Dear John, I love Jane

Straight women with kind, loving husbands explain why they became lesbians

by Julia McKinnell

Dear John, I love Jane

Photograph by Andrew Tolson

In a new collection of true stories about straight women turning lesbian, all of the women are, and were, married to extraordinarily kind, supportive husbands. Laura Andre, co-editor of Dear John, I Love Jane, points out that these women are “living proof that sexuality can change over time, often against our will. The women in this book didn’t set out to dismantle their marriages and relationships; the last thing they wanted was to hurt their husbands or boyfriends.”

One woman writes that her husband thought it was “cool” at first that she was attracted to women. “I wasn’t the jealous type so it never bothered me if my husband said another woman was sexy or beautiful. In fact, sometimes I would agree, and I spoke freely about different women I found attractive. He thought he had the coolest wife ever,” writes Crystal Hooper. “We always said that nothing and no one could ever come between us. Then along came Zoe.”

In another story, a woman tells how a session of marriage counselling inadvertently ignited her desire for women, several years into her 23-year committed marriage. When Kami Day first met her husband, John, he was funny, attentive and cute. “He wanted lots of children. He declared his love for me. How could I not marry him?” she writes. But, from their honeymoon on, Day found their sex life stark and lonely. “I consented to sex every few weeks out of guilt and obligation, and I lay there hoping it would be over soon.”

Believing she was frigid, Kami and John sought the help of a psychiatrist specializing in sexually dysfunctional couples. “During that first session, I learned that many women do not have orgasms with intercourse, and I also learned that I needed to be responsible for my own orgasm. Of course, I did not have a clue how to take on that responsibility, so to help me, the doctor showed John and me a video of a woman masturbating. I watched in amazement,” writes Kami, and from then on, whenever she and John had sex, “I envisioned the woman in the video. I did not share these fantasies with anyone, but for the rest of my marriage, which was about 15 more years, I fantasized about women.”

Another happily married woman, Michelle Renae, writes that she and her husband, Jo, were “crazy about each other” when they met. They were both pastor’s kids: “To say I was not well acquainted with the lesbian lifestyle would be a comical understatement.”

Sex was never their problem, writes Michelle. “Combine his high sex drive with my desire to explore our love for each other with the fact that it all felt so damn good, and toss it with years of repression, and you get a pretty satisfying sex life during the early years of our marriage.” Slowly, however, the couple “tiptoed our way out of the church,” while remaining emotionally close to each other.

“Jo and I had always talked about our sexuality and needs. My desires for women, at first, seemed small and playful. I developed a crush on a woman I worked with. I told Jo and we laughed about it and talked about it often.” But then Michelle began pulling away sexually. “Divorce was a thought, but never something either of us wanted to pursue. We were, in fact, happy together and wonderful partners. Our sex life was never a problem. It was broader than that.”

Michelle wanted to experiment with a woman, and took her search online where she “was able to connect with other women, many of whom were in the same heterosexual-marriage boat I was in. [My husband] and I were making every effort to keep him involved in the process. It took barely a New York minute for me to find a woman I hit it off with and was desperately attracted to.”

Despite Michelle’s overwhelming sexual preference for women, she and her husband have stayed married. “Am I taking the easy way out?” she writes. “Perhaps I am just the laziest lesbian on the planet, so wiped out I can’t even be bothered to divorce my husband.” But, she continues, “I chose to stay with my husband because I love him and he loves me. Enough love, I might add, to make room in our life and marriage for all of who I am.”




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Dear John, I love Jane

  1. This was a great article, until the end woman, Michelle's experience. As someone going through the situation of leaving my husband for my girlfriend, it is painful and confusing for everyone affected by this (especially if their are children involved.) I felt that Michelle's experience was not fitting with the topic of the article. Bisexuality and polygamous relationships are rare, and typically not the experience of those who are leaving their heterosexual relationships for same-sex ones. I was thrilled to see MacLeans coving such issues, however, a good start to the article finished with an example that belittled those women leaving their marriages for their female partners; making it a sex-based decision rather than a sexuality-based one. Good try, but overall a disappointment.

    • It's from a book, not an original piece from Macleans, so it's not really their fault. That said, I think it fits the theme of married women falling in love with other women; she is just choosing to stay married.

  2. Obesity would be a lesser worry. Probably the same food additive causing both.

  3. So are you born gay or not? Is it a choice or not?

    • Yes I was born lesbian – it just took me a while to realise – every LGBT person seemed to have been closeted when I grew up.

    • There is definitely choice involved. The choice is whether or not to date someone of the same gender and learn one's preferences. The problem is two-fold: 1. Rampant homophobia that makes acting on same-sex attractions verboten and, 2. Equating this "choice" with flippant choices we make each day. More than 50 years ago, Kinsey talked about a range of sexual orientations. Most people are closer to the middle.

  4. The biggest mistake in this article is the misuse of the term "lesbian." Michelle is obviously bisexual. There is a big difference between the two terms. Bisexual: Emotionally and sexually attracted to men and women. Lesbian: Emotionally and sexually attracted to women only. I can understand and respect a bisexual woman's decision to marry a man. However, I do not respect or appreciate reading stories about so-called "lesbian" women marrying and staying married to men. In a society where 30% of all teen suicides are GLBT related, this article is hardly inspirational. Mislabeling this bisexual woman as a lesbian is a major error. For those people, unlike me, who did not realize this error, the message sent is that it's okay for lesbians to stay in the closet. This article undermines decades of work by gay rights activists.

    • That was the point I was also trying to say in my post, so thank you for clarifying. The terminology was irritating.

    • "This article undermines decades of work by gay rights activists." What "work" would that be? Seems to me it exposes the "work" that the gay movement has pushed for years that gays are born gay when this article exposes the truth that people choose to go gay… or bi. Before you rant on me, show me the science that proves a gay gene has been discovered that creates sexual orientation. So rather than "undermine" anything, this article simply supports the truth; that going gay is a choice.

      • pull your head out of your……….well, you grt the picture

  5. Having gay relatives (I am straight) makes me question the phrases: "they became lesbians", "straight women turning lesbians", and “living proof that sexuality can change over time".

    From my intimate and non-judgemental discussions with these people, I would bet that they would find the phrases inaccurate, even if they understood the ambiguity. Straight women don't "turn into" or "become lesbians" and it is doubtful that "sexuality changes over time" – they were probably always lesbians and for whatever social or societal reasons followed the accepted and expected dominant societal path (numerically) which is heterosexuality. After some time – sometimes many decades later – circumstances are "right" for them to "come out". At times, I've been told, the person most difficult to "come out to" is herself – as she is now part of a numerical minority with a much more limited dating pool (especially for those in rural settings or small towns); the fear of what others may think; and homophobic reaction – with all its attendant slurs, stereotypical mimicry, and antagonistic attitudes.

  6. 2. Our relatives have told us many times how lucky they are to have accepting relatives. Many of their acquaintances are not so lucky – being licked out of the house, physically abused, being shunned by church, family, and (family) friends, and actually being "disowned".

    It might be wise to have knowledgeable people comment on the topic and enlighten us with up-to-date and accurate information.

    And, by the way, there are parallel situations in the male world, as well. The most diificult part for many of the original couples is that they still love each other and often must part while still in love in all the other ways, except for the physical sexual part (unless they are bisexual and open about it). This separation can be very stressful on both parties as not all friends and family can comprehend either the separation or their own denial/acceptance of homosexuality.

  7. More narcissistic non-sense from the caligula generation. Western civilization commiting slow, painful social suicide…we'll see if Bin Laden and his buddies are as understanding of your 'life choice'.

    • you know, I'm always amazed how someone elses partner, be it emotionally or sexually, affects anyone elses life in any way. Myself, I'm really not concerned with other peoples private lives, as long as it is between concenting adults.

  8. My comment here is almost entirely off topic, Dave C., but you mentioned acquaintances of your relatives being shunned by churches. This is most unfortunate and un-Christian, IMO, but I'd like to point out that not all churches still think this way. Numerous United Church of Canada and Unitarian congregations have gay and lesbian ministers and conduct same-sex marriages. Same-sex couples and their families are welcome in these faith communities.

    If other denominations out there have affirming congregations, I hope you will also speak up and take opportunities such as this to invite people who have been rejected by their churches to join a new and more supportive church family.

    • You're right and they inevitably do. It is, however, still a shock when people they have known for many years, shun them.
      We have a case in our area right now where an Anglican church congregation split in two – the breakaway one being extrememly conservative and aligning themselves with an African church. Surprisingly, some of the congregation have gay offspring. Like Dick Cheney's situation and attitude, I guess! The regular congragation is slowly gaining new and more inclusive members. I do not consider your response off topic – it seems highly socially relevant to me. D.

  9. I can't think of a better anecdotal story to put to rest the myth that people are "born gay." Each and every women in this story recites a tale of "choice".

    • Hmmm Andrew, and what is it that you do that has qualified you to bestow these insights upon us, the great ignorant unwashed. Whats that? Just your own personal beliefs? Well I guess that holds at least ( but probably no more ) as much as my own which are, you guessed it, that people are born gay or lesbian and that the pressures of society and family are what keeps significant numbers of them closeted.

      • Hmmm diz, it's called "science" and I've done a fair amount of study – including both scientific and anecdotal – on the subject. Why the misplaced self-deprecation… "the great ignorant unwashed"? I did not besmirch gays in my post and I have absolutely no issue with gay people – hey, I ain't the bedroom police – but I do have an issue with the gay movement's agenda to promote the myth that people are born gay. To assert this as fact – as any scientific claim is subject to – one must be able to pinpoint a scientific genesis for the claim, in the case a "gene" as genes are the foundational bedrock of all physical manesfestations of human form. Science – of course, prompted by the gay community to do so – has spent years trying and yet been entirely unsuccessful in identifying a "homosexual" gene within the chromosome structure. In constrast, of which this article is a prime example, countless anecdotal (citing nurture not nature) stories have been told to account for why people choose to go gay. More to come…

        • It hasn't been proven – but it is far from disproven. It's not likely to be JUST a gene, but may also depend on triggering factors, such as hormonal imbalances at a particularly critical stage of development. Perhaps it's a combination of nurture and nature. No one knows for certain.

          But there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal and psychological/psychiatric evidence to indicate it's simply not a choice issue. In fact, most gays go through a period of denial, trying hard to fit into society's expectations. Suicide rates among teens skew heavily to the gay population. These are all well-documented facts. And we know the kind of psychological and physical abuse many gays endure because of their sexuality. Do you think they choose that?

          Just because a definitive cause has yet to be found does not discredit the likelihood that they are "born gay". It seems likely to this leftie that it is as natural a phenomenon as the one that rendered me different from about 85-90% of the population.

      • Part 2…
        It has nothing to do with whether I'm "qualified to bestow these insights upon" you. I'm just as qualified as you are to do research and simply acknowledge what science says; there is no isolated homosexual gene, ergo there is no scientific evidence that people are born gay, therefore it is a valid scientific statement to say that people are not born gay. Show me the science to the contrary and I'll change my view in a heartbeat but, regardless, it has nothing to do with homophobia or whether I love gays as I love all people, without hatred or prejudice. Just don't skew the debate with myths.

        • "there is no scientific evidence that people are born gay, therefore it is a valid scientific statement to say that people are not born gay."

          Uh… no! There is no DEFINITIVE evidence, but there is quite a body pointing in that direction. And yes, there are some studies that seem to indicate that nurture may also play a role. Research is still ongoing, and no one is claiming to know with any certainty. From what I've read, though, the scientific community seems pretty uniform in the belief that it is NOT simply a "lifestyle choice", but has some biological basis. Please "don't skew the debate with myths."

          • i would generally believe that it is not entirely one way or the other. however hearing some actual data from someone who apparently works in the field im erring on the side of science. either way it really has no bearing on idiotic laws one way or the other. the government has no right to control who marries who choice or not.

  10. The "choice" is not the choice to become gay or not – rather it is the choice to act on their desires or not. It is very likely that most of these women were lesbians all along, and were simply following through the motions of the "normal" life – marry a man, have children, etc…

    The choice is therefore their choice to step away from that norm, destroy what they've built, and therefore make the choice to become what they truly are and desire; they choose freedom.

    • I have a male friend who went through much the same experience. Raised in a staunch Catholic, Portuguese family, he married a woman of the same background and started a family. He found it harder & harder to maintain a sexual relationship with his wife; she cheated; they split. It was only after the split that he began to admit to himself that he was suppressing his attraction to other men. He has been with a male partner in a stable relationship now for ten years – but still has not officially "come out" to his family, because he still feels guilty for breaching the familial and cultural expectations. The family, in turn, pretends not to know because, for them, it's easier to deal with it if they pretend the two are "good friends" and "roommates".

      • Its sad what we do to not loose our families

    • "It is very likely that most of these women were lesbians all along…" Is this your scientific validation to support that people are born gay? I like your caveats – "very likely" and "most of" – that totally undermine any legitimacy to your claim. You can't prove "very likley" or "most of". But that's left wiing science for you – regards global warming… homosexuality…take your pick… lots of "theories" but very little science.

      • I was just using the same language that people above have used, saying that these women had a "choice". People do not choose to be gay. Trust me, if I had any choice, I'd be straight. I've tried being straight, to save my family, to save my reputation, to save my loved ones – and it hasn't worked for me. I would not therefore choose to have this wall placed…the wall between me and society, between my family and I and between all the opportunities straight people are given.

        Nobody would choose to be discriminated against.

  11. Sixteen years into our marriage which, right up till then, I had always believed to be a good one, my then wife wanted 'out'. Leave the house, me, the kids, her family, just leave even though she said she still loved me. After several difficult months she blurted out that she was in love with a woman. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. We agreed on a quick divorce and although in time we both remarried, she with a woman this time, it took me years to get over the hurt. I'm glad to say she has always stayed part of the family and is a wonderful grandmother to our grandchildren. Now, thirty years after the 'ton of bricks' she and I are good friends again and our respective spouses get along well too. But when I think back to those dark days of yore my eyes still moisten.

    • Thank you for sharing that, as someone in the thick of throwing the 'ton of bricks' it feels like there is no end in sight. I have lost my husband, co-parent and best friend because I am in love with a woman. I can't wait until we make it through to the other side!

      • My best wishes

  12. Why is this argument (the one between Word Titan and others) always so black and white? Isn’t it possible it could be a combination of what you’re born with (genetics) and your up-bringing (environment) that determines sexuality? I partially agree with Dani about there being a “choice” to come out of the closet, but what puts us in the closet in the first place is probably not all determined by a single, “gay gene.” Check out this “left wing” science:

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199505113321919?hits=20&andorexactfulltext=and&FIRSTINDEX=0&fyear=1994&searchid=1069251644706_3919&journalcode=nejm&excludeflag=TWEEK_element&where=fulltext&tmonth=November&tyear=2003&searchterm=homosexual+natural&sortspec=Score+desc+PUBDATE_SORTDATE+desc&fmonth=November&

    Keep in mind this research was way back in ’93 and there has been many advances in genetics since then. It may be possible they have a better idea of how genetics affect sexuality, now. Also keep in mind how complicated genes are. If there does turn out to be a genetic component (and I would not be surprised if there was) it is likely not going to be a single gene that turns homosexuality “on” or “off” but rather a huge multitude of genetic factors that would determine how likely someone is to be gay or bisexual.

    And I do realize the aforementioned research was done on male homosexuality, however the research points to an X-linked factor so it is definitely possible for females to be affected, too.

    Jus’ sayin’.

  13. somehow i doubt tis would make such a cute story if it were the man who was steadily becoming more and more interested in another woman.

    • Right…if a woman has an affair, it's always because something is 'missing'. If a guy has an affair, he is just a selfish dog. More evidence of the man-hating society we live in.

      • must be tough getting up in the morning ( or any time for that matter )

  14. The comments insisting that the women were "gay all along" have not considered the drastic evolution of a single human beings desires/needs/etc throughout their lifetime. There isn't some "inner self" we need to discover, rather, everything we do and learn each and every day form our selves. I think it a mute point to debate whether or not one woman "IS" lesbian or "IS" bisexual as if the people (other women) they most connect with and experience give some clue to their very souls… especially when the two terms are so alienating. There's such a large spectrum of sexuality and sociability that we would do well to consider, as this article inspires us too, how we ourselves change over time… are we a constant or a variable? On my part, I must admit that there have been moments in my life when I felt I would be much happier with a woman, and others, when I felt more comfortable with a man, and still other moments (a "status" I feel isn't discussed nearly as often as it should be) when I desired only autonomy and the freedom to navigate the world alone.

    • I agree Janet – I didn't necessarily mean that these women were always gay all along, although I do believe that some were (since they didn't enjoy sex with men), and just never realized because of how they have been socialized.

      I fully believe in the evolution of a human's sexuality. I feel as though people connecting this article, however, to a woman's "choice" in being a lesbian, or sticking it out with men because they love each other, even though they are more attracted to women, is bizarre. All the situations mentioned above are solitary situations – every single situation will be and is different. I personally could not fathom staying with someone if I wasn't sexually attracted to them, but I'm sure for some people, it might be the right option, if it works for them emotionally, physically and spiritually.

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