Your Voice Your Vote 2024

Live results
Last Updated: April 23, 10:42:16PM ET

Kelly McGillis Is the Latest Late-in-Life Lesbian

Easing social mores have given women "permission" to come out in middle age.

ByABC News
April 29, 2009, 6:40 PM

April 30, 2009— -- "Top Gun" star Kelly McGillis has confirmed rumors that she is a lesbian, saying she is "done with the man thing."

"I did that. I need to move on in life," the actress told, saying that she was "definitely" looking for a woman.

McGillis, the star of "The Accused" and "Witness," was long rumored to be a lesbian. She even played a closeted Army colonel in "The L Word."

At 51, McGillis is hardly the only woman emerging from the closet at mid-life.

And experts say many women who may have felt stymied by homophobia in previous generations are finding permission for the first time to explore a new sexual identity -- later in life.

"I feel people are under the false impression: 'There are no men left, I'll go to women now,'" Leifer told "After 40, I felt emboldened to have an affair with a woman -- 40 sort of gave me permission to do that."

"I adopted a son at 50," she said. "Life gets more interesting as you get older."

The late-in-life lesbian phenomenon is the theme of a new documentary, "Out Late," created by filmmakers Beatrice Alda (daughter of actor Alan Alda) and her partner, Jennifer Brooke.

The idea for the documentary, which explores the lives of five women who found new sexual identities after 50, came from a friend of the couple's named Jason.

"Jason's mother was in her 80s, unhappy and divorced 40 years ago," said Alda. "He said, 'I think she may be a lesbian and doesn't know it.' It's not as uncommon as you think."

One of the film's subjects, Elaine, came out at 79 after a 50-year marriage.

"It was something she felt she had to do," Brooke told "She bumped into two strangers at a market and said, basically, 'Are you two partners? I need to talk to you,' and she used them in the most positive way as an avenue to free herself. And she never turned back."

Many women who came of age in the 1940s and 1950s -- like Elaine -- felt a "duty" to marry and have children.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, women celebrated "romantic friendships," according to Leila Rupp, professor of feminist studies at University of California at Santa Barbara and author of "Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women." One of the most famous was that of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who had an "intense, passionate" relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok in the 1930s.

But it was the emergence of the feminist movement of the 1970s, when women pushed for reproductive freedom, that gave women more control of their bodies, Rupp said.

"Now there are more options for women, and it's more socially acceptable," Rupp told "But it's not just about biology."