Friday, July 2, 2010

Coming Out Late In Life

Coming out is a right of passage for every gay, lesbian, and trangendered person. Its very often a scary and risky experience.  I'm sure that most of us who have been through the process can recall the feelings of hope and fear that mingle together with pure need. After all, your revealing  something about yourself that could potentialy result in losing the love and respect of those closest to us...like out partents, siblings, and friends. Many are the stories of those who have come out only to walk away from the experience with a handfull of accepting friends and an icy relationship with their family. Rare are the stories of complete acceptance but they are becoming more frequent with time. Coming out usually costs us all something for the gains we make in the ability to live honestly....but what happens when we cant find the strength to meet this rite of passage until we are 40? 50?...60? How much harder must the road be when you have the added responsibility of coming out to a spouse and children?

In a wierd synchronicity this topic hit My husband and me square in the face this week. First through a email sent to us through Youtube from a man seeking help...and secondly through the discovery  of an awsome Youtube channel...Coming Out Late (but Great), chronicling the stories of people coming out later in life. More after the fold...



Our Email boxes(plural) get jammed with correspondance...as a result sometimes we can't always get back to people in a timely manner. It was on one of these occasions that Jay brought to light an email that struck at my heart...titled "HELP". It was from a 52 year old man seeking guidance on how to come out. The pain and desperation in his heart is evident in his words:

I've been watching "coming out stories" on Youtube for about a month and saw  both of yours.

This is the first time I've ever opened up to anyone. I'm a little older than the both of you. I just turned 52. My story starts out much like Jay's. I came from similar upbingings and circumstances. I too tried to "fit in". I dated girls and like Jay, one became Pregnant. This is where my life takes a tragic turn personally...I married.

I have been painfully faithfull to my wife for 29 years I have four children. The Youngest is 18. I have always put my children first.May I please ask you both for guidance on how I can break this life long lie I've been living? Support groups, hotline chats,...anything.

I'm losing my mind. I'm so lonely. I'm so lost. I feel like I've betrayed my wife and my family. How could I have been so stupid? I'm so ashamed. I hurt every day.

I pray that you read and respond to my first ever admission of who I really am......I'm gay.

Wow...I couldn't breath for a while after reading that. Many of us have to come to that breaking point before we can say the words "I'm gay". This man clearly has reached that point of being striped down to where he simply can not run from himself any longer. How do you begin to help someone in this much pain...hotlines and support groups will only be the beggining of what will be a painfull...but hopefully freeing experience. Not only for him but also for the family who are going to have to face this with him.

My husband Jays take on this is a little different than my own and since I hate to paraphrase him, I'll let him speak for himself:



Those who come out later in life have many stories to tell...from the emotional and touching like Jims from OutLatebutGreat...to those who can now tell their stories through the humor of hindsight Like Michelle. Some may have married...multiple times...some merely lived single and made excusses for why they never dated. Its men and women who fought their sexualty, considered it a phase, or simply refused to allow themselves to be gay no matter how hard it stared them in the face. Its those who are realizing they are transgendered like Sydney. Its people who may finally realise that the world has changed and mayby there can now be a place for them in it.

I've had conversations with a few people about this and not everyone sees someone coming out later in life in a favorable light. Some see the devastation done to a spouses life as an ultimate selfishness...others think that responsibility to the family they created out rules all...I don't happen to agree here. To my mind, Our culture can be like an emotional meat grinder for gay people. To borrow a phrase from Obi-wan Kenobi..."From a certain point of view"...those who come out are the lucky ones. They  escaped the machine and being ground down by shame, denial, and cultural expectation. Some weren't so lucky. They were too ashamed of who they were and what they wanted...they did what they believed they were supposed to do in life, get married, have kids, and live up to the American dream. They are now coming out of the end of that grinder beaten and chewed up. While they have the responsibility of making their own choices...I think we can be there to help them. They are not the Ted haggerts and George Allen Rekkers doing awfull things to gay people on a daily basis. These are just ordinary people who very easily could have been you or me...I think some compassion is called for.


Those who've come out in the last twenty years have had the benifit of a society much different than the one many of us came up in. You can see gay relationships on t.v. that are positive and loving where before the ONE gay character was usually the joke or the bad guy. The internet has given everyone countless ways to connect with other gay people. from chats, Youtube, social networking sites and a whole host of ways for us to connect to each other. In addition coming out in highschool is not an automatic ticket to a beat down anymore...hell, gay teens are taking their dates to prom!....that will always be amazing to me as a man coming from a time when wearing an earing in the wrong ear meant personal danger.

The world is changing...perhaps only by degrees, but it is changing. Older men and women coming out today did not have the advantage of many of the things we now have. Perhaps they only knew one gay person in their whole town who was the social pariah...perhaps they believed they were the only ones. The reasons why are  endless. Could they have faced those fears and still chosen honesty over the closet...sure, many people did, but not without cost. So many men and women have given up all that they knew to move to a big city for the priviledge of living out of the closet. Not everyone can pay that price...so they paid a different one.

And so too do the spouses of the lately coming out pay a heavy price. I can't imagine how hard it must be to build a life with someone and then be told by their loved one that they are gay. That is an unimaginable pain and the questions they put themselves through are torture by themselves. "Was it all a lie?"..."Did she ever really love me?"...."What other secrets is he keeping?"..."What do I do now?"

Everyone will handle this differently and surely some spouses already have a clue about their husband or wives sexuality long before they can admit it...but that cant make facing the truth any easier. Sometimes... even though a marriage dissolves, it does not mean that the love you shared goes away. Some ex's remain lifelong friends....but not with out alot of work and much truth telling...but at least there is hope for healing and that both spouses can go on to find a form of happines.

But how to begin making it right? Is that even possible?...there are no easy answers to those questions...

The only path ahead I can see is to move forward from where you are, not where you think you should be.  whatever was done in the past...is the past...it can not be changed. Blame society, blame yourself, blame whoever you want...none of that will help. take responsibility for your actions...then and now...not blame. Then begin by taking small steps...

No matter your age, if your coming to the realization you are gay, inform yourself of just what that is. Meet real gay people, listen to the stories of others, get the facts. This may be even more important for a generation of us brought up to see gay people as sick, evil, and perverted. You have to get past all that old baggage. Reach out and learn what it really means to be gay. Give yourself the confidence to know that this is really what you want and that its going to be o.k.....you wont end up the way your parents warned. You'll get the same bumps and bruises along the way...perhaps a couple more because of the way society views us...but thats life...you probably have already experienced that...which is actually a plus..being older means you've learned a thing or two about life and people...make that work for you. Things like dating will be all new again and you will need all those instincts.

The hardest part is the conversations you will need to have with wives or husbands. If lack of honesty was what led you here, only total honesty and truthfullness...no matter how painfull...can be the way home. As much as you are hurting and unsure...they will be tenfold. They will need you. Their may be anger...blame...a mountain of hurt. They are going to have so many questions. You probably will not have all the answers and sometimes its just gong to have to be o.k. to say "I don't know yet" to a couple. But if you shared a lifetime, you can share this too. It is just possible that somewhere down the line it wont hurt so much and you can come together as two people who know each other better than anyone can imagine. It may not be romantic but it may still be something extraordinary.

No matter how hard the outing may be its whats on the other side of that experience that counts and you can make it there. Know that you don't go alone and the more we tell our stories the more people will be able to take those first frightening and painfull steps to seeing in color what used to only be black and white...to being truly alive for the first time.

Please check out Out Late but Greats channel and please reach out if you are taking those first steps..or if you have a story to share.

Until next time dear readers...

14 comments:

  1. BRYAN YOU DID A GREAT JOB ON THIS!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another GREAT post, Bryan, and another GREAT video, Jay.

    I came out pretty early, at 18 (I'm now 33), and I did have many obstacles to overcome. I can only imagine how it must be like for people coming out at a later age.

    But there's something you said, Bryan, that always gets to me:

    "As much as you are hurting and unsure...they will be tenfold. They will need you."

    I think it is SO unfair that this burden always falls on us. I heard it many times from my parents and siblings when I came out, and...Damn, WE are the ones needing support and understanding at such a delicate time, and yet we are supposed to do the hand-holding for the bigots (even if those bigots ARE our loved ones).

    I read this man's letter, andhe must be in such unbearable torment, and still he'll have to be stoic and strong and bear the burden of comforting his family. I hope at least that, if and when he comes out to them, his kids are understanding anc can help him and his wife through it.

    Sorry for the venting, guys, and kudos on another brilliant post!

    Best,
    J.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ james I don't mean to suggest that we take care of everyone else. you have to admit that coming out to your wife of 29 years is alot different than coming out to your parents. You build a life and a relationship with someone for large chunk of your life...you think that this is it for now and forever...and then they come out. Its going to be unimaginably hard for BOTH of them and thats why I suggest that...IF...you can keep talking and be honest...than mayby with time...that hurt and feeling of betrayal may pass and a bond remain. You have to put yourself in each of their shoes...there really is no easy way ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, what a wonderfully written article. And how can I thank you for promoting our channel. The muses definitely led me to start this collab as I would have had no idea of the outpouring of support that would happen. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness and generosity and for helping people find their way to us...others finding their way later in life!!
    Love to you and your beautiful family!

    ReplyDelete
  5. How can I thank you enough for being the wonderful people that you are. This is a beautifully written article. When I thought of starting OutLateButGreat I had no idea that it would be so warmly received or if anyone would even be interested. My muses were definitely at work. Thank you for your kindness here and helping people find us. Sharing love and helping each other along the way is the only way to be! You Rock!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Coming out sets the soul free.
    Being out changes minds. My partner and I are completely out not only to friends and family but also at work and everywhere else. I cannot tell you how many minds we have changed. I can't tell you how many times we have heard.."But you guys don't seem gay!" People rely too much on stereotypes. Especially when we are fighting for our rights at ballot boxes it is so important to be who you are.

    We recently left the United States and upon return we had to fill out the return immigration card. In the rules it said something like.."If you are in the same family you only need to fill out one card." We did. I can't tell you how empowered we felt when the customs agent said.."What is your relationship?" and I said.."He is my partner..we have been together for 19 years" The agent just smiled and said "Welcome home guys.."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bryan - I see what you mean, man. I was mostly venting, because I think that, no matter the scenario, the burden of offering support is unfairly laid on gay people's shoulders.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am 48 and I just came out a few months ago after 20 years of marriage and two kids. My wife is the one I have to thank for pushing me out. She knew the turmoil I was in and told me I was gay, even before I could admit it to myself. I take comfort in knowing that I am not a freak, that there are others like me. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this site.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Brian,
    This is amazing :) My dad recently came out after 24 years of marriage to my mother. So this is an issue that touches close to my heart. I am actually a graduate student in Communication Studies. I am looking to actually conduct a study regarding how identities are formulated after someone comes out later in life. There has been little to no research or even media regrading this even though it's a very important and unique issue. I am looking for people over the age of 30 when they began the coming out process. If you know of anyone that is interested please email me at a.fiebrantz@ttu.edu

    I hope it's appropriate that I posted this here. I am not trying to advertise any business or anything. I am merely an ally and a daughter of an amazing gay man. I've seen his struggles as he has come to terms with his identity and merely looking for others to begin research in this field.
    Thank you so much for your time.
    Aly

    ReplyDelete
  10. These are amazing stories. I am 62, but have known I was gay since I was 28. Coming out has been a decades-long process for me. I came out to 4 straight people when I first discovered I was gay. All but one of them had a 'fit' so i decided I'd never tell another straight person for as long as I live. It was until 20 years later that I finally told my sister and an aunt and uncle then a few years later, my mother. They were all OK with it. My father who passed away only 5 years ago, was anti-gay so I never told him. Finally, I found a partner whom I figured would be for life, so I told my brother and most of my closest friends. I am not out to the 'false friends' who call themselves 'Christian' but still hate gays and am not out in my workplace. I left my gay-hating Catholic church several years ago to go to a similar but much more accepting Episcopal church.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bryan,
    Your video really touched me. I have felt all those things you have mentioned, including a bigoted father who felt that all gays have something seriously wrong with them, and should all be shot.
    I'm 60 years old and have been closeted all my life. I was married for 10 years. Getting married seemed to be the thing to do at the time, hiding my true feelings and living a lie. The marriage ended in a bitter divorce, with me custodial parent of 3 children, that I adore, and centered my life around. Getting married does not make one "not gay". Having children doesn't make one "not gay". It's just all a pretense, hiding my true feelings. Now that my children have grown, I've decided to become what I really am. For me, coming out has been a slow and painful process. It started when at work, when someone knew someone who saw my personal ad at a dating service. When asked about it, I did not deny it, just told the truth. Fortunately they were surprisingly accepting, with a little teasing, of course, but it's ok.
    I've met a wonderful man who I just adore, and I know he has feelings for me as well. I've been seeing for a year, and I'm hoping for a life time arrangement.
    I still have not told my family, or my children for fear of rejection. My parents have passed away. I know my mother (mothers always know) would have accepted, but the words of my father still taunt me. I have vowed that after my parents have left, I would come out to the world. I envy people like you who can be so open and candid about it. I cannot commit to any relationship until this is resolved. Maybe I'm just making it hard on myself, and it won't be the "baptism of fire" I'm imagining it to be. Don't I deserve happiness in my life?

    ReplyDelete
  12. My husband told me he was gay 3 weeks ago after 28 years of very happy very sexual marriage and two teenage children. I am devastated. Believe me, I wished he hadn't married me, I would have been quite happy to marry a heterosexual man and not have the crippling pain. His freedom is my prison. I feel too old to start again, have lost trust in men and lost the love of my life, and no, being his friend will not compensate for the fact he is walking away. I feel like he has died and if I didn't have children I would happily die.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am 55 years old and came out a couple of months ago. I knew I was different since I was 13 years old and fought against my true nature for the next 42 years. My very close friends knew but I have decided to be out at work and with other friends. It has been a whirlwind of emotions and throw in a crush and I was absolutely nuts. My ex-girlfriend has become one of my biggest allies. She has helped me to stay grounded even though at times I ignored her. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  14. I envy your freedom! struggling at over 50 wishing i could come out and juat be me. Unfortunately that wont fly.in my work engineering and managing road construction.. Have worked hard for my career. I too rely on an ex gf to cover for me - at work and with friends at home. i know its wrong to keep it under wraps, pretend to date woman,., talk with the guys about em all the while thinking of a man. Im between a rock and a hard place (npi) but i will wait and move far away when i retire to start a life out of the closet. Thanks for a great post.
    Chris
    SW FL

    ReplyDelete