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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Marguerite is a short film about a woman named Marguerite who is slowly dying of kidney failure. She happens to discover one day that the nurse who is looking after her is a lesbian. Marguerite reveals that decades ago, she was a stewardess who was in love with another stewardess, but she was too scared to reveal her feelings and the woman she was in love with married a man.
- 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.
- Pride (2014): Cliff, the soft spoken poetry entusiast in the village who has been in a semi- Transparent Closet for decades decides to come out towards the end of the film, and when the miners travel en masse to London to march at the Pride parade, Cliff finds his own crowd under the banner of Gay Poets.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 just to 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 Year's 2000 because he was afraid that 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 (2019), 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.
- Not until she was in her late 30s/early 40s, after a failed marriage and several other heterosexual relationships, did ER's Kerry Weaver realize that she was gay following a relationship with a woman.
- Fantasy Island (2021): 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 while she's in her late thirties (judging by the actress's age).
- Interview with the Vampire (2022): Because of both institutionalized and internalized homophobia (the series premiere takes place in 1910), Louis de Pointe du Lac only accepted his homosexuality at age 33 note when he entered into a committed relationship with Lestat de Lioncourt.
- 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 Last of Us (2023): Bill's around fifty at the beginning (to judge by the actor's age) and only admitted he's into men on meeting Frank.
- My Name Is Earl has quite a few examples:
- The first and probably most notable in the series is Kenny James, a former classmate of Earl's, who had remained closeted until Randy found his stash of gay porn. Earl helps Kenny come out of the closet as a way of making up for bullying him as a child.
- Former officer Stuart Daniels had tried and failed to win over Billie, before finally accepting the advances of Kenny, who had a crush on him for years. Stuart says that his Catholic upbringing made it hard for him to come to terms with his bisexuality.
- When Earl was in prison, two inmates named Hector and Jamal were locked in solitary together. They both realized they were gay and began seeing each other in secret once freed.
- The L Word: Phyllis is in her fifties when she admits to being a lesbian and comes out.
- Our Flag Means Death: Stede realizes he's gay and in love with Ed when he appears to be in his forties.
- Star Trek: Picard: Although Seven of Nine is implied to have had at least one lesbian relationship in the 2380s 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.
- Two and a Half Men:
- Early episode "An Old Flame with a New Wick" had Charlie reunite with one of his exes who has since transitioned into a man.
- The episode "It Was Mame, Mom" focused on Charlie and Alan pretending to be a gay couple in order to impress a gay client of Charlie's. Said client was married to a woman for a long time before coming to grips with his sexuality.
- Chelsea's Armored Closet Gay father finally comes out of the closet, divorces Chelsea's mother, and enters a relationship with his former military friend (who also qualifies as this.)
- A late episode had Alan dating a forty-year-old transwoman, who was married for a long time before transitioning.
- Straight Gay construction worker Mikey in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is in his 30s before he realizes he's gay.
- 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.
- The White Lotus: Valentina is clearly somewhat older (played by a 54-year-old actress) and accepts she's a lesbian only once she has had sex with Mia, after admitting it's her first time with a woman.
- You Me Her: Emma comes out as bisexual when she's nearly forty.
- Moon over June: One evening Summer was cruising for a hookup at a lesbian bar only to run into her recently widowed and slightly tipsy sixty-six-year-old mother, who admitted that she had realized she was mainly attracted to her own gender before her now middle-aged daughter was in her teens. The conversation with her out-and-proud-since-high-school-graduation kid grew...heated.
Summer: "So you're telling me that you had a shit-fit about finding me kissing my best friend when I was 12, sent me to Catholic School for 6 years, refused to acknowledge any of my eventual girlfriends, making me bitter and resentful, all because you were a self-hating closet case your whole life who was too intimidated by Dad to show even the slightest hint of your true self to anyone?"
Colleen: "Well, that's a little harsher than I would have put it, but yes, I suppose so."
Summer: "Why the fuck didn't you just divorce him 40 years ago??"
Colleen: "Summy, divorce is a sin!"
Summer: "You used to say the same thing about being gay!!"
- Questionable Content has Marten's father Henry Reed, who came out soon before divorcing. He marries his boyfriend Maurice during the comic.
- 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.
- Family Guy: Ida Davis, formerly known as Dan Quagmire, came out as a transgender woman as a senior.