61, gay, and closeted: is it too late for him?

So here’s a letter I got in:

I’m a 61-year-old gay man who is still pretty much in the closet. I’ve very selectively come out to a few friends over the years, and, of course, to my gay friends. But I just can’t seem to build up momentum to come out in a bigger way. Naturally, I feel like I’m keeping something back with straight friends, but I’m so used to this way of being that it seems overwhelming to change it. This is more complicated too, because it’s so much harder to fall in love as you get older.

When you’re young and your life is ahead of you, coming out has so much more to offer. I’d love to come out, but I can’t see the benefit, since I don’t see the possibility for a deep, meaningful relationship at this point in my life. I guess I’m writing to you because I’m hoping that you might be able to offer some insight into my situation. Thanks.

Hello, dude! Thanks for writing me.

First of all (he said, on his 54th birthday), 61 is not that old. It can feel old. And the main reason it can tend to feel old has much more to do with perception than it does physicality.

If you’re 61 now, it’s a good bet that your parents were born in the 1920’s. And their parents—your grandparents—were born about 1900.

In 1900, the average life expectancy for an American was forty-six years. Forty-six! That means that your parents grew up believing in the model of old age they inherited from their parents, which is that 46 is old.

In other words, chances are outstanding that you, too—just like your parents did—grew up convinced that 46 is dang-near geriatric. And that belief and concept matters. It fully informs your entire understanding of what old is and means. Saying you inherited outdated information about what old is might sound sophomoric, or easily dismissed, but it shouldn’t. What constitutes old is exactly the sort of core information about life that we learn from our parents. It’s the sort of thing that gets hardwired into our entire life paradigm. We don’t question that sort of thing, mainly because it’s so counter-intuitive that our parents could be wrong about something so basic. We just assume what they assume, which is that they know perfectly well what old is.

But they don’t. They know what they and their parents considered old. What they don’t know—because emotionally and experientially they don’t really have any way to know—is how much longer the average life expectancy for their kids is than it was for their parents and grandparents.

Check it out:

In 1800, the life expectancy of an American was 35 years.

In 1900, it was 46 years.

In 1950, it was 68 years.

Today, it is 78.5 years.

It’s gone up ten years just since you were born!

When it comes to what being old is, you’re working from an outdated model. Everyone is. It’s just … weird like that. I guarantee you that your idea of how old you are is a lot older than you actually are. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t have these concerns of yours. You don’t, in other words, sound like someone who, in fact, you are—which is someone whom it’s reasonable to think has another 30 years left to live.

And there is no way that thirty years isn’t long enough to enjoy a seriously deep relationship. (And I would know: that’s exactly how long I’ve been married!)

Another thing to be said here is that none of us ever feels fully prepared and primed for life. Throughout every phase of life there are all kinds of insecurities making us feel all … insecure. When young, you’re insecure because you’re young; when old, you’re insecure because you’re old. That shit never stops. There’s always a new set of reasons to feel insecure. But one set is rarely more insurmountably real than the last or next.

There’s really no unique, particularly debilitating condition known as “old.” There’s sick. There’s depressed. There’s out of shape. There’s out of touch. But “old” carries with it all kinds of negative connotations—all kind of hooks for our insecurities—that aren’t at all necessary conditions of being any age at all.

Here’s the real bottom line: all people are in truth the exact same age, because every person, at any given moment, has the exact same relationship to time: the moment they are in, and a guarantee of nothing more.

We’re all the same age, which is now.

Anyway, about the coming out thing. The reason you want to come out is not because of what it will do for your relationship with others. It’s because of what coming out will do for your relationship with you. It’s just plain unhealthy to in any way deny who you really are. The kind of stress born of living a lie will age you prematurely.

You’re gay. Be gay! Fuck ’em if they can’t take a bloke. If any of your friends have a problem with you being gay, then they’re not friends anyway—and learning who they really are saves you the time and effort you might have otherwise invested in those relationships.

But if your friends dig the news? (Nothing rocks like hippie-talk rocks!) Then your relationship with them becomes more open, honest, and deeper. And how is that not a beautiful thing?

You want to come out to at least all of your friends, because not doing so means nothing less than closing yourself off to the possibilities of life. You don’t know who you might meet, for instance, if everyone you know knows that you’re gay and looking. There’s a ton of stuff that might happen to you, and with you, if you only stop hiding who you are.

You don’t want to arrive at the end of your life (thirty years from now!), and know that all along you kept people and possibilities an arm’s distance away. Don’t do that to yourself. Start using your arms, right now, to hug first yourself, and then others.

Also, showing the kind of honesty and integrity it takes to come out sets a great and encouraging example to others. It sends a very positive message to everyone that they, too, should be, and can be, brave about being who they are. That’s such an vital message to send. It’s what makes life work: we all get our strength from the strength, goodness, and bravery of others.

Love to you, brother. Let us know how you do.

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  • Jackson Hearn via Facebook

    No. Last night I read the letter in “UNFAIR…” from the 72 yo grandmother who had finally come out as a lesbian, and it touched me probably more than any of the letters in the book – even those youngsters who have had a tough time coming out. But it is never too late to live in the truth.

  • Kirk Childress via Facebook

    what a beautiful response. thank you.

  • Mariah

    Beautiful advice, John. I hope this gentleman takes your advice. I do hope his friends all support him and love him because he’s still the same friend they had before this news. I do hope he is much happier once he is honest and open. I very much hope he finds the perfect man for him, and is able to spend the rest of his life with that one special person who makes life magical. Love is grand.

  • Kirk C

    I want your correspondent to know that there are plenty of examples of people finding meaningful relationships well past his age. and if it lasts for 5 years or 35, who wants to pass up the opportunity to fully live love? and as for his friends, you hit it spot on: the ones who love won’t care and the ones who care really don’t love him. and there are many more of us out there that do. The LGBT has had its problems supporting our elders. but we’re definitely getting better at it. There are groups like SAGE [http://www.sageusa.org/index.cfm] who are addressing the concerns of our elders and offering support, as well as many religious communities and other types of groups. so, yes, “dude,” come out, the water’s fine. and the freedom is excellent.

  • Mariah DiPlacido via Facebook

    I hope he takes your advice!

  • Jackson: YES! I know that letter, of course. I, too, was SERIOUSLY moved by it. Ultimately, I decided the best place for that letter was at the end of the book. I couldn’t imagine a better way of wrapping up … everything, basically.

  • Mariah DiPlacido via Facebook

    Coming out stories always get me. ALWAYS. I cannot imagine what it must take to do so, and every story always brings at least a single tear to my eye. My heart goes out to everyone who has done it, is trying to muster up the courage, or will have to do so.

  • N

    Welcome out, brother. Even if only in this small way, by allowing your letter to be posted online anonymously, you have now come out. Coming out isn’t really a thing you can do once and be done. It’s something you do gradually, as you live your life, telling the people around you about who you are. Sure, it’s hardest at first when no one knows this part of you, but after a while it’s just a known fact, and most of all YOU know it. I know, you think you know it now, but you don’t really know it as well as you will. When you can casually say to someone trying to set you up with a girl “Thanks, but she’s not my type. I’m not into the ladies.” Who are you when you are that comfortable with yourself? Do you want to find out? Then keep opening up that closet door. We’ll be waiting.

  • Tim

    Exactly, John.

    The point of coming out is loving yourself completely–and as a Christian I’d say feeling the love of the creator who loves you just the way you are that much more deeply. You’d be surprised by the variety of responses from “let’s find you a date” to “whatever you like” to “ok, but I don’t want to hear any more” to “yuck, get away!”. At any age this is the case. And at any age this is secondary. I knew this really good gay couple in my hometown who met each other in their early 60’s and were still going strong when I graduated high school at 77 and 78. All the old hostile community pranks had been made into kindly community jokes. their openness and relationship I think correlates directly to how sympathetic my high school friends were when I came out–after High School.

    So, you can help yourself love yourself, weed out a few fake friends, open up to love from the outside, and make any number of small differences in the world around you. Why shouldn’t you go for it?

  • Perfect response. Can’t think of a thing to add. Please let us know how he’s doing! (Oh, and the thing about us all being the same age? Blew. My. Mind.)

    Happiest of Birthdays to you, John, and as is so typical, on a day you should be receiving gifts, you are giving them. Thanks.

  • Such a warm and wise response. Love it.

  • Mary W.

    Friend, it is never too late to start loving yourself! Are you in the Charlotte, NC area? Cause if you are, I have someone I’d like for you to meet!

  • If he had never come out, or waited until he was dying, I’d say it was too late.

  • maemae

    Dear Letter Writer,

    Maybe you and my dad would hit it off? There are lots of people out there in this world who are still looking for love at a later age. My dad hasn’t fully come out yet either, so you have some common ground there! He’ll be 64 this year.

    I hope you take the chance on coming out. It may not be easy, but it could really be worth it. Much love!

  • 61 isn’t old today; I hope he takes your advice. Not being gay; I cannot imagine how hard it must be to have to “hide” part of yourself; it’s not right that anyone should have to do that today.

  • Donald Rappe

    I tend to reject the notion that “old” is pejorative. I tend to equate it with “lucky”. But then, I’m old. I don’t let it bother me when those 80 somethings smirk at me because I think I’m old. When my grandma was in her early 90’s she lived with my mom and would bitch at my younger sister saying: “Ya won’t have me around much longer, ya know!” A few weeks after my sister’s 22’d, Grandma was the only one home with her when a blood vessel in her brain blew out and she died. Grandma remembered her statement and said she would never tell that to anyone again. And she never did.

  • The “all being the same age” thing made perfect sense to me.

    Obviously, when someone feels “too old” for something (like being themselves), it denotes an attitude of “I’m near the end of my life.” As far as I’m concerned, we all may be near the end of our lives. Yes, I’m being morbid… I honestly think “Maybe I’ll have a car accident today,” or “Maybe I’ll get trampled by a horse.” (Well, with my job…) I don’t *plan* on any of these things happening, but I’m mindful of the idea. It doesn’t matter that I’m still in the “young” bracket. I’ve *known* people who’ve died young from nothing more than sheer bad luck. And then, some of us who kind of expected the world to end before we were 20 are still chugging along.

    So, never too early or too late to be who you are, I’d say.

  • Gay, straight, or anything, it’s good to be able to be open with your friends.

  • Donald Rappe

    Your need for authority to justify your actions is truly touching. It’s good to be around someone who won’t have sex unless it’s ok with John! Still, I think John is right to leave you on your own in this matter. Perhaps, if you ask yourself why you think the answer to this question would be contingent on the type of your religious faith, you will give yourself a helpful clue. Clearly, you need a clue.

  • Oh, no! You’ve fed the troll! (and quality food besides!)

    bad. Well done! But bad.

  • Deb Fullwood via Facebook

    I don’t think he is too old, but I will say this. don’t be shocked some of your friends tell you they already knew that.

  • Tom

    Very nice John. The only thing I would add here is that this person might want to consider therapy. I was in my late 30’s when I did this & it was a blessing. I’m pushing 60. Coming out at this late stage I hope does not mean never having any sort of relationship with a guy. At 61 that would really suck.

  • mike at 51

    dear 61,

    come on out! You may not find your soul-mate right away, or at all, but there is so much FUN to had!

    Think about it … if you were in the room with former Beatles and/or the Stones, you’d be the youngster. (Sean Connery? A little grizzly, but I’d hit that. Ditto, Harrison Ford, 7o this year. And while he’s not my type, McCartney turns 70 this year. Damn, dude, Gandalf is gay, if you happen to be into 70-something Middle-Earth wizards.)

    Of course, having lived in Hollywood, I’d be remiss in not pointing out that you could also find yourself a hot trophy husband in his 40’s or 50’s! Or, perhaps, YOU might end up the trophy boyfriend of some awesome 70 year old.

    Life is a banquet, dive in. Good luck!

  • For what it’s worth… Christopher Plummer recently won an Oscar playing a man who, after the death of his wife, comes out at the age of 75 in the movie “Beginners.” Never too late for love.

  • LSS

    “Here’s the real bottom line: all people are in truth the exact same age, because every person, at any given moment, has the exact same relationship to time: the moment they are in, and a guarantee of nothing more.

    We’re all the same age, which is now.”

    i can see where the Buddhist training helped with this(?).

    it is a great idea.

  • LSS

    oooh i meant to see that.

  • Lymis

    51 year old gay man here.

    Just one point to consider is that 61 is solidly in the range of people who, even having come out and had wonderful relationships, lose a partner and look for love. People die, relationships end.

    Just because this might be the first time you’ve sought a relationship that will be open for the world to notice certainly doesn’t mean you’ll be the lone single in your general age range.

    John nails it though – you don’t come out for the outside benefits, but for the inside benefits. You’ll be amazed at the weight that is lifted just from freeing up all the energy you’ve used to hide – and if you’ve been single and not associated with women all this time, it won’t be a surprise to a lot of people. If you have people close to you like a spouse or kids who you’ve been untruthful with, that takes more compassion, and often time for them to adjust, but it’s usually deeply worth it in the long run.

    At the same time, coming out late in life, like most other relationship and romance things, is probably going to be less of a Big Production. You don’t need to issue press releases and buy rainbow flags and redo your home in whatever passes for gay in your mind these days. Just stop hiding, and let it be freely available information. Stop censoring your pronouns. Tell the people that you would feel bad who found out from someone else, tell the people who know you’re closeted that you aren’t anymore, and then let everyone else work it out for themselves. It’s less a matter of “coming out” as it is a matter of being out and then clearing up misunderstandings on a case basis.

    One thing that surprised me when I came out was how much people mirrored back my approach to them. When I told them “a deep dark secret that had been weighing on me and keeping me from being honest” they were sympathetic and admired my courage. When I told them “something about me that they needed to know” they were politely gracious. When I told them “oh, by the way..” they were “oh, okay.”

    But hell yes, this is an amazing time to be gay, and we’re desperately in need of our gay elders (in the “wise and sage” sense, not the “gods, you’re old” sense.) We lost most of a generation of the men who should be modeling for the world what it is to be gay senior citizens, and in the process, burned out both the survivors and a lot of the wonderful women who stepped in to care for them. The world has no idea what it is like to be 60 and gay, or 70 and gay, so it’s a blank slate that we get to write.

    And we can be married. And we can be out. And we can be in non-marital but otherwise serious relationships that play out in a wide variety of different ways. And not all deep and meaningful relationships look like marriage – many of the best are friendships. But being open and truthful about who we are is a fundamental basis for intimacy.

    And if it’s your sex life you’re concerned about, don’t. There are plenty of older available men, and plenty of younger men looking for Daddy.

    And, whether or not you do it for yourself, each and every one of us who is out and open influences a huge number of other people, and knowing someone gay is the single best indicator for someone to be less homophobic and support gay rights. Coming out and being out and participating in your community as an out man may change some minds and save the lives of some of the upcoming generation, and pave the way for them to have options we didn’t have. That alone is worth it.

  • LSS

    oh good idea. i think it’s good for coming out of *anything* as an adult, whether the metaphorical “closet”, or any other oppressive system.

  • One of the women I find most attractive turns 57 this year. 61 is not old 🙂

  • One of the women I find most attractive turns 57 this year. 61 is not old 🙂

  • LSS

    ironically i just quoted Dylan to my students today “he not busy being born is busy dying” (i think of that as the backwards, “jewish optimism”, version of what you said)

    because when i asked them in spanish “what’s happening today?” they said “we are all dying” (in english, grrr) in that flippant/deep way that kids do.

    eek, i called them kids… i’m nearly 40… i better go read your article again. (~_^)

  • Well said! I’m 63, gay, and I married the man of my dreams just last October. We have been together for more than 30 years and if that has taught me anything, it has taught me that times do change and anything is possible. I agree your “closeted dude” will be doing himself a gigantic favor by claiming his life and coming out. It’s never too late to be authentically yourself.

  • Better late, than never.

  • NKVM

    About ten years ago my partner and I went on a Olivia cruise, the company that caters to lesbian vacationers. At dinner one night we had the pleasure of being seated with a couple that had just started dating that year. These two women had been friends and now were obviously deeply in love. They were 87 and 92. So there you go.

    I suspect, dear letter writer, that if you knew the freedom that is waiting for you on the other side of coming out to your friends, you would be inspired to come out. Coming out is not an easy thing to do for many of us, but the relief is amazing. Just imagine not having to watch your pronouns! Imagine being able to relax with who you are without needing to censor your life! Imagine all that energy you would free up! I suspect you might feel 10 younger.

    Best of luck. You are in my thoughts.

  • I agree – he would be doing himself a massive favour.

  • Susan

    I was thinking the same thing.

  • I too hope he takes the advice you offered–thoughtful and compassionate, as always. Love your blog!

  • If I look that great when I’m 61, I’ll be happy.

  • Jack

    I am 65, came out at 43, and in my mind I am 22, you do the math

  • My friend came out at 65—about the same time he was able to quit drinking.

  • My guess is that several of your straight friends have already figured out you’re gay. Be honest and open with them. They will appreciate it. You’re never too old to be yourself!!

  • Al

    I’m not sure where you’re coming from here. You seem to be unclear about my intent.I didn’t write John because I see John as an “authority to justify my actions”. Nor do I need John’s approval to be sexually active ( I am). I wrote John because I’m actively engaged in finding an answer to a difficult question. To me, this answer does not have a “religious” component in the sense that you seem to be implying. I’m OK with my God and can accept that He/She accepts me exactly as He/She made me. Whether or not you can isn’t my problem, is it?

  • Al! I’m so deeply glad to hear from you! I think of you often. (And I think Don Rappe—one of the good guys, for sure—was largely joking.) Love to you.

  • Tell me why I shouldn’t hate homophobic Christians who attack me and assail me at every turn?

  • Erika Beseda-Allen via Facebook

    “one sacred trust” i like that

  • Tammy Lubbers

    Some people are born old and some never get old. It’s a mind set. Grab for everything life has to offer you. Love can come even when you are ‘old’. Look at my husband and me! We were in our 50s when we met. Our love is sweet and fresh and wonderful. I plan on at LEAST 30 more years with my wonderful man.

    Your true friends love the real ‘you’. It won’t matter to them if you’re gay.

  • Kristi

    If some of your friends already know, then you’re halfway there. I can’t imagine not loving my friend/family member even more for coming out. Living your life as truth is what really matters to me. You owe it to yourself! We are never too old for love.

  • Al

    In that case; Donald, may your days be filled with love and joy. May wisdom guide you on your path home. Peace be with you.

  • Donald Rappe

    It’s because it causes you to lose sleep and not them.

  • Donald Rappe

    eek indeed!

  • Tammy Lubbers!! Which I think says it all …

  • Soulmentor

    I’m 67, gay and, for now, alone. But I’ve been married, divorced in my 40’s and came out with a vengeance, had three partners since and lost em all; the first after one year to his alcohol, the second after 8 years to his Catholic guilt (he crawled back more deeply into his dark hole of Catholic guilt and the “glory of suffering” where all the answers are provided and the world is “safe”), the third after 3 years to a richer younger man who, admittedly, can take better care of him (financially). That last one remains my only, and deeply felt real friend. (We see each other often [non-sexually] and there is much mutual affection, but we both know we couldn’t live together, generation gap and all that).

    So I can’t complain that I haven’t had some of the best life and love can offer. But thru it all, I’ve also known some of the most agonizing, flat-on-my-face pain. Love does not come free. The price of Love, is Pain and I’ve been to the mountain top and the abyss.

    Now, alone for several years, I miss Love terribly but I refuse to give up on it because I understand that the moment I give up on Love, I start dying.

    Admittedly, it comes harder with age, especially after a life of focusing on the younger, more physically attractive men, which all of my partners were (like 30 years younger!!). Most younger men are not attracted to older men so the older I get, the more I must face the reality that it may all be over for me. Alas, I trapped myself with that focus and now must live with my choices.

    And even more so since 2009 when I had radical prostate cancer surgery and lost all my sexual abilities (that is, if one limits “sexual” to “genital”) which, for men, let’s admit, is mostly where it’s at. It is continuing to be a very, VERY difficult adjustment.

    I am afraid to tell others for fear of losing the chances that DO come along. I know from experience that it’s a very real concern. Several times, some seemingly good relationship opportunities come along only to vanish when I’m honest, even among those who initially say it doesn’t matter. Because for men, it does. But it cannot be avoided. And so here I am. Alone, sometimes lonely (if I think too much about it like tonite), trying not to lose faith in Love, all the while knowing I’ve had maybe more than my share of it. And I am reminded of that bit of wisdom from Alfred Lord Tennyson,”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

    So to your 61 yo letter writer, DO IT. Do it now, especially if you still have your “abilities”. Love may be waiting for you quicker than you know. There are thousands of men out there nowdays on the web, older, and younger who seek older (most unfortunately, too distant, the great frustration of the internet, but you will find possibilities) so go for it. The internet can be a great resource. There are many “Daddy” sites out there for older men seeking someone to love.

    DaddyHunt, SilverDaddies, FindGayDad, DaddyDater, BearCentral……and most will have links to many others. (Note to curious readers, DO NOT GO THERE IF YOU ARE EASILY SHOCKED. It’s a man’s world).

    Many of the young men there will be looking for that free ride but some will be sincere (buyer beware situation), and they aren’t all 30 years younger either. There are just as many in their 40’s and 50’s or older looking for love. Some may be closer to you than you might guess.

    And of course, as before the internet age, there are other places to find love. You know where to look; work, church, social outlets, the bowling team, the golf club. You just have to decide to do it. There will be frustration and temptation to give up on it, but always keep in mind that the moment you give up on Love, you start dying.

    And the surprising thing about Love gay or str8 is that, if you are “out” and open to it, it often happens when you’re not looking. But that can’t happen if THEY can’t see YOU. So GET “OUT”.

    And now, my moment of decision. Do I submit this or not. Is it a TMI indulgence or might I actually be helping other older gay men struggling with similar decisions and difficulties to know they’re not alone? Well, if it helps ONE man, then those who think it’s an indulgence don’t matter. So here goes.

  • Lee

    It just can’t be said enough–when you come out, you change and thus people’s reactions to you change. I spent a long time not being out. During those years I got VERY little attention from anyone of any gender or sexuality. The minute I came out that changed. Nothing about me changed physically, and I didn’t consider myself particularly attractive. But I came out and it was as if a fire started, or my aura somehow lit up. Not only did I start to get attention from those I wanted attention from, but I became attractive across the spectrum. Men, women, straight, queer started to look my way. I believe it’s because what I was feeling internally (free, open, fully myself, etc.) was just there in a way it wasn’t before. So, dear letter writer, be open to the possibilities you can’t even conceive of at this point in time.

  • Beautiful, Soul. This helps all of us.

  • Lymis

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  • Lymis

    Because either you can change their minds or you can’t. If you can’t, then the choice of whether to hate them or not is purely a matter of how you experience your own life in your own mind. Do you want to focus on hate or on love?

    If you can change their minds, then you can’t do it from a place of hate. How much is their hate letting you hear their message?

    You don’t have to hate them to know in your heart, mind, and soul that they are wrong. And the more you hate the homophobic Christians, the more likely you are to see homophobia in the people who are not homophobic and miss out on the chance to know them.

    The percentages of people who profess a belief in genuine equality for LGVT people is rising steadily. That includes among Christians.

  • @ P Fitzgerald – Because love one another is more important than killing yourself by hating them. Don’t make them let your lose your God and your Jesus over their stupidity. I’m not a church-going Christian, but I love Jesus and his message, even though I’m a “relaxed” Pagan now. I’ve never forgotten that message about love and I never will.

  • Al

    I’m the 61 yr. old gay dude who wrote the letter.

    My thanks to everyone who took the time to write. What beautiful, passionate folks you all are! I’m always amazed by what wonderful things reveal themselves when we speak from our hearts, as you have to me. I’m so interested in the stories some of you have chosen to share and that coming out changed your world in ways you couldn’t have imagined! I’ll let you know how it works out for me.

    My love to you all.

  • justin

    Al, I came out at 52 after 3 marriages and what I can say is experience based. One cannot remake your way of relating to the world. Being gay and out won’t solve all things. If there are ways you organize the world in practice and in your mind, that are not healthy being gay won’t change them. Be healthy in your practices FIRST, then come out completely. You will surprised at the myriad un-thought of ways authenticity will effect you.

    Good luck.

  • Al, if you haven’t already, watch the film Beginners! It includes the coming-out/coming-of-age story of a 75-year-old man, played by Christopher Plummer. Even better, at age 82, Plummer — who won an Oscar for his performance — is the oldest actor ever to win an Academy Award! Be of good cheer and great courage, Al! You’re not alone — you’re in good company!

  • LSS

    as a straight woman, really i see a lot of universals in your post (and the not-universal specific bits could be seriously useful to Mr. Al.)

    i imagine we all here hope that the things you are worried about work out well for you, also.

  • LSS

    you can get angry at them without hating them; depending on what your options are and what you do about it, that might still be useful, but would hurt you less.

  • Drew

    Hi Al,

    I’m attempting my inch myself out of the closet at 51. For me, it’s less about writing “I’m Queer!” on my forehead as it is about being genuine and recapturing some of the enormous energy I’ve expended over the years in self editing.

    I recently joined the local Men’s Chorus (not called the Gay Men’s Chorus here – not sure if that helps or simply delays the inevitable) and I see this as being a gentle (and fun!) way to facilitate this process.

    I wish you the very best in your journey.

  • It never to late to be comfortable with who you are

  • Allen

    Two cents from my own coming out experiences:

    The breadth of actual reactions will not line up with your assumptions, and you’ll need to be patient and compassionate with people who haven’t already figured it out. The concept of gayness and an actual friend being gay are two different things, and everybody deals with it differently. Mostly, give them some time to get used to it — after all, you needed a little time, right?

    The message of The Trevor Project, while focusing on adolescents, is pretty damn universal. Coming out is very difficult the first few times (that number varies from person to person, for me it got easier after about 15 people knew), eventually it is no more difficult than “admitting” you’re from your home state or don’t really like football. It gets better!

  • Mary Wisner Miller via Facebook

    Loving your enemy isn’t easy. But as Christians, we are called to do this.

  • @P Fitzgerald: I find pitying those people takes less energy than hating them, and avoiding them as a environmental poison is always a good idea. I’ve walked away from some polluted churches, and gone to find breathable air — sometimes with other Christians, sometimes not. Kathleen’s right, “love one another” is more important, but that doesn’t mean you should put yourself in harm’s way — it goes on to say something about loving yourself as the initial model for living, right? You wouldn’t put someone you care about through all that hatred, so don’t let it happen to you!

  • i think you help a lot of people and that is a beautiful thing.

  • Gordon

    A similar thing happened to me, Lee! I came out when I was 31. I didn’t change anything physically. But, people I knew and hadn’t told anything would say, “What’s different about you?” Then there would be the litany of questions: Have you lost weight? Are you working out? Haircut? etc. No, none of those. I think the negative energy it took to hide my true self was transformed (or normalized?) into positive energy. And it wasn’t just people who knew me that noticed. It was great, because one of the many things that delayed my coming out was a lack of self-confidence.

    Anyway, I agree with John that this young man should hug himself, come out and release all of that closet energy in a whole new direction!

  • Jenna

    Letter writer, I hope to be as awesome as you when I grow up :). Let’s kick a** and take names together!

    –A 20-year-old queer woman

  • Melody

    Agreed. It’s much easier said than done, but true. I’m pretty impulsive, so I can get pretty opinionated about anti-gay views and think some truly nasty things about those hold them. I guess it’s self-loathing to an extent, since I used to be pretty homophobic myself a few years back. But I know that the reason I came to support LGBT rights was through the patience and encouraging instruction from my more tolerant friends. And I’m definitely not as patient as I should be. Got a long way to go.

  • Lymis

    I changed physically. I have pictures of myself from about six months before I came out in my early 30’s, and other than my hair being gray, I look younger at 51 then I do in those pictures. Feel better about myself as well!

  • Courtney Kelman via Facebook

    I can verify this is true based on personal experience, thank you John for answering my letter! Much Love!

  • cat rennolds

    at 43, as a bisexual, polyamorous, pagan/universalist (?) female, I have a rule for myself: I’m out at home, period. with the exception of my in-laws and my grandmother, no one comes into my home twice if I have to censor myself around them. However, I live in a very small town in the deep south, and have some idea of trying to teach and/or work in this community. so in public I am *just* the married mom of 3, which in fact I *also* am.

    It’s also a safety issue; I have a 3-year old. but I resent it. and I feel small and cowardly and false to myself. why should I have to do that to myself just to make a living and protect my child? who would I be if I could be?

    so go for it . Please. I have some logistics to work out, but hopefully I won’t be far behind you.

  • Soulmentor

    Thanks John. You relieved my angst.

  • Lee Walker

    Dear letter writer,

    At 57 I’m not that far behind you in age, and I just want to encourage you. Yes, stepping out into new things later in life can be really scary. I know from experience. Last year I left a 34-year career and went back to school. I’m currently in grad school studying to become a licensed counselor. I figure by the time I finish my internship and actually get licensed I’ll be 61, starting a practice when many are retiring. I’m also entering only the 7th year of relationship with the man who loves me. He is 16 years younger than I and he pursued me (I was 51 when we met)! I too had begun to think the hope of a loving relationship was about to die. Mainly because I’m also HIV+ (since mid-1990s). I am still in good health though, and I even quit smoking cold turkey over a year ago! I

    am finally not letting the fear I grew up with hinder me from living the life I want to live. How long do I have? Who knows…and who cares. I just want to keep moving forward until I can’t, and then enjoy the fact that even though it took me a long time, I’m living MY life the way I want to. (you can read my story in John’s book, UNFAIR)

    What am I learning?… God is good to us and works out all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). His provision and gifts to me are limitless (Matthew 6:25–34, Ephesians 1:18, Philippians 4:19). Life is good and to be lived. No, you don’t need to come out to the world. No one needs to know your business unless they love you and you trust and love them. So “coming out” to proclaim your gayness to everyone you know is not the point, nor is it by any means necessary. But I promise you if you are able to put down fear of what others may think, and fully claim and accept who you are, and “fuck’em if they can’t take a bloke”, as John says, then you will find a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and a sense of freedom you never imagined.

    All the best to you, friend.