Late Bloomer

When Pat Stone learned her daughter was a lesbian, she helped start a support group for parents of gay and lesbian children. Then, after 35 years of marriage, Stone realized she had her own journey to make.

By the end of October, now almost 100 pounds thinner, she mustered the courage to tell Dan. The Stones had planned to go to the movies that night, but Pat told Dan they needed to talk. Sitting in their den, Pat told him about her attraction to the woman, how it finally explained her lack of response to his affections all these years.

"He was making it too easy," Pat says. "He was sitting there taking notes. What made me realize he was dealing with it logically and not emotionally was when he looked up from his pad and asked if we were still going to go to the movies. As time went on that night, it started to sink in. He started to move his things out of the bedroom into another bedroom in the house.

"'I never thought I would be doing this,'" Dan told me. "I told him he deserved better. He said there would never be anyone else. We were both wiped out. It was a terrible time."

Pat filed for divorce the next day. Her son, Brad, who works with his father and declined to be interviewed for this story, took the news hard. He could not understand why, if his mother was truly gay, it took this long for her to find out. And he resented that she didn't seem sad to be ending the marriage and selling the family home. "I tried to tell him that for so much of my life with his father, it was like I wasn't really here. I wasn't myself."

Pat's own mother refused to believe her daughter when she heard the news, but has since accepted it and has tried to be supportive, Pat says. Dan told his mother-in-law. "I don't know if she is a lesbian or not, but she believes she is, and there is nothing I can do about it."

The P-FLAG elections were coming up in mid-November. Months earlier, Pat had been nominated to serve another year as president and as the only person who answers the helpline. She felt she had to inform the members what was going on in her life. She drafted a letter she planned to send out and called an emergency board meeting to explain it.

The board members, many of whom were the Stones' closest friends, were stunned and saddened by the breakup of their marriage and by the fact that Dan had decided to take a hiatus from the group because working with Pat was too painful for him.

The board approved Pat's letter, a study in honesty and openness, which is, after all what P-FLAG preaches.

"There is a new development since I made the decision long ago to run another year for these offices," Pat's letter read. "I want you to be aware of this new information before voting.

"I recently developed feelings for another woman. No relationship occurred between us. I am married, and she is in a relationship. However, with therapy and much soul searching, I now see that this orientation was always there; I just did not see it before. I now identify myself as lesbian.

"I regret that this positive experience for me has led to much turmoil for my family...Of course, none of them have a problem with the lesbian issue; however, they mourn the end of a marriage of 35 years.

"My question to you is: does my being lesbian affect your feelings about my being president of P-FLAG/Dallas and answering the helpline?...I will not wear my orientation on my sleeve. My concern is fighting for equal rights for our kids and to help families accept their gay or lesbian loved one..."

Several days after the letter was sent out, it was ironically two lesbian P-FLAG members who came to Pat's house to voice their opposition. They told her they thought it was in the best interest of the chapter for Pat to remove herself from the ballot. They were afraid the news of her coming out as a lesbian would be seized by the religious right to further promulgate the fallacy that homosexuality was contagious and that the P-FLAG had some secret gay recruitment agenda. A heterosexual member contacted Pat with similar concerns.

Pat was crushed. It was T.J.'s suggestion that she offer a compromise of bringing in another heterosexual member as co-president. Pat warmed to the idea and called another emergency board meeting to run the idea by them. After five years as president, she had planned to step down next year anyway. At that time, she had hoped to turn the reins over to Dave Gleason. The father of a gay son, Gleason became active in the chapter after he learned his son was HIV positive. He gladly accepted Pat's proposal, as did the board.

Pat came to her own conclusion to quit her job on the helpline. She had received a call from a gay man from a small West Texas town, who was terrified of telling his family about who he really was. At the end of the conversation, he thanked Pat profusely for her time and told her that it was the most support he had ever received from a straight person. It made her feel uncomfortable. She was also concerned that her orientation might make parents trying to come to terms with gay children uneasy.

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