Coming out later in life - What's involved? (Part 1 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.
You’re not alone.
Thousands of men in Australia have had to come to terms with the discovery that they are attracted to other men. For you it may be a new discovery or something you have always known for years but felt uncomfortable about openly acknowledging. The longer you have been living a ‘straight’ life – the more challenging coming out can be. It is not a simple process and you will almost certainly experience some difficulties, but there are many sources of advice and support that you can use.
Coming out to yourself.
Before you can come out to anyone else, there’s and important first step. Coming out to yourself involves moving beyond denial and acknowledging to yourself that you’re attracted to other men. You may have heard a lot of negative things about gay men and carried these messages around inside you. Negative messages and actions against same-sex attracted people are called homophobia. Carrying these messages around inside can make you feel bad and depressed. This is called internalised homophobia. You’re not the only one to have felt this way. Most people who are same-sex attracted and have come out say that not only do these feelings pass but having come out makes them feel better – the positives make it more than worth it.
There are many reasons why you might have chosen not to explore your attraction to men at an earlier age. Everything from family through to religion can play a part in this choice. Some men felt that they had no choice at all.
Hiding from others – and yourself – that part of you is attracted to other men is often called denial. Separating out these feelings from the rest of your life and burying them might seem like a way of dealing with them. Sometimes, it’s a way of not dealing with them. Holding such feelings inside, or denying them, can sometimes affect your health quite badly.
Most men who have chosen to act on their attraction to other men will tell you that they don’t regret it for a moment. Many feel that they can, at last, be the person they really are. The choice is always there.
It’s a process. Give it time.
Your family and community will have a certain view of who you are and you will probably be concerned about being treated differently or not in the way that you want to be. Deciding to be open about your attractions is a process, and you will find some people’s reactions better than others. There’s no easy way of getting others to be comfortable with your same-sex attraction. Give it time. You’ve taken the first and most important step already by acknowledging this to yourself.
Second thoughts and making mistakes.
You may find yourself having second thoughts, wondering if this is the right thing to do. On the other hand you might feel that you are taking control of your life at last. It can be frustrating if the life change you are seeking doesn’t happen instantly. You may feel angry about mistakes you make, or have regrets along the way. As with anything new that you try in life it’s probably best to be gentle with yourself. Accept that it’s OK for you to make mistakes and learn from them. You are your best support!
Is this worth doing at my age?
Whether you’re in your 20s or 60’s, you may regret having left it this long before acknowledging your feelings. You may feel you’ve wasted year of your life, or that other gay men will always be more experienced than you, or that they understand the ‘gay world’ better than could ever hope to.
You might also feel that you have responsibilities in your life that the other gay men don’t have. Changing your life may well affect the lives of others around you. But others may also have responsibilities that you aren’t aware of.
What you have, whether you’re 26 or 62, is the rest of your life to live and enjoy!