Closeted at 60 and other queer struggles with authentic self

When to stop being yourself because online isn't the place for all your business, and when to embrace it with your whole heart because life is too short to live anyone's life but your own.

Q:

I'm 60, gay and still in the closet. I know I should have come out in my 20s, but I was busy. At first, I was scared of repercussions, then scared of AIDS, then I was scared of the negative affect on my flower business. Ultimately, I was scared of being ridiculed for not facing the music earlier. 

But as life slows down a bit, I’m lonely. I’ve been single all my life, and I don’t know what my “final chapter” holds. Now what?

Dear Boomer Bloomer:

Chances are that lots of people already know anyway. Unless you’ve been living the double-blind double life of a double agent — in which case, you should totally write a screenplay as your “Act 3” — many of the people in your life have figured out by now.  Except maybe the willfully ignorant. Even outside the obvious stereotypes of being a florist who never married, people aren’t usually so self-absorbed that your orientation never crossed their mind.

A few things come to mind that might help you move into your next phase.

Don't beat yourself up. Nobody realizes how fast life happens except in hindsight and (very) rare moments of clarity.

The closet isn't locked. Just open the door and check out a different world. Most of your fears about coming out center around what other people think. Let it go.

You know the old saying: Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter. It’s a mistake to let the beliefs of others worry you. Leave that to them. Besides, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you do owe yourself an authentic life.

There is no “should.” There is not a wrong or right way to do anything, and that goes certainly for things that are solely and exclusively yours to do. People come out “early,” “late” and “in between.” The only ones I’ve known to regret it are the ones who do it “never.”

You’re lucky. At 60, you have scores of contemporaries who never made it anywhere near that old. Now you’ve got years of life experience to back you up, ever-advancing queer rights and acceptance on your side, and several social and support groups specifically for LGBTQ folks of a certain age.

Q: 

How true does my online persona have to be? I like to keep it really curated with a limited scope, but my significant other is very honest and out there with his personal opinions and daily activities — too honest if you ask me. Who's right?

Dear Museum Quality:

Some hundred years before social media, queer legend Oscar Wilde may have answered your question best: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Quippy and in Wilde’s particular way of making you say “That’s true. Wait, is that true?” the saying gets to the heart of your question, and the answer is that both you and your boo are right — for yourselves.

There are things that people are willing to reveal only when they are able to remain anonymous. Folks like you don’t want the burden of having your ideas attributed to your social identity, and you put value in what others may be assigning to your perceived public reputation. Chances are that you might only reveal the nitty gritty when your identity is obscured and what you say won’t go down on your permanent record.

For your significant other, putting it all out there is just who they are. Maybe they are building a reputation in their own mind as well (they are), or maybe they just don’t care what others have to say. 

Either way, it’s up to the individual. Any conflict about philosophies can be addressed with some simple communication. 

You can’t tell another person how to handle their online persona, but assuming your significant other sometimes includes you in their posts, you can ask for some ground rules about what can and can’t be shared about you.

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected].

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the latest issue, enjoy all of the past editions of The Q advice column, and look for a new issue of Q magazine each week online and around town.