Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Is it possible to come out of the closet late in life?"

Blogger has a few neat features for the author (their word not mine) of a blog. It's sort of interesting to see where hits come from. I have a hit from Trinidad and Tobago - I have a friend who was born in Trinidad. A lot of folks link in from Buddy Bear's Blog One Step at a Time even before his kind plug yesterday - thanks Buddy Bear!! 21% of folks us a Mac (so do I) and one person used the browser Qt - I had never heard of that before.

But the most interesting thing I saw was the search terms used to find the blog. One reader searched for "Is it possible to come out of the closet late in life?" I know one of the most shocking things for me was trying to wrap my head around being married for 20+ years and saying I was gay. They're incompatible aren't they. I can't be gay if I've been married that long. Sure there was the boy next door, there was the attraction to Tom of Finland, there was the suspicion that I just wasn't like all the other guys, and there is the fact that when outed to a brother-in-law his response was, "Yeah, we've thought that for a while."

I am fortunate to live near a major city with a meeting for gay/bi men who are married to women. Two years ago at my first meeting as we went around the room at least 6 of the 10 or so guys there said that they began the process of coming out after being married for 23 years. I remember the number since it was how long C and I were married at the time.

So yes it is not only possible to come out late in life, it is also possible to do it well. There are a few things that have been life sustaining in this journey for me. In no particular order they are:

  • Being around other gay men as a gay man. I stay mostly closeted in daily life. That I'm gay could have negative consequences where I work. Not so much for me directly, but for the organization's ability to do it's work. It's complicated and one of the reasons I'm actively looking for work. Nuff said. So being around other gay men as gay also is huge, it's validating, it's affirming.
  • Honesty. For me it has paid off to be honest with C about being gay. I know this is NOT the case in every circumstance nor have I always been honest. But I have been as honest as I can be at any given moment. Part of my struggle is to live with integrity as a gay man. I want to begin that now.
  • Blogs - reading others blogs is amazing. The details are often very different, but the struggles are amazingly similar - how do I tell my wife I'm gay. How do I integrate being gay into my life with kids. How do I divorce well. How to deal with gay adolescence when one's children are adolescents! Is there hope on the other side. That others have had very similar struggles and report hope on the other side is heartening.
  • Online groups. There are a ton of online groups that I've run into. Some I've loved, some I haven't. But there are enough out there that one can get connected. Some I've seen have in person meetings on occasion as well for that all important face to face exposure.
  • Keeping my head in the moment. I've spent an amazing amount of time wondering and worrying. Yes, Buddy Bear is right that for me guilt and worry have been ubiquitous (I love that word). At each step I worry about the future and am guilty about things that haven't yet happened and may never happen. None of that helps. When the focus is on what I am doing in the present I do better. I did not at the age of 10-12 years old say I want to grow up to be a gay man married to a woman and leave after 25 years. I entered our relationship with as much honesty and self knowledge as I was capable of at the time. The question now is what do I need to do to live with the most integrity. And no - that is not a cop out at least it isn't necessarily one.
So, yes it is possible to come out later in life. I'm not sure even what constitutes later in life. But it is the moment I have now that matters. Coming out to myself has been a vital step in seeing, acknowledging and understanding who I am. To the extent that I validate and honor that gayness I see a calmness, peacefulness, and joy come into my life that hasn't been there for a long time, if ever. And when I do not acknowledge or honor the fact that I am gay, as I have all too often over the years, I am cut off, truncated spiritually and emotionally.


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