Coming out at any age is difficult, but facing up to your sexuality in later life can be particularly daunting. Alex Hopkins looks at the things you should consider.

Walking away 
People enter heterosexual marriage for many different reasons. You could come from a cultural or religious background where it was expected of you, where to be gay was considered the greatest taboo of them all. Or you could simply have fallen in love with someone of the opposite gender earlier in life and then questioned your sexuality later. Leaving a marriage – and telling your partner that you’re gay - is possibly the biggest challenge you’ll ever face. But the alternative – a lifetime of deceit and anguish – will be much worse – for both you and your partner. 

But what about the kids?
Yes, of course having children complicates matters, but having conceived kids with your partner is not a reason to stay in an unhappy and unhealthy marriage. Leaving the ‘family unit’ doesn’t mean that you have to give your children any less love and care – in fact, you’ll probably end up being a much better parent simply because you’ll finally be being true to yourself. Also, don’t underestimate kids’ capacity to understand and sympathize – they’re living in a world which is a lot less hostile to gay people than the one you probably grew up in. 

And then there’s the parents…
What will the folks think? It’s the question that torments every gay person, no matter what age they come out. Look on the plus side, if you’re older, then you’ve got all that life experience and maturity which can help you break the news in the right way and manage the situation - much better than your 16-year-old self could ever have done. No, it may not be easy, but would your parents prefer you spent a lifetime deceiving them? 

I’ve got too much baggage
So, you’ve weighed up the negatives – over and over: leaving the wife/husband, the kids, breaking the news to the parents. Who’s going to want to take on someone with that much baggage? Try looking at it from the flip-side: you’ve got a wealth of life experience behind you. Think of the stories you can tell. You’re not complicated, you’re fascinating. And remember, you’ve already built and sustained very different kinds of relationships. All of that’s to your credit – and you can use the skills it’s taught you to shape a new even better future.

But my best years are gone…
Perhaps you feel that it’s too late, that you’ve missed out on the best years of your life, that your youth has vanished so you may as well settle for what you have now, no matter how tough it is. Contrary to what you may see in certain gay lifestyle magazines, being gay isn’t just for the under-thirties. There are lots of people out there who come out later, from your background and beyond – it’s that which makes the gay community so diverse. Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. Get out there and prove that’s true!

Just be yourself
Despite to what you may see around you, not every gay guy has a six pack and biceps like the Incredible Hulk, and not every lesbian is a dungaree-wearing lumberjack. Ignore the stereotypes and don’t set yourself unrealistic standards of perfection – whatever ‘perfect’ means. Compulsively chasing after twinks to try and recapture what you see as your wasted youth is a path to disaster or at least degradation. But neither should you set your sights too low thinking that you’re lucky to get whatever you’re offered. Respect yourself and others will respect you.


Starting all over again
There’s no training manual for being gay. If you’ve spent years hiding in the closet and living up to the expectations of a heterosexual lifestyle, there’s also no point swapping that rigid type of conformity for some type of ‘new normal.’ Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Do as you please, love who you want, be free, experiment – and don’t apologize.




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very nice article

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My grandfather came out as gay to his family. Except he didn't feel he was trapped in his marriage. The way he felt about my grandmother didn't change, in fact it was because of that love that she fully accepted that as part of him. The only thing that's sad is that I never had a chance to know him.

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