Coming out later in life
Revealing that you are a lesbian or gay is an important milestone in your life. Greater acceptance of society allows people to get out earlier in life. More than half of gay men surveyed in 2013 and nearly 40% of lesbian women said 20% went with friends and family before the age of 20.
The decision is not easy for everyone. Stigma and discrimination still exist. The 3 million LGBTQ Americans over the age of 50 waited many years to get out. Others not yet.
Meet two people over the age of 50, why they waited and how they got out has changed their lives.
Christopher Adams: How I finally stopped telling myself and everyone else
I’m a 52-year-old gay man, and last year was the year I finally chose to be open about who I am. I’m sorry I didn’t do it much earlier. I’ve spent decades fighting for who I am, and it’s only kept my full potential. Lying to oneself is worse than lying to a loved one, and I’ve been doing both for a long time. I spent almost 30 years of my life knowing that I would keep a part of me locked inside.
I always had a valid excuse why I couldn’t be who I am around the audience. I was constantly trying to improve myself and my career, including building my own business, ModestFish. I saw that it had the power to sustain my sexuality.
Last year I tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily, I fully recovered, but the fear caused by this damn virus for almost a month was the impetus I needed. The first person I told was a 29-year-old daughter. I was in the hospital at the time, so I felt more than a confession of the death of the one who revealed it to me. But he insisted that there was nothing negative when he left.
My daughter and I have always been very close, and she has been more supportive than anyone. It was the appreciation of who I am as a person that prompted me to re-inspire that feeling. It showed me what it was like to care for someone like I really am. I thought I could get that kind of acceptance, take advantage of the opportunity and get it from the rest of the world. My small group of friends was also very supportive. Needless to say they would be by my side. That didn’t change anything about how they saw me.
Before last year, I rarely maintained a serious relationship because I always kept it a secret. When I wasn’t afraid to be myself, I met someone. I am dating again, publicly and proudly. I’ve been seeing the most amazing man for over 4 months.
If you’re thinking about getting out, take the smallest step, because it can have the biggest impact. No one asks you to shout at the world who you are, but at least you should shout at people you trust. Once you show your strength, getting out will be easier than you ever imagined. Spending almost 30 years of my life has taught me that you don’t deserve to keep what you’re inside. Not for 30 years. Not even for 30 days.
Paulette Thomas: I release fear and secrecy and embrace who I am
I knew I was attracted to women when I was 7, but I didn’t know what that was. The person I took my guidance from was my mother. I thought he didn’t love if she knew I was attracted to girls. My secret started when I was young, and secrets create more secrets.
The intention in my life was never to get married, but I wanted to have children. Then I realized that the only way to have children was to have sex with a man. It was safer not to get out. After I had kids I thought no one would know my secret.
I continued down that path. I raised my children and raised my family. But I felt very comfortable and I was locked inside. My emotions were very heavy. I saw women, and they attracted me a lot. It was not confusing, but a matter of denial.
As I got older, I knew I had to make a plan. I could no longer live with my husband. This plan lasted for 6 years. After I divorced, I got out.
The process was harder than I expected. When everyone around me was talking about my husband or wife, I couldn’t share anything. It was like being behind a fence and almost invisible. I couldn’t share part of it because I was worried that people would judge me.
One of the hardest things was dealing with my faith. I was a Catholic, but have been a baptist ever since. It’s hard to go to a church and they tell you that you feel bad there.
My three kids love me no matter what, but they have had different reactions when they leave. One of my daughters is also a lesbian, but my other daughter didn’t handle the news very well. He was homophobic. I told my kids, “This is my life, but I’m your mom and you’ll always come with me,” and they do.
My sister didn’t answer well either, but that’s all I lied about. We were on the phone, talking for hours, while I tried to give myself the courage to tell. He was putting pressure on me, “Tell me. Tell me already.” I didn’t know what to say, so I told him I was blind. He was so worried that I finally accepted, “No, I want to tell you that I’m really gay.” He said, “What? I already knew that! Why did you lie to me about blindness?” We didn’t talk for a year.
It is gratifying to finally be able to tell my truth. Now I can live a healthy life in my body and have real and open conversations with people. My greatest joy was finding my wife. We met 5 years ago at the LGBT Elders (SAGE) office and services. I asked him to come out to dance, and we did. We have been married for 3 years.
If you’re thinking of getting out, do it. I’ve heard so many stories of people who didn’t come out until the age of 80 or who didn’t come out at all. In addition to stealing your life from people who care about yourself, you also take away from them who you are.
The people God has put in place for you will always be there for you. Give them a place to get used to the idea, but at least give them that opportunity.