Updated: Feb 1
I want to share my personal Once Upon A Hetero story. As the creator of this platform, I had to interview myself, which was a lot like talking to myself. I wanted to answer the questions that I thought others might want answered. This platform is all about vulnerability, connection, and holding a safe space for expression. I do hope you enjoy reading my story, share my story with someone who may need it, and share your thoughts with me in the comments.
Tell me, what is the gist of the relationship you had with your ex-husband, like the details you’d share with a stranger on how long you were together?
I sometimes find myself forgetting the exact date that I got married until Facebook brings up the memories it thought I needed reminding of. I got married on September 15, 2013, but I need to confirm the date with Facebook or look at the saved wedding invitation I just can’t seem to let go of (it’s so gorgeous). My marriage was mostly easy-going and full of happy immature laughter. We started dating after I’d gone through one of life’s crappiest moments and he was present in a moment when I didn’t trust many people. I honestly can’t even remember the very first time I’d seen him or the exact moment we met. What I do remember most now is how much laughter I had while I was with him. I will admit, I am a more serious person, and only occasionally will I be a complete goofball. If I had to sum up my marriage with one word it would be, easy.
Was there a time in your relationship where you discussed your attraction to women?
I can’t shake the memory of the very first time I told my ex-husband about my attraction to women. We stopped to get ice cream on the way back to Houston from our date on the boardwalk in Kemah, TX. We sat in my green 1997 Honda Civic with the ashiest hood I have ever seen and he decided he wanted to play a game of swapping secrets. He wasn’t my husband at the time and we’d been in a relationship close to two years. We began sharing secrets that grew with intensity as the game of sharing carried on. He’d shared a secret that stunned me and made me reevaluate myself and our relationship. Our secret sharing wasn’t to try and “one-up” each other but what he shared made me feel comfortable to be vulnerable. I shared the details of the shame my mom made me feel when I expressed my attraction to girls during my freshman year in high school and the painful aftermath of that experience. I guess the bond we created that night sent our relationship to a different level. That night, I’ll never forget. We understood one another that night, but I didn’t quite yet understand what it meant to have that truth out in the open. Our relationship went on and less than a year from our night of bonding he proposed and we were married a year and five months later.
When did the time come that you found yourself thinking about being with a woman?
In the earlier years, I didn’t think about being with anyone while I was with him, let alone think about being with a woman. I was in honeymoon bliss. We lived our lives and as with many relationships, you hit bumps in the road. We began couples therapy with 2 different therapists, one male, and one female. We were told many things during our sessions and often made it out unscathed. For a long time, I was in school during the day, working an internship in the afternoon, and working crazy overnight hours at a 24-hour grocery store. Oftentimes, I would have music blaring in my headphones trying to stay awake so I could make it through the night of stocking the store shelves. For people that know me personally, they’d easily say I am not a person that accepts a casual hello shoulder touch from a stranger. I am like the matrix to get out of people touching me without my permission and because of this, I am always reading body language. One night, a woman touched my shoulder to get my attention as my music was blasting and she wanted to know where she could find an item in the store. I can’t remember what she’d been looking for but I remember feeling like she was giving me once overs as we walked to find the item. I showed her where the item was and her eyes slowly rolled over me as the words thank you left her lips. That was the first time since high school where a woman made me nervous. I didn’t immediately think, “Oh Katherine, you’re gay,” but I noted the experience. Some time passed and I got that same nervous feeling when a woman I had a class with asked if I wanted to study at her house for our upcoming exam. I declined and made up some excuse to get out of it and immediately told my best friend I had something I needed to run by her. I needed to talk about the feelings that were coming up with certain women. Those were the earliest times during my relationship that I considered what it would be like to be with a woman.
How did you differentiate between him just not being the right guy for you vs realizing you were attracted to a different gender?
I spent so much time thinking about if I would be happy if I had the same person bottled up inside a woman, and the answer was no. I thought about being with another guy altogether and there wasn’t any excitement there. I didn’t want my ex-husband to change. I wanted him to continue to be the great man that he was but I wanted out. I got into therapy and could admit that yes, our marital problems made me open to seeing women as an option, but my truth was that I had been stifled by shame. I wish at a younger age I possessed the kind of “I’m doing what the hell is best for me,” attitude as I do now but I do not regret getting married nor sharing the time spent with the man I married. When I thought about women I would think about the liberation that would come from finding my person. It’s just different with women, women gave me a rush that I never got from a man, even the one I married.
How difficult was it to decide to terminate your marriage?
Difficult isn’t even the best word to describe the process, it was exhausting. I began envisioning my life if I were never married but it didn’t help as I tend to focus on reality. So, I started to dream about being divorced and like many people packing up my life and living in another city. I don’t know why my brain shifts to wanting to move cities to achieve new heights in happiness. I googled, “gay-friendly-cities”, “friendly-gay-cities-for-black-women,” they were out there but I love my home. I love Houston. And because I focus on reality, moving to another city after the price tag of divorce wasn’t reasonable. Finally, I settled on making a Pinterest board that reflected the life I wanted down to the details of the décor I wanted in my new place.
When the time was right, what did you tell your husband? How did you decide the time was right? What was his reaction?
It took 8 months of envisioning what my life would look like after divorce. I was someone who hadn’t made it to thirty and many people want to be married by 30. I decided it was time to tell my husband all the revisited therapy wasn’t working. I wanted to tell him in an open space but not super public as I knew he’d be uncomfortable speaking if someone was within earshot. One day we went for a hike and I said,
“I like women and I know that isn’t going to change. I’ve always been queer, it wasn’t accepted by my family so I opted for an acceptable lifestyle, but now that my eyes are wide open I can’t voluntarily shut them and stay married to you.”
Believe me, I considered suffering through my marriage unhappily and living a half-fulfilled life because I was afraid to let people down, scared to fail. Hell, my husband asked me to remain married to him even if I wasn’t happy but I know now he was asking from a place of fear. A person I trusted to hold space for my truth during my discovery told me, “you took a vow before God that you’d stay married through all things and now you’re looking to end it.” My mother who has always wanted grandchildren said, “if you are going to be gay just please, for me, don’t have children or you’ll make them gay.” The moment I told him I made a decision for myself that would impact both of us he began showing sides of himself that were unpleasant. I continued to go to therapy which helped me come up with a plan to leave and I was gone seven months after having the conversation with him.
What was it like for people to find out you weren’t married anymore? How did you navigate your new truth?
It was strange in the beginning. In conversation with people, they would share they just saw my husband while out somewhere and they were wondering where I was. I’d pretend to know the place they were speaking of and quickly tell them I couldn't make it because I was working. I wasn’t ready to explain I petitioned for a divorce because I wanted out to explore a truth I was denied early in life. I am ashamed to say but I would express some truthful hardships from my marriage as the only cause for our divorce. I wasn’t ready for people to see me in the light I saw myself living in. I spent decades hiding in shadows and that was my comfort zone. Part of me finding my pride was deciding I wouldn’t run from correcting people if they asked about my husband. I took the biggest leap of “out-ness” and pride when I decided to share my company Once Upon A Hetero with the world. Everyone knows we live different lives from one social platform to the next and when I shared I was building an LGBT community on my personal Facebook page things got real. I posted the launch of my website and was shaking and in tears waiting for the backlash from people I cared about. The first person to comment and place a heart emoji was my mom and it meant so much as I know where we started vs where we are today.
What was your first time feeling like part of the LGBT community?
It was after my divorce finalized. I went to Pearl Bar Houston, a local lesbian bar. I had gone many times before with friends from college but the time I visited after the ink dried it felt like I was home. I felt like it was okay to look at women and to accept flirty eyes from across the room. It felt like the rays shinning off the hanging disco ball illuminated the glow I felt within. I went to Houston’s pride that same year and hugged people tighter because I found my meaning of pride.
Was there someone that helped you during your journey?
I am indebted to two women, one I spent years working with who has never held a candle to my pain. The other is someone who asked me a very important question after a work trip to Austin, TX, she asked, “why are you placing the determinants of your happiness in the hands of someone else?” Essentially, the first woman allowed me to be vulnerable and the second encouraged me to take charge of my path.
In the early stages of your journey, did you know someone who had gone through a similar journey?
Absolutely not! I searched for relatable content on Google, TV shows, movies, and in books and didn’t find much that helped me. It would’ve helped to have a community of people that understood the feelings I was going through and could normalize and validate my feelings. Having that community would have helped pull me out of the deep shadows of shame. As legendary author Brené Brown expressed, there is a huge difference between sympathy and empathy, I needed empathy in the hardest moments of my journey. I didn’t find a lane I fit into so I created one with Once Upon A Hetero. I began by creating a Meetup online and hosting in-person events (pre-Covid) to find my tribe. Just as I thought I was alone or downright crazy others were going through the same situation.
What advice would you give to someone currently going through this journey of self-discovery?
First, I advise anyone going through this or who has experienced this to join the Once Upon A Hetero Community on all platforms and share your story through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, DM’s, or in our social media comment sections as I know it will create a rainbow brick path for someone else who feels lost, alone, or shame. Second, give your partner time to come to terms with your truth as I’m sure you’ve had time to throw it around in your head quietly or tell your partner the moment you have the thought so it doesn’t seem like it’s coming from left field. Third, find a good therapist as it helped me to talk speak with a professional who could give me sound advice (Thanks Dr. Mo). Lastly, if you have children, think about yourself as a child, would you have wanted your parent to live a life of unhappiness out of fear of letting someone down or live a life they could be proud of?