“If you try to flaunt your lifestyle here, you could be burnt out.”


Anita Tai | Contributor

Featured courtesy of Anita Tai

Carol MacDonald is 76 and has lived an unassuming lifestyle for most of her years. She was married to her husband Chris, raised her daughter with him, and worked as a nurse in different hospitals throughout her life. But inside that marriage was a secret hidden even to her.

It was late one night when Chris came home and asked if she was a lesbian.

He mentioned the radio. On the CBC they were interviewing two women whom he said were lesbians. He said the description described Carol perfectly and he asked her the question.

“I recoiled, but the thing was, I couldn’t answer. Basically, I said ‘I don’t know,’” Carol says.

But she had to be sure. So she headed down to the gay and lesbian centre in the Davie Village, Vancouver’s gay district. It took her two hours to gather the courage to enter since she didn’t want to be seen by anyone — but eventually she spoke with a counsellor.

The counsellor asked Carol if she had thought about boys as a teenager. She was relieved.

“I thought ‘Thank god. Yes, I did. This is my saving grace’. I went back to think about when I fantasized about boys and I thought, ‘Oh my god,’ I left my body. I was the boy.”

Carol couldn’t deny it any longer: she was a lesbian.

When she came home that night, she also came to end a marriage. For better or worse, she was out.

When asked about the fear of being open with her sexuality, Carol said she wasn’t afraid.

“It wasn’t too bad in Vancouver. I felt pretty safe. I didn’t feel safe going back to New Brunswick.”

In 2000, Carol went back to her hometown in New Brunswick to take care of her dying parents. It was a small community with equally small-minded people. Shortly after her parents died, she
received threats.

“I got a phone call saying, ‘If you try to flaunt your lifestyle here, you could be burnt out.’ And so I arranged for the house to be sold in 24 hours and I got the heck out of there,” she laughed sheepishly.

But Carol is hopeful. She says that people are being more educated, even within the community. Perceptions of gender and sexuality are becoming more fluid.

“We’re realizing where you are along the continuum, that’s it. We’re all in there somewhere. We’re far more accepting.”

When it comes to the way the climate has changed for the LGBTQ+ community, she says that we’re getting to a good place.

“It seems that things are really, really changing and I think the younger people, for the most part, are far more open. They’re like, you know, who cares?”

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