Seniors who come out as members of the LGBTQ community — meaning they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer — open themselves up to a world of opportunities. Sometimes, sadly, coming out so late in life can lead to awkward, even scary situations.
Whenever someone comes out, relationships with family members and close friends can feel like they may be at peril. This could be because of homophobia or the image of you changing in ways they didn’t expect.
Whatever the case, taking the plunge into your new life will be rife with ups and downs. It is important to be aware of the unique challenges older persons can run into as they transition into an LGBT identity.
This article will discuss some of the issues that can cause anxiety in LGBT older adults after they come out in their twilight years. We want to also address how you can handle these situations and where you can go to find an open and accessible community for love and friendship.
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Why coming out as LGBT can be scary for seniors
New York City’s Stonewall riots brought the plight of LGBT people against homophobic and bigoted discrimination to light. Since then, many have become more aware of the challenges faced, from health care issues to violence against gay men, lesbians, and transgender people.
Being aware of this kind of treatment can make coming out a scary moment for anyone. In modern times people are more understanding and open to others when they tell someone what their sexual orientation is, but that doesn’t mean discrimination doesn’t still exist.
On top of the verbal or physical abuse that one can be afraid of, there is also the concern about how family may react. For seniors this may mean a spouse, children, or even grandchildren on top of their friends and siblings reacting badly.
For seniors in a rest home, there can also be concerns that caregivers may not treat them well in their later life. This can be terrifying for LGBT elders who come out recently and aren’t yet comfortable with their sexual orientation.
Fears of being ostracized, discriminated against, and even hurt are common for those who are in an advanced age that have yet to tell anyone about how they identify.
But this doesn’t have to be the case, and now is a better time than ever to open up.
Why now is the time to be the real you
Times have changed and LGBT people around the world are more recognized for who they are than ever before. There are support groups and long-term care nursing homes that can help senior citizens feel comfortable with this transition into a new life.
On top of that, many guides which discuss broaching the subject with family and friends are applicable to elderly as well as millennials. Unlike older generations, younger generations are more familiar and accepting of aging LGBT older adults, so your children will likely understand.
Many advocacy groups also work tirelessly to ensure that lesbian and gay people, as well as transgender women and men, are safe. This includes raising awareness on issues facing the broader LGBTQ community or niche problems, such as those facing senior members.
Examples include the LGBT Aging Center, as well as nursing homes that cater specifically to LGBT seniors. The resources that these organizations provide includes:
- Covering a range of LGBT legal issues
- Health care advice and mental health care tips
- LGBT community centers and where to find them
- Housing services and locators depending on where you are
- and much more
Remember, the world is always a better place when someone takes the courage to step up and share who they really are. There are a wealth of resources online that can help make this process comfortable, and many organizations that specify helping older LGBT people.
5 Tips for a senior joining the LGBT community
No matter where you live, from Los Angeles to New York City, London, Cairo, Tokyo or Sydney, there are some shared experiences that you can expect when you come out in your later life. Here are our 5 tips to help guide and prepare you for coming out:
1. Be prepared for questions
Some of the most sage advice we can give you is to be ready for all kinds of questions to come at you. Family and friends who have known you for quite some time will be curious about your sexual orientation or new gender identity. Some may even have known before you!
Try not to be intimidated or offended by the questions you get, so long as they aren’t openly hostile. This is a transitional period for not just you, but your loved ones as well. Be patient and honest with each person as they come to you.
Answering their questions will also help you to clear your thoughts about coming out and the kind of person you really are. Treat the experience as one that will help you move into your new LGBT lifestyle the right way.
2. You may lose persons close to you, but you will gain new loved ones
The unfortunate reality is that not everyone is as accepting of those coming out in the community as we would hope them to be. Many LGBT individuals experience painful encounters with family and friends who have trouble adjusting to the person you are.
Give them time and space to adapt to who you are and to understand your decision. Older folks may need a bit more to accept LGBT older adults than younger ones. Just remember that not all painful encounters need to be a separation that lasts forever.
They’ll come around if they truly care for you.
On the other hand, there are a lot of LGBT older adults and allies who are there for you to help assist in any way they can. Whether it is supporting you by lending an ear to your problems, providing friendship, and even becoming potential partners, reach out to them when you can.
Keep an open mind and you will meet many people willing to help you and share in your journey.
3. Explore opportunities to meet other LGBT people
You’ll definitely want to see what the pool for senior LGBT singles is like, especially if you want to start looking for romance now that you’ve come out. Aside from the community you can meet in a retirement home or through local meetups, you may want to consider online dating.
Online dating apps, especially senior dating apps or dating websites, are especially excellent at helping singles meet. Senior meetup services also work to go beyond just matching up for dating.
These sites offer online community forums to make new friends and share experiences. You can also just chat and talk about issues related to coming out as a senior, LGBT advocacy, senior related topics, and more.
4. Focus on your own well-being
Coming out is a process that revolves around your identity and becoming the person you truly are in a public way. While there may be an inclination to focus on the well-being of your loved ones and how they react to your new orientation or gender identity, you need to focus on you.
Your own mental health and care are of extreme importance. You need to take care of yourself and take steps on a day-to-day basis to ensure that you are safe, comfortable, and in a good place to move forward.
Keep close friends and family members nearby and involved. Support groups and ally caregivers are also important if you should ever feel uneasy about how people react to your news and treat you.
You are a priority, and as a senior you need to take extra precautions to ensure you are treated fairly and with the respect and dignity you deserve.
Seniors and those who recently come out as gay men, bisexuals, lesbians, or transgender face many challenges, and being able to face them with the love and help of those who care for you is vital to your happiness.
5. Be honest and open
The more open and honest you are to others and yourself about your sexual orientation and gender identity, the better you will feel about moving forward. This is important for lesbians and gay men looking for a new relationship after coming out.
LGBT individuals are aware of the kind of experiences and challenges you may have faced, and talking openly and honestly will help others to provide you with the help and support you need. It also makes relating to specific experiences easier for everyone.
Anyone who comes out, especially LGBT older adults, will recognize that the experience is also cathartic. Repressed feelings of who you are and the ones you love will be free and open, giving you the opportunity to truly be the real you.
Don’t hide who you are. It can only hurt you, and the sooner you tell the world, the better a place it will be.
What you can do as a senior coming out
Take the time to evaluate who in your inner circle of family and friends you can tell confidently about your coming out. Discuss the matter privately with them and gauge how they react and how they think others will react.
When you have told enough people that you are confident will support you, reach out to a broader circle near you and tell them. This can either be done in a public setting, such as a family gathering, or via something like email.
Be patient with their reactions and welcome the aid and love that they offer you. For those who are reticent or take your coming out poorly, give them space. Focus on the positive encouragement you can get and communicate in an honest and open way with them.
Answer questions, and ask questions too. Ensure that you find a safe space to live and work in as well, especially as you are aging and may be going to a senior citizen’s home and are unsure of how staff may treat you. If you are concerned, look up ally rest homes open to you.
Keep those who support and love you near you. Look into joining the LGBT community as well, as they can provide invaluable resources, guides, and advice on how you can live a life that is true to who you are.
LGBTQ dating apps for seniors
Adjusting to the pandemic has brought many people around the world to join online communities. Seniors, however, were using these kinds of services in full-swing before that. For anyone who is LGBT and looking to date, find love, or anything in-between, dating apps can help.
Senior dating apps focus on connections and provide a platform for anyone to make new gay connections and meet new singles. LGBT senior dating apps go an extra mile to also serve as a place to discuss issues relevant to LGBT individuals.
Finding love, friendship, and more is important to LGBT older adults, and using one of the most popular ways of communication means joining the widest community possible. You aren’t alone, and seniors who have come out and been out are waiting to meet you.