Paulette Thomas-Martin, 68 & Pat Martin, 68
56 Years Lost, Collectively
Paulette and her wife, Pat, had two very different experiences coming out as lesbian. Both knew their sexuality at a young age, but Paulette struggled to find acceptance among the cultural norms of being openly gay in Hawaii. Paulette was married with children and even expressed anti-gay sentiments before she came out. Pat came out at 16. Neither of their families accepted their truth. In addition to enduring family hostilities, both women overcame racism and homophobic discrimination before devoting themselves to fight for freedom and equality. They met at SAGE and their marriage is a reminder that being one’s true self, regardless of what society thinks, leads to a happier life.
It was very difficult. I thought if I got married and had a baby, I would be OK. Then I wouldn’t have to tell my mother that I like girls. I wouldn’t have to tell anyone that I like girls. I would be the norm.
— Paulette, on life before coming out
A lot of [LGBT+ seniors] are still not getting medical care because they don’t know how to talk to the doctors.
I came out when I was living in Hawaii. The culture is very accepting. They feel that if you are a gay man, then you have a spirit inside of you, which the family honors and everybody wants to have. They call them mahu. And it’s a being who is gifted by the gods. So, that’s OK. But to be a gay woman or a lesbian was not.
Every time [my mother] would see a gay woman, she would say ‘if one of my children become a bull dike, I’ll kill them.’
Well now we have a lot more freedom in what we’re doing … we’ve earned it. We’ve actually earned the right to be our authentic selves.
— Pat, on life now
When I got my high school diploma, I went to the bathroom and I came back – the dress was gone, and the suit was on. I said, ‘this is me.’
We met at SAGE. She started flirting with me. She called me one rainy night and said, ‘when a lady invites you out, you don’t refuse them.’ OK, so I went. We’ve been together ever since.