance. At the center of each of these people is a fire to create something magical — to be the architect of their own lives and become the people they want to be in this life. The beautiful thing is that each of them has the freedom to choose what that means and how they intend to do it, even if they change their minds later. A healthy lifestyle means living life with intention and authenticity. It’s the most resolved thing we can do!
Kathryn Martini is a writer, blogger, and columnist. She lives in the Portland suburbs with her beautiful wife and three teenage daughters. She blogs at recoveringstraightgirl.com and can be reached through kathrynmartini.com.