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Late Coming Out

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"Let me tell you a little story. It's about you. You are what we call a "late in life"-gay. You are going to stay in the closet, get married, get drunk to have relations with your wife, have a couple of kids— maybe become a state senator or a deacon, and then get caught in the men's room, tapping your foot with some page."
Santana (to Karofsky), Glee

Most Coming-Out Stories center around teenagers and young adults. They're early on in their lifespan and still finding their way in the world.

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However, not everyone has the luxury of coming out at a young age. Maybe they don't realize it until they're older or maybe they kept closeted their entire life, but some people don't come out until they're middle-aged or even seniors. By this point, most have settled down and many are married (sometimes to a, usually unwitting, Beard).

Coming out later in life has its own difficulties compared to coming out young, especially if you have a family. This can be especially troublesome if they're Forced Out of the Closet. However, this trope can be Played for Laughs if the person was in a Transparent Closet or Everybody Knew Already about their Secret Relationship. These plots can also involve divorce if the person coming out is married to someone they were using as The Beard.

This trope has become increasingly common as time goes by due to changing acceptance of LGBT people. People who didn't feel comfortable coming out a few decades ago feel more secure, so they do, even if it's a bit later in their life. This is especially common with transgender people as the average age of transition was over 30 in the 2000s but has decreased over time due to more acceptance.

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Sub-Trope to Coming-Out Story and Gay Aesop.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In volume ten of The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, Jeffrey is Forced Out of the Closet, well in his thirties, despite having a long-term boyfriend. He has clearly known of his sexuality for some, as there are hints about it even back when he was a teenager, and he was pretending to have a girlfriend when we first meet him in volume four.
  • Our Dreams at Dusk: While his partner of over 30 years is in the hospital, Tchaiko repeatedly avoids running into Akira's son, who doesn't know his father is gay. When Akira is about to die, his son calls Tchaiko and asks him to come to the hospital, implying his father just came out to him on his deathbed.
  • Ebina from Wandering Son is 30+ years old, predominantly closeted, trans woman who contrasts with the 20-something-year-old Yuki and teenage Nitori. Her unresolved arc revolves around her juggling her want to transition with her adult life. She's raising a toddler on her own after her wife died, which exasperates everything as Ebina's worried about how transitioning will affect her daughter. She also feels insecure in her inability to pass and is jealous of Nitori's youthful androgyny.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beginners (2010): Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for playing a 75-year-old father who only came out to his son after his mother died.
  • Pawel in Hater is mentioned to have some gay rumors around him and potentially to be in a Transparent Closet with his friends/associates. However, he comes out formally after Tomasz drugs him and gets him on video at a gay bar.
  • Normal is about a middle-aged transgender woman who comes out to her wife and teenage children after 25 years of marriage. She faces a lot of Trans Tribulations in her early 2000s, middle America small-town.

    Literature 
  • Two teachers in Annie on My Mind are Forced Out of the Closet along with the two teenage protagonists. The teachers had been in a Secret Relationship for years. They were subsequently fired at their private school. Annie and her girlfriend Liza use them as Mentors in Queerness but also reflect that they use them as an example of what they don't want to be — they don't want to be closeted forever.
  • In the Jennifer Crusie novel Crazy About You, the heroine's (late fifties) mother comes out about her relationship with her best friend.
  • The Four Profound Weaves: The nameless man only came out as Transgender after his lover's death in his early 60s. He admits that he had let her talk him into continuing to live as a woman for the sake of their relationship, but it had made both of them unhappy anyway.
  • In Meg Cabot's The Heather Wells Mysteries, Heather lives in Cooper's brownstone, which he inherited from his grandfather after he was the only family member to be supportive after the grandfather came out as an old man.
  • In Microserfs, code tester "Bug Barbecue" comes out at age 31, as a result of being so close to San Francisco after the group moves to Silicon Valley from Seattle. The author, Douglas Coupland, was 44 when he came out of the closet.
  • In Middlesex, Sourmelina doesn't come out as a lesbian until middle age.
  • In the Island in the Sea of Time (Series), Marian Alston was still in the closet into her forties, owing to her serving in the United States Coast Guard while "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was still in effect. She finally comes out in the aftermath of The Change, in order to head off efforts by her detractors to make her sexuality into a scandal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Rosa has known she's bisexual since she was in middle school, but doesn't come out until she's in her thirties. Part of it is she dislikes discussing her personal life even with her best friends, and part of it is because her parents are incredibly religious and conservative and she knows they wouldn't approve. Boyle finds out by accident when he overhears her talking to her girlfriend and she decides to just the rip the band-aid off and tell everyone else since, despite all his best efforts, Boyle Cannot Keep a Secret.
  • Brothers & Sisters: Saul, born 11 August 1938, spent most of his life in the closet. His nephew Kevin is a Straight Gay; they discuss the different realities of their lives that affected their coming out.
  • Played for Laughs in The Cool Kids. The Camp Gay Sid came out to his wife on New Years 2000 because he was afraid he'd die in Y2K. Nearly two decades later, he's out and proud to just about everyone, except his adult son. An episode revolves around Sid pretending to be straight when his son visits the retirement community, only to fail miserably and end up coming out again.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The middle-aged Darryl doesn't realize that he is bisexual until he falls for White Josh.
  • In Doom Patrol, Larry Trainor knew that he was gay way back in the 1950s, but stayed in the closet until 2019, when he was somewhere in his 90s.
    Crazy Jane: You really keep to yourself too much, man.
  • Fantasy Island: Ruby was in the seventies when she finally embraced her attraction to women, at her husband's gentle insistence (who had realized this long ago).
  • In The Golden Girls, Blanche's younger brother Clayton came out in his fifties after decades of marriage to a woman.
  • Grace and Frankie: The show opens with the title characters' 70-odd-year-old husbands not only coming out but admitting that they've had a Secret Relationship for over 20 years. Their side plots address the hurdles of reestablishing their relationships with their loved ones, adjusting to life as an open couple, and struggling to fit in with the LGBT* community.
  • Mia from Hit & Miss is a trans woman, who transitioned after having a son with her girlfriend.
  • Jane the Virgin: Rogelio's father Manuel is closeted, and kept up the appearance of a happy marriage with his mother Liliana for Rogelio's sake. In season two, Liliana and Manuel get a divorce after being married for about forty years so that Manuel can live as a gay man.
  • The L Word: Phyllis is in her fifties when she admits to being a lesbian and comes out.
  • Star Trek: Picard although Seven of Nine is implied to have had at least one lesbian relationship in the 2380's she's not publicly out until she begins a relationship with Raffi in 2401 at the age of 57.
  • Transparent is about a transgender woman named Maura coming out in her 60s. The story revolves around how this affects her and her family.
  • Played for Laughs in The Vicar of Dibley. The 60-something Frank Pickle gets himself a show on the short-term community radio station, which he uses to come out as gay — but as Frank has a reputation for being extremely boring, literally nobody listens to it.
  • Val and Holly's father in What I Like About You came out after his daughters saw him making out with his "business" partner.

    Web Comics 
  • Questionable Content has Marten's father Henry Reed, who came out soon before divorcing. He marries his boyfriend Maurice during the comic.

    Web Videos 
  • Out With Dad: Nathan is past forty at least when he's made aware of the fact that he's a romantic asexual, never having heard of the idea before though when told he realizes that it describes him. Rose, who came out to him much earlier, teasingly echoes one of his own lines after learning she's a lesbian.

    Real Life 
  • Former South Bend, Indiana mayor and 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg came out as gay in 2015 at the age of 33.
  • Fran Drescher and her husband Peter Marc Jacobson got married in 1978, but separated in 1996, and filed for divorce in 1999. Shortly after the divorce was finalized, he officially came out of the closet.
  • Caitlyn Jenner came out as a trans woman in 2015 at age 65. Boxing manager Kellie Malone did so at 61.
  • Barry Manilow first met his husband Garry Kief in 1978 but he remained in the closet until 2017, fearing that coming out would disappoint his female fans. Happily, his fans ended up being supportive.
  • Ian McKellen came out at age 49 in 1988.
  • Kevin Meaney came out in 2006 after taking a part in Hairspray, which happened 10 years before he died.
  • This NPR Story from the year 2000 chronicles a number of people who came out as middle-aged adults. Most of them were already married, and many struggled to keep their marriages together. Many couples divorced, but a few stayed together despite the Incompatible Orientation.
  • Polish actor Witold Sadowy came out at the age of 100.
  • Phillip Schofield ended up coming out as gay in 2020, which he later followed up with a statement on This Morning. All of this happened when he was 57, 17 years after his marriage to his wife.
  • Richard Wilson didn't publicly discuss his sexuality until 2013 after he was "outed" by Time Out magazine in a list of influential gay people. He officially came out as gay at the age of 76.
  • Elvira, Mistress of the Dark began dating her girlfriend Teresa Wierson nineteen years before she officially came out, revealing their relationship and her bisexuality in her 2021 memoir Yours Cruelly. She admitted she was afraid to come out for fear her fans would reject her, but that all their close friends and family knew. She also revealed she didn't know she was bi until she met Teresa (and even then, only after they'd been friends for years), when she was well into her middle age. Teresa was the first woman she'd ever been attracted to, and it took some time for her to realize that was what she was feeling.
    Would my fans hate me for not being what they expected me to be? I'm very aware that there will be some who will be disappointed and maybe even angry, but I have to live with myself, and at this point in my life, I've got to be truthful about who I am.
  • Kal Penn revealed in 2021 that he was engaged to another man that he was dating for 11 years, and said he didn't figure out his sexuality until he was an adult in his 30s.
  • After spending most of her life presenting as a gay man, actress Quentin Crisp came out as a trans woman in her personal writings at the age of 90. Unfortunately, she died of a heart attack not too long after, and thus her gender identity remained unknown to the general public until her autobiography was posthumously published in 2017 (as of 2022, Wikipedia still refers to Crisp by her assigned gender at birth because of this, citing a lack of reliable third-party sources).
  • Johnny Mathis was 46 when he was outed as gay in 1982; when he officially came out in 2017, he was 81.
  • Kevin Conroy came out as gay in 2016 at 61 years old. In his 2022 biographical comic "Finding Batman", he revealed his struggles with watching gay friends dying from AIDS and how a homophobic producer blacklisted him.

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