Joanna and Kristine Carollo said life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people is drastically different today than it was 30 to 40 years ago, but the community still faces issues.
They said people are more accepting of the LGBTQ+ population today; legislation is not.
Joanna, 55, and Kristine, 49, first connected on the dating website Plenty of Fish and dated for about two years before getting married in October 2020.
Joanna lives in Omaha and Kristine lives in Olathe, Kansas. Joanna and Kristine each have a teenage daughter from previous marriages. Joanna said that finding a soulmate can happen at any age.
“It may not be when you’re 18, or 28 or 38, maybe when you’re in your 50s,” she said. “The universe has a plan for all of us, and when it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.”
She said there has been a shift in LGBTQ+ support in recent years.
“The way things were when I was younger and growing up versus now are complete opposites,” Joanna said. “These kids nowadays have no idea how easy they have it, and I don’t think they really appreciate what the older generation actually did for them.”
Joanna said she didn’t openly talk about her sexuality until later in her life because being gay was so taboo in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Back then you were just afraid to have something happen to you,” Joanna said. “It was just a lot harder than it is now, where it is okay to be gay.”
She said coming out to anyone was a risk because of the verbal and physical violence often targeted towards LGBTQ+ individuals.
“I really didn’t come out until my late 20s because of everything that I had seen, and it was just people getting berated with abusive language or getting the crap beat of them or getting fired from jobs or not being able to get a job,” Joanna said.
Kristine said this widely held nonacceptance contradicts the public’s attitude in 2021.
“It seems like nowadays for a lot of the younger crowd, it’s popular to be gay,” Kristine said.
Public acceptance of LGBTQ+ people has evolved, yet there are currently no explicit, comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identification in Nebraska or Kansas.
“That’s very scary,” Kristine said.
Even though city ordinances protect LGBTQ+ individuals from employment discrimination in Olathe and other cities in Kansas, Kristine said when she came out about two and a half years ago, she was scared to tell her coworkers about her sexuality.
“I was scared that I might lose my job because I work for a company that is pretty conservative, and I just didn’t know what they would think,” she said. “Luckily, it’s perfectly fine and I’ve been accepted.”
Joanna said she doesn’t think workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation will be outlawed at a statewide level during her lifetime or her 14-year-old daughter’s lifetime.
“I’ve lived with this my entire life, and I’ve never had protection from anything when it comes to a job,” Joanna said. “Would it be great? Yes, it would. Do I see it happening? Not any time in the near future.”
Joanna said this could be because not all LGBTQ+ people fight for the same political issues.
“I just think there’s not enough of us that fight for the right causes,” Joanna said.
She said issues such as workplace discrimination may not be a top priority for some right now.
“I think there’s other things that these groups are focusing on and not the things that really matter. We’re more consumed about labels and things of that nature,” Joanna said.
The Carollos said they do not actively participate in the LGBTQ+ community in Omaha or Olathe.
Joanna said she wishes groups within the LGBTQ+ community were more accepting of her conservative political and social views. She said because of this issue she does not closely associate herself with the community.
“There’s not that many LGBTs that are Republicans, and so I try to stay away from that because we don’t have the same views,” Joanna said. “Their attitude and mentality is just not the same as mine. It’s just not my cup of tea.”
The Carollos said the evolution of gender identity terminology and political correctness currently creates a disconnect between them and many members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“You can’t even be friendly to somebody without being called out because you said ma’am or sir or whatever it is,” Kristine said. “You’re not supposed to do that nowadays. But that’s a form of respect as well. It’s harder nowadays, I think, just from our viewpoint.”
Kristine said while the two were dating, she joined a group on Facebook called Kansas City Lesbians. They thought it was a great idea and got involved with a few events. But Kristine said ultimately it was not a place for them due to the judgmental attitudes of the group.
“People are just so judgmental,” she said. “The labels that are put on people are just so bad. We don’t need to be labeled anymore than we already are. So it just wasn’t a community for us unfortunately.”
Joanna said the challenges and successes she has endured have led her to unconditional love.
“I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t have regrets, and I’m thankful for everything positive and negative that has happened in my life because it’s brought me to the woman of my dreams,” she said.