Coming Out in Your 40s
Written By Amy Caldwell
5 years ago as I was dipping my toe into the waters of coming out as a gay woman, I wrote what you’re about to read. I am just now finding the courage to share it.
Today I identify as queer and I’m working to be more open about it. I’m happily married to and raising my child with Leo, the trans person I write about later in this story.
There is no doubt that it is difficult to come out as gay, queer, or lesbian, later in life, especially after being in a heterosexual marriage and having a child from that marriage.
I was 41 when I first came out - quietly. Then add in the fact that my relationship with Leo “looks like” a heterosexual marriage. I don’t want to have to explain the intimate details of my relationship and why I am who I am to people who don’t get it, so it’s always been easier for me to just be quiet. I most definitely struggle with imposter syndrome and hope that sharing some of my story will reach others with similar experiences. I know you’re out there.
I want to be seen and I want to see you.
It’s been tricky navigating this thing called sexuality.
Before 2013, if you asked me if I was gay or straight, the answer would have been definitively straight. There was always more than acceptance for gay people, and what I’m now realizing to be quite a fascination and longing to be closer with the gay community. But I considered myself to be straight, maybe slightly bi-curious. Things have changed, or rather, I have learned the truth about myself. All of my previous romantic relationships have been with men. Most of those relationships were abusive and dysfunctional and based on me keeping my partner happy at the expense of my own health and well-being. It never felt right. One of my dearest friends is an ex-boyfriend who claims he knew I was gay even when I didn’t. At the end of our relationship, we were more like siblings, and now that all makes sense.
There is a lot of trauma in my story that I am not ready to share about yet. But it led me to abuse myself and allow men to abuse me. It led me to be promiscuous and not care what happened to me or my body. I had kissed a few women, wanted to be closer to a few female friends but didn’t understand why, and had a sexual experience in Vegas with a woman (That was a huge “a-ha moment” for me). I should have explored why I was more interested in fantasizing about encounters with women instead of with men.
Did I ever think I was gay? Not really.
I never entertained the thought and ignored all the signs. I grew up a tomboy and leaned into the masculine. I admire and adore my gay friends and I am most comfortable in a room full of gay people. The funny thing is, I think there was a little voice inside my head telling me I couldn’t be gay. Leading me away from my true sexuality. It probably had a lot to do with hetlag, but I’m only now learning what that means.
My parents raised me in a way that I always knew there was nothing wrong with being gay. Even now, I feel as though my parents accept it about me. They were a bit shocked at first but accepting. I am now wondering if that voice was really my fear of society and my friends, both gay and straight.
This wasn’t the side of me I was presenting to them, so would they accept me if I was different than who they perceived me to be?
And, knowing how society is in general, maybe I wasn’t ready to be honest and out in public, or even ready to explore the idea. I have been in and out of therapy since my parents divorced when I was 12 years old. This never came up. Not once. I see now how good I am at hiding myself and stuffing things down. Sometime in late 2013, I realized I might not be straight. I started falling in love with a trans person, and I fell hard. Now, two years later, we are engaged to be married. I love him more than I have ever loved anyone and more than I ever thought possible.
It’s hard to put into words how perfect our life is together. He gets me. And, when I am with him, I get me. There are people who might say that I’m still not gay. They might say that I am able to love Leo because he looks like a guy, acts like a guy, so other than some technicalities, I must still be straight.
First of all, no one has the right to say what someone else’s sexuality is or should be.
What I am realizing through my relationship with Leo, is who I really am. The things we talk about, the deeper we share with each other, the more I open up, the things we do, all of these things make it very clear to me that I am not straight.
I love Leo because of who he is, every beautiful and complicated piece of him. I am ridiculously attracted to him, and we are connected on levels I cannot begin to explain. Experiencing his masculine along with his feminine and his ability to be fluid, has helped me open up, explore, and be more fluid now too. There are no lines, no absolutes. We can just be. I have never felt so free and self-aware.
I am questioning every little sign from my past that there was something different. I’m not sure where I fit on the spectrum of gayness, and I’m not so sure it really matters. What I know is, I feel more like me than before. I finally have a sense of freedom that I didn’t know was possible to feel.