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.

At the annual meeting, in a 48 to 2 vote, Pat Stone was elected co-president of P-FLAG.

The months since Pat filed for divorce have been awkward for the Stones, particularly because they both chose to stay in the house until the divorce was final and their financial affairs settled. They have tried to stay out of each other's way, being careful to eat breakfast and dinner at different times and retiring to separate rooms at night. Their brown toy poodle, Sandy--as confused as everyone else--spends half the night on Dan's bed, the other half on Pat's.

When they bump into each other in the house, they greet each other with awkward silences or dry discussions of splitting the finances. "It is just too painful for Dan to talk about anything else right now," says Pat. "It kills me to see him so sad."

Pat has tried not to act too cheerful around the house when Dan is there. But with her newfound sexual identity, not to mention her new body--recently improved by a tummy tuck, breast lift, and face lift--Pat is excited about her emergence--as if from a chrysalis--from her former ill-fitting existence.

Pat is not leaving her husband for someone else--a fact that actually made it harder on Dan. In fact, she has yet to have a sexual experience with a woman. "I am leaving because of my principles, because of the honesty of the situation," she says. "In P-FLAG, we talk about sexual orientation not being just about sex, but about who you are and who you are most comfortable being with."

But Pat knows there will be rough times ahead. The Stones' divorce was final on January 17, and soon Pat will be on her own for the first time in her life. She has begun looking for a place to live and for a job, preferably in the nonprofit sector. But she has never held a paying job, and she wonders if she will find work. She is also not looking forward to handling her own finances, a job which Dan always took care of. And she is worried about being lonely, about not finding the passion and romance that eluded her in her marriage to a man.

She has already felt the sting of societal disapproval. Though most family members and friends have been supportive, one relative sent Pat a pamphlet entitled "What Does God Say About GAYS and LESBIANS?" which included the following passage, underlined by the relative: "We do not "hate" gays, but we strongly DETEST the goals and life style of homo-sexuals [sic] and lesbians; deeply DETEST their attempts to infect the minds of our children and grandchildren with Satan's perversions."

Even some members of the gay community think Pat may be making the wrong decision. "To change your whole life based on some feelings you haven't had the chance to try out, it's nuts, especially at her age and situation in life," says a lesbian who has known Pat for years through her active membership in P-FLAG. "Where is she going to meet people? I think she is being a little Polyanna-ish. I think she might be more isolated than she realizes. It's not like she's becoming part of a large, cohesive club. And it's not like a bunch of politically active lesbians have offered her support."

T.J. also has concerns--about both of her parents. "Whatever was going on in that marriage, it was something my dad counted on. It was very much how he defined himself," says T.J. "This has thrown him off balance. But I have confidence he can figure out the next chapter of his life, too.

"With my mom, I am concerned about the backlash that can happen to anyone as open and honest as she is. It appears she's made a lot of changes fast, but there was a substantial incubation time. She spent a lot of time thinking there was something unexplored inside of her. For the most part, I think she is pretty courageous. She is making the kind of changes you want people to make--a leap to what makes her feel more congruent with who she is. She got to the point that what she was doing didn't fit anymore. She made changes pretty boldly. She considered not [changing], but I think she realized the price of not doing it would get to be too high.

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