Gay men dating later in life face unique obstacles
CHICAGO (AP) – A lot can be hidden behind a wedding. For Brad and Cyndi Marler, it’s because they’re both gay.
A few years after their marriage, they confided in their secret. Then, for over three decades, they didn’t tell anyone else about it.
“We always said it was us against the world,” Brad said.
After living what they call “all-American life” in the small Illinois towns of Smithton and Freeburg, the Marlers, now both in their late fifties, decided they needed to “live authentically. “. They have come out to their two grown children – a son and a daughter – and are living a new life in Chicago.
While research from UCLA’s Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy shows Americans come out younger than previous generations, Brad and Cyndi are part of a segment of the LGBTQ community that waits until later. in life.
“Society is still inhospitable. This is not to deny so many amazing changes in public attitudes, in laws, in policies, but it has not erased a hundred years of homophobia in society, ”said Ilan Meyer, eminent senior policy researcher. public at the Williams Institute.
Bob Mueller, 75, who grew up in suburban Chicago and now lives in Iowa, didn’t say a word about his sexual orientation to his family until he was 40, when he wanted to. that they meet his partner. And he still hasn’t told everyone.
“It was a common practice to stay in the closet if you wanted to have a job. It wasn’t until 2005 that I officially left for work, ”he said.
Growing up in religious homes in small Illinois communities, coming out was not an option for the Marlers, who marked 32 years of marriage in September.
“Being gay, you’re just going to go straight to hell. There are no two ways to do it, ”Cyndi said of what she and Brad learned.
Even though nationwide progress has been made for gay rights, the Marlers feared they would be discovered. They built houses, raised their children, and never strayed from their marriage. In public, they were sure to maintain the traditional gender roles: Cyndi kept her hair long and they never mentioned that Brad was the one who decorated their house.
“We wanted the house, the dog, the two kids – and we did it all,” Cyndi said.
“We made the decision to make it work. That’s what we were going to do, “she added.
But there was a limit. It was a house of cards that had to fall apart, Brad said.
He had become deeply depressed and began to work on his internalized homophobia using weekly therapy.
“For so long I hated that part of me. … I didn’t understand why what I had with Cyndi was not enough, ”he said.
The couple also say they would never have been able to go out if their parents were still alive. Brad noted that the shame he associated with his sexuality was triggered after his mother confronted him at the age of 16 about the possibility of being gay. “She just said, ‘If you are, it’s not OK. You’re not going to do this to the family. … We never talked about it again, ”he recalls.
Another important factor was that their daughter had become a lesbian.
“It was the overwhelming need to protect her,” Brad said.
The Marlers lived together until March when, after retiring and selling their home, they moved into separate apartments in Chicago to explore life in the LGBTQ community for the first time.
Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, said the nonprofit is helping thousands of older Americans on their outing journey. He says the unique obstacles they face can include higher levels of fear and anxiety, as well as managing the expectations of others.
Paulette Thomas-Martin, 70, left after 20 years of marriage and when most of her children were adults.
“It was very painful. … I would call them and they would not call back, ”she said.
It took several years before his children started talking to him again, says Thomas-Martin, but it ultimately brought his family closer together.
“My son texted me recently to tell me how proud he was of me. It’s better for my children. I am happier. I have more joy and peace, ”said Thomas-Martin, who lives in New York City with his wife.
Adams says that going out later in life can also make socializing and dating more complicated.
Brad describes him as going through a second adolescence.
“Everything is new,” he said.
Cyndi focuses on herself before pursuing a relationship with a woman.
“It’s like taking that filter off and asking myself, ‘What am I?’ “, did she say.
Although the Marlers now live apart, they have no immediate plans to divorce and still see each other almost daily.
“We’re still best friends,” Cyndi said.
And despite some difficulties, they think things have improved for them.
“All of our momentum is better now,” Brad said.
Their daughter recently wrote a letter to each of her parents about the experience.
“She wrote that she was happy to see that I’m happy,” Brad said.