The Impact of Women Redefining Sexual Identity in Middle Adulthood
It is becoming an increasing phenomenon that women are coming out as lesbians in their middle-adulthood. While defining one’s sexual identity is often a confusing time for youth it becomes that much more difficult for women as they get older. As women age they are more likely to get married, have children, begin careers, and settle into a lifestyle that is dictated to them by patriarchal rules.
The further they become saturated with the male dominated life, the harder it is for women to become open to their own identity formation and needs. It is instilled in women from an early age that it is expected that they learn how to cook and clean, manage household bills, raise children, and be able to manage a home. With increasing number of women having to work to help support the family, they must also learn how to divide their time between career, family, and a husband.
For women who question their sexual identity, the more familial/professional commitments they have, the more difficult it becomes for them to explore the possibility that they may be homosexual. Other factors may also inhibit their identity formation process. These include religious beliefs, fear of rejection from family, and fear of homophobia from friends and cowoorkers. p. 2
Research is indicating that women who come out as lesbians in their middle adulthood go through a ‘second childhood’. These women go through Erickson’s ‘identity consolidation vs. identity confusion’ and ‘intimacy vs. isolation’ stages all aver again (Jordan, Deluty, 1998). They experience confusion and questions about their family life, chosen job, and their future career trajectory. They wonder if they will still be loved and respected by their families, what will happen to the children, and how their employers will look them upon. Literature being written on women who come out as lesbians in their middle adulthood state that it is because they are faced with the fear of discrimination and rejection from the heterosexual culture.
Paula J. Rust states that “coming out is a process of discovery that is ongoing that sheds the false heterosexual identity and comes to correctly identify and label her own true identity which is homosexual”. The women that she intervie...
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...ess was a positive one for her. She says she just wishes she could tell her family but she doesn’t feel like that is a choice.
As the previous examples demonstrate, coming out as lesbian in middle adulthood is made more difficult from the prolonged influence of the patriarchal society. Fear of heterosexual discrimination also was a deterrent in the coming out process. Women did
express that after coming out that they experienced a ‘second childhood’ in terms of dating and meeting new friends.
A surprising find was that even though women were worried about discrimination in the workplace, very few considered altering their career choices and professional goals. Most of the fear was of the reaction of heterosexual family and friends.
Coming out is never easy for anyone and when paired with being married and having kids and learning how to survive according to male construct in a heterosexually dominant society, it becomes even more difficult to define one’s sexuality.
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