The act of “coming out” has the power to transform every aspect of a woman’s life: family, friendships, career, sexuality, spirituality. An essential element of self-realization, it is the unabashed acceptance of one’s “outlaw” standing in a predominantly heterosexual world. These accounts — sometimes heart-wrenching, often exhilarating — encompass a wide breadth of backgrounds and experiences. From a teenager institutionalized for her passion for women to the mother who must come out to her young sons at the risk of losing them — from the cautious academic to the raucous liberated femme — each woman represented here tells of forging a unique path toward the difficult but emancipating recognition of herself. Extending from the 1940s to the present day, these intensely personal stories in turn reflect a unique history of the changing social mores that affected each woman’s ability to determine the shape of her own life. Together they form an ornate tapestry of lesbian and bisexual experience in the United States over the past half-century.