Coming out late in life? You’ll need to be educated on what to expect…and what’s expected of you

A high school friend came out to me recently and I began thinking about how much I’ve changed — and the world has changed — since I came out 20 years ago. I could never have imagined marrying the man I’ve been with for 17 years, adopting a beautiful blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl or seeing the advancement of LGBT acceptance. We’re not yet at that glittering heavenly ball, but the party is revving up.

With my friend in mind, I thought about what I would want to him to know as he steps into his new life. And here is what I came up with.

Your parents and friends may not approve… and, that changes nothing about who you are. Hopefully everything will go well, but to quote Queen Latifah in Hairspray, “Brace yourself for a whole lot of ugly coming from a never-ending parade of stupid!” Embrace your truth and know that truth will set your free.

You’re about to have deep, disturbing doubts about religion. Let’s be clear: God made you as you are and is proud of you. Any pulpit clown who says otherwise is full of shit. Many ass-backwards religious denominations need serious reality therapy. Quoting the Bible changes nothing about you. Fortunately, there are many houses of worship that love you as you are.

Judy, Liza, Dolly and Audra are goddesses. I actually learned from Audra McDonald that Judy Garland’s funeral and the Stonewall riots took place blocks from each other in the same week. Since Cabaret, Liza has been a gay’s best friend. When Dolly Parton was asked why the gays love her so much, she responded, “I look like a drag queen.” A very beautiful drag queen.

Learn your queer history. Stonewall and the movement it solidified led to the rights we enjoy today. Much is owed to pioneers like Craig Rodwell, Yvonne Flowers and Sylvia Rivera. Go read Stonewall by Martin Duberman for the full indoctrination. My first boyfriend took me to see The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and it was a life-altering experience. Harvey Milk should have his statue on the Washington Mall.

A little makeup is fine. Whether you’re 25 and covering a late night or are 45 and struggling to stave off the Reaper, grab concealer and bronzer and have at it.

You’ll look fabulous. Might as well get used to hitting the gym, too — those pounds aren’t going to lose themselves. But not all gays shave their legs or are Muscle Marys. We come in all sizes, shapes and masculinity. Be whatever you want.

Go see a drag show. If you’ve never saw The Lady Chablis perform in person — and you can’t now because she’s gone — go watch Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil to see her at her finest. That bitch was fierce! Fierce! But there are plenty of other fierce bitches performing at gay clubs across America (and on RuPaul’s Drag Race). Bow to them.

Safe sex still matters. There are amazing drugs to keep HIV from becoming AIDS, but it’s better not to get it in the first place. PrEP is a layer of protection, but so are condoms. And it’s not all about sex. Love matters. Sex of all types is important for a vibrant relationship, but so is cuddling and kissing. Love your significant other fully and completely.

Have the family you desire. When I came out, getting married was out of the question. Now, it’s a question to pop at Walt Disney World or through fabulous YouTube videos. You can be happy without adopting a kid or creating one with a surrogate, but if having children is your dream, you can.

— Casey Williams