Meredith Baxter's (aka Elyse Keaton of the '80s sitcom Family Ties) announcement that she began dating women 13 years ago, at age 49, has produced a firestorm of publicity (Alex P. Keaton's mom likes girls!), as well as some knowing nods from women around the world. Changing attitudes about gays, as well as the increased confidence that comes with age, has made mature women more comfortable about revealing their sexuality. Heightened awareness and a certain hipness associated with woman-on-woman action—think The L Word and Katy Perry's diddy "I Kissed A Girl"—point to lesbianism as a hot topic in mainstream America. Study: Bisexual Women Are Not Lesbians
For her part, Baxter is using her celebrity to empower other women and men grappling with issues of identity and sexuality. She told NBC's Today show "This is a political act, even though that's not what it feels like to me. If anyone knows someone who's gay or lesbian... they're less likely to vote against them to take away their rights. I can be that lesbian you know now." Cho: "God Is Happy You Are Gay"
Baxter's revelation follows the comings out of other celebrities, including Wanda Sykes, Cynthia Nixon and Kelly McGillis. Seeing a well-known middle-aged figure announce their lesbianism is inspirational and comforting to other late-in-life lesbians, confirming that self-discovery is a lifelong process. Indeed, love can be found at any age and in other forms than society might normally dictate. Comedian (and Jerry Seinfeld ex) Carol Leifer, 53, put it this way "Life threw me a surprise party, not that there's anything wrong with that. I was looking for something fun and chic. I didn't think it would redefine me as a person." Senior Lesbian Couple Wed