Tracie featured in our story about the rise of middle-aged women coming out (watch above). Here she shares her backstory. Content Warning: this story contains references to sexual abuse.
I grew up believing I was born cursed.
As a kid, I was a Ward of the State; fostered out to families who would sexually, physically and emotionally abuse me. I had every finger and both feet been broken. I was told I was a “disease”. My name was ‘Germ’.
In my twenties, I was drugged at a nightclub, woke up tied to a bed where I was held hostage and repeatedly raped.
My ex-husband treated me like a babysitter who happened to live in his house, then one day he went to work and never returned. He took all our money, left me with loans I didn’t know we had, and three children to raise on my own.
When I met someone who made me feel special, it wasn't a romantic epiphany. It was deeply confusing.
I spent a long time repressing any kind of sexual impulse. I know some people are asexual – but I’m not one of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be intimate with people, but having suffered so many years of sexual abuse, I didn’t trust anyone.
What I know now is that repression is never healthy. You can tell yourself you’re fine without intimacy, that you don’t need another person to trust, that you’re in control of who you let into your life. But if you bury your feelings, they ferment and come bubbling up in ways you can’t control.
When my husband left, I didn’t wake up the next morning and take out a new lease on life. I was depressed for a long time. (Even though the marriage wasn't good, I was still sad that yet another man had found a way to cheat me.) I needed a friend to tell me my life wasn’t over and that there actually are good people out there… and make me an online dating profile.
When I did meet someone who made me feel special in a way I had never felt before, it wasn’t a magical romantic epiphany. It was deeply confusing. I never thought I would fall in love – let alone with a woman!
I guess I’ll never really know to what extent the years of abuse made me turn away from men, or whether growing up in a homophobic household made me repress my same-sex attraction.
I think the myth of the ‘man-hating lesbian’ is a way of demonising women who embrace their sexuality, peddled by those men who want to control women.
When you learn to be comfortable with your sexuality, you also gain the confidence to speak your truth. Every time someone learns that I used to be with men and now I’m with a woman, they always say, ‘Oh, no wonder you hate men after the way you’ve been treated.’ But coming out as a lesbian doesn’t mean you hate men. Hating men doesn't make a lesbian – loving women is what makes a lesbian.
I think the myth of the ‘man-hating lesbian’ is a way of demonising women who embrace their sexuality, peddled by those men who want to control women. But all I really know is my story. And all I really know are the men in my life – so I’m not going to hate all men.
When I learned to believe in love and found happiness, that’s when my new lease on life came through. I was inspired to learn new skills and, despite – or maybe because of – my personal experience in a loveless marriage, I became a civil celebrant!
I was in a horrible marriage and now I’m in a brilliant marriage. So I’m not going to let the bad outweigh the good. And to that end, I’ve made it my mission to make sure couples – gay and straight – know what they’re getting into when they sign a marriage contract, and only marry someone they love deeply and trust completely.