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Second Adolescence – Queer Experience

I don’t lean into the spiritual side of things very much but I will admit it’s peculiar how sometimes things seem to drop into my life at the right moment. Sometimes in the form of people, books, or other resources. In this case, it’s a podcast. Some months ago I vaguely remember seeing a post in my Instagram feed from the Second Adolescence Podcast. And I thought to myself it sounded interesting and I’d check it out later. And then for who knows what reason, I completely forgot about it.

Fast forward to almost a week ago and I spotted another post from that same account in my Instagram feed. The Second Adolescence Instagram post in question addresses the feeling of being left behind and touches on the grief and fear that I’ve been feeling off and on since coming out. Before coming out, I had been fixed on finding the courage to finally be my authentic self, i.e. to finally tell the people in my orbit who I really am. Afterwards I have felt a little lack of direction but mainly a strong sense of why didn’t I do this sooner? Why did it take me so much longer than most of my peers and a fearful feeling that I might be regarded as broken goods by many. No amount of reason so far has completely banished those thoughts.

The Instagram post in question recommended this episode as a starting point. And it spoke to me so loudly that I went back to the first episode and started from there.

And in the days since I’ve worked my way from episode one up to episode 27. None of the guests so far have been as old as I am but so many of their stories have been incredibly relatable and relevant. Whether they came out at 22 or 30, the stories of what held them back and their experiences after coming out have spoken to me.

In truth, I have been surprised that there are guests who on paper felt very different to me. I would read the episode synopsis and expect little common ground. Yet the reality was hearing their stories quite often struck me as parallel to my own. It just shows that the queer experience in our society is ultimately similar regardless of the particular letter of the alphabet. It makes sense in the bigger picture that we as humans have similar reactions to trying to cope with an unaccepting society.

There have been multiple episodes where guests have mentioned being oblivious to their queerness. Echoing my experience, they could see it more clearly in hindsight and realized they were repressing parts of themselves on an unconscious level to protect themselves. For myself, I know I had glimmers in high school, but I was a late bloomer where puberty was concerned. I think that combined with feeling unsafe made it easy for me to disassociate from those feelings. My college years were not much different. I was much more conscious of my same sex attraction but clung to the opposite-sex attraction that I thought I also felt.

After so many years of denying my feelings, I am unwilling to draw firm lines around the people with whom I might find love. That said, as I have allowed myself to really experience current and past feelings, I’m coming to believe that what I was feeling for women in my life was probably down to strong platonic attraction. Most of my life I’ve easily made friends with women. In fact this has been a theme I heard multiple times in various episodes of the podcast. For my part, most of my dating experience with women was after college and if it lead anywhere it was to a new friendship. If I’d been more willing to address the elephant in the room, I would have questioned why there was never any chemistry with those women. Or at least none from my side of the fence. There were multiple occasions across the years where I had a sense that women were inexplicably interested in me more than I was interested in them. But I was unwilling to connect those dots then. Given that newfound clarity, I’d be shocked if I ever ended up in a hetero relationship.

One of the subjects that I’ve found relatable while listening to this podcast is that second adolescence regardless of age at times truly feels like being a teenager again. I was unprepared for that. It never occured to me that I missed those sometimes very juvenile moments where you simply talk about who you find attractive. “So and so is cute, handsome, dreamy.” Or sometimes even what specific physical features you find attractive. Before being out, I was automatically hypervigilant about appearing to express any same-sex attraction. So much so that it was hard for me to even internally recognize it. And although that’s changed now, I have been painfully aware at times that the way I was expressing my feelings was probably more appropriate for a 13 year old. It had a developmentally delayed feeling for me, but there’s a reason for that, because I missed having those awkward teenage moments years ago. I didn’t have it that experience at 13 or even 30. Before hearing these podcasts, I was self conscious being 52 and having giggling schoolgirl moments. There’s one episode of the podcast that particularly resonated with me.

Caleb Irwin’s very self-aware discussion of how these moments were playing out for him and how supportive his friend group was really spoke to me. Not only was it affirming to hear but he put into words a general experience that I was having a hard time fully comprehending never mind explaining. I’ve listened to this episode a couple of times now and will probably go back to it again. If you’re straight and trying to understand what a friend might be experiencing this could be a helpful listen. Heck if you’re gay and long out and don’t have a vivid memory of this phase, it might help you be a supportive friend to hear this episode. Of course I’d recommend it generally to someone going through their own second adolescence but I’ll also say that you might find another episode resonates more with you. This is the one (so far) that has most connected with my experience right now. In fairness, none of our experiences are going to be identical. And this one is not identical to my life either, but it was what I needed to hear.

It helps a little that off and on the past several months I’ve encountered other men who are either going through the same thing in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Maybe not with the same backstory but with the same outcome that they are in a new and unexpected phase of life. I suppose it could be a form of confirmation bias but I haven’t gone out of my way to find them as far as I’m aware. None are near enough to plop on the couch and compare notes but it still helps knowing that one is not alone. And regardless of age, the second adolescence podcast has helped as well. I’m going to miss the steady feed of content when I have exhausted the back catalog of episodes.

It’s interesting that prior to this year I was not a podcast person. I tried to get into podcasts a few times in the past and each time lost interest. Just about all of the podcasts I’m currently following are gay/queer themed. When I started I considered the ones I followed to be sort of my crash course on queer culture because I felt I very much as if someone had plopped me down in a foreign country without a language book. And there are several I still follow for that reason but I started adding various podcasts with a focus on self-help, personal enrichment and/or psychology. I may comment on the podcasts I like at further length later, but I think for now I’m simply going to include a handful of links. The first two are for second adolescence podcast that is the main topic of this article. The rest are for other podcasts that I enjoy and find to be valuable to my current queer journey.

Gosh, I could keep going. You can always drop me a note if you want to hear some more recommendations or discuss the ones I shared.

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