This morning, Good Morning America broke the story that former star of The Bachelor Colton Underwood has come out as gay. After listening to his interview with Robin Roberts, there is so much of his story that mimics our own – a religious background, recognizing societal norms and pressures, trying everything possible to deny the truth, and having to face that truth in a rather public way because of choices that were made in hiding it. One of the reasons we’ve decided to start The Next Door Daddies is to bring light to the number of people who have and still do find themselves in this exact situation and to offer support through the process. For anyone in a similar situation, here are a few thoughts from us sparked by the Colton Underwood story.
Coming to Terms
It is our strong belief that every LGBT person deserves the right to come to terms with their sexuality in their own time and on their own terms. There is no timeline, nor is there a right or wrong way to come out. It is a deeply personal, introspective journey and should be something that brings the individual to a much deeper understanding of who they are.
In the interview, Colton Underwood stated, “I ran from myself for a long time. I’ve hated myself for a long time… And I’m gay. And I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it. And the next step in all of this was sort of letting people know.” We have both been asked why the coming out process is necessary. Why do you have to let people know? In our experience, simply saying the words, “I’m gay” out loud for the very first time is immensely liberating. It’s as though there has always been a weight on you that you’re finally able to let go of, and you’re able to breathe freely. Telling others is much less about updating them, as much as it is allowing yourself the opportunity to openly express who you are.
Addressing the Darkness
For those of us who came out later in life, there is usually a common thread of denial, self-depreciation, and dread. These are not easy issues to face. We both have done a tremendous amount of work to move past the shame and find pride in our most authentic selves, but it would be a lie to say that those thoughts don’t creep back in from time to time. Finding a support system is essential for your mental health. This can mean finding an outlet where you channel that energy such as running or meditation. It can be finding a friend group that you are able to confide in and trust with your feelings. Also, there is absolutely No Shame in seeking professional help. There are many therapists out there who have experience helping those in the LGBT community in their journey.
It is extremely important to address these thoughts if they ever, even for a moment, lead to a path where you consider suicide. "There was a moment in L.A. that I woke up and I didn't think I was gonna wake up. I didn't have the intentions of waking up. And I did," Underwood recalled, noting this moment -- and other "suicidal thoughts" -- led him to "take back control" of his life. Know that no matter your circumstances, no matter what you may think others are thinking, no matter what may or may not happen if you come out, your life is valuable, precious, and you are meant to be here. If suicide is ever a thought, please immediately contact a suicide hotline for assistance.
Confronting Your Past
When you come out later, there is a whole existence before your coming out that people know – a whole reality that seems to be put in question after saying the words, “I’m gay.” When asked about his time on his “Bachelor” season, Underwood said, “I’ve thought a lot about this too, of, ‘Do I regret the Bachelor and do I regret handling it the way I did?” He later went on to state that in addition to saying sorry to the women he met on the show, he would like to say thank you because, ultimately, they and the franchise helped him to get to this place of authenticity.
We at The Next Door Daddies can completely relate to this situation. Although not on national television, we both were married to women, had a family, and later came to terms with our own sexuality and had to publicly address this change in our lives. We have had to address questions such as “was all of that a lie?” We both agree that we do not regret that part of our lives, simply because it led us to where we are now. We regret the heartache that it has caused, we regret the challenges it has created, but we can not possibly regret the journey because it has given us four tremendous children, amazing relationships with our friends and family, and ultimately each other. If you are in a similar situation, our advice to you is to recognize the coming out process is exactly that – a process. Take your time. Prepare yourself for these types of questions and concerns. And know that it will get better.
“I Wish You Would Have Told Me Sooner”
When asked about reactions to his coming out, Colton Underwood stated that he’s received a wide variety of comments, but one common one was, “I wish you would have told me sooner.” This is an incredibly common statement when coming out later in life. Family and friends want to be there for you, and they may even question if you didn’t trust them enough to tell them your whole truth. For anyone helping someone who has come out later in life, please understand that this is not the case. We are dealing with breaking down societal norms, heteronormativity, religious doctrines, and more as we come to terms with our own identity. Please know that it isn’t that we did not trust you with ourselves, but that we truly did not know ourselves yet.
Advice for the Future
It is both of our experiences that as a newly out person, you receive a ton of unsolicited advice on how to be gay. Don’t get us wrong, some of it is tremendously helpful, but we are both strong proponents of recognizing this is a deeply personal journey. You are in control, you are writing your story, and you are forging your own path toward your most authentic self. Please know there is no one way to be out. The coming out process is just that – a process – and one that You are in control of.
When asked about looking back, Underwood stated, “If I had to give anybody advice, I mean, you’re gonna get through it is what I would tell myself. Keep fighting for you. Keep choosing you every morning. And when the time’s ready or when the time’s right and you’re ready, do it on your own time.” This is absolutely solid advice. We both struggled with the idea that coming out was a selfish act. It seemed self-serving to choose personal happiness; however, we have both come to the understanding that self-love, self-care, and self-preservation are Not Selfish. In fact, our families, our friends, and, most importantly, our children will be all the better by having the influence of our most authentic selves in their lives.
The Next Door Daddies would like to offer our sincere gratitude to Colton Underwood for sharing his story and offer our welcome to the community. For anyone else who is in the midst of the coming out process, know that we are here for you to offer our love and support.
If you haven't seen the interview yet, you can watch it here.