Coming Late to The Party: When People Come Out Later in Life

By | October 19, 2015

During the course of my first relationship, I would deal with the coming out process, AIDS, and developing relationships wherein my sexuality would not cause anyone problems or upset.

I also learned all the lies required to survive: distancing myself from flamboyant queens, switching pronouns when speaking in mixed company, avoiding family gatherings and the question: do you have a girlfriend ?; coming up with great reasons that me and some guy were always palling around.

I tried to “pass”.

There are gay men who not only can’t pass but don’t even try and I applaud their courage. These brave individuals take to the streets, get in the face of our oppressors and often demand and institute change.

There are others who quietly go about their lives cloaking themselves in what society deems appropriate and move about undetected and many would say safe.

When people come out is another tool used to divide an already divided community.

While I am familiar with the power that accompanies “coming out”, I also understand the fear and trepidation this engenders.

Many of us learn to lie early and often via our parental units.

We are encouraged to manipulate and psychologically disappear.

Is there any wonder so many of us enter chronological adulthood while remaining intellectual infants ?

When it is demanded that we, as Nathaniel Branden would say-play dead, there is little impetus to stake the claim that being gay requires.

Folks who come out later in life are awarded many privileges for bowing down at the throne that is patriarchal domination and assimilation.

While no one will address the effects this has on the individual who denies who he is at the core, it often leads to some serious acting out.

I have had more than one conversation with men who are constantly cruising for cock who are willing to risk death and sex offender status for sexual contact with other men.

When men come out later in life, it is typically not without some thought as to what will be lost and what will be gained.

What our older gay community needs is not a barrage of questions regarding why it took so long to come out or the always helpful:stay in the closet and ride it out.

What we need is not only support for them but also ways to as bell hooks would say create strategies for survival and dare I say thriving.

Recently , I was invited to facilitate a group of gay men.

We began with one topic and it became very clear to me that the greater need and the most powerful focus could be “thriving amidst all the things that conspire to “take us out”.

Nobody wanted to hear this and I was disappointed and dismissed for even suggesting this.

My disappointment came from the lack of importance that we place on how people come out and what skill set they mastered during their time of self imprisonment.

I pointed out (on three occasions) that as men in our 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s , we had survived and figured out ways to support ourselves and offer self care in the process.

I wanted to hear from those of us who had very different experiences.

If a black guy in the 1970’s came out with his white partner what did this mean to them ?

What were the consequences ?

If a white gay in the 1980’s was diagnosed with this new “gay cancer” and watched his friends die and then had to nurse his partner until his death what did that create ?

Men that come out later in life have a knowledge base that is vastly different than those that got started early.

What must happen is not an either or response to when someone came out but a sharing of resources that in no way invalidates or gives one set of life decisions more value than another.

I often find it personally difficult when dealing with white partners who have had access to everything because of either their whiteness or their assimilation into straight culture.

As a person who was only allowed entry into this identity denying malaise (assimilation and self denial) between the ages of 14-19 then was given a not so subtle pink slip when I claimed my gay identity, my struggles with those who “wait” for the big reveal often upset me.

After talking with several folk who cam out later in life, it is clear that although on the surface it looks as if things were simpler and access was a plenty, it had a cost.

Everything has a cost.

Nobody gets to live life consequence free.

A better solution is to combine the best of all worlds.

My experience of having to fight to be who I am and left the fuck alone from age six onward can be combined with all of the financial know how and possibilities that come with the larger, mainstream culture.

Having to survive and offer a finger to the culture that wants me dead has provided me with the opportunity to determine what truly matters and how to consistently and unapologetically trust my mind and instincts.

4 thoughts on “Coming Late to The Party: When People Come Out Later in Life

  1. Paul Heilemann

    I appreciate your blog entries, Anthony. Your passion, wisdom, and sincerity are evident. Your words and the experiences they describe are educational.

    I am glad I had the chance to meet you earlier this evening. I now look forward to visiting your Wrigley faux menagerie sometime soon! – Paul

  2. doug

    Hi Anthony – the coming out later in life piece resonates deeply with me – late 50’s dawning recognition of the level and cost of repression; early 60’s coming to terms then out – leaving a marriage, re identification, re integration in a conservative rural area with male partner. Re creation of a family with grown kids and extended family. That whole concept you describe of “passing” is rich material. Thank you. I am a member of a group of mostly older men who are or have come out to wives – we support each other online and in person in the journey. I would like to post your article with your permission on the website, which is for members only. Let me know please – thank you – doug

  3. John Mulholland

    Am late to this, fitting perhaps, since I came out later in life. Was 35 before I even realized my failures with women, especially in bed, reflected something within me that I’d never considered. When, finally I did, after fantasizing about a member of the NY Knicks for weeks on end, I went into a downward spiral. Drinking, insomnia, cutting off all friends. Dipping my toe in gay bars, running away. Years and years of being miserable. Not until I was 43, and dating a man, did I at last begin to come out. The irony is that when I told a married couple friends of mine, they shrugged. Said they’d known it all along, wondered why I didn’t. Others had the same reaction. For more than two decades, I had cheated myself out of knowing who I was, and living the life I deserved. The young today, I hope they are taking advantage of so much that has changed since I came out more than 20 years ago. Would like to elaborate on my dating Black men, and the turmoil surrounding forever dating outside your race, tie it into the coming out, but that is for another Anthony Carter posting.


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