It took her a while to recognize what she was feeling; to figure out why she missed her female friend so much when she was away.
This is a woman. I must be gay. She would spend a month or two depressed and filled with yearning, then it would pass. Then it would flare up again. Eventually, her husband found out, and so did the kids. They stayed together for six years before separating. Pasternak, a personal trainer, now lives with her partner, Audrey Kouyoumdjian, a bubbly, full-of-life physiotherapist who, like Pasternak, has an ex-husband and three children.
They run a support group for lesbians, which Pasternak started 10 years ago, at their North York home — a safe haven far from the exuberant bustle of Church St. Most of the participants are over They all have different stories. The trigger might be an alcohol-inspired dare to kiss a female friend. Or a close friendship that takes a romantic turn. Or a mid-life re-evaluation. Kouyoumdjian, 53, had an epiphany in a hospital room after emergency surgery in her mids.
Nixon had two children with her long-time partner Danny Mozes but is now engaged to Christine Marinoni, while de Rossi was married to documentary filmmaker Mel Metcalfe before coming out as a lesbian. Richard Lippa, a professor of psychology at California State University who has done a series of studies on sexual orientation, says most men are strongly attracted to one sex or the other —they have a preferred sex and an unpreferred sex. Women, he says, tend to have a preferred sex and less preferred sex.
Women are much more likely than men to report some degree of same-sex attraction. This growing body of research suggests that women who marry men and later come out as lesbians may not necessarily have been repressing their sexual orientation in order to have a Prince Charming and a nuclear family — although that certainly can be the case. But it is likely more complicated than that.
Whether they identified themselves as lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual or unlabelled, all of the women had experienced some same-sex attraction when Diamond began the study.
They were between the ages of 16 and 24 then. Now, they are in their 30s and having children. Roughly 25 to 30 per cent are now married to men. Diamond, author of the book Sexual Fluidity, is trying to debunk the notion that sexual orientation is a necessarily stable, consistent thing. A lot of the women in her longitudinal study experienced changes that were sudden and unexpected. A lesbian who says she is 85 per cent attracted to women might fall in love with her male best friend, for example, and decide to have a relationship with him.
Diamond admits the notion is threatening for women who consider themselves straight. It happened to her when she was about 47, shortly after her mother died. A friendship with a close female friend — a fellow scout leader and mother — suddenly changed. She is now in a relationship with a woman, and her practice now focuses primarily on late-blooming lesbians.
Developed by Joanne Fleisher, a Philadelphia therapist who has appeared on Oprah, the modified version asks individuals to rate themselves from zero to six zero representing exclusive heterosexuality and six representing exclusive homosexuality in six categories. Setting things out on a black and white scale can start to provide clarity, Dwyer Rigby says. Behind every married woman who comes out is a husband — often a baffled, blindsided one. Although some husbands become overwrought and angry, many do find a way to work things out with their wives, in time.
They work out arrangements that allow them to keep the family in tact, sometimes while having outside relationships. She says there have been women in her life, but that mutual respect has kept her and her husband together. Dwyer Rigby believes mixed orientation marriages are going to become more common. Kouyoumdjian says she was once sexually attracted to her husband. Was it the same?