Coming Out at Middle Age
The voices have been calling me a very long time. Those queer voices (we contain multitudes, so there's never just one). Calling me home. I pretended I didn't hear them for a long time. Explored what I could. Admired what I could take in of gay culture from a distance. Loved queer and gender-ambiguous artists and musicians. But I tried to keep it at a distance. Told myself it was natural to feel these things. (Turns out it is, but that's another story...) That I was home in a drab, safe, straight world, and that my invisibility was just because there was something wrong with me.
There were always invitations to be myself. Kind and gentle men at the dance club I frequented in college were always interested. (Warren if you're out there, I made the wrong choice. DM me dahling!) Women who cultivate friendships with gay men tried to cultivate me (And I loved them for trying). But I'd always blush and thank them for being so sweet and go back into the isolation tank. Out and about but always self-deluded about who I really was. It was not a recipe for happiness. There were a few rare occasions I found myself kissing boys and really liking it. But something, some fear, some shame would always push me back to where I felt so wretched and alienated.
Of course when I was younger, gay men were still being decimated by AIDS. So there were fears. But my high school seemed to tolerate the out gay people who were there, so I never witnessed homophobic bullying. Society's thresholds of shame were enough to keep me in the sunken place. At odds with my body and my sense of right. Turns out I was letting the potential disasters keep me from feeling the joys...
After a divorce following eight years of marriage to a woman, I knew the queerness in me had contributed to this painful situation. I loved her, but I knew there was something else inside me. Something that would never be happy as long as that inauthenticity was there. My body longed to be true. Reality was slipping away. It threatened to swallow me whole. The prospect of another failed marriage was too much to bear. I knew I wasn't getting younger or any less gay. The time to act was now.
I spent two years in the darkness along the way. I convinced myself I was far too old to come out now. That no man would be interested in me. That clubs only played music I didn't like. That I was too drab to make it in a world of fabulous and fierce gay people. Nobody needed to tell me these things. I was my own prison guard.
But that changed. I dared to go out to a wonderful LGBT establishment when I was home for the holidays. At once something was happening. People seemed to see me. Talk to me. Welcome me home. I suddenly realized that there was this huge queer family out there, and they've been wondering where I've been all this time. I even got to kiss a cute boy for the first time in forever. Those kisses were welcome, desperately needed, drunken, and totally stupid — but nonetheless they were an imperative. What feels better, SG, safety or love? Choose now!
I chose the route of love. And that must be what we all choose who tread these roads. Connection as an authentic human being is worth everything else. Just because you've done something for 34 years doesn't make it right. It's never too late to be real. You owe it to yourself.
The nice people at NJGayLIfe.com were kind enough to allow me to share my journey with you all. This blog will cover many things I am interested in, but tend on focus on the closet and what it is like to be middle-aged and out and proud for the first time. There may be sad truths here, but there will also be much joy. I feel like a 19-year-old again, and I intend to make the most of my exploration and discovery — and ultimately find the love that makes me feel the happiest I ever have felt.
I live in South Jersey, but can often be found around Philly. If you see me come say hi. I'll be the short, fat guinea pig sitting on the bar. I'm bright orange, tough to miss. While you're there, please buy me a drink. This gig pays nothing.