DESPITE daydreaming about actresses Vicky McClure and Jodie Comer, married Jennifer Gilmour did not realise she was attracted to women.
It was not until the mum-of-three’s husband James* brought up the topic of her sexuality that she began to connect the dots.
AlamyKate Winslet, right, in Ammonite[/caption] Jennifer Gilmour said: ‘ I wasn’t expecting the level of affection you experience with a woman. I felt like an equal’ Chloe-Louise Bond said: ‘My life has now come into focus – finally, it makes sense’
Author Jennifer, 34, who has three children, aged 12, ten and six, says her eyes were opened after watching BBC series Killing Eve with James during lockdown.
She says: “First, we watched film This Is England and I found myself thinking of little else than star Vicky McClure for the rest of the day.
“We moved on to Killing Eve and I was equally distracted by Jodie Comer, but I just put that down to admiration more than anything else.
“It was actually my husband who first made the suggestion that I might be a lesbian.
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“I took offence initially. Why can’t a woman appreciate other women without it being sexual, I thought.
“But as time went on and my interest in women only intensified I couldn’t deny my true feelings.”
Former Love Island star Amber Gill, 24, who split with Greg O’Shea, 27, shortly after winning the show with him in 2019, has seemingly made a similar discovery, telling fans last week that, “switching teams was the best decision I made in my life”.
She added on Twitter: “Watching men makes me feel ill, I couldn’t put myself through that again.”
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Sporting legend Dame Kelly Holmes, 52, came out as gay just weeks ago, revealing she had battled “dark times” while in the closet.
Australian actress Rebel Wilson, 42, revealed she is dating fashion designer Ramona Agruma, writing on Instagram: “I thought I was searching for my Disney Prince, but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess.”
And in April, singer Emeli Sande, 35, said she was in a relationship with girlfriend Yoana Karemova, having previously been with husband Adam Gouraguine for ten years.
Thankfully for Jennifer, understanding husband James encouraged her to explore her sexuality, even giving her a “hall pass” to experiment with other women.
After using dating app Tinder to meet women — always making them clear of her situation — Jennifer, from Hull, says: “It felt like coming home.
“What I wasn’t expecting was the level of affection you experience with a woman. I felt like an equal.
“Before marrying James, I had survived domestic abuse from a previous relationship so there was something endlessly comforting in that.
“For the first time in my life I felt as though I could relax.
“I would happily sleep naked next to a woman, when I’d previously slept head to toe in pyjamas.
“While I had certainly found men attractive and could appreciate a good-looking bloke, it was not comparable to sexual feelings I felt towards women.”
‘With a woman I felt like an equal’
After attempting to make their marriage work, and even considering polyamory, James and Jennifer made the tough decision to part ways earlier this year.
But Jennifer, who is currently dating, believes it has benefited their family.
She says: “We happily co-parent, I see James almost every day still and we spend far more time as a family since my coming out.
“He is incredibly supportive of me and I could not be more grateful for that. He’s the right person, just the wrong gender.
“My dad was incredibly supportive — he just wants me to be happy.
“My friends were thrilled on my behalf, in fact they claimed they had always known. I only wish they had told me sooner.”
Exploring sexuality later in life has become increasingly common among women, according to one university study.
In the research, interviews were carried out with 200 women over the age of 30 that were married to men but admitted finding women attractive.
It concluded that women who grew up believing they are hetero-sexual can “experience a first same-sex attraction well into adulthood”.
Similarly, Professor Lisa Diamond spent 15 years following a group of women who reported some form of same-sex attraction.
In her book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love And Desire, she writes that every two years, between 20 and 30 per cent of the women changed the way they identified themselves.
And a total of 70 per cent reported a totally different sexuality entirely.
Mum-of-one Chloe-Louise Bond, 30, an HGV instructor from Pontefract, West Yorks, came out to her husband Jack* a few years ago.
She says: “Growing up I had no idea that lesbians even existed, let alone that I could be one.
“I was always one of the lads, so I never struggled to get a boyfriend, and being with men seemed completely normal because I was so used to hanging out with them.”
Chloe’s own “lesbian awakening” did not come until five years into her marriage.
She says: “I developed a crush on a woman from the local village after she became flirty with me.
“I found myself becoming more and more interested in her and I slowly came to the realisation that it wasn’t just one woman I had been attracted to. I never cheated on Jack but that didn’t make the split any less painful.
“I told him I wanted a divorce and he asked if we could try and make it work. But there was no going back for me and I no longer had an interest in men.
“We hadn’t had sex in a year, and we were arguing every day.
“He took it hard when he found out the reason why I wanted to go my own way, but three years later we get on better than we ever have before.
“When I first started dating women it was like everything I had ever wondered about myself clicked into place.
‘Lesbians are so under-represented’
“I went on to have a two-year relationship and the kind of love I experienced was entirely different to how I’d ever felt before. It just felt right. I’m single now and I know I would never look for love with a man again.
“My life has come into focus and finally everything makes sense.”
Therapist Marisa Peer believes that greater representation of lesbians in popular culture is making women feel more empowered to embrace their sexuality later in life.
She says: “Only in the last five years or so have we seen mainstream producers using big-name actors to play gay female lead roles.
“Consider Suranne Jones in the BBC’s Gentleman Jack and Kate Winslet in the 2020 movie Ammonite.
“What this enables women who have suppressed their sexuality for decades to do is find their voice and have the confidence to be true to who they are.”
Chloe agrees, saying: “Growing up, the only lesbian on TV I was aware of was Ross’s ex-wife in Friends, who was the butt of every joke. Lesbians are so underrepresented so it would have been great to have had A-listers like Rebel at the forefront.”
Marisa explains that some of her patients were condemned for their feelings when discussing their sexuality in their youth.
She says: “They were shamed back into the closet and ended up ‘doing the right thing’ by getting married and having children.
“And for some it is simply out of their control — their attraction to a female friend or colleague comes like a bolt from the blue.
“Our biological clocks are no longer driving the need to have children and our desires morph into the need for a more intimate relationship that ticks more boxes than just lust.”
Jennifer adds: “With the changing attitudes we’re seeing, hopefully there won’t be this need to make a huge announcement and we could just view sexuality as fluid.
“Coming out later in life is an incredibly personal journey but my confidence has never been greater.”
*Names have been changed
- For support on coming out, call the Switchboard LGBT+ helpline on 0300 330 0630 10am-10pm, seven days a week.