Happy Pride Month! With Love Out Loud, Well + Good is celebrating all that love – and respect, representation and equality – for all. Look back every month for discussions among LGBTQ + community ideological leaders on how their identities affect their well-being.
I am Claire Wasserman, co-founder of Ladies Get Paid, an educational platform and global community focused on helping people who are identified as women in their lives, especially in the field of work and money. (I am also the author of a book of the same name.) In the process of creating this company, I met my current wife, Ashley Lewis, who is the co-founder and CEO. But, when we met, I was married to a man and not known as a queer.
In honor of Pride Month, Ashley talked about compromising my own sexuality, both personally and as a couple — the loss of the “direct” privilege I felt when I left my husband, and how Ashley felt about falling in love with someone. Who was in such an uncertain place in the journey of his own identity. We talked about the power of exposure and that no matter how much you think self-consciously, ultimately you don’t know what to do. And, most importantly, we reflect on how wonderful and powerful it is to have a relationship with another woman and in marriage.
Claire Wasserman: To begin with, let’s talk about the formation of the Ladies Gate Ped: In 2016, I was frustrated and angry about the gender pay gap and the leadership gap and the investment gap – and the lack of awareness about what I personally could do. Fighting issues are so systemic. I thought, Well, let’s start by talking about it. So, I started organizing town halls for women to talk about money.
I quickly realized that I was not alone in my frustration, and that our pay negotiations and our money investment were a great starting point for change. Along with career and money coaches, I organized workshops for women-identifying people to move forward in their lives.
I also created a slack group – and then you came, Ashley. What made you join the community, and what was your first impression of me? Did you know i was weird
Ashley Lewis: I spent most of my career working in the technical field, and I found that the man I worked for made more money than I did. There were no more hike rooms, and I wanted to do something different – run some more missions. A friend sent me a link to the Ladies Get Paid, and I was like, Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. I was thinking of finding a new job and I was looking for a girlfriend. So, I thought this would be the perfect place for me to poke around for both of them.
I had a really deep experience at my first Ladies Get Paid program, which focused on Impostor Syndrome. This was the first time I was in a room with other women who were struggling with things like that. I met you there for the first time, although we emailed in an incredibly “branded” way: when you saw my work email when I signed up, you sent me a message asking for money.
CW: You worked for a company that I thought could be a good sponsor! I created Ladies Gate Ped I Pay the women you need! What I didn’t know was that I needed you.
Well, now for the story to come: I was married to a man for a year, and I just turned 30. At the time, I was identified as self-conscious, which is kind of ridiculous. Now think again. You taught me this great expression: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” So I think I was self-conscious, but only to a certain extent. I didn’t have many female friends; I also always had a boyfriend, but it was always a long distance. Looking back, these relationships acted as a safety net, or maybe a crutch, where I don’t really have to explore who I am.
I was also focused on a great career, but things changed when I immersed myself in the women’s community with the Ladies Get Paid. It was after the 2016 presidential election, so there was a lot of strong female energy swirling – a lot of turmoil. And I began to question my sexuality. Ashley, as an out and proud lesbian, how did you feel when I saw her fighting with this stuff?
AL: In that first episode, you were mediating the panel and I remember seeing that you wore the ring. After a while we became friends. I remember hanging out in these cafes and bars with our other friends, trying to get our shit out. I remember you said that you always considered women beautiful.
I think queer culture has spread very fast in the last few years. My first job outside of college was to organize for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, trans, and queer civil rights group. We were amazed at how quickly, for example, so many dominoes fell around marriage equality – we expected it to take another 10 years.
Such progress has also changed the way people interact with diverse cultures. For example, many people will say that they did not know that teenage bullying of queer children is such a big problem until they see it. Exhilaration Or Modern family. For many people, those two programs were the first instances of exposure to queer people without actively searching for queer content. Although corporate pride is often on display now, it was really meaningful at the time of the exposure.
And so, again, I think there were a lot of people, like you, who had no exposure to it. Go back to the overall saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”, you didn’t have anything to make you feel attracted to another woman. And then with the Ladies Gate Ped, spending a lot of time with women and that energy experience changed things.
CW: To be clear – you’re going to laugh – I’ve been to music theater all my life, so I’ve definitely been exposed to gay culture, but especially male gay culture. I didn’t know any out lesbians. And if you don’t have exposure to anything, then it really limits your world, and what you think is possible for you and what you think you deserve. Meeting you and getting to know other gay and queer people shows me that there are other ways in this world. I knew I was attracted to you, for sure. But I wouldn’t label it that way then. I just had butterflies in my stomach.
AL: I think there was a point when we both knew we would be very important in each other’s lives, and we didn’t know what that would look like.
CW: I should back up and make it clear that we decided to work well before I could feel or express my feelings for you.
AL: Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either, Looks like BT aint for me either.
CW: Then, my husband suggested we have an open marriage, and if this is a big framework for some people, for me, it felt like proof that something was not right in my marriage. And I felt attracted to women — I thought I should look for that. But as soon as it happened, you and I settled down together, and it was easy to be with you, as hard and scary as breaking up a marriage or breaking someone’s heart. I never questioned whether I was making the right decision. And for that, I am very, very grateful, for your patience and your faith, because I was not an easy person to fight.
AL: I’m definitely not down to having an open relationship with you and your husband. It was difficult for me. The number one rule about being a lesbian is to never fall in love with a straight girl. I was afraid to fall in love with you or be in a relationship with you because I was like, Guys, this girl can mess me up-Busily and personally.
I was afraid you were going to wander around town for a short vacation in “Lage Pond” and then be like “no need” and come back, because that happens a lot. So I’m like, Well, this is an infant gay. What are we doing here It took you a long time to unpack what you thought was strange and spectrum. Like you and I fall into many different parts of the spectrum, but we are still on the same side. I’m all the way to the end of the Kinsey scale and you’re close in the middle. But that doesn’t mean you’re not the kind of person who says, “Yeah, women are my jam.”
CW: I felt pressured to label it. It was, are you gay? Are you straight Are you two Queer? But if I’m weird, am I not a lesbian? And what are its effects – between me and me, between me and you, and then the larger society.
AL: And the meaning of those words continues to evolve. It’s good that we’re making progress and learning more and being more inclusive for all people. Progress is progress.
CW: I would like to take this one step further and say that progress is a process – just trying to get out of this stuff while being as kind to yourself as possible. I had a lot of guilt feelings, like, how could I not have known sooner? How can I not be more vocal in support of the gay community? I also caught up with the loss of “direct privilege”, what you said.
My ex-husband is this 6’4 ” white man, and you’re 5’0 ” and I’m only 5’3 ”, and it doesn’t make me feel as safe as we walk down. The way Even when thinking about where to go on vacation, I remember you telling me scary stories about the place you went which was super homophobic. Even the idea of having children – we can’t just snap our fingers and get pregnant. This is actually the hardest part I’ve ever had to end my relationship with.
We got married in January, and we hope to start a family soon, and we have conversations that I never expected to grow up. It was not part of the calculus, but it is very beautiful. I mean, I like that we can be very aware of this.
AL: Yes, but we don’t have to look for the silver lining either Is A sad thing, objectively. We don’t have any children, whether they are your genes or mine, they will be our children. It’s not an issue, “You’re not my blood,” but it’s very likely that we’ll be like a really good kid. For me, the world is less because of it.
CW: Let’s discuss and wrap up our favorite parts of being with another woman. Or pieces of advice, words of wisdom, things you’ve learned in this whole process of coming out of me that you want to share.
AL: I came out later in life. I didn’t really realize until I was 21 that I would be shocked by the social effects, but I’ve never been in a relationship with a man. One of the things I love about being in a relationship with a woman is that it’s the kind of relationship I’ve always wanted to have.
I just love women, and that’s it. I always have, I always will. I am a very emotional person. I always cry, I have a lot of contact with my emotions, and not stereotyped genders. I love vibes with women and sharing rooms is really nice. Double than cloth.
CW: I think I’m wearing your shirt now. Being emotionally close can be very intense and tiring, but ultimately it means we feel fully alive and in sync, and that feels really good.
AL: Yes I encourage everyone to try this Pride Month.
CW: We welcome you with open arms.
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