Gay people who come out later in life face unique obstacles

Oct 30, 2021, 6:06 AM | Updated: 6:26 am
Cyndi and Brad Marler sit for a portrait with their 1989 wedding album at Cyndi's apartment Monday,...

Cyndi and Brad Marler sit for a portrait with their 1989 wedding album at Cyndi's apartment Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, in Chicago. A lot can be hidden behind a marriage. For the Marlers, it was that they are both gay. A few years after their wedding, they told each other their secret. Then, for more than three decades, they told no one else. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — A lot can be hidden behind a marriage. For Brad and Cyndi Marler, it was that they are both gay.

A few years after their wedding, they told each other their secret. Then, for more than three decades, they told no one else.

“We always said it was us against the world,” Brad said.

After living what they call “the all-American life” in the small Illinois towns of Smithton and Freeburg, the Marlers, now both in their late 50s, decided they need to “live authentically.” They’ve come out to their two adult children — a son and a daughter — and are navigating new lives in Chicago.

While research from the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy shows that people in the U.S. are coming out at a younger age 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. That’s not to deny so many amazing shifts in public attitudes, in laws, in policies, but it did not wash away a hundred years of homophobia in society,” said Ilan Meyer, a distinguished senior scholar of public policy with the Williams Institute.

Bob Mueller, 75, who grew up in suburban Chicago and now lives in Iowa, didn’t breathe a word of his sexual orientation to his family until he was 40, when he wanted them to meet his partner. And he still didn’t tell everyone.

“It was common practice to stay in the closet if you wanted to have a job. It wasn’t until 2005 that I officially came out at work,” he said.

Having grown up in religious households in small Illinois communities, coming out wasn’t an option for the Marlers, who marked 32 years of marriage in September.

“Being homosexual, you’re just going to go straight to hell. There’s no two ways to it,” Cyndi said of what she and Brad were taught.

Even as strides were made nationally for gay rights, the Marlers feared being found out. They built homes, raised their kids and never strayed from their marriage. In public, they were sure to maintain 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 all of that,” Cyndi said.

“We made a decision to make it work. This was what we were going to do,” she added.

But there came a limit. It was a house of cards that needed to come down, Brad said.

He had become deeply depressed and began working on his internalized homophobia with the help of weekly therapy.

“For such a long time, I hated that part of me. … I didn’t understand why what I had with Cyndi wasn’t enough,” he said.

The couple also says they never would have been able to come out if their parents were still alive. Brad noted that the shame he associated with his sexuality was triggered after his mother confronted him when he was 16 about the possibility of being gay. “She just said, ‘If you are, that’s not OK. You’re not going to do this to the family.’ … We never spoke about it again,” he recalled.

Another big factor was that their daughter came out as a lesbian.

“It was the overwhelming need to protect her,” Brad said.

The Marlers lived together until March when, having retired and sold their home, they moved into separate apartments in Chicago to explore life as part of the LGBTQ community for the first time.

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, said the nonprofit helps thousands of older Americans in their coming out journey. He says the unique obstacles they face can include higher levels of fear and anxiety, as well as managing others’ expectations.

Paulette Thomas-Martin, 70, came out after a 20-year 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 her children started speaking to her again, Thomas-Martin says, but in the end it brought her family closer.

“My son texted me recently telling me how proud he is of me. It came out better for my kids. I’m happier. I have more joy and peace,” said Thomas-Martin, who lives in New York with her wife.

Adams says coming out later in life may also make socializing and dating more complicated.

Brad describes it as going through a second adolescence.

“Everything is new,” he said.

Cyndi is focusing on figuring out herself before pursuing a relationship with a woman.

“It’s like taking this filter off and asking myself, ‘What am I?'” she said.

Even though the Marlers now live separately, they have no immediate plans to divorce and still see each other almost daily.

“We’re still best friends,” Cyndi said.

And despite some struggles, they believe things have improved for them.

“Our whole dynamic is better now,” Brad said.

Their daughter recently wrote her parents each a letter about the experience.

“She wrote that she was happy to see that I’m happy,” Brad said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

French MPs want abortion rights inscribed in constitution

PARIS (AP) — A group of lawmakers belonging to French President Emmanuel Macron’s party will propose a bill to inscribe abortion rights into the country’s constitution, according to the statement by two members of parliament on Saturday. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old ruling and stripped women’s constitutional protections for […]
4 hours ago
A strike sign is displayed by an entrance at Waterloo train station, in London, during a railway wo...
Associated Press

Here we go again: Strike snarls UK trains for a third day

LONDON (AP) — Train stations were all but deserted across Britain on Saturday, as the third day of a national strike snarled the weekend plans of millions. Train companies said only a fifth of passenger services would run, as about 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff walked off the job in Britain’s biggest […]
4 hours ago
Local resident Tetyana points at her house heavily damaged by the Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Done...
Associated Press

Russia pushes to block 2nd city in eastern Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are trying to block a city in eastern Ukraine, the region’s governor said Saturday, after their relentless assault on a nearby city forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawal after weeks of intense fighting. Russia also launched missile attacks on areas far from the heart of the eastern battles. Serhiy […]
4 hours ago
Bangladesh's longest bridge, which took eight years to build amid setbacks involving political conf...
Associated Press

Bangladesh marks opening of country’s longest bridge

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday celebrated the opening of the country’s longest bridge, which took eight years to build amid setbacks involving political conflict and corruption allegations. The 6.51-kilometer (4.04-mile) bridge spanning the Padma River cost an estimated $3.6 billion and was paid for with domestic funds after the […]
4 hours ago
Police prepare their equipment and gather prior to a demonstration ahead of the G7 summit in Munich...
Associated Press

Protests expected as G-7 leaders set to arrive in Germany

MUNICH (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Munich on Saturday as the Group of Seven leading economic powers hold their annual gathering in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, which holds the G-7´s rotating presidency this year. Police were expecting at least 20,000 protesters in the Bavarian city, the German […]
4 hours ago
A model displays the collection by Russian designer Slava Zaitsev during the opening of the Fashion...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Moscow Fashion Week sprawls across the capital

MOSCOW (AP) — Chic and adventurous models and couturiers have been spread all over the Russian capital for Moscow Fashion Week, flaunting their designs in venues ranging from a sprawling Stalin-era propaganda exposition to a large park near the Kremlin admired for its innovative features. More than 100 shows are being held during the week […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Gay people who come out later in life face unique obstacles