Transitions in life are common. But what about coming out late in life?
As the gay marriage movement gains momentum and even the President is on board with the idea of it, more and more people are able to walk proudly into their sexual truth.
Coming out happens no matter your age, race or cultural heritage. It's happening minute-by-minute, day-by-day. Granted, the challenges to come out and be yourself can be more difficult based on culture, beliefs, and where you live, but for the most part, coming out is sprouting up like spring flowers across the globe. That's a good thing, right? People being more honest at a deeper visceral level is always good for them and society as a whole. Yet, what happens when being honest and coming into your sexual reality happens at the age of 40, 50, 60 or beyond?
As a late bloomer myself — I was 38 when I kicked the closet doors off the rusty hinges — coming out was tougher than I had imagined. I had to endure divorce, loss of friends, a reluctant and shocked family, a new belief system, and of course learning to date other men; all new territory and no easy task to get through. Now that I'm 50 and encroaching 51 in just a few weeks, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I'd waited even longer to stake my claim and live my truth as a gay man.
Rather than drown myself in depressing thoughts about what could have been, I'd rather share what I see happening with men in my practice who are 50+; men just beginning their trek out of the closet.
First and foremost, I applaud these men. Some are married with kids and grandchildren; others are widowers, and still others are similar to former BP CEO John Browne, who chose to hide in the closet and remain single while living a quasi-heterosexual life to protect his career. Regardless of the scenario, it takes guts to put it all on the line and say, "I'm Gay!" Imagine if you've kept a secret about your life hidden for 50+ years. A secret that would impact people's ability to respect you once that it was uncovered. Would you have the cojones to walk through that personal fire, so you could be authentically you? If you can, then you deserve high fives, 21 gun salutes, and a plethora of pride flags. But what happens once the reality sets in and it's time to feel free to move about the cabin we call gay life?
Depending on the situation that brings a guy out of the closet, the most prevalent issue that he confronts is the question of "Will I ever find love?" No I'm not waxing romantic; this is an important question. Rare is the late in life coming out journey that is not burdened by the desire to find love, intimacy and companionship. Anyone can find sex for a night, but it takes a determined gay man to find love that lasts longer than a single orgasm.
More often than not, gay men who come out later in life are leaving behind a wife, kids, grandkids, gainful employment and stability. So they aren't willing to settle for anything less than a meaningful relationship because this is all they know and have known.
Is that a conversation bubble above your head with a question mark? I thought so! Yes, your question is a valid one. "How do men over 50, just coming out, turn their life into a joyful, fulfilling experience?"
- Drop the assumptions. Even though you may think you're not in good enough shape, too old and not a catch, think again! Those types of thoughts are like play money: not worth a thing. If you allow assumptions about your worth on the gay market to monopolize your thoughts then you'll fall into the GGWDID Syndrome: Good Grief What Did I Do! What you did is finally started living. Now it's time to quit worrying and start basking in the joy of being truthfully you. The only way to do that is to stop assuming and start getting out and enjoying your life!
- If the plumbing ain't broke, don't fix it. The term, "erectile dysfunction" sends chills down most men's spine, right to the base of their scrotum! For the late bloomer, the ability to pump up the volume in the bedroom might almost seem like a futile attempt given the amount of time they waited to get jiggy with a guy in the bedroom. The more you focus on your plumbing not working right, the less likely it is to fulfill you and your new man. There is no right, wrong, or perfect way to have gay sex so stop worrying about it and just do it!
- Get clear about what you're looking for and find the right fishing holes! The gay dating world is bombarded with "Meet the match of your dreams," and "Hook-up tonight" promises. Online, offline, and palm of your hand apps are readily available to help you make your dreams come true, regardless of the dream. Ironically, wires can get crossed and values ignored if you don't become clear on what it is you want. From the moment you step through the closet doors to your first "Hey, was up" on Scruff, Grindr, or Growlr, the best celebratory gift you can give yourself is to set a clear cut intention regarding the type of guy and relationship you desire. Without this bit of work you could find yourself living by these words of wisdom: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there!"
- Live without regrets as much as possible. Each journey out of the closet is different. Maybe you were married, stayed faithful for 20 years, and then decided to take the leap to live your truth. On the other hand maybe you were living a dual life and dipping your wicky all over the place and pretending your were just a straight guy who enjoyed having sex with other straight guys. The truth is, once you're out of the closet, and provided you've got some sense of morals, you'll probably feel guilty and shameful for having lived a lie. I prefer to call it a twisted truth. Trying to live the truth of what others expected from you is probably what led you to be in this mess to begin with. Take you guilt pills, wallow in shame, and then man up and let it go. Until you can let go of the shame and guilt you'll never be free to be fully self-expressed. And, no I'm not implying tell people to go pound sand because it's your time to live. That's just being crass and mean. Step into yourself with dignity and let the guilt and shame wash off of you when you're ready. Just don't use all the soap in the shower washing it off. You'll need some more for all those dates you have coming up.
- Love starts with you. As much as you may have brainwashed yourself into believing you came out so that you could have a titillating relationship with a guy, don't forget to love yourself first. Granted, coming out is the first step in loving yourself, just don't forget to keep that love flowing. Out of desperation to be accepted and embraced, it might be easy to fall into the old pattern of doing for others. Haven't you done enough of that? It's your golden time and years to do something good for yourself. The cool thing is, the more you love yourself the more someone else will love you. A great way to keep yourself in check is to ask this one simple question, "Would I love myself the way I am right now if I were someone else?" Your truthful answers might surprise you.
Late in life coming out really isn't much different than being divorced or widowed late in life. Either way, you're left with yourself. Therein lies the greatest opportunity to be gay, gray, 50, and coming out! Be yourself because pretending to be someone you're not doesn't bring you real relationships, it only brings you people having relationships with your false self.
Coming out late in life? Racking up a laundry list of fears that seem insurmountable. Let's chat, and help you come out without coming unglued. Schedule a complimentary consultation today!