A Secret Love, a Netflix documentary several years in the making, begins telling the story of Pat and Terry as they call Terry’s doctor, and begin to look for a new place to live. Currently based in Illinois, the pair visits Terry’s family in Alberta, Canada, greeted with a group hug. Diana, Terry’s niece, explains that Auntie Terry has been in her life since day one and sees Terry almost as her mother. Diana has the closest relationship with Terry out of her family and didn’t know that Terry was gay until three years ago.
Terry arrived in the United States in the 1940s, recruited to play professional baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. While traveling with the team, Terry’s teammate and friend had told her “what was going on with the other girls”, who were intimate with other women. Terry recalled that she had never heard of such a thing, and would lock her door and barricade it with cabinets and dressers – she didn’t want any of those people to come into her room at night.
Then she meets Pat. The two met at a hockey rink and became lovers when Pat wrote a letter to Terry, including that “she can only hope that the feeling is mutual”. They are still together 65 and half years later. The pair met in Canada, but chose to move to Chicago to look for a more open minded environment. Still, the pair would hide their relationship from others, including their families. They even checked into hotels together, with no luggage to protect their secret.
When the young pair would travel back to Canada to see Terry’s family, it was wonderful. Terry’s family would always treat Pat as one of their own; though they didn’t know the true nature of the relationship. Even as an older woman, Terry was terrified to reveal the truth to her family. Though the acceptance of Pat by Terry’s family doesn’t change when the two reveal that they are partners.
Although, the overall acceptance didn’t come without complications, as Diana felt betrayed that Terry had not have told her sooner. Another of Terry’s nieces felt that Terry and Pat were living in sin, but she still loved them. For Pat, she only had one living relative – her brother. His response to Pat’s sexuality was silence, and then the command that she not tell any of his family.
In a stunning example of the complications of family and love, Terry’s niece, who believed that they were living in sin, sings the couple a love song while they are visiting. After the touching moment, Terry turns to Pat and says that after something like that, she wants to get married. So they do.
The documentary includes Pat and Terry’s story as children, and how they grew up before coming together. It gives insights into how their personalities developed, and the importance of chance. The use of old pictures and video clips help provide a clear gaze into their long relationship, and provide interesting and heartwarming transitions as their story carried on. It highlights the important differences in Terry and Pat’s love story. It also does an exemplary job of showing the troubles that everyone faces. Whether it comes to family, living situations, health, or simply growing older.
A Secret Love demonstrates the spectrum of acceptance, open mindedness, and grief. It tells the story of two women who were labelled as “the other”, that still struggled with the same problems as everyone else. Though it doesn’t portray Pat and Terry as “the other”, it portrays them as themselves – two women with a love story that has spanned decades, and surpassed societal objections.
This article was written by a guest contributor