Not everyone goes through puberty and comes out the other side completely understanding their sexuality. Everyone’s story is different, and even those who do know where they stand may not decide to articulate their own personal truths as soon as they understand them. Here are some of the things that people who came out late in life would want you to know.
They did not suddenly “become” gay. Most individuals said that their identity did not take them by surprise. The attraction was there, but it was inaccessible. For reasons that are unique to each individual situation, they either didn’t fully realize the extent of their same-sex attraction, or they found it necessary to repress it. Sadly, many people who may have otherwise openly expressed their sexuality may have been born into a culture that rejected homosexuality, and thus, in an effort to “fit in,” the individuals hid that side of themselves. It takes a great deal of courage to overcome social conditioning, particularly at a later life stage.
One of the most infuriating misconceptions is that someone might “settle” for a same-sex life partner in the absence of a “better” or, at least, “more appropriate” choice. But that just isn’t how it works. An individual would not come out later in life because they were unable to find a husband or a wife in a heterosexual pairing. Often, it is just the opposite. There have been countless people who have entered into heterosexual unions, only to find down the road that it wasn’t what they really wanted.
Sexuality is a spectrum, and it is very nuanced and complicated. Not everything is black and white, and sexuality is no exception. The Kinsey Scale, created by Alfred Kinsey in 1948, is a spectrum that helps define fluid sexuality. At one end is a strict heterosexual, and at the other is a strict homosexual. But most people fall somewhere in between the two. The closer you are to the middle, the more adaptive your sexuality. Some people who come out later in life have simply discovered that fluidity.
Coming out at any point can be difficult, but deciding to come out later in life poses a particular challenge. Your friends and family have an idea of you set in their minds, and disrupting that idea can have the potential for a lot of fallout. But even though it could mean risking relationships, it is always a worthwhile path to travel. Living your best life, and being your truest self, is worth it.
It can be hard to find community. If you were not already a part of the LGBTQ+ community, it can be difficult to ingratiate yourself if you are coming out later in life. It’s important that someone who comes out later in life isn’t shunned by their previous networks, and that they are welcomed with open arms into their new social groups.
Discovering something as monumental as a shifting sexuality can put other aspects of your self under scrutiny. It calls more elements of your personality into question. Everybody changes over the course of a lifetime, and it’s important to allow yourself the space to grow and adapt. But when such a huge shift takes place, it can inspire you to question what other things about you might not be set in stone, and you can experience a crisis of self. The important thing to remember, both as someone going through this and as someone supporting an individual going through this, is that redefining yourself is an ongoing process, and the people who love you will be there no matter what.
It gets better. Taking the leap to explore your sexuality, no matter what stage of life you’re in, is going to open up a whole new world for you and put you in touch with a deeper understanding of yourself. The hardest part is beginning: admitting to yourself that this the path you want to travel. The next challenge is talking to the people you love. When you’re true to yourself and find support in your community, things will get easier. And even if you find yourself without the support you’d hoped for, there are other people out there who will love you for exactly who you are.