Coming out to friends and family can be a struggle no matter how old you are. But I have found it extremely difficult for individuals who are middle-aged. There are many reasons for the increased difficulty in coming out for this group. First, many of these individuals have spent many years living a “straight life”. Although social acceptance of gays and lesbians is not without its barriers at the present time, the acceptance is much higher than it was when these individuals were in their 20s and 30s. Thus, many of them are now married, with children, and unclear of how to change their lives without fearing deeply hurting those that they love, and feeling hurt themselves as a result. Because of that fear, sadly, many remain closeted.
Secondly, individuals are not sure where to turn for support. Being middle-aged and closeted can make it difficult to find social support. Are your friends mutual friends of your spouse? Will your family be so angry that they will not be supportive? This anxiety also keeps many people trapped in a life that they do not know how to get out of.
Another discouraging issue is that many of these have sought out help to find that the people who they are confiding in view them as infidels or weak. I would never promote looking for love outside of a marriage, but helping a person who is coming out and living a “double-life” needs to be handled with compassion and empathy. This is not a typical type of “cheating” in a marriage. If you ever seek out help and leave feeling as though you were judged and unaccepted, find another professional. A professional who is competent will help you sort out the tough situations you are in without making you feel as though you should be raked over the coals.
If you are reading this and you are a professional, I ask that you look inward, and recognize if you have biases about this group of people, and accept them. If you are someone who has yet to come out for fear of the above reasons, I want to say to you that there is hope, but you have to look in the right places. I can’t guarantee that it will be easy, but you will make it through it.
I’m here if you need me.