What's even more curious is that Oprah can accept that there's a continuum of sexuality but finds it harder to believe that there can likewise be a continuum of coming out experiences — with some folks knowing and accepting their sexuality from early on, others who had an idea early on but suppressed it for a variety of reasons, to those who truly did not have a clue until they happened to fall for someone of the same sex.
One thing I personally find annoying is Oprah's seeming refusal to use the word lesbian unless she's reading a direct quote from an email or book. She consistently uses gay even if the woman speaking with her consistently uses lesbian. True, not every woman-loving-woman embraces that word, but when someone does, generally it's respectful to use the term someone claims for themselves.
Bisexuality was touched on briefly, as when Jo-Ann and John shared their story. John told Oprah that he always knew Jo-Ann had “a bit of bisexuality in her,” because when they were first dating, she told him that she'd been attracted to women. Apparently none of the women who appeared on the show today currently self-identify as bisexual.
And I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that no one mentioned polyamory. Nikki said she thought she had three choices: stay in her marriage and be unhappy; stay in her marriage and have affairs with women; or leave her marriage. For some women, especially women who identify more as bisexual, a fourth option could be to stay in the marriage but make the transition to a polyamorous relationship. Perhaps in a future episode Oprah can take on that topic.
Fleisher checked in with us after viewing the show today, and said that she was pleased that the producers retained as much content as they did. One of the three segments featuring her input was not aired, but Fleisher wasn't disappointed because she felt that it wouldn't have added much to that particular discussion.
She's very pleased that they not only mentioned her book, Living Two Lives, but also showed its cover. Oprah referred to passages from the book when speaking with Fleisher during the show, appearing to have read at least some of it. That's great news for Fleisher and her publisher, Alyson; Oprah's power to sell books is legendary.
Overall, Fleisher has good feelings about the whole Oprah experience and the resulting show. “It was interesting, and hopefully there will be positive things coming from the show.”
When we spoke prior to the airing of the final, edited show, Fleisher mentioned being impressed with the input from the audience members, especially a woman, who is a radio announcer, who told her own moving coming out story. None of the interplay with the audience was included in the final episode, which is a shame. Especially considering that some of the audience members telling their stories were women of color, while all but one of the participants in the show that aired were white. Hopefully some of that content may be available in the future on oprah.com in the “After the Show” feature.
During the show, Nikki expressed her hope that women who are in situations similar to her own will hear that they're not alone, and that there are resources and support available–including Joanne Fleisher's website and book.
Nikki also said that staying in your marriage when it doesn't feel right doesn't do anybody any favors. She cautioned, “You're not giving your full self to your husband or to yourself.”
Authenticity was certainly a theme of this show. Oprah spoke to some of the husbands about their reactions when their wives came out — hurt, surprise, grief — and seemed surprised that they didn't hold lingering grudges. Rather, they all expressed the importance of their wives ultimately being true to themselves.
Oprah's final word: “Whatever your secret, live your own truth; life is too short.”
This episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, while certainly not perfect or as inclusive as it could have been, truly was an improvement from the sensationalized treatment lesbians have received on talk shows in the past. Oprah seemed interested, genuinely curious, and respectful of her guests.
Most telling was the normalization of it all, with a video of Alex and his brother having a picnic with both their mom and her female partner and dad with his male partner. Just another family breaking bread together.
Get Living Two Lives: A Married Women's Guide to
Loving Women at amazon.com