Ten years ago, I fell in love with a woman. Two weeks ago, I married her. 

Those two sentences seem so simple to write and the only thing between them is a period and space. But the truth is, the magnitude between those two sentences could fill volumes.

I came into my queerness in my 40s. It was not something that I had considered for myself before that, except for a brief moment when one of my best friends came out to me as bi-sexual in our early 20s. My first question to her was if she ever had wanted to kiss me. That would have been my first flag if I hadn’t been hell-bent on fulfilling the heteronormative blueprint I had been given. 

As a child of South American parents who raised me and my brother very much in our gender roles, there was no question that my destiny was to find a good husband and make babies. Beyond that was the very tidy and lived happily ever after. I did find the husband, and I did make the babies, the rest just kind of fell apart somewhere after the 15-year mark when we both started to realize we were a good family, good friends, just not a great couple.

When I first met my wife (still getting used to that!), we became fast friends. We had started to work together, and as a very small team, we all spent a lot of time together. I liked her immediately. She reminded me of something or someone I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and her spirit resonated with mine in a way that only happens a few times in our lives. We could talk for hours about everything: families, relationships, work, movies, books, silly stories, death, and heartache. About a year into our friendship, I started to wonder what was happening to me. I have always had very close girlfriends – and have always loved the company of women. But this, this was different. And not just for me, but for her as well, and we both knew it. The realization that this was different, led me down a very complicated and at times very lonely path.

I started looking for stories about women in their 40s who suddenly found themselves attracted to their best friend and the results were sparse. Ten years ago, there was no Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach to cling to. There was one book called Dear John, I Love Jane that was a collection of essays written by women in mid-life who came to the realization that they were in love with their tennis coach/PTA leader/church friend. I bought the book electronically and I read it on the subway, far away from my family. What I found in this book were women like me, who had families, who wanted calm and peaceful lives, who were upstanding citizens in their communities, who wanted to kiss the girl they had a crush on.

I soon started intense therapy which saved my mental health. At the time, I was navigating a separation, three young kids, a growing business and secretly I was struggling intensely with my identity. And I worried a lot about my reputation. 

I am a very open and honest person, and yet I am fiercely private. The very last thing I have ever wanted was to be the topic of gossip. I had always kept my personal life far away from my professional one, but if I chose to have this relationship — one with someone I worked with —  that would be very difficult to navigate. And people would talk. Really talk.

“I just want to post it on social media and be done with it,” I said to my therapist one day. “I want to just be vulnerable and rip off the Band-Aid and tell the world what is going on.” 

“What would that serve?” she asked me. “Who is that for?” 

I didn’t know the answer. 

“You need to be comfortable with your story before you share your story,” she said. “You need to first understand all of this deeply for yourself before you share it with anyone else. This is about you, and you being safe with yourself.”

I heeded her advice, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I started with myself – doing a deep dive into my childhood, my adolescence, my relationships with my friends growing up, my connection with men, my connection with women. I started to open my mind to the possibility that this had been a part of me all my life but given my upbringing and societal norms at the time, was the one rock I had left unturned. I mourned the fact that I had been so far away from myself all my life that I missed this huge thing. I mourned the fact that I realized it at all. I had been so close to living the life that was expected of me. But my agency showed up in full force and would not be denied. I was left with no choice but to see what had always been in front of me. 

Coming out in mid-life is HARD. Telling your aging parents that you are in love with a woman is HARD. That story alone could fill a few chapters. Sharing my truth with close friends was also challenging because I took my time in doing so. Many of my closest friends didn’t know until a couple of years later and I know that it was difficult that I had kept them in the dark for as long as I did. I have had to unpack that myself a few times. 

I am grateful for my queer friends and acquaintances who I shared my story with early on, in nervous (and teary) lunches. If you ever need to share something that you fear others will judge you for, share it with your queer friends. They are some of the least judgemental people you will ever meet in your life. Each one of them took me into their warm embrace and told me it would be ok. Coming out would be ok, and that I could do it when I was ready, and I didn’t owe anything to anyone. 

Eighteen months ago, my girlfriend proposed to me and I said yes immediately. There is no question in my mind that she is my person, and I am hers.  Our wedding was full of our closest friends and blended family (yes, even the South American parents are now waving the Pride flag) and we had a feast and danced until our feet hurt. It was very beautiful – and a privilege. I recognize that not all queer people are afforded this opportunity, not even in the great continent of North America. And my wife and I still think twice before holding hands in public, first making sure we are safe to do so. In a time where so many human rights are being stripped away and anti-everything is on the rise, I pray for a world where the simple act of holding hands with someone you love doesn’t need to be a political gesture.  

Happy Pride. Whether you scream it from the rooftops, or secretly share it with yourself in your journal, nothing is more freeing than fully embodying the incredible soul you are.