Coming out can be difficult at any age, but the majority of coming-out narratives we hear are centred around younger people, in their teens or twenties. But what is it like to come to terms with your sexuality or gender identity when you’ve already started living your adult life?
These 8 women explain why they didn’t come out until they were in their thirties – and what that experience was like for them.
‘I married a man when I was 26 – within three years I knew it was a mistake’
‘I figured it out in my early thirties. I had known from eight or nine I was “different”. [I had] crushes on other little girls but I thought I just liked them a lot. I had a serious emotional attachment to a close friend in high school but never pursued it. Dated men and managed to date really good looking men. Not sure how that happened. Having been treated as weird or different all my life I wanted for once to be looked at as normal, so, at 26, I decided to get married to a lovely man who loved me. My parents were shocked as they never expected me to get married. Within three years I knew I had made a mistake, but it took me another two years to finally act on my feelings.
‘I had met someone at the gym and my husband had been working out of town for weeks. It started as a friendship and finally in exasperation she asked me if I was going to kiss her or not. Bingo, the light went on. I had been approached by women before but never took it seriously when I was younger. Within a year I had moved out – but not before sitting him down and telling him the truth. It is the best decision I have made for myself, and I am very comfortable with who I really am and have no hesitation about being out. You can’t miss me anyway, I am very openly soft butch.’ [via]
‘Looking back, there were so many signs’
‘It took [me] so long to realise because of a Christian upbringing, [I was] so conditioned that it never occurred to me. Now I look back and there were so many signs that I feel like an idiot. After I left the church and religion for good, it was a slow process from a mild questioning, through bi-curious and heteroflexible, to full on bi/pansexual. Now I have an amazing enby [non-binary] partner and life makes so much more sense!’ [via]
‘I was raised in a homophobic household’
‘I came out at 32. I was raised in a super religious household that was exceptionally homophobic. Being attracted to women was something that never crossed my mind because it was treated as such a horrible thing my whole life. I had only had one semi-serious relationship with a guy and it was not great. I stayed single for 10 years after that relationship before I finally figured myself out. I started to question it around 30. I figured out I was also attracted to women the way I was to men.
‘Once I had admitted I was attracted to women, I realised I never really was attracted to men. I’d talked myself into being interested in men. I also realised the massive crushes I’d had on some of my friends through life. Now having been out for two years, I wish I had known all along. So much of my life makes more sense now. I still haven’t dated but that’s related more to self-esteem and residual issues from my last relationship with a guy (sexual assault and gaslighting). Even with that though, I am so much happier to be out. I actually feel like me.’ [via]
‘I thought I was built for men, and that was it’
‘I’m 35. I’d say, within the past 10 or so years I’ve found myself more and more attracted to women. I now consider myself somewhere in the realm of bisexual. I still love cock though. I always kind of knew, I guess. I’ve always loved lesbian porn and I think back to my younger years (high school specifically) and remember being at least curious about my classmates in the locker room. But not to the creeper extent. I would be embarrassed when they got undressed near me to change for gym, and I think it’s because I was, on some level, attracted to them. But being gay in my school wasn’t a thing people talked about much. And to be honest, I didn’t know it was a thing I could do. I thought I was built for men and that was it. I’ve yet to hook up with a girl though. My husband is all for it. I’m nervous and shy about it I guess. My story is still unfolding.’ [via]
‘I stayed in the closet out of fear’
‘I’m 33. [I] knew I liked women my whole life but just didn’t really realise I preferred them this whole time too. At first I just thought I wanted to look like the pretty ladies I saw in movies, and while a part of that is still true, it took me a really long time to realise that it was a lot more than that. I also grew up in an environment that wasn’t very supportive of homosexuality, so I stayed in the closet most of my life out of fear. Now I’m at the point in my life where I don’t care what other people think about my relationships and what they look like. I’m too ‘old’ to forego my happiness to keep up appearances for others. Your happiness is what truly matters, and as long as you aren’t hurting anyone in the process, it shouldn’t matter who you choose to love.’ [via]
‘From a young age there was a pressure to be heterosexual’
‘I did realise I was asexual a few years ago and decided if I have a relationship again, I want to try one with a woman. Anyway, I come from a Catholic background and from a young age there was a pressure to be heterosexual and be interested in boys. Many of my relatives and people I grew up around were homophobic.
‘I was always asked which boy I liked, and why I didn’t have a boyfriend as young as freakin’ [primary school]. Plus the Catholic upbringing of, “gotta get married and have babies”. I had no interest in boys or sex whatsoever, so it turned into a “fake it ’til you make it” type of situation so I’d fit in. All my relationships were abusive in some form or another. After my last ex, I had time to figure myself out. Even after I came out about it, I still get the same BS: ‘You just haven’t met the right man.”‘ [via]
‘I thought I wasn’t queer enough’
‘I’m 35 and only started exploring the idea of being queer when I was 30. I was happily hetero up until that time. Honestly, it was a paradigm shift that made it possible for me (plus the amazing opportunity to play sexually with women really helped). I realised that my sexuality didn’t have to be written in stone – why should it be? If I could at least entertain the possibility of being attracted to and involved with other genders, perhaps I could let myself decide from scratch what I was interested in.
‘I thought this didn’t make me “queer enough”, and I felt like a poser. But hey, it turns out that with the validation and encouragement of my queer friends, the permission to explore and discover, and a lot of self-compassion and guts, my sexuality did change. I’m queer, polyamorous, nesting with an enby partner whom I want to marry, dating a man and a woman, and am generally happier than ever before. All because I allowed myself to change.’ [via]
‘I thought being LGBTQ+ was totally wrong’
‘I was very late thirties/nearly thirty when I realised. I had kind of put my life on hold to raise my younger siblings through my teens and early to mid-twenties, so that didn’t help, as well as being confused, because I had a good friend who I was attracted to. But due to my conservative religious parents and what they taught me, I thought that it was totally wrong and was in denial for a while. I went through a spate of disastrous dates with men until I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t attracted to men, and slowly began to accept that there were options and those options weren’t awful and wrong.’ [via]
This post originally appeared on cosmopolitan.com/uk
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