"For some women, it's a choice, but not for me. I would not have chosen this." she said. "I had a place in the church, a place in the community. I was respected person. And I was terrified."
Her husband was traumatized by the "public humiliation and embarrassment," she said. Her children, especially her older daughter, made "harsh judgments" against her.
"I found myself," she said. "And the hardest thing for me was that they didn't trust me to do what was right for me," she said.
New research suggests women's sexuality may be more "fluid" than that of men, according to Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology at University of Utah.
"Fluidity represents a capacity to respond erotically in unexpected ways due to particular situations or relationships," said Diamond. "It doesn't appear to be something that a woman can control."
There is little data on how many older women come out of the closet in middle-age, as most of the research on the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender population has been on the teen population.
"The U.S. Census asks how many bathrooms and TV sets you have, but they don't ask your gender identity," said Cathy Renna, who specializes in LGBT issues at her marketing company.
"I am 44, and when I was growing up we were the first generation of teenagers that did hear or see or read about gay people," said Renna.
"Anybody who is over 50 knows it was a time when it was not talked about," she said. "Now there is a greater comfort level."
For some women, the decision to come out is easier in middle age, when children are grown.
"It's an interesting dynamic," said Karen Taylor, director of advocacy and training for SAGE, an advocacy group for older LGBTs. "That population of people has been closeted for survival purposes at a time when they could be fired or had their children taken from them or legalized institutionalized."
Many of these women say the late-in-life realization that they were gay came as "a moment of utter surprise," Taylor told ABCNews.com.
Such with the case with Meredith Fenton's mother, who had been married to her father for 28 years and had three grown children. When Meredith was 20, her mother confided that she had fallen in love with another woman.
"I was 20 when my mom came out," said Fenton, who is now 33 and the national program director for Colage, an organization that supports the children of LGBT parents. Her mother was in her 50s.
"I came home after my junior year in college, and she told me she was getting a divorce," Fenton told ABCNews.com. "I was shocked, but it wasn't a surprise.
"When I looked at other parental couples, I either saw a ton of love or affection, or fighting," she said. "My parents were neither."
The divorce split the family, and Fenton's siblings were angry. But today, her father has remarried and her mother has been with the same woman for 13 years.
"Both my parents now have relationships that are more fulfilling," said Fenton. "I can see in the long run that they are healthier and happier, and it has allowed them to be better parents."
And her siblings have now accepted their mother's choice and are closer.
"It gave them something to bond over -- going through something like that and making it out the other side."