It took me a long time to figure out I’m a lesbian. Decades in fact. And in all that time, I didn’t understand Pride. If anything, I avoided it. I'd like to think I wouldn't have been one of those Karens spewing hatred about the Pride section in Target, but I don't really know.
I’d spent my life in a religion that taught me gay people were bad, wrong. Gayness was worse than anything I could think of. It wasn't like cancer because it didn't just happen to you. I grew up believing that the people who were gay chose to be that way in defiance of the god I was told I should believe in.
So I didn't understand.
I didn't understand that Pride was born of a protest. I didn't understand that Pride is a celebration of life and love and queer joy. I didn't understand that Pride is a place to belong when you aren't accepted by the culture in which you live.
My first Pride as a later-in-life lesbian was in 2021. I'd been out for all of 5 months. When I came out, I wasn’t friends with any queer people. So I'd looked online to find my community. And I found it on lesbian TikTok.
Things are a little different on lesbian TikTok now. But in those days, it was community, education, and yes… thirst traps. I spent hours flipping through the videos, wondering how I managed to go so long without realizing I’m gay.
When I opened up that app on June 1st, I was completely overwhelmed by what I saw. I was mopping tears from my cheeks within 10 minutes. These were the tears of healing, community, and self-acceptance. Nearly every video that showed up on my feed that day was someone celebrating queer people, affirming our existence, celebrating our contribution to the world.
I learned about the history of the LGBTQ+ community and the battles queers of the past fought to earn our freedom and acceptance. I had people wishing me a "happy Pride" in my DMs. I was overwhelmed by queer joy and the sense that I wasn’t alone. In the five months since my big realization, I’d come to accept my queerness. But it had never dawned on me that I could actually celebrate it.
I’d spent decades denying my identity. Every time my queerness tried to peek out through the closet door, I’d shove it down and christian harder. I'd been devoted to hiding who I really was — not just from my church, or my friends. But from myself. I had spent a lifetime trying to contort myself into the person I thought I was supposed to be. A good person. A godly person. A straight person.
But on that first day of June at the age of 50, I finally understood what it felt like to let go of my shame and feel celebrated for who I truly am.
In my city, Pride weekend is the very first weekend in June. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was all in. On Friday night I was going to attend a party. Not just a Pride party. But a party filled exclusively with other later-in-life lesbians just like me.
In mid-May I had discovered an online group of lesbians who had all come out later in life. I didn’t know anybody yet. I was still in the silent lurking phase. But it just so happened that the leader of that group only lived about 30 minutes from me. And she was having a party — lesbian-filled Pride party.
Women were flying in from all over the country to celebrate together. I was really nervous. But I was determined to show up and put myself out there. I got dressed up in my gayest outfit, picked up some flowers because I didn’t want to walk into a party at a stranger's house empty-handed. And I headed over.
When I walked into that house, I was overcome with a feeling of relief. I felt accepted by a house full of people who didn't even know me. I never wanted to leave. I spent hours getting to know the women at that party. We shared our stories. I heard about lesbian dating drama. I developed my first crush.
But that night was just the warm up.
My friend Jennifer — who I’d met on a dating app — had invited me to go with her to the gayborhood to celebrate Pride. I’d known about that neighborhood ever since I was a little girl. I’d always believed it was evil and scary. That the people who walked those streets were deviants who willingly committed crimes against the god I worshiped.
But when Jennifer and I stepped out of our Uber, I knew I’d been wrong. These people weren’t deviants. They weren’t scary. They were my family. That night I walked on rainbow crosswalks, surrounded by drag queens and gay men in g-strings. I did tequila shots and let loose on the crowded dance floor at the lesbian bar. I felt like I'd come home.
Growing up an evangelical christian, being gay wasn’t something to be proud of. Being gay was shameful. That attitude was baked into my being. So deep that I didn't even notice it. But as I stood there, in the middle of hundreds of queer people who were freely celebrating their identities, I finally understood.
For me, that first Pride was when I let go of that layer of shame. When I stood up proudly and felt like I belonged. And now that I’m here, I’m never going back.
About the Author
Kathy Kiger (she/her) is a marketing strategist and copywriter who helps queer businesses and entrepreneurs build and connect with their ideal audience. As the CEO of Kathy Kiger Agency, she writes blogs, emails, and website copy for entrepreneurs, coaches, and small businesses. Kathy also offers copy coaching for business owning badasses who prefer to DIY their marketing.
Kathy is the creator behind the Better Late Than Straight blog where she shares her own insights as a late-blooming lesbian, along with resources, and the stories of other women who have embraced their queerness later in life.
You can hear Kathy on podcasts like Coming Out With Lauren and Nicole, The Coming Out Late Podcast, and Redefining Family. You can follow along with Kathy’s Better Late Than Straight journey on Instagram.
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