National Coming Out Day
by Kim Fountain
Today is National Coming Out Day. It’s an important day, for certain, but I remember this date because it’s my only sibling’s birthday and I missed the Second Annual March on Washington in 1987 so that I could be with her to celebrate her Sweet 16. I had been out for a whole year and so you might imagine how happy I would have been to be in a big city with all those LGBTQ marchers! Ah family.
By today’s standards, I was relatively old when I came out at 18. By 1995, I had been out almost a decade and was working at the NYC Gay and Lesbian Center, stunned by the twelve year olds walking through the doors with parents or guardians, ready to get involved with the Center’s Youth Enrichment Services. It was mind-boggling to me that not only did they make the decision to come out, but they had supportive parents bring them on over to the Center.
As many of us marvel at young people coming out and at times mumble at how we didn’t come out until our late teens or early twenties, we often do not think about the folks who come out much later in life. Recently, I’ve had about five conversations with people who came out after being in a straight marriage for decades, raising children, and then coming out, sometime after age 50. A couple were in their late 60s when they came out.
What does it mean to come out in later life or to come out, go back in, and come back out decades later? People who went through this keep telling me, ‘I feel like I am just catching up and learning all this new stuff. It’s great, but I have no idea what I’m doing.’ What does it feel like to be in a familiar day to day, to have so much of who you are be so similar and yet radically different? How do you ‘convince’ people you’ve known for years that yes, you really are ‘gay’. How do you reconcile your own emotions? What if there was infidelity with a spouse? How do you find other LGBTQ folks? Why did I wait so long?
And what about our partners who fell in love with people who came out later in life? What is it like potentially rather suddenly meeting our new love’s ex spouse and grown children? What is it like meeting those friends who think you’ve ‘turned’ their buddy or best girlfriend into a homosexual?
Happy Coming Out Day!!!