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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."
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 until the 2000s.

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


Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • Ebina from Wandering Son is a 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.
  • 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.
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Fan Works

Film — Live Action

  • Normal (2003) 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.
  • 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.

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 Middlesex, Sourmelina doesn't come out as a lesbian until middle age.
  • In the Nantucket Trilogy, 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.
  • 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 the Jennifer Crusie novel Crazy About You, the heroine's (late fifties) mother comes out about her relationship with her best friend.
  • 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.

Live-Action TV

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Transparent is about a transgender woman named Maura coming out in her 60s. The story revolves around how this effects her and her family.
  • 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.
  • Brothers and 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.
  • In Doom Patrol, Larry Traynor 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.
  • Mia from Hit And Miss is a transwoman, who transitioned after having a son with her girlfriend.
  • 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.
  • In The Golden Girls, Blanche's younger brother Clayton came out in his fifties after decades of marriage to a woman.

Web Comics

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

Real Life

  • 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.
  • Kevin Meaney came out in 2006 after taking a part in Hairspray, which happened 10 years before he died.
  • Caitlyn Jenner came out as a trans woman in 2015 at age 65. Boxing manager Kellie Malone did so at 61.
  • This NPR Story 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Former South Bend, Indiana mayor and 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg came out as gay in 2015 at the age of 33.
  • 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.
  • Polish actor Witold Sadowy came out at the age of 100.
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