Toronto
2 min

The only lesbians in the entire town

'Everything I've done has been because I love Stef'

DRESSED UP. Judy Horner and Stefanie Standish met on-line. Credit: Xtra files

“I fell into the wrong room,” says Judy Horner about one of her first times on the Internet.



“I was in the women’s chat room, and fell into the lesbian chat room. Not being a computer geek, I couldn’t get out,” says Horner, 38, who lives in the tiny town of Shawville, Quebec.



“This person helped me get out – and that person was Stef.”



“From the first time I spoke to Judy, there was some kind of connection there,” says New Zealander Stefanie Standish, 33.



That first meeting took place in December 1998. Both women began spending hours at the computer screen, chatting about their lives, discovering common interests – and falling in love.



Hours on-line became hours on the phone – 14 hours on the phone was their longest date.



“You know it’s bad when the phone company calls and says, ‘Someone else must be using your line,'” laughs Horner. “‘Someone must have got on your phone and called New Zealand.'” Her first phone bill after meeting Standish was $1,300.



By the end of their first month “together,” the two decided it was time to meet in person.



“We were spending all-nighters on the computer,” says Standish. “And then she was out working when I was sleeping. I said to myself, ‘This is ridiculous.'”



The two decided to take a risk. So in January 1999, Standish spent 42 hours on airplanes, coming to meet Horner in Canada.



“My mother was quite funny about the whole thing,” says Standish. “She kept asking me, ‘What if you get there and you look at her and she’s really ugly?'”



But the two found that each was just what the other had hoped. They say that while learning to live together is an ongoing learning process, it was living in Shawville that became the big challenge.



“I think we kind of made history in a sense, being the first out couple,” says Horner, who has lived all her life in the town of 2,000. “Growing up, you’d hear rumours about this person or that person might be gay, but that person just left town.”



The couple have had rocks thrown at their house, and Horner’s bicycle was stolen. When Standish first arrived, the Royal Bank in town said they had to hold her funds for seven weeks – until a brief call by Horner to the director of the Bank Of Canada (the regulatory agency).



“I haven’t heard from my mom in a year,” says Horner, who wasn’t out before Standish arrived. “And she lives 20 minutes away. That’s been really hard – I’m finally happy, she should be happy for me.” Despite the unfriendliness of the people around them, Horner and Standish had a wedding ceremony in March 1999, inviting the friends and family who support them.



The couple needs a permanent residence so Standish, a musician, can apply to be a landed immigrant, but say eventually they’re going to have to move. But things are a bit too nasty for the pair to want to stay in Shawville forever.



“It’s so close-minded, it’s impossible to live sometimes,” says Standish.



“My great great great great-grandfather was the first mayor of this town,” says Horner. “It’s hard to know that my family settled this town and now I have to leave.”



“Everything I’ve done has been because I love Stef,” she adds.



“Not to prove anything, and not to show off to this town.”



The two women say they’re lonely being Shawville’s entire gay and lesbian community. To get in touch, e-mail singceline@yahoo.com.