I have been gay for as long as I can remember. Sadly, I have chosen to, however, live a life that pleases others. As a young Black man, I was deathly afraid of disappointing my immediate God-fearing family by coming out, so instead, I played the convincing role of womanizing hetero, and I did this so convincingly.
Now, as a 62-year-old man, the game I’ve been playing is getting really old, but getting up the courage to out myself would only fracture lifelong relationships. I’ve known people who have come out but regretted doing so because of the stigma and discrimination attached to it.
I am emotionally drained, so tired of living this double life I’ve carved out so masterfully for myself. I am so tired of going about my life cloaking myself in what society deems appropriate, moving about undetected, and as many would say, safe. I pray that I will somehow find the strength to break out of this self-imprisonment, this identity-denying malaise, and no longer live my life in shame.
For many in the LGBTQ community, the coming out process was extremely difficult, but for an older adult, the decision to do so can be twice as hard. Because many older adults in the community have spent a majority of their lives “in the closet” or masking their sexual orientation, their authentic lives have remained largely silenced. In the Black community, homosexuality finds less tolerance particularly, when it comes to religion. So instead of fulfilling a desire to live free, many in the LGBTQ community continue to victimize themselves through self-oppression.
Coming out as an older adult to yourself, your friends, and your family is a HUGE part of the journey towards coming to grips with your sexual orientation and FINALLY living your truth. If you need to find your footing in the coming out process, here are some helpful tips. Keep in mind… A closet is a lonely prison of the soul. Self-love will set you free.
- Coming out can be a positive experience—It is liberating to feel authentic with those you love and who claim to love you. You will also be a role model for those who are struggling with the same issue.
- Allow folks to be shocked—People need time to process news. Be sensitive to the feelings of others. Pick the right time to discuss your coming out, do so in a quiet place where you can talk about it. Think of coming out as a process and not an event. Keep the lines of communication open with people after you come out to them – even if their response is negative. Respond to their questions and remember that they are probably re-examining the myths and stereotypes about gay people, which we all have learned from our culture.
- Don’t view rejection as a negative—If you are rejected by someone you have come out to, do not lose sight of your own self-worth. Remember that your coming out was a gift of sharing an essential part of yourself, which that person has chosen to reject. Remember, your sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. Ever.
- Consider writing—If you don’t think you can handle a verbal conversation about coming out, consider writing letters/emails to loved ones and then following up with a phone call. Writing gives people time to marinate, get used to the news about something, and then respond after they’ve given it some thought.
- Stay in control of your news—If you want to come out to only one family member or friend at a time, remember to stress this request as you share your news.
- Surround yourself with supportive loved ones—If you know folks who will not take your news well, surround yourself with people you trust who will help foster an environment for you of safety and support. What’s most important is protecting yourself emotionally through this time. This isn’t about your relatives or friends getting upset, or what people think, it’s about you, it’s for you. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.
- You don’t have to come out–Remember that the decision to come out is yours. Don’t be guilt-tripped into it by people who think that everyone must come out. You can usually decide when, where, how, and to whom you wish to come out. At this stage in our society, full public declarations about one’s sexuality are not necessarily the best decision for most people.
Need help? There are groups or message boards where you can safely share your feelings. Organizations like COLAGE and PFLAG also offer online and in-person resources for LGBTQ individuals and their loved ones, including adult children.