There are many people who grow up in environments in which they didn’t have the space or support to explore their feelings, much less their identities. I see a lot of discussion about young people coming of age, but it’s rare that I see a genuine conversation about what it looks like when someone is exploring their sexuality or sexual identity for the first time in their 40s, 50s, or 60s, and yet it is happening every day.
Well into her midlife years, ‘Janice’ has been married to the love of her life (a woman) for years and has adult children. She recently reintroduced herself as a trans woman to her family and friends.
Similarly, ‘Alan’ was married and had children only to discover later in life that he is, in fact, gay.
Even my own identity and sexuality have evolved over time as I had a wider experience base and learned that there are words like pansexual, and that I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did.
Sometimes the people in our lives may do things we don’t understand or agree with, and that’s ok. This is their life, and even when we are in a relationship with them, at our core we are really only witnesses to their life experience. Let’s give others the grace to live their lives on their own terms.
That also means that people we know and love may discover things about themselves that aren’t choices at all, as ‘Janice’ did. If our feelings for them change as a result of these discoveries, chances are that we don’t love them, we love a snapshot of who we think they are.
The 20-something fresh meat at the bar for the first time? They’re scared to death that their clothes and haircut aren’t cool enough. The older gay man who started an OnlyFans account at 45? He’s embracing his sexual self while working through a lifetime of body dysmorphia. It’s not fodder for a joke, it’s his life and his experience.
The LGBTQ+ community can be vicious and cruel. We can run hot and cold faster than an on-demand water heater and turn our backs on our own when they need our love and support the most. I promise you that no one has it all figured out. If we’re alive and living, then we’re learning. Get out there and live your life on your terms, and never forget that I love you.