For me it was at age 38. For my current clients, it was at age 37, 43, 48, 55, and 60. Age has nothing to do with the decision to come out of the closet, because we all do it at exactly the same time...when we’re ready.
Granted, the longer you wait, the scarier it becomes. On the flip side, the longer you wait, the more maturity you bring to the table and resilience to weather the storm that often comes after saying, “Frankly My Dear I’m Gay.”
Obviously, the journey out of the closet and declaration of “I’m Gay,” comes with a myriad of challenges and joys. However, there are common threads that are unique for those of who’ve chosen to play the “heterosexual for the sake of everyone else game,” until that game is no longer a game that can be played. Whether it’s out of guilt, shame, or leading a dual existence, at some point, the person locked in the closet of being inauthentic, becomes a ticking time bomb that could explode if the pin doesn’t get pulled, setting free their true sexual orientation. Once freed, the often-rocky rollercoaster ride begins. For late bloomers, this new ride, has more hills and valleys than the average individual who’s come out without the additional baggage of spouse and children.
Pitfalls Of Being A Late Bloomer
Damage control. Depending on the situation, married, or married with kids, there’s divorce, alimony, child support, gay parent issues, child development issues, co-parenting battles to wage, plus in-laws, shared friends, etc. Similar to the standard fare heterosexual divorce or split, there’s a lot of emotions and deep tentacles into the relationship to undo. However, the “gay” issue sets a whole new keg of dynamite on fire, typically causing both parties and their supporters to stand firmly in the corners of the boxing ring, waiting to pull the knock out punches.
Betrayal runs deep. 99% of the time, those who’ve been married or in a long-term heterosexual relationship, can’t escape the “How could you do this to your husband/spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend?,” after coming clean about their sexual orientation. Admittedly, those on the outside looking in only see cheat, liar, and bitch/bastard stamped in big scarlet letters on the closet escapee’s head. Ironically, the closet escapees have more than likely been brow beating themselves with similar unloving phrases; it’s simply part of the coming out journey. The difference for the person who’s waited to come out at some point in life beyond, youth or young adult, is the precedence they’ve set living “as if.” This is a hard pill to swallow, not only for the closet escapee, but also for all those in their inner circle.
Immaturity revisited. Be honest. We all act immature. Doesn’t matter if we’re 2 or 100. In some way, just like senior moments, we also have immature moments. Ironically, immaturity seems to be amplified when you come out of the closet later in life. Primarily because suddenly you’re like a kid in the candy store, dating, hooking up, living your gay youth that you missed out on because you did what you thought was right to make everyone else comfortable by hanging out in the closet. Nothing wrong with being a little immature and youthful, the hitch is, you may not think straight (no pun intended), might find yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do, and find that foolish at 40+ doesn’t look any better than at 14.
Oh, you’re one of those. Part of the reason most people finally kick the closet doors down is to be real, authentic, and truthful. Most also do it to finally find acceptance, internally and externally. Sometimes that external acceptance can be bitter sweet. Regardless of the reasons you’re attracted to someone of the same sex – sexually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, all of the above – there will be those, within the gay community who may turn their nose up at you. A very bitchy queen at a bar that up to that point I thought was quite the hot stud once called me a “breeder.” Needless to say he went from stud to dud in about 2 seconds after he found out that I’d done what his parents had done...procreated. Maybe his parents made a mistake!
I’ve wasted to much time. This belief is one of the most common, and understandably so. Regardless of whether you were in a heterosexual relationship, or have been hovering on the fringes of hetero- homosexuality, trying to figure out where you land, it’s often a feeling of so much time wasted getting to the other side of the closet door. Along with that fear also comes performance anxiety, concerns about acceptance in the gay community, and the “What if” syndromes of never finding someone, not really gay, etc. Relax, whatever time you have left after coming out of the closet is exactly the amount of time you were meant to be out of the closet.
Perks Of Being A Late Bloomer
LTR Ready. Even though you’ve been in a heterosexual relationship that was aligned, most often, you’ve got the basic foundation set for being in a future long-term relationship with someone of the same sex. You bring real life dating to mating experience to the table. Of course along with that experience you may bring an ex-spouse and kids with you, but hey, if the people you’re dating can’t handle that baggage, then they’re not the right relationship for you.
Instant family, no birthing classes required. You might think that after the “breeder” comment that I would have thought I was a freak of nature in the gay community. What I found quite quickly was that being a gay man with biological children is regular dish on the buffet table of available gay men. Having children to bring into the mix of a relationship can be a bonus when you find the right guy/gal who’s always wanted to be a daddy/mommy without role-playing.
Mature and focused. Yes, I know there are a lot of mid-lifers out there who aren’t mature and are probably the furthest thing from focused on anything other than getting by day-to-day. That being said, if you are one of those that is mature and focused in your life, there seems to be some magical other elements that you also bring to the table due to your closet dwelling days. I believe there’s inner wisdom that comes from hiding behind our masks for lengthy periods of time, that enable us to maturely address life’s challenges and focus on what’s important. Just my take, but one that I see more often than not when working with the mid-lifers, coming out of the closet.
Deeper respect for life’s challenges. By no means am I inferring that staying in the closet makes you better, or more readily able to handle life’s challenges as they come your way. However, there is a resilience that comes from sitting on the sidelines, hiding your truth for years that, for many, instills a “I will survive” mentality. Facing down the ramifications of bursting everyone’s bubble of who they think you are, to who you really are, is no small bump in life’s road. For some, it’s as deeply challenging as facing an actual death, which in a way that’s exactly what it is, death of the person that once was so the person that is can be born.
Agent of change. You might not have considered that your coming out late in life could have global impact, but in interesting and strange ways it does. Each time anyone steps out to live their truth – gay or straight – the balance of society shift. By living our truth, as we are meant to, it means we are no longer pretending to be something we’re not, which means we’re no longer having pretend relationships with others. What’s also really cool about standing in your true sexual essence as a late bloomer is you never know when it might influence someone else who’s “getting married for all the wrong reasons” to stand at the “y” in the road and take the path marked “come out now” vs. “come out as a late bloomer.”
Like most things in life, there’s pro’s and con’s, yin and yang’s, and black and white thinking for coming out early or late in life. In all honesty, it comes down to what the best decision for you, in yourself, given the beliefs and values you hold, to be the best possible you in the moment you’ve been given. There is no handbook, or blueprint for coming out. There’s only the moment when you finally admit, this is my time, and I’m going for it.
Ready for a shot of self-love, confidence, and I’m good enough to help you start or continue your journey out of the closet? Set up an introductory coaching session with Rick today, and let’s start opening that closet door!