It’s hard to describe what the last twelve months have been like. On June 17, 2013, I moved out of my home, separated from my wife of 20 years, left my son with my wife, and into an apartment that I had rented. While I had been in the process of coming out as gay for the two years before moving out, moving into my new apartment was the final big step. While the months leading up to moving out had been incredibly difficult and painful, moving into my own place was joyous. I loved coming home to my own apartment, free to be me, as quaint as that sounds. So a year ago began the final big step of coming out as a gay man.
Shortly after moving into my place, I drove to Philadelphia and told my parents. I had come out to them 25 years earlier while I was “studying a philosophy” to change from homosexuality. (I didn’t change, although for a while thought I had.) My parents, who knew I was gay, had never asked any questions when I met my future wife, proposed and got married.
When I arrived in Philadelphia that day, my mother was not home, so I came out to my father first. While he was taken aback and asked for a moment to take it all in, he quickly moved to be very supportive. How different it felt from the gruff, macho man I imagined him to be in my teens and twenties.
When my mother arrived home, I told her. Because she had such a strong relationship with my wife, she was distraught and said to me that I would ruin my son’s senior year of high school by leaving. But after the initial shock, and two weeks to let it sink in, she also became quite supportive. Two weeks later, on a phone call, she told me that she had been reading the New York Times wedding section, and that there were all these incredible men out there, and that I would “find someone wonderful,” like the men she had read about. How much better does it get than that? She has since told me that giving my son a year transition during his last year of high school, seeing his parents interact with respect, while I lived away from them was the best thing I could have done.
After coming out to my parents, I came out (for the second time as well) to three of my four siblings, who were all very supportive. I had come out to one of my sisters early in the process, and she had been on board from the beginning. I also came out to my mother’s sister, who was immediately supportive and told me you have to be happy in this life.
Since then, I’ve come out to my aunt and uncle and cousins. I was surprised how difficult it was to tell my aunt and cousins because old thoughts about how they saw me as a teenager kept playing in my head, but when I told them, they were all supportive.
I came out at work and, over a few weeks, told 25 people. Coming out at work was amazingly freeing. For the first time in my adult life, my work and personal life are integrated, and I can stop hiding who I am. Every person I have come out to, and I really mean everyone, has been supportive. Also, coming out at work quickly helped me achieve two of my goals. I went to two fundraisers that my company had bought tables with a male date, and I was amazingly at ease and happy. And my company submitted my resume to be considered for the board of an LGBT organization that they support.
I went to the Washington DC Gay Pride parade –my first pride parade ever, with four of my friends and had a great time. The following week went to the Baltimore Gay Pride parade. At the Baltimore pride parade, I met up with my friend Tom, who was helping his bear friends decorate their float. We both ended up riding in the float, throwing beads to the crowd. It was a joyous experience.
This past year I’ve met some great men, both friends and more. I’ve been on dates with men I met on Match and OkCupid. I’ve met men through a variety of Meetup groups in the Washington DC area and continue to meet new men and expand my network.
When I decided to leave my marriage at 55 and come out as gay, I decided I was going to do this entirely. I’ve felt I didn’t have time to waste and have been on a bit of a self-driven marathon to meet men, go to gay events, and immerse myself in the gay culture. It’s been a fantastic year. One I wouldn’t have missed for anything.
I really believe that the men who are successful at coming out are the ones who make the decision to come out and live their life proudly and openly—and then go full steam ahead. It takes work to build a new life, but there’s a fantastic array of opportunities to meet great guys in the Washington DC area that makes it fun.
What’s next for me? My company is planning to form an LGBTQ Affinity group, of which they’ve asked me to play a central role. And while I’ve come out to the majority of my coworkers and the associates that report to me, each new step brings up old fears. Playing a leadership role with the new LGBTQ Affinity group will make me out publicly in a way I’ve never been before. I’ve decided that despite my fear, I’m going to do it. I’ve seen that each time this past year that I’ve let myself move forward in spite of my fear, it’s made me stronger, happier and prouder.
When I came out at work I had the feeling that it would open doors I had never imagined. The Gay Affinity group is one I could not have imagined. And I’ll step through this new door fully and proudly.