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I was 19 when I met my wife, but it took another decade before I got comfortable with words like "lesbian" and "bisexual."

Since then, I've openly shared my life and relationship — in essays for publications like Cosmopolitan and on Bravo television.


Then a funny thing happened this year: Women began coming out to me.

Women reached out to me through various forms of social media.

When we think about coming out, we usually think of that awkward adolescent time of emerging sexuality. But for older women, coming out can be a whole other experience — an especially challenging one that creates a delicate new identity.

Take Sarah, who came out at 28, after nine years with a man to whom she was also engaged.

In an email to me, she explained, "I had to confront a lot of internalized homophobia in myself, even in subconscious ways like being ashamed to appear gay or let people find out that I was."

Sarah (right) and her partner. Photo courtesy of the couple.

Then, there was the email from "Jen" (not her real name) — over 1,000 words long — sent from a fake account.

She was 41 when she reached out to me. "How did you reconcile with the fact that you'd be with a woman the rest of your life?" she asked. Jen told me she made a female friend at work in 2007. The woman had a husband and Jen had a boyfriend. They became inseparable. They've kept this secret for eight years, and Jen confesses of her girlfriend, "One of her sons told her he'd never talk to her again if he found out something was going on with us." The e-mail closed with: "I've changed our names to protect our silly secrets."

The secrets she shared didn't feel silly. They were about love — both romantic and familial — and lies.

They were about unexpectedly falling in love with another woman and the ways in which it could change both of their lives at a point when they thought they were already settled in their identities. They were about guilt and fear and doubt.

Sure, we all expect to change some as we grow older, but we expect certain things — seemingly core parts of our identity we take for granted — to stay the same.

Says Jen, "For 30+ years I envisioned myself with a husband, not a wife."

Dr. Darcy Sterling. Photo by Omar Guerra, used with permission.

Dr. Darcy Sterling, whose practice Alternatives Counseling specializes in the LGBT community, knows this struggle firsthand. "As someone who came out later in life, I too wanted certainty around my orientation." She explains, "I didn't dislike sex with men but I preferred it with women." Ultimately she made peace with her fluid sexuality and chose to identify as a lesbian. "I find it easier to wrap my complicated head around than making overarching declarations about my orientation, past, present or future," she says.

Kathy Prezbinkowski, Ph.D., M.S.N., and leader of the Washington-based support group Coming Out Women, points out that older women who come out often have to confront a lot of ingrained expectations. The group aims to create a safe space for women to listen and share stories and strives to help them break out of the "mold to fit in the heterosexual box." Women in the group range in age from mid-30s to their mid-70s, and many have already started families. Prezbinkowski says:

"More than 50% of the 2000+ women at our group had been married to men — some still in marriages — and had children, and even grandchildren. The vast majority knew that they had attractions to women, but followed the societal norm."

Admitting their feelings to strangers is one thing, but opening up to loved ones remains a daunting conversation.

"I practiced saying the word 'gay' to my infant," Natalie, 34, told me by email. She had both a husband and a newborn before she identified as a lesbian.

Natalie (right) and her wife Carrie. Photo courtesy of the couple.

Christi, a 38-year-old mom twice married to men, admits that telling her kids wasn't easy. In an email, she said she was worried about hurting her relationship with her daughter: "There is a lot of fear and guilt involved in coming to terms with your own sexuality and many more layers of it when it comes to telling other people."

But there are also some benefits to coming out when you're older and wiser. As Christi put it:

"I didn't understand what I was feeling when I was younger. For me, coming out at 35 was a million times easier than it might have been in my teens or 20s. By 35 I had a lot of life experience, more confidence, and I cared less what other people think."

Coming to terms with a new identity is hugely challenging, but for many of these women, it marked the beginning of their path to real happiness.

Not long after our initial correspondence, Jen wrote to me again, sharing her real name and information. She said that talking to me about her identity helped her to see her life in a new light. "I feel forever indebted to you," she wrote. The reason our conversation changed Jen's life? I listened with openness and compassion. That's it.

She shared another secret: She proposed. The couple is not fully out to their families yet, but they're working on it.

Jen and her fiancee with their new rings. Photo courtesy of the couple.

Meanwhile, Christi and her wife are expecting a baby this winter, and Sarah and her wife were married earlier this spring.

Sarah says this is not how she pictured her adult life when she was little, "but I'm ever so glad that I'm here."

Coming Out Women's mission statement asserts that all women deserve empowerment, authenticity, and wholeness. That doesn't begin with having all the answers. It can begin simply with finding someone who will listen. We are all empowered when we project the compassion we seek in others.

"When women first arrive at group," says Prezbinkowski of those who gather at Coming Out Women, "perhaps after numerous attempts, they know they are 'coming home.'"

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Blake's owner sings and he "sings" along.

When a dog howls along to music, are they complaining because the music hurts their ears, or are they actually trying to sing along?

Most likely, it's the latter—or something like it. According to the American Kennel Club, research shows that canines do actually have a sense of pitch and can differentiate between different tones. That ability stems from their wolf ancestors, who each howl at a different pitch as more and more wolves join in on a group howl.

So when Blake the rescue Rottweiler joins his owner in a viral TikTok video duet, perhaps he's really trying to "sing" along with her.

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As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

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4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

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7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

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10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

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13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

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