Coming out can be an extremely difficult task for many. For one 65 year-old man who wrote to The Atlantic‘s resident life guru, Lori Gottlieb, he says he may ultimately take the secret of his sexuality to the grave.
“I’m a 65-year-old man, I am gay but have never admitted this to anyone,”
He tells Gottlieb that he reckons his friends know that he is gay but they have never openly discussed it.
He says that keeping this secret for so long has left him with an aching heart.
“I have secretly fallen in love with male friends over the years, but never told them, as they are heterosexual and usually in a relationship,” he said.
“Eventually I get over these crushes, and we remain good friends without my ever saying anything.
“Now I am again infatuated, this time with my male boss.
“I love his intelligence, wit and interest in life.
“He is separated from his female partner. I think about him constantly, even when I try to keep myself busy with hobbies and friends.”
“If I say nothing, this feeling will eventually subside and he will never know and we will remain friends. I will probably take the secret of my sexuality to the grave and everyone will just think I was a nice guy.
“But my heart aches. I’ve pretended for so long.”
Gottlieb offered the man some compassionate counsel in return:
“The benefit of sharing the truth is simple: You won’t be so excruciatingly lonely.
“So many people hide the truth of who they are out of fear that it will turn people away, but with the people who matter, the exact opposite happens.
“If you let people see the truth of who you are, people will be drawn to you.”
She then adds: “Either way, I think you’ll find that it doesn’t really matter what any closed-minded people do with the information.
“You’ve endured worse in jail, in your decades-long state of extreme deprivation.
“The good news is that this letter is the key you’ve been holding. Use it to set yourself free.”
14% of calls to the LGBT Helpline last year were from older LGBT+ people.
The main reasons for contacting the LGBT Helpline were due to lack of social supports, isolation, and loneliness.
LGBT Ireland research found that despite the barriers of over 25 years and more, people did manage to come out and this has paved the way for the increased visibility and rights we see today.
However, as this older generation began to access health and social care support, research has found that many “go back into the closet” as they fear those caring for them will be insensitive about their LGBT+ identity or will discriminate against them because of it.
The Visible Lives Study found that many are reluctant to access health and social care because they fear discrimination from mainstream service providers. The study made a series of recommendations in relation to improving the health and social supports for older LGBT people but as yet, have still not been implemented and according to Paula Fagan, “more resources are needed for support services for older LGBT people across the country and more funding is needed to train health and social care staff in mainstream older people’s services to ensure they are welcoming and inclusive of older LGBT people.”
The LGBT Helpline is 1890 929 539 or log onto www.lgbt.ie
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