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A Late Bloomer

Mary Goff and Mary Cate

Lesbian mom transitions from self-doubt to self-fulfillment in same-sex relationship


My biggest pet peeve about being a lesbian was that I could not find an appropriate card to give my girlfriend on Valentine’s Day!

I was 35 years old when I fell in love with my best friend, after the demise of my long-term marriage to my high school sweetheart. When society says that you are born gay, it makes me wonder who “society” is, anyway. I have been told that I was the most homophobic person anyone had ever met, and at the time, I wasn’t sure whether that was bad or not. Now, at 53 years old and still madly in love with a woman, I can’t believe that was once me.

My name is Mary Goff and I live in Fairfax, Virginia, with my partner of 17 years, Mary Cate Rush. We have been friends for 30 years and met playing soccer for the Shady Ladies. That’s also where I met some of the best friends of my life. Mary Cate moved into the neighborhood where I lived with my husband and two young children. I was undecided how I felt about her living so close to me because I was very involved in my community: serving as PTA president, coach of my daughter’s soccer team, and leader of my son’s Boy Scout troop. After all, I did not want my neighbors to know that one of my best friends was a lesbian.

You might be able to imagine how scared I was when I first found myself attracted to that friend of mine. I still can’t believe that I made the first move and struggled with trying to understand my feelings. In doing so, I came across a group at Whitman-Walker, for women coming out of marriage. I thought I could find some answers there and, maybe, support for my children, whom I had not yet told.

Instead of answers, I found some great people and more questions. I never had a crush on my gym teacher—or any other female, for that matter—and all of the other folks in the group had. Some had even known they were gay before getting married!

The most illuminating experience with the group came one night when two teenagers spoke about their parent being gay and how they viewed the whole “transition.” I was so glad to see how proud and well adjusted they were. I hoped that my children could cope just as well. These teenagers also said that they knew about their mother’s gay relationship well before she told them. The message was clear: Our kids probably already knew. As it turned out, they did.

As my relationship with Mary Cate grew stronger, we decided to live together. This was going to be a huge step because we would be revealing the true level of our relationship. Both kids were star athletes so we were already quite visible at the school. When we took the kids aside to ask whether they would feel more comfortable if Mary Cate had “her own room” when their friends stayed over, they both said, “No.” And, we encouraged our kids to tell their friends if they were comfortable with it. Matt was the teller, and Meredith just let it all play out.

MC and I shared carpooling responsibilities, taking the kids and their friends to events. MC always got Matt, and I chaperoned Meredith. Every Friday night, MC and I would arrive at the high school, with MC often wearing Matt’s letter jacket. Lots of the students just called her Mrs. Goff because they were not sure who she was, but they liked her. Eventually, most of our kids’ friends and their parents figured it out.

I look back on the past 17 years and wonder whether things have changed or whether I have changed. My straight friends (which are still many) think that I am the same person, but happier. At the end of it all, we are happy, and the kids are just fine! And, we have a bright future as the times they are a changin’: My president says same sex marriage is OK by him! But, I still don’t see those lesbian Hallmark cards anywhere!