Kelly McGillis Joins Lesbian Partner in Civil Union

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"Everything was couched in who I would marry, not who I'd be," she said. "If I was interested in medicine, she'd say, 'One day you'll marry a doctor.'

"I was a good girl, so it was important to me to be good, and also I didn't have a sense of who I was as a person," said Phoebe.

In retrospect, she remembered being attracted to another girl at 9. "I had never had a crush like that on a male. But I suppressed it."

Lesbians Groomed to Marry

At 20, Phoebe married and had a child, then divorced and remarried a minister. She had a rich marriage and two more children.

By chance, as Phoebe approached 50, she met her partner though the church, a woman 15 years her junior.

"There was a total attraction, and we were getting close spiritually. I didn't know it would happen, but by the time it dawned on me, it was too late," she said.

Like many women, Phoebe said she fell in love first.

"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.

'Fluid' Sexuality

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."

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