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Coming out later in life - What's involved? (Part 2 of 2)

Coming out is a difficult journey for everyone, regardless of your age. This is a rough guide on what to expect and how to cope when coming out later in life.

How do I fit in? Will I fit in?

To find out where you fit in, you may find it helpful to chat to other likeminded guys right here on DALE, join a gay social or community group, go to gay venues (e.g. pubs and clubs) or go to a pride march/event. Or you may choose not to do these things – and that’s fine! Finding out where you feel comfortable is entirely up to you.

What about the ‘old’ me?

Coming out as someone who is attracted to men does not mean your old life was wrong or fake, or that the ‘old you’ requires changing. However, you may want to make changes, to overhaul your life completely. Whatever choices you make, people who love and respect you should love and respect you both as the person you are no becoming and as the person you have always been.

Telling others.

What is the best way to tell other people, including family and friends, that you are attracted to men, that you might be gay?

There is no one-size-fits-all way to approach this type of conversation. The best strategy will be based on the relationship with the person you are telling, and your expectations about their reaction. Searching for the right time and place to tell them can be almost as hard as actually telling them. How and when and why will vary from man to man, and will be different with each person told.

Other people’s reactions.

Some people will be surprised or shocked when you come out to them. Some people may not be surprised at all. Some people may even have been waiting or expecting you to tell them.

Some people will initially react with surprise, but on looking back, will not be surprised after all. It makes sense of your life and experiences for them. The reactions of some people may be hurtful or upsetting for you. Remember that you have had longer to get used to this idea than they have, so it might come as a shock to them. Once they get used to the idea they will most likely regret their initial reaction. It’s always important to discuss these issues, and to make your own point and feelings heard.

You may have many people in your life – family, friends, partners and even children – who know you as a heterosexual. For some of them, learning about this other side of you can come as a shock. They may feel that because they didn’t know that important factor in your life, they don’t really know you at all.

It’s important to reassure these people that not only are you the same person you’ve always been, but that this new ‘self’ was always there, always inside you. In fact, you haven’t changed much at all, you’ve just allowed another part of you to come to the surface. Some people even prefer the metaphor of “letting people in” rather than “coming out”. It might also be important for you to let these people know that you still love them and need their support during this important transition stage in your life. Some friends may not handle this change very well, but others may surprise you with their support.

Coping with change.

You may decide that coming out requires changes in other ways. But keep in mind that a huge change such as this, even when made in small steps, can leave you with a lot of emotional turmoil. You might feel upset about letting go of the life that you had or giving up what you hoped for in your life. At a time of great change like this, it’s important not to make too many other major changes. Try to avoid big decisions like quitting your job or selling your house until your feelings have settled down a bit.

On the other hand, some smaller changes might be fine. You might, for example, feel you need to change to a doctor with whom you feel comfortable when talking about your same-sex attraction and sex life.

Remember, this journey will be different for everyone. It will be difficult but it was also be relieving. Take your time, and look after yourself.