10 Pieces of Advice From LGBT Millennials to People Coming out Late in Life

March 23rd 2016

We’ve all heard a coming-out story: The 20-year-old comes home from college, anxious to tell his parents about his boyfriend. The 16-year-old tells her parents that she’s going to prom…with a girl. As the world has become more accepting, LGBT youth feel more comfortable announcing their sexuality.

But what about those who come out in their 40s, 50s, or even 60s? Famed magician James Randi came out at age 81, and even Ellen’s celebrated coming-out episode aired when the actress was 39.

According to a 2011 study, coming out generally decreases anger and depression, and pumps up self-esteem, though these results are limited to those who have a supportive social network. This can leave those in their forties and older in a no-man’s-land, if they're detached from an older community.

ATTN: spoke to ten gay, bisexual, pansexual, and transgender individuals who came out young (at age 34 or before). We asked them what encouragement they would give to people who are considering coming out later in life. Here’s what they said.

1. “Don't wait any longer! Might as well live your life the way you were born to live it.”

Burke came out as a lesbian at age 28.

Name: Jessica Burke

Profession: Preschool teacher

Age: 31

Coming-out age: 28

When she came out:

I feel like I came out kind of late, but in the back of my head, I always knew I was gay. I was always attracted to women, but I was so afraid I’d let someone down. I tried to convince myself that I was bi, because I thought it'd be easier for people to accept that.

The first really important person I told was my mom. I stuttered, and couldn't get a full sentence out. She interrupted me and kind of yelled at me, "Spit it out, Jess. You're scaring me!” So, I did: "I like girls.” Her face went from worried to normal, and she said, "Oh thank god! I thought you were going to tell me something awful, like that you were moving out of state.” It was a relief to know that being gay wasn't something at all negative to her, because her opinion is probably the most important to me.

One night, we were out to dinner, and my mom asked if my ex-husband was the only guy I had had sex with. I laughed, and said no. She asked me how I was able to have sex with men when I wasn't even really attracted to them, and I admitted to her that I was almost always majorly intoxicated OR it ended up feeling like rape because it was just so unpleasant for me.

What surprised her:

The oldest people I told (my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents) were more supportive than some of the younger family members I told. My sister didn't want me telling my niece and nephew that I was gay, and she still tells them that the word “gay” is a bad word. I know she loves me, but I don't like that I can't be more open around her. My mom finally told my grandma and when I talked to her a few days later, my grandma told me I shouldn't worry about what other people think and that, "Me and your grandpa were friends with all the gays in [our] younger days.” Had I known they would all be so supportive, I wouldn't have stayed in the closet for so long; that's for sure!

Her advice:

Don't wait any longer! Just allow yourself to be your true self. It's scary, not knowing if people are going to accept you, but the ones that truly love you will be there for you. Might as well live your life the way you were born to live it. It's easier said then done, but it's worth it.

2. “Say it. That's important. But not interesting. What's interesting is your life.”

Draper came out in a series of steps.

Name: Caleb Haven Draper

Profession: Fitness customer service agent

Age: 31

Coming-out age: 18

When he came out:

I told my mother I was interested in men when I was 18 years old. I wasn't totally "out" until I was 23 years old, after half a decade of wondering how to do it in a positive, effective way. I wish I'd just made a statement about my interest in men, and let everyone deal with it.

[At 23] I was in the hospital, after being on meth for a couple days. My lungs had an adverse reaction (oops, surprise?) and had started to fill with fluid. To put it simply, I was drowning. My sister, dad and stepmom came to the hospital, in a type of intervention, and I told them I was gay. My dad's reaction was, "Well, I'd be a really bad father if I didn't tell you that you're going to hell."

Exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

Dealing with family:

My father is truly an amazing, intelligent, caring man. He's supportive, funny and honest. The hardest part of my life as a gay man has been reconciling my feelings for him as a person and father, against my feelings for him as a Christian. I've never held that comment against him. But I've also never actively tried to change his feelings about homosexuality, which I regret.

Telling mom:

During my freshman year of college, my mom came to see a play I was in. This was probably two weeks after I started seeing my first boyfriend. We went to dinner after the show and I knew I was going to tell her. I've always been candid with my mom about my love life, and I wanted to tell her about this, because I knew it was important.

She asked, like she always does, if I was seeing anyone.


And then I saw her figure it out. With this intense look of fear, she asked,

"Not... a guy?"

"His name is Joshua. He was the star of the show tonight."

"He did a really good job."

And then, tears. I didn't want her to cry. I told her that.

She said, ”I'm not crying because you're gay. I've always known you were gay; I will always love you and accept you no matter what, you know that. But I want grand children."

"Well, first of all, I didn't say I was gay,” I told her. “I might be; I'm figuring that out. Second, I don't think I'm ever going to give you grand children, whether I'm gay or straight. I don't think I'm ever going to want kids. I'm sorry."

Then we went back to normal conversation. Mom has always been accepting, even excited. She's the strongest person I know. I try every day to be more like her. I wish I had taken the love and acceptance I felt that night, and called everyone I knew, and said, "I might be gay, but it doesn't matter. Still, I'll let you know when I figure it out. Love you, bye."

What surprised him about coming out:

Mostly that I'd been way more ashamed than I should have been. At the end of the day, nobody gives a crap if I'm gay or straight. They say they do, but once you're out, you're out. Everyone moves on with their lives. I feel lucky to be from a generation that pioneered that reaction.

His advice:

You have so many more important things to be talking about! There's never a better time. Do it now, so everyone can stop wondering and move on. I'm not saying it's not important, it's SO SO SO important. But not interesting. What's interesting is your life. Being gay isn't difficult; being straight isn't difficult. Life is difficult and isolating yourself and keeping secrets from the people who love you is only making it more difficult. Be easy. Then be interesting. And strong. And fierce.

3. “Find your support group, and then go for it.”

Myles is currently going through the coming-out process.

Name: Robbie Holden Myles

Profession: Teacher and Theatre Technician

Age: 34

Coming-out age: 16

When he came out:

I've had to come out twice in my life. Once when I was younger and once as an adult. In fact, as an adult I'm still in the coming out process. The first time I came out I was sixteen years old, I came out as lesbian. Now, at 34, I have been coming out (slowly) as transgender.

Telling friends:

When I first came out, I told a friend of mine because I had a crush on a mutual friend. She ended up telling [the girl I had a crush on] and the rest of our friends. As soon as I learned that, I ran and told my mother, who I knew would be incredibly understanding. That was an understatement; she was ecstatic! She said she always hoped she'd have a gay child and how excited she was for me. She hugged me and told me she loved me. The next day, I came out to my brother, who was accepting, and my father, whose only issue was that he was the last one in the family to find out.

Coming out as transgender:

Coming out as a transgender man has been more difficult. I once again came out to a close friend who has known me for years. I felt extremely comfortable and supported by her and her family, so I came out to them first. Then I came out to my wife, and her reaction was less than stellar. She cried, told me I was too short to be a guy (I’m 5’2"), and that no matter what I did I would always be her "beautiful wife." This put a lot of tension on an already tense marriage and within four months, we filed for divorce. This was not reason we broke up, but it was a major stressor on an already highly stressed relationship.

After coming out to my now ex-wife, I told my family, who have all have been wonderfully supportive. There have been a lot of "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to call you she,” or "Wrong name, I'm sorry!" moments, but I have to give them so much credit. I have been truly blessed to have a wonderful family and amazing friends.

Coming out at work:

Last year, I began coming out to my colleagues, and some of my students. The plan is to officially come out by the end of this school year and to have my name legally changed so that next year I get to begin the year as Mr. Robbie Myles. Overall, the school and district have been very supportive and [about] 80 percent of the staff and faculty have been wonderful about the transition and coming out. I'm still struggling with a few, and some people are outing me to others without my consent, but overall, I think being in a rather public position in the community and having a career that connects me to a lot of people, my coming out as trans has gone fairly well.

What surprised him:

When I first came out, I was a little surprised at some people's reactions. I dated guys prior to coming out, so a few family members were convinced I was just “a tomboy." They had difficulty accepting me and even a harder time once I brought around a few of my girlfriends over the years. But, what was more surprising was how almost relieved and comfortable they were once I came out at trans. I think deep down they understood that more [than thinking I was gay], because they already felt I was masculine.

I got questions from my queer friends like, “So, does that mean you're straight now?" or "Does this mean that your exes were now in hetero relationships?" I don't think they were asking because they were upset. I think many of them just didn't understand.

We are asked when we come out to find a label that can convey to people quickly a rolodex of information about ourselves, which is really just a bunch of stereotypes and confining ideas about who we are.

His advice:

My advice to anyone coming out today, regardless of age is: find your support group, and then go for it. Life is just too short to be uncomfortable and unhappy. I've done it too many times and truly, I cannot find a good reason why. And for those who are coming out later in life, things are different than they were. Of course, not everyone is accepting, but SO MANY MORE people are accepting than ever before. And you deserve to be happy. If people love you, they will love YOU, regardless of who you're attracted to, or what your gender is.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone you care about cannot see past a label, then lean on those who support and love you. They will be there for you, they will help you remember who you are and why your feelings and truth is important.

4. “Let yourself make mistakes.”

Andersen came out at age 14.

Name: Charles Andersen

Profession: Mechanical engineering student

Age: 27

Coming-out age: 14

When he came out:

I had just started high school and was only starting to understand that I was different. The first person I came out to was a friend I made very quickly at the start of high school. I chose to come out to her because I could tell her reaction would be really positive. She's the type of person who genuinely wants to help everyone, and we're still friends to this day.

What surprised him:

The most surprising thing in the initial process was that once you start coming out, you find yourself on a bit of a runaway train. You feel the urge to tell every single person you know.

The most surprising thing, years later, is that you just start to assume that absolutely everyone who meets you must know you're gay. Then you find yourself in a situation where someone still assumed you were straight and you can't help but think, "Really? This?"

His advice:

Let yourself make mistakes and don't judge yourself for any mistakes you do make. Coming out is difficult and no one has ever come out without stumbling a bit along the way.

To someone coming out later in life, I think what's important to remember is that you don't have to suddenly make up for what you could consider lost time. All your life experiences before aren't suddenly invalid because you've finally taken the step to be more honest with yourself and others.

5. “No one who’s worth anything is going to blame you.”

Kazarian came out at age 18.

Name: Armen Kazarian

Profession: Retail and higher education

Age: 22

Coming-out age: 18

How they identify:

I mostly use the words bisexual and transgender to describe myself. I’ve taken Testosterone and gotten a bilateral mastectomy because that’s how I’m comfortable with my body looking, and I’ve changed my identification to say “M” instead of “F.” But in reality, my gender identity is nebulous and “wobbly” and exists somewhere between or outside the categories of male and female. Being referred to with gender-neutral terms of address feels most right for me.

When they came out:

The first person I feel like I actually came out to was my best friend from college. Because we’d met online before arriving on campus, I already knew that she was bi[sexual] from her blog. I pretty casually came out to her as bisexual the first time that we met in person and the conversation just went on as normal.

She was also the first person I came out as transgender to. I don’t think she was very surprised, because she had been my confidante for a lot of the process that led up to me making that realization. She responded very positively, and did her best to support me and make my transition easier. She was incredibly encouraging throughout the process of exploring my identity, how I wanted to present myself to the world, and how I wanted people to refer to me.

What surprised them:

I didn’t realize that people really come out of the woodwork to give you their opinion on you and your body. [They say] you’re just confused, or a tomboy, or a very feminine guy, et cetera. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that coming out would be without incident, but it really shocked me how many people thought that they had a better idea than I do, of who I am and what’s best for me.

After I came out to the majority of my friends (via Facebook), a former close friend of mine sent me a really distressing e-mail. He told me that being trans was unnatural, and he asked me all these invasive questions, and said how strongly he felt that I shouldn’t start hormones or get gender affirming surgery, and then he had the nerve to ask if we could still be friends despite the fact that he didn’t believe my identity was a real thing. I spent a week trying to think of a way to respond, but I gave up and just never spoke to him again.

Also, my dentist, of all people, tried to give her two cents about why I shouldn’t do hormone therapy because I “look so pretty in a dress.” (Which I still do, I just also happen to have swarthy, Armenian werewolf arms now.)

Their advice:

Unfortunately, there are well-meaning people out there who don’t really get it. Sometimes, if you stick up for yourself, people see you as the troublemaker. But no one who’s worth anything is going to blame you for doing what you have to do to keep yourself happy and healthy. If you need to stop associating with a person or a group of people who refuse to treat you like a human being who is worthy of respect (and if that is something that you are able to do) then you have every right to do that! It isn’t childish or over-dramatic to refuse to let people continue to hurt you.

Also, people who take personal offense to you coming out, or who see it as a burden on them, are full of it!

6. “Every coming-out is an act of courage.”

Johnson, age 36, came out at 33.Kendall Bryant. Used with permission.

Name: Kara Johnson

Profession: Administrative assistant, animal rights

Age: 36

Coming-out age: 33

When she came out:

I first came out to my wife, Heather. We'd been together for 17 years at the time, and this was the only secret I'd kept from her, so I was pretty nervous about it. She's been openly bisexual since we met, we'd both been involved in LGBT activism before, and were well-read on trans issues, but I was still terrified to tell her. Of course, I had no reason to worry. Once I told her that I was transgender, she said OK, asked me what I needed and how she could help, and that was that. She's been my strongest supporter ever since.

What surprised her:

Almost everything about the [coming-out and transition] process has been quite surprising. I began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) shortly after coming out to my wife, and never would have suspected the magnitude of change that would bring about. The big things (breast development, change in libido, emotions) were to some degree expected. But the change in hormones affected so many minute aspects of my personality and interface with the world. I like different types of media than I did before, I'm forgetful, I take things personally that would have rolled off me before. And after so many years in a relationship, we had to go through getting to know each other, learning how to navigate fights and each other’s moods — things we had considered settled for decades. It was like being a teenager again, but with a much steeper learning curve.

Her advice:

Part of me wants to say that it's never too late; don't waste a minute thinking that you're too old to come out. But I know not everyone is in a position where being out is safe. I don't think anyone should be pressured to be out, even though I know the biggest contributing factor to increased societal acceptance is as many of us being out as possible. I guess I'd say, if you decide to come out, no matter your age or position in life, no matter whether you've always known or it's something you're just coming to terms with, to always remember that every coming out is an act of courage. Every time, it is beautiful. And I believe with all my heart that the world is a better place with us in it.

7. “Stare down anyone who tries to bring you down.”

Farrell, 25, came out in adolescence.Rishem Chatha. Used with permission.

Name: Liz Farrell

Profession: Technical support agent

Age: 25

Coming-out age: 17

When she came out:

I started the coming-out process very young, and in agonizingly slow steps. I was about 13 when I realized I was attracted to girls, and slowly rolled out being bisexual to my friends. I was still trying to force myself into liking boys, but by the time I was around 17, I realized I was solely into the ladies, and I came out as a lesbian to those close to me.

When I was probably 15 or 16, and I remember going into my kitchen where my mom was washing some dishes and I just dropped, "I think I'm bisexual" with no warmups, no small talk just BOOM! Bisexual. She put everything down, said, "Let's go for a walk," and we walked around the block a couple times while I cried, and she said it was just a phase over and over. Sorry, mom.

It wasn't until I was 21 that I felt confident enough to bring it up to new people I met, and that year I also came out to my parents. Ever since then, I have been very out.

What surprised her:

The day I finally realized I was lesbian was, hands-down, the happiest day of my life. I was walking down my school hallway and just repeating, "Lesbian, lesbian, lesbian" over and over and over in my head. It was exhilarating. It was the first day I was fully struck with hope. I didn't have to conform to the beauty standards boys apparently liked, I didn't have to pretend to agree when my friends said they were cute. It was as though all the parts of me aligned properly, and I was full and whole and good.

So often the coming-out process is portrayed as scary (and, trust me, sometimes it is!), but I feel like not enough emphasis is put on just how good and liberating it feels.

Oh, that and the amount of times people ask who wears the pants in my relationships. It's 2016, you'd think we'd be past that?

Walking while gay:

Being spotted in public by other queer people never gets old! Just the other week my girlfriend and I were holding hands and walking we passed an older lady couple who smiled at us. The second they were out of ear-shot we started laughing and cheering.

Her advice:

It's scary to first form those thoughts [that one might be LGBT]. You really have to go over and over the words in your head before you can even begin to vocalize them. Especially if you've spent years trying to internalize the opposite. But surround yourself with wonderful people who adore you, no matter what, and stare down anyone who tries to bring you down. You got this! I believe in you! (Is that dorky? I don't even care.)

Also, OKCupid will be your friend! I've met so many rad ladies online that I never ever would have met before.

8. “Reach out to places with support groups.”

Asher, 25, came out at age 13.

Name: Ceridwyn Asher

Profession: Photographer

Age: 25

Coming-out age: 13

When she came out:

I first came out to one of my best friends during a middle school camping trip. I told her that I thought I might not be straight, because I had a crush on her, and we ended up kissing. So, good reaction.

What surprised her:

I was pretty surprised by how afraid I was of coming out to people who I was close to, who I absolutely knew would be fine with it. My mother's best friends are all gay and she's always been the most open-minded person I know, but I was still terrified she'd decide that it wouldn't be O.K. for her kid. She was (of course) totally fine, but I was just absolutely terrified.

Her advice:

Don't be afraid to reach out to places with support groups or queer groups of some kind (online or in person, if it's available to you). Coming out is hard, and it helps to have actual queer people in your life to talk to. Straight cis friends may want to support you, but having people who understand the coming-out experience is invaluable and usually just more helpful. They'll also have good ideas about how to deal with coming out.

Totally do watch all the queer movie and tv classics! It seems like a huge part of my bonding experience with other queer folks begins with laughing about "The L Word" or comparing favorite gay movies. Even the badly-made cult classics are worth it. It's such a good entry into queer culture that you can do at your own pace from home.

9. “It's well within your rights to turn down people's questions.”

Driggs, 30, came out this year.

Name: Johnny Driggs

Profession: Software Tester and Writer

Age: 30

Coming-out age: 30 (January 1, 2016)

When he came out:

The first person I told was my wife. She had actually independently asked me, early on in our marriage, if I was bisexual. At the time, I said I didn't think so, but it was something I was giving thought. Over time, I came to be more confident that I was. We had both been living with the understanding I was bisexual for more than a year before I told anyone else. She was, of course, supportive and happy for me.

When I came out publicly, the first people I told were my parents and siblings, all in individual text messages. They were all happy and frankly a bit blasé about it. My parents both wanted to talk on the phone, and while they both were perfectly happy for me, they didn't think it was necessary for me to come out publicly.

What surprised him:

First is that I had to take the effort to come out at all. For that year that I was living confident in the knowledge that I was bi[sexual], I figured it would come up in conversation at least once. It never did.

Second, a few people immediately wondered if there was an issue with my marriage, when I told them. It might have been naïve of me not to expect that, but from my perspective, my marriage was one of the things that most reassured me of my decision to come out. I took the initiative to mention the fact that it didn't affect my relationship with my wife in later conversations.

His advice:

If you can take comfort in the idea, there are probably a lot of people who will not care much what your orientation is. Circumstances differ and prejudice abounds, but there's at least some chance that a lot of your friends and family won't give much of a second thought to the revelation that you're LGBT. That was reassuring to me, and maybe it will be to you too.

If you're the first out person someone knows you might become people's go-to contact for LGBT issues. It's up to you to determine if you feel comfortable with that responsibility. It's well within your rights to turn down people's questions and requests, and even if you do, it's probably best to preface your comments with the caveat that you can't speak for the wide variety of experiences and views among LGBT people.

10. “The old world is being replaced with a world full of love.”

Starr, 23, came out as bisexual at 15 and pansexual at 20.

Name: Tylor Starr

Profession: Youth Outreach Coordinator

Age: 23

Coming-out age: 15 as bisexual, 20 as pansexual

When he came out:

I can remember this night so clearly. It was dark, and my Dad and I were on our way back home from the grocery store. I woke up that morning knowing that tonight was the night that I was going to tell my family that I liked boys [in addition to girls]. I had chickened out the entire car ride home and we were about to pull into the driveway, when I asked my dad what bisexual meant. Now, I’d known full-well what it meant after all of the late night internet searches I had done leading up to this chat, but having him tell me what it was felt like I had to do less work. He told me that it was when someone likes both genders sexually. I didn’t say anything afterwards, so he asked me “Is that how you feel?” and I told him yes. Our relationship from that point on was stretched thin, and became very tense. I would later find out that he was worried for me and was afraid of what people might think about me.

What surprised him:

The most surprising part of all of this was how strong I felt afterwards. Coming out to my classmates was empowering. The day after I came out to my family, I blurted it out to a bully who was calling me gay during gym class. Yelling, “I’m not gay! I’M BI!” in front of my whole gym class made me feel as though I could do anything. I’d always worried that coming out was going to make me self-conscious, but I realized that all of my insecurities were stemming from my inability to be who I truly knew I was.

His advice:

I’m gonna be so cliché, but be strong. The time you grew up in and the world you were raised in that was intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community has slowly been diminished and is instead being replaced with a world full of love and a burning passion to fight for equality.

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