You know the tagline I hate when it comes to stories about queer people?
“I always knew.”
There’s a subreddit for older lesbians called r/latebloomerlesbians. There’s a Facebook group called “Later In Life Lesbians.” Autostraddle has a tag called “coming out a little later.” What they all have in common: late. As if there’s a timetable, and some of us just missed the train we were supposed to catch.
I suspect what I’m about to say will resonate with a lot of readers. The truth is, many queer people didn’t always know. Some of us came to our identities in our thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond. And given the narrative we see in the media–the tortured teenager figuring it out–it’s easy to feel left behind.
Or dumb. “Why did it take me so long? Why did I have relationships with the wrong people? Why am I so late to this?”
I sympathize. I came out as a lesbian at age 19. Then a variety of factors forced me back into the closet, and I didn’t emerge again until age 37. In that process, I felt like a teenager all over again, stumbling through what I should have experienced decades ago.
I decided to jump in with both feet and signed up on dating sites. I didn’t want to lie; I put in my profile that I’d just come out. I couldn’t help imagining going on dates and giving the same explanation again and again, cringing when my date looked at me in disbelief. And believe me–I ran into disbelief, in spite of putting the disclaimer front and center. Along with skepticism that I could ever be a suitable partner. After all, anyone who took this long to come out must have a lot of issues.
It was humiliating. I felt like a weirdo. Like I was, in fact, too late.
But the good news is, that didn’t last forever. As I spent more time in queer spaces, both online and in person, I came to see how many stories there really are. Yes, some women come out of the womb with an undercut. But lots of us take a bit longer. And that’s okay.
That can be great, in fact. One of the biggest benefits to coming out when I did was that I was more secure in myself. My teens and twenties were full of anxiety about the future. In my thirties, I settled into my career, my friendships, even my own body after years of feeling alienated from it. My priorities began to take shape. I realized I wanted to write professionally. I realized I didn’t want children. I realized that only I could make those choices for myself. By the time I came out, I was able to say, “Yes. This is right. This is me.”
My current book, The X Ingredient, is about (among other things) a woman in her forties who’s deeply in denial about her lesbianism. Although Diana and I are unalike in most ways, I had the utmost sympathy for her as I wrote about that struggle, and experienced great happiness with her as she began to see who she really was. It was rewarding to write a story, not just about an ice queen who falls for a younger woman, but about a character squarely facing the same issue so many of us face. Asking “Who am I?” when it seems like we ought to know the answer by now.
Well…we didn’t always know. But we know now, and that’s what matters.
It’s never too late to be–or to love–the person you are.
BIO: Roslyn Sinclair is a southern girl who is now officially in Yankee territory, enjoying the Northeast and its beautiful fall weather–not so much the winters! She loves to travel and has gotten writing inspiration everywhere from Kansas City to Beijing. Her next book, The X Ingredient, comes out with Ylva Publishing on September 18, 2019.
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