Coming In — Queer in Midlife
Francesca, Age 53
I didn’t come out, I came in. Into myself and the truth that called me. Into a new beginning that felt familiar. Into midlife as a queer woman.
I was born in a small town on the south coast of England, miles away from any sense of community. I blamed this for my ‘uniqueness’, the difference I just could not shake. I was a tom-boy; I covered my face with a long oily fringe and wore my dad’s jumpers to disguise any sign of a silhouette. If I showed no interest in my own body, perhaps I could stop thinking of other female bodies — right?
I grew up in the 70s and saw nothing but men, women and their two children living happily ever after. I knew I didn’t want children, and thought that I could then avoid the whole marriage thing.
Eventually, I married a lovely, kind man in my early thirties. Life with my husband was happy (by 90s sitcom standards). In reality, I was a sanitized version of myself. I buried any idiosyncrasies to fit into what I thought would make me happy. The marriage was pleasant, but never passionate, and we divorced before I was forty.
I knew I wanted to be loved and this season of singleness allowed me to see vulnerability as a positive thing. Societal progress has normalized well-being initiatives and self awareness, and I am so grateful to have been a product of this. Still, I entered my mid-life alone and confused.
Then, I fell deeply in love with a woman. That kind of revolutionary love that redesigns your heart and mind. I have never felt so connected to another human being and I feel privileged to know such an honest emotion.
I am so fortunate to have supportive family and friends who introduced me to this concept of radical acceptance. It all started with me. They all knew I liked women, but agreed to never bring it up until I was comfortable. Therefore, my eruption of truth was reduced to a quake — I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I get to experience that girl-ish excitement for the first time and it is exhilarating. I still giggle when I reference my girlfriend, but I do it with pride. I feel shy when I talk about our love, and smile at the smell of her perfume. We have rejected forced cohabitation and live in our own spaces as we figure each other out. The cornerstone of our relationship is freedom. We can go skydiving or sit in a park. We have autonomy over our bodies, our lives and, most importantly, our love.
Being with a woman during this complicated time of life has been enriching. In my fifties, I am learning to love my body as it changes every single day. I am learning to pat my forehead gently after a series of night sweats and explore natural healing products. My body was a mystery, a riddle I could never solve. However now that I have reoriented my sense of identity and feel truly aligned to who I am, I am open to intimacy.
I try not to waste time regretting the years I was confused, because the important thing is that I am now certain of myself. I can live my truth, in all my fluidity.
I have always loved women. I now openly love women. I didn’t come out, I came in.