Growing up Southern as a lesbian late bloomer

November 14 | Guest post by Heather Sexton
Growing up southern as a lesbian late bloomer
"Y'all Means ALL" LGBTQIA Pride Bumper Sticker from SWBookstore

Growing up in a southern town, I don't think I met a single solitary gay person until I was an adult. There were people who later came out as an adult who I knew in high school, but being raised in a very Christian community didn't lend itself to very much self discovery.

I remember when I first started feeling attracted to others, I remember being attracted to movie stars and musicians but I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary. Was it wrong to think Aaliyah was drop dead gorgeous if you are a little southern "straight" girl? In hindsight, probably should have tripped an alarm or two but, I had always thought of myself as being "very good at recognizing beauty."

The straight life path

When you're raised in a way that shields you from anything that's different, it alters your ability to think outside of the small little box that's your world.

When I thought of the future, I thought about the things I was supposed to do: having a house and kids with a husband somewhere in the picture. I honestly didn't barf at the idea of marrying a man, I just knew it was what my future was supposed to look like and I was okay with that.

When you're raised in a way that shields you from anything that's different, it really alters your ability to think outside of the small little box that's your world. Had I met someone when I was younger who was gay or bisexual, maybe there would have been bells and whistles going off and I wouldn't have been clueless for so long. Who knows? But I was blind for a very very long time. I met a guy who I married, had a couple of kids, and that's how the story was supposed to go…

…only it didn't.

Here's how I came to be a lesbian late bloomer in the conservative South…

Is this it?

Now don't get me wrong, as I became an adult, I started meeting gay folk and I was honestly super duper curious. I have always asked questions I shouldn't and been way too open with gay boys, but I think I was searching for something. I wasn't as lucky as a lot of people who say they knew when they were in third grade in love with a girl on the playground. Honest to goodness, I was oblivious and just thought I was straight. I never really latched on to dudes and could date and break up with them without ever really giving it a second thought. I lost my virginity to a boy and my thoughts were, "is this it?" Sadly, that thought never really ever went away as years went on. I explored my sexuality with men and just kept thinking, isn't there more? Well I find out there is, just not for me and the male species. Oops.

I never had an opportunity to peer through someone else's eyes and realize that I didn't feel the way I should.

I never had an opportunity to peer through someone else's eyes and realize that I didn't feel the way I should. Given, I had an extremely bad marriage and spent a lot of years with someone who was not the nicest person to put it kindly; but now I know it wouldn't have mattered. I could have been with Prince effing Charming and it wouldn't have mattered. I have been playing on the wrong team all this time.

Fast forward through high school with a little teenage promiscuity and college with a few drunken nights, on through adulthood, I just was blindly floating through my life. I knew I was different. I never really knew in what way specifically, but my ex thought having a wife who loved looking at women as much as he did was the bees knees. What guy wouldn't want to have a wife who let them look because, hell, she was looking, too. Being able to be openly attracted to women as an adult was a nice bonus and it continued for years without consequence; then shit got real. We moved and met a couple of lesbians with who we started spending oodles of time. Uh oh. I started realizing finally that me looking at women was more than just an admiration of beauty. Finally I started gaining a bit of clarity, the quintessential late bloomer.

That's when my world turned upside down.

Meeting the one… the right one

Meeting Jackie was the light bulb moment in my life. I cannot even put into words what meeting her did to me. I started to realize what I had been missing in my life all this time, and it was terrifying. It was also the most exciting, and for her to be the most amazing woman was extraordinary.

For so long I had been thinking that this is all there was. I really thought I just was not going to ever be satisfied and always searching for something. I had never in a million years thought my sexuality was the reason for my restlessness. I didn't know sexuality really even mattered. Now I know it's the difference between living a numb and passionless existence and being deliriously happy.

That's pretty significant.

How I was outed to my family

The only problem was I didn't know what in the blue hell I was going to tell everyone back home who knew me as this straight married mother of two; what would they think? What was I going to say? The problem was solved when my ex-husband decided he would do it for me. A phone call to my parents later, he pulled the biggest dick move imaginable: he called my parents and outed me.

I think the two conversations I had that day were probably some of the hardest conversations I've had with my parents ever. I can't imagine what it was like for them, but for me it was torture. The conversations I had with them that day still replay for me. I remember my dad telling me what a big pill this was to swallow and my mom having a complete meltdown on me. All I was thinking was will this storm ever pass? Will things ever be okay again?

The answer in my life was thankfully yes. I know not everyone else who comes out is that lucky, and I know it is something that happens differently for everyone, but it's a significant moment in your life. It's one I won't forget. Lucky for me, I had two very southern and Christian parents who were able to embrace me and accept something they knew nothing about. I was pretty fortunate and really loved.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. There's this narrative where people always knew they were gay, but it doesn't have to be the only narrative. Some of us don't feel things that way, or were raised with so much heteronormativity that we mixed up attraction and friendship, or simply life experiences unveil other preferences with self-growth. Looking back, I can see some child and teenage behaviors of mine as showing an attraction to girls and women, but at that time of my life, I just didn't have the tools to recognize them as such. I'm at this stage of life where I'm married to a man and I care for him, but if this relation ever breaks up, I'm pretty sure I'm not interested anymore in romantic or sexual relationships with men. Thanks for this brave piece.

    2 agree
    • Thank you for reading and understanding. Everyone has a different story and path they follow, I just want anyone who is struggling to figure it out to know they don't have to fit a mold. I wish you all the happiness in the world, wherever you end up!

      3 agree

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