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  • If you’re looking for a fun or an environmentally friendly way to get around, there’s now a plethora of electric transportation available.

  • You’re a senior or almost one. You’ve lived your life as a straight person, maybe with a spouse, children and grandchildren. Your friends know you as straight. So does your community. But that’s not who you are.

  • The proposal was intriguing: trade your house for one in Northern Ireland for a couple of weeks at a great cost savings to both parties. The visitors from Ulster would treat Doug Ross’s Nepean home as if it were their own and Ross and his wife at the time would be expected to do the same.

  • Brian Hills lost his wife of 46 years in fewer than five months — the hardest four months of his life. He and his beloved wife Sam had just returned from Cuba when she got the diagnosis — her third bout of breast cancer, and this one had metastasized.

On my way out

Coming out later in life can be challenging, but if you manage it well, it can also be rewarding. 

You’re a senior or almost one. You’ve lived your life as a straight person, maybe with a spouse, children and grandchildren. Your friends know you as straight. So does your community. But that’s not who you are. And, whether you’re lesbian, trans or somewhere else along the rich continuum that is gender identity and sexual orientation, you’ve decided to come out.

But — and this can be really scary — how do you tell everyone else what you’ve finally told yourself?

Start by realizing you’re not alone. Approximately one million Canadians over 15 are 2SLGBTQ+, according to Statistics Canada. 

There are no current figures on how many of those one million are seniors, but with the country’s expanding older population it’s a fair assumption the number is significant.

Remember, too, that despite the ugliness still directed too often toward 2SLGBTQ+ people, acceptance of diversity in its many forms has grown significantly in Canada and elsewhere. 

And don’t forget: You’ve already taken a major step out of the closet simply by acknowledging your own gender identity (non-binary, for example) and sexual orientation (who you’re attracted to romantically, emotionally, sexually — men, women, both or maybe neither.) 

Jeffrey Reffo, Toronto-based counsellor.
Jeffrey Reffo

Coming out is always challenging and especially so for seniors, according to Jeffrey Reffo, a queer-identifying counsellor working with 2SLGBTQ+ clients, including seniors, in Toronto. “The folks coming out at 55-plus lived through the AIDS epidemic and were alive when homosexuality, according to the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, was considered an illness.” 

Some people, of course, choose not to come out at all, and there’s no law saying they have to. If you do decide to live as who you really are, how you announce the news — especially to your family — is an individual process, Reffo says. 

He suggests first asking yourself why you are coming out and then making an inventory of the support you think you’ll have among friends and family. And remember: you don’t have to broadcast the news on Facebook.

“I consider it more as letting people into your truth, who you are, instead of making [confessions],” Reffo says. “Think ahead of time about what you want things to look like and what people really need to know. We don’t owe anyone an explanation. We don’t owe apologies.” 

Once you’ve decided what you want your relationship to look like, tell people because they can’t meet an expectation that hasn’t been set. For example, Reffo suggests, you could say, “‘I don’t want things to change. All I want you to do is love and respect me.’ Full stop.”

If you’re transitioning from one gender to another, from female to male for example, tell people your new name and preferred pronouns. Again, it’s about setting clear expectations for everyone’s sake.

And remember that it’s not your job to educate others, Reffo says. There are plenty of resources out there for loved ones who want to learn about 2SLGBTQ+ matters. If you do decide to help them out, suggest resources that paint a truthful picture and that resonate with you. “You can point people in the right direction.” 

You might be surprised to find that many of those you’re sharing your news with not only respond with equanimity, but knew — or at least suspected — who you were all along. 

This video on is about young people coming out, but the emotions and unexpected acceptance and support from family members could apply to any age group. 

It’s not always a Kumbaya moment. On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi, a documentary about a 95-year-old married man who reveals to his wife and family that he is gay, shows how fraught coming out can be.

No matter how those closest to you react, and adjusting to the new reality does take time, there are many community supports and other resources accessible online., for instance, is a national charitable organization “dedicated to supporting, educating and advocating for 2SLGBTQ+ people and those who love them.” Its website includes health-care and religious resources, information for families of 2SLGBTQ+ people and a list of pflag chapters across the country, including 20 in Ontario alone. 

An online search will also reveal a proliferation of smaller, local organizations such as Vancouver’s West End Prime Timers, established in 1990 for older gay and bisexual men. It organizes social, recreational and other events, including day trips, bridge games and Sunday brunches. The average age of members is 72.  

Even small towns, traditionally considered bastions of conservative values, have begun getting behind their 2SLGBTQ+ communities, if not specifically seniors. Vanderhoof, B.C., population 4,500, held its first Pride parade in 2022. Despite some opposition, including the vandalization of Pride flags, Fogo Island, N.L., (3,100 souls) launched its inaugural Pride week in 2019. 

In southern Manitoba, offers information on Pride events and more for those living in towns and villages, including tiny Cartwright (population 302).

Connecting with others is important for all seniors, who can drift into increasing isolation as age slows down mobility and friends die. It’s especially important for 2SLGBTQ+ seniors, particularly those coming out in their later years who may feel rejected or uncomfortable in their new identity. 

To connect with other seniors like yourself, Reffo suggests volunteering at a queer agency or signing up with a recreational group. 

“There’s queer bowling. I used to curl. My husband plays gay dodgeball. There’s a myriad of activities you can get involved with regardless of age.”  

Above all, if you’ve decided that coming out is right for you, do it, he urges. “People have had to stay in the closet. Live your last years unapologetically. Go forth, be unapologetically queer. You’ve put your life on hold long enough.”

Resources for LGBTQ+ seniors (and others) Support, education and advocacy with chapters across Canada. Peer support, information and local resources in the U.S. and Canada. Includes a dedicated seniors phone line. Top 10 resources about 2SLGBTQ+ aging and older adults, including coming out to your health-care provider (U.S.-based, but relevant to all).

To find a local counsellor who works with 2SLGBTQ+ people, try an online search for “2SLGBTQ+ counsellor (your city).” This often yields a result that includes 2SLGBTQ+ counsellors.

About the author

Patrick Langston is writer based in Navan, Ont. He’s proud of his unapologetically trans grandchild and his family’s simple acceptance of who she is.