The Long Gray Line Marches Out
A recent online article by Matt Sedensky in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram—“Gay, Trans Seniors Come Out Late, Start Second Lifetime”—caught my eye. It seems folks in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s are allowing themselves to realize—and act upon—feelings that have lain dormant for decades, or a lifetime.
The piece is framed around the story of Bill Farthing, of Oakville, Missouri, a widower who on his 75th birthday “decided to be reborn.” After 45 years of marriage, he was back to feeling, as he had long ago, “lonesome, different, outcast,” considering suicide.
Instead, as Sedensky related:
“Farthing dressed in the most basic of blue wool skirt suits he could find on the Internet, with a white blouse and low-heeled, open-toed white shoes, and went shopping. Arms loaded with skirts and blouses from the clearance rack, [he] approached the checkout.
‘Did you find everything you wanted, ma’am?’ the cashier asked.
Farthing looked over his shoulder, then realized she was talking to him. He had pulled it off.
He had become a she.”
Sedensky found that not only are GLBT kids coming out earlier, but also older folks, tired of living a secret, are emerging—like Sue Pratt, 74, of Kirkwood, Missouri, who in her 60s, according to the article, “answered a personal ad and slowly began coming out to her loved ones as a lesbian.” It’s not an emergence welcomed by or taken well by everyone. But she commented, “I didn’t want to have a secret. It doesn’t matter if I lose every friend that I have, this is what I have to do.”
These two vignettes show just how powerful the imperative to claim one’s true self can be, even when it entails a price to pay.
Even though one of her neighbors runs indoors when she comes out, and some relatives have cut her off, Farthing nevertheless asserted, “For the first time ever, my life feels like it’s in the right place. I’m going to check out of this world the way I was meant to come into it.”
We’ve made progress in this country. Homosexuality, male and female, no longer is diagnosed as a mental illness, although “transsexuality,” or Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is—and marriage for same-sex couples is not yet on the horizon in many places.
Perhaps as both younger and older generations step up and open up, it will mean less room for bigotry and intolerance in the middle.