Oprah Examines the Coming Out Process for Married Women

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As part of Fleisher's life change, she became a licensed clinical social work specializing in women's issues and lesbian and gay concerns. Her practice has grown to include groups, weekend workshops, and even telephone support groups for women outside the Philadelphia area. She is also moderator of an online Q&A message board for heterosexually married lesbians.

Fleisher spoke to AfterEllen.com after the taping of the Oprah episode, both before and after the episode had aired. She felt that Oprah herself was very open to hearing what others had to say and that the audience, too, was very engaged and respectful. Fleisher also wasn't surprised, since this was, after all, a talk show for television, that some dramatic elements were emphasized and that the women selected to speak were all conventionally attractive.

“They plucked a small element from the community, a very intriguing element, but a small one. The women were all interesting and nice to look at, though not a representative cross-section,” Fleisher remarked.

One couple in particular, Nikki and Carole, were both attractive in a model-like way, even joking together about sharing the same lipstick color. They both spoke about how the world stopped when they first saw each other — instant attraction. Fleisher felt that their inclusion was useful because it helped to show the excitement of discovering an attraction to another woman. And the in-home tape of Nikki and Carole revealed the playfulness of their relationship. “They helped make a lesbian relationship more real in some ways, even if neither of them looks like the average lesbian, or even the average woman,” Fleisher said.

One of the more dramatic elements, emphasized in the commercials for the show prior to its airing, was something Oprah said she'd “never heard of before”: Joe, the ex-husband of Chris, the first woman Oprah interviewed, came out as gay a few years after Chris came out as a lesbian. Oprah interviewed both of them, their current same-sex partners, and one of their teenaged-sons, Alex, 14.

Alex said he was proud of both of his parents for being out, and feels that he's very lucky to have four loving parents. Oprah was encouraging and supportive of Alex, saying that 14 was one of her hardest years, and she knows how terrible other kids can be.

Oprah then introduced Joanne Fleisher as someone who has “counseled hundreds of married women who are attracted to other women.” She asked Fleisher how common it was for married women to come out as lesbian, was it more common now because homosexuality is a bit more accepted in society. Fleisher replied that it's certainly more visible now. She stressed the role of the Internet, that woman have access to information about sexuality in ways they didn't in the past. Fleisher's website has been online for nearly ten years.

Several times during the broadcast, Oprah remarked that from everything she'd read and heard from gay friends, people “always know they're gay,” though they may sometimes suppress it. Fleisher said that's not always the case, and pointed out that some of Oprah's interviewees said they didn't know until they were older. She explained that some women don't get to know their true sexuality until they get to know themselves better, as they mature.

It's interesting that Oprah, who outwardly is very comfortable around lesbians and gays and somewhat knowledgeable about LGBT issues, says that she never knew there was such a thing as the Kinsey scale. She says she knew there was a range of sexuality but not that there was an actual measure. (How this got past her, even after the recent Liam Neeson film Kinsey was released, is curious.)

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