I lost my mother in early 2011. Since that time, I’ve had a number of changes in my life, including embracing my attraction to women. Although it’s not an issue I would have been comfortable discussing with my mom, it is something that I needed guidance on.
I’m a big believer in the wisdom of age. When I want to know something, I look to someone older. It doesn’t always work, because, let’s face it, some people are fools no matter how old they get; but for the most part, I’ve gotten some wonderful advice from my elders over the years.
Most of that advice pertained to issues of parenting, children, pregnancy and marriage…the “normal” female stuff. There was no way in hell I was going to my aunties for advice on the best way to transition from life as a married straight woman to life as a single gay woman. I needed another source of wisdom. So I looked to my local LGBT center. For those of you who don’t know, SAGE is an organization dedicated to serving the older LGBT population. Since the lesbian SAGE group was the only one having meetings in my area, I figured it was a good place to start.
I’d like to tell you that I went into that meeting with an open mind. The truth is, I was terrified. I was just embracing my sexuality. I wasn’t even sure if what I was feeling was legitimate. When you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, it doesn’t help when you walk into a room filled with 75 white lesbians who are all old enough to be your mother. It also didn’t help that they all seemed to know each other and were already grouped into their own chatty little cliques. Add to that the fact that I could feel every eyeball in the room boring a hole into me and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an incredibly awkward evening.
Of course there were no seats.
Of course I had to go out in search of a chair and it seemed like I was making more noise than a herd of elephants when I dragged it back into the room.
Of course the room was too small.
Of course we all had to get up and move to a larger room.
After 20 additional minutes of chair-dragging, room-shuffling and getting resettled, I was two seconds from walking out to “use the ladies room” and making a B-line for the nearest exit. But that would have been pushing all the progress that I’d made back into the closet and slamming the door once again. I was sick of allowing fear to rule my life. So once the actual group activity got underway, I raised a trembling hand and told my story.
The entire world shifted.
To say that the women in that room understood what I was going through would be an understatement. Because they were so much older, many of them had gotten married and had children in their younger days; because that’s what you did back then. You met a nice boy. You got married. You had kids. You raised a family. You were NOT queer. They knew exactly what I was going through and they let me know that I was not alone.
They told their stories. They offered advice. They wished me strength and fortitude. I drank in the fact that these women had a kind of joy that I had never experienced… they were absolutely loving who they were and so damn content to simply be.
The thing that surprised me more than anything was that they commended me for having the courage to take a huge step toward living a life that I could truly call mine. And through tears and laughter and a few raunchy yet nicely timed jokes, they promised me that I was going to be okay.
When I told a friend about it later, her words struck an even deeper chord, “You went in search of something that you couldn’t get from your own mom and look what you found…a whole den of mothers!”
I didn’t go back to another meeting after that night. But I did reach out to the group organizer a few months later. I wanted her to let the ladies know that I was still moving forward on my own path and would always be grateful for that amazing evening.
This journey towards embracing my sexuality has not been a smooth one. And it will surely get worse before it gets better. But when I meet the woman who fills me in ways that I never knew existed, I want to be able to say that I love her out loud…no fear, no regrets. I have no doubt that it’s possible. I got it straight from my own den of mothers.
– Felix Jay
Felix Jay is a professional writer and author who resides in Long Island, NY.