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Men who came out later in life open up about embracing their true selves: 'I realized I was gay'

The Reddit thread showed that there was no fixed age or timeline for people realizing or coming out as gay.

Men who came out later in life open up about embracing their true selves: 'I realized I was gay'
Left: Activist and actor George Takei (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Foundation for the AIDS Monument) Right: Kal Penn (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 1, 2021. It has since been updated.

Actor Kal Penn came out as gay at the age of 44, announcing that he's engaged to his partner of 11 years, Josh. The actor explained everyone discovers their sexuality in their own time and there's no discernible pattern to it. "I discovered my own sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people. There's no timeline on this stuff. People figure their sh*t out at different times in their lives, so I'm glad I did when I did," said the 'House' and the 'Harold and Kumar' film franchise star, reported PEOPLE. A discussion on the topic on Reddit asked men who came out later in life, what was the turning point for them that made them realize they were gay and it punches holes in a lot of commonly held misconceptions that everyone knows straight away that they are gay.

A mature gay couple smiling and taking a selfie with a smartphone while on holiday together.

"What was the turning point for you when you realized you weren’t straight? Was it a sudden EUREKA moment or did you slowly realize it over time? How long did it take for you to admit it to yourself and then finally to others?" asked u/cloakeslayer. Here are some of the top responses we came across and they are an eye-opener. 

1. Always knew I was gay

I was 57 when I came out to my wife and kids. Divorced right after and have not regretted it at all. I always knew [I was gay]. I thought getting married would “cure” me. It didn’t BUT I have 4 awesome kids out of it so it was not a huge waste. - u/Trippinoutnow

2. I'm a better parent

I came out at 31, one wife, one daughter, and one son later. For me, it had to do with my personal happiness and my desire to be the best parent I could be. Knowing that I couldn’t be completely happy in my current situation, I took a risk that paid off for us all —> it’s been 16 years since I came out — my kiddos are grown and successfully contributing members of society and my ex-wife is still one of my closest allies. I’m thankful it worked out well for me. -u/ksaim


Same sex couples in love from many cultures.

3. At peace

I’m 50. Accepted my bisexuality at 45. Had my first experience with a guy at 32. Spent the next 13 years debating if I liked the experience or not. In the meantime, I kept watching gay porn but would not accept it and felt guilty after jerking off to it. Got the courage to go out and have sex with another guy and afterwards, I was at peace with myself. Did a few hookups until I found a guy and we both developed some feelings. Told my wife about it. Almost broke our marriage. Still working through it. Still got urges but can live with them. Turning point: the guy I had developed feelings for. -u/guajiro12003

4. I have accepted myself

I came out at 38 (March 2019) after almost 12 years of being married to a woman. I knew I was gay since high school but growing up in a very conservative church set the stage for not being able to accept it. I did all that but still only ever watched gay porn, even while married to a woman. There were several things that contributed to the straight facade cracking for me but the main one was jerking off with guys without her knowledge, starting in 2016. My rule was that we would only jerk off. One day, I kissed one of the guys. That was the beginning of the end. I’m out to family and they’re very supportive, they’re sorry I had to carry that around for so long. Things with my ex were obviously difficult at first but now we’re great friends co-parenting our 6 yr old son. I’ve made some great friends along the way, have had some great experiences. I am more myself than I ever have been because I’ve accepted myself and have the freedom to pursue it. u/queerwondering

5. No queer representation

I realized I was gay last year after 36 years. I kinda always knew, but I wasn't sure I guess. After seeing a gay guy I could see myself in I started to question myself more. I live in a small town and there is no queer representation here, but I also have almost zero sexual attraction to anyone. So it was really hard to get to the conclusion without the help of physical interaction. I told one of my friends a month later I guess and after a couple of months, I told the whole world I guess. u/Kanetsukuri

6. Started daydreaming about a guy 

I'm a bi guy, but for the longest time, I was only ever romantically attracted to women. Physically it was both, but mentally it was women only. I'd never crushed on a guy. I had guy friends and I'd had sex with enough guys, but that was that. I had an fwb at the time, and one morning while lying in bed reading I realized I was daydreaming about waking up next to him and heading out together to go do our things. It threw me for a loop. Had to do some real soul searching. I was 33 and had never come out because I hadn't needed to. After seeing if he wanted to take the next step, which he did, I summoned up the courage to sit my oldest friends and family down and tell them. -u/flyboyza

7. Men-only rafting trip convinced me I was gay 

I'm currently 39, and came out around age 27-28. I was raised in the religious "you can change" culture. I was fairly certain I wouldn't change, but I felt like I owed it to God to try, before questioning and changing the beliefs I was raised with. After spending years doing all the manly things that were supposed to straighten me out, I had a particular weekend - a men-only whitewater rafting trip - when I realized I had achieved all the things I was aiming for that were supposed to change me, and I was still 100% gay.

Once I knew the gay wasn't going anywhere, I figured I would want to be able to be open and honest with people from then on, regardless of how the rest of my life went. I only waited that long to spare myself and my conservative friends and family the grief and heartache of my coming out, just in case I ended up changing. Now I've been married to a great guy for 8 years! u/strongdar

8. You only live once

I came out when I was 46 will be 49 in March. Married for 23 years with 3 kids. I had always known I was gay or at least bi I grew up in a Christian home and always attended church. The turning point for me was when I had surgery and had a piece of my kidney taken out. After that it was I had to live my life happy. Not saying I wasn’t happy with my family. I would do it all over again for them. My kids were old enough to know and understand when I did. Never thought I would. I always thought that I would sneak out and cheat on her. I care what people think of me and didn’t want to let anybody down. When I came out it was the biggest relief off my shoulders. I am truly happy. I meet a guy who could pass for my son and we have been together for almost 2 years. It was a struggle at first with his parents but they love me because they know I love their son and I make him happy. u/DaddiNtwink

9. Slowly accepting I'm gay

Was 13 in 1986 and there was no chance of coming out then. At that time the last thing you wanted to be was gay (at least in my mind). It wasn't until I was 26 or 27, I forget, that a very good friend finally asked me when I was gonna come out of the closet. I was so freaked out I told him I didn't know what he was talking about. Eventually, after a mental breakdown pretty much and a lot of booze and tears, I finally admitted I was gay. (this was the 90s in Orlando FL). I just admitted to being gay, but I didn't accept myself. Anyhow, over the past 2 years, I have been seeing a therapist and finally came out for real... to myself. I'm still struggling with a lot of self-hate and self-esteem issues, alcoholism, weed abuse, and suicidal thoughts. But it's getting better. -Reddit

10.  Life just fell into place

Hey, props I’m 35 came out a few years ago. Even when I did, my family’s like I’m ok we knew since you were a kid 🤦🏽. Then I’m like ok should have said something, and they said nope when you were ready to you will, we didn’t need to tell you... when this happened, it was most freeing. Ever since I’m like OMG I can say it out loud I’m gay and hear myself say this and not feel one ounce of remorse! I hope everyone gets to feel this because it’s something when it does your life just falls into place and you could care less what someone thinks of you anymore. u/7_18020_7

11. I started fantasizing about men

I'm 40 I came out nearly about a year-and-a-half ago at 38. My wife passed away in January of 2019. About five or six years prior to her passing away, I started to realize that I wasn't straight, and figured I must have been bisexual, as I would only ever fantasize about men and watch gay porn exclusively. I was happily married with two kids. 

After she passed away, I started seeing a therapist for grief. I was holding onto an insane amount of guilt though. Part of me felt responsible for her death, as if my being bi or gay and that feeling of regret somehow caused it. Eventually, I came out to my therapist, and slowly started coming out to others. I also realized that the label of "gay" made more sense than "bi" did, as I am rarely if ever attracted to women (my wife seemed to be the exception to this, though if I am being honest, it was much more of an emotional attachment than a physical one). I'm now "out" out... my kids, family, and friends know. u/drfinale

12. I can finally be truly happy

I came out to myself in October 2019 at 36. I really thought I was going to die in the closet. I had repressed it for so long. My wife and I were not getting along. I reconnected with my best childhood friend who came out to me as bi, and at that point, I was like, 'if you can do this so can I.' Told him I was bi, then the next day I told him I lied, that I was gay. That really started it all for me. Got a new therapist with a new focus and made a plan to come out to my wife. It was so hard, but also so freeing. I wouldn’t change anything about my past because my kids are my world, but I am so happy that I can finally be truly happy. I thought I was happy before and sure there were moments of happiness (and I don’t mean to imply I was always unhappy), but this part of me was missing and I’m glad I found it. u/thelinedpaper

13. I never acted on my attraction 

About a year prior to the end of my relationship with my last girlfriend, I made a pact with myself. If my relationship with her were to end, I would give men a shot. I had known since puberty that I was attracted to men, just never acted on it. I didn’t want to reach old age having never been with a man and regret it. My husband and I have been married 2 1/2 years. Met my husband still at 30. Asked him to marry me 6 months later Married a year and a half later at 33. u/TheAntonChigur.

14. Stepson inspired me to come out

61 (M), I came out as bisexual at 44, my stepson at 11-12 came out as gay and this pushed me to be truthful. As a very confused teenager who didn’t understand the double attraction and not having anyone to compare or talk to, I had kept it private for years. -u/MRicho 

15. Met the love of my life

Met the love of my life, I was so awestruck he loved me back it seemed dumb not to come out! I downloaded Grindr drunk one night and matched with the super cute twink from work. We were locked down so we had to e-date for a few weeks and then I met him. We kissed and I knew I was never going to let him go. He's moved in, we're engaged and I quite honestly think about him every second of every day. u/dread_pirate_ t

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