I decisively jumped the fence at the age of 57.

After a life of heterosexuality, in mid-2020 during the first round of the COVID pandemic, I met a transgender man and we fell into each other’s arms, beds and lives in a blistering love affair that took me to the heart of the LGBTQI and Queer worlds. Though it burned out nine months later, what that super-charged relationship gave me was the depth of emotional connection, physicality, sexuality and companionship that I had always dreamed of. I knew I would never return to the straight world of relationships after that.

I know I’m a late bloomer but in all honesty, 57 seems to be pushing things to their limit don’t you think?

Yet today, as I craft the sweetest intimacy and love with my new girlfriend Jen on the cusp of my 59th birthday, I am standing tall and strong in a world of delight that I am so glad arrived late in life.

If the truth be told, I spent most of my adult life believing I was a failure at intimacy and romantic love. It began in my late teens when I sabotaged the naive love blossoming between my first boyfriend and I. Having been raised by a single mother after surviving the chaos of an early childhood mown down by a dad with schizophrenia, I had no idea how to be safely vulnerable when sharing my heart with another.

I lost my virginity to a delightful Englishman at 21, an age that seemed horribly tardy in the era of ‘puberty blues’ when many of my contemporaries started having sex at 14 or 15.

I spent decades after this wandering the maze of heterosexuality, never really questioning it but never really finding my mojo with the men I dated, loved, married and lost.

And I kept waiting for my dream man to show up.

You know, the one who was sporty, emotionally intelligent, good looking, witty, tender, vulnerable and strong. The one who loved poetry, writing and surfing too. Yeah, that one.

There was a decade-long marriage to David that birthed the love of our lives – our son. After our divorce there were other men and some significant affairs of the heart. An engineer with four children, an activist musician, a surfer, a postie, a developer with a social conscience…all decent men and none of them ever violent or abusive.

I felt I should be one of the lucky ones and yet I stumbled and fell in every single relationship; never feeling fully heard or seen. Not even feeling partly heard or seen. Instead, I did a lot of hearing and seeing of endless opinions and mansplain until each time I simply couldn’t hold the early sweetness and cracked: either they left or I did, hearts hurting, egos bruised, minds churning.

I didn’t realise in this crumbling landscape of love that my early childhood trauma was also running amok.  All of my dad’s schizophrenic chaos and violence hurled at mum meant my 5 year old child-self encountered situations one would never wish upon our worst enemies. My developing nervous system and brain found ways to cope back then and in turn, imprinted themselves on my long-term behaviour patterns and hitched a ride into adulthood and the visceral give-and-take of intimacy. As a result, I always had an exit strategy at my fingertips and used them at the first sign of trouble.

There were decades of this and always imagining that the right man, the dream man, the love-of-my-life man might just be around the next corner.

In October 2021 after a quick stint of online lesbian dating, I reached out for Jen, a Gold Coast surfer I sometimes crossed paths with at my local break. She’s a bold, proudly out surfing lesbian with a smile that lights up the beach at sunrise. In a fit of courage I asked her out on a surfing date with a cuppa and a yarn afterwards.

She accepted graciously and we connected for so much more than the quick nod we’d enacted for years as we’d passed each other in the water.

Jen knew she was a lesbian from her late teens-early twenties. She lived out and proud through the hard-edged 80s and 90s when lesbians were run out of the armed forces and publicly derided for their choices. Back in those days same sex marriage was entirely out of reach and lesbians and gays endured unimaginable discrimination.

Jen is one of the kindest, most unconditionally generous person I have ever met. She’s a savvy, successful entrepreneur with a dream to be a philanthropist. She’s spunky, sporty, funny, emotionally intelligent; a writer, public speaker, podcaster, and surfer. She’s a surfer!

She’s also an indefatigable champion of women’s empowerment with a deep knowledge and appreciation of the suffragettes and the history of lesbianism through the ages. She tells me that it’s not unusual for older women to jump the fence in their 50s, 60s and beyond. This is a time in our lives when we often become more comfortable in our skins, unapologetic for our life choices and a little bit (or a lot) fearless about our sexuality.

As I write this, it’s early days in our relationship and we are focusing on being present and mindful with each other. We are consciously harnessing the wild horses and monkeys of the mind that race ahead and worry about figments of the imagination or the past. We are revelling in each other’s company.

We surf together almost every day. We walk along the beach holding hands, speaking deeply of our lives and histories. We cuddle and touch and kiss and laugh loudly and have great sex.  We don’t hold much back; not in public, not in private.

I feel entirely relaxed and supremely happy in Jen’s fine company and I truly, madly, deeply hope we can keep walking this path together. We teach each other good stuff, we listen deeply, and we support each other openly and joyfully.

This process of coming out in my late 50s, and of walking mindfully and openly into the lesbian and queer world is entirely liberating. Its synchronization with effective therapy and the practice of much-needed relationship skills is life affirming.

I feel great happiness in announcing to the world that my dream man is a woman as I step delightedly onto the path that leads to crafting enduring love.

This article was published in MiNDFOOD Magazine in March 2022