This 86-Year-Old Came Out Too Late For Love – But Now His Story’s Inspiring Others

When you think about your regrets in life, you may particularly ponder those times when you didn’t stay true to yourself.  That’s seemingly the case for Martin, a photographer who spent the majority of his life concealing the fact that he’s gay. But now the 86-year-old has come out to the world – and let others know that it’s okay to be themselves.

In many respects, the world has made leaps and bounds regarding the issue of LGBTQ rights. However, not everybody can take for granted the freedom to be who they are. Even in contemporary society, in fact, many individuals continue to find coming out to be a particularly difficult process.

Attitudes towards sexuality have undeniably evolved over time, though, and such changes have often been reflected in popular culture. Take, for example, the popular sitcom Friends. Although the show, which ran from 1994 to 2004, was considered somewhat progressive for its time, its writers occasionally used homosexuality as a springboard for humor. Matthew Perry’s character, Chandler, is poked fun at for being mistaken as gay, for instance.

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Nevertheless, the fact that Friends featured LGBTQ characters at all may have been considered a step forward in terms of queer representation. And nowadays more and more TV shows and movies include characters of different orientations, many of whom aren’t treated differently for their romantic preferences. In reality, however, acceptance still isn’t universal.

Even today, many queer individuals fear coming out for one reason or another. In some cases, it’s because they’re scared that their families and friends won’t accept their identities. Or they may be concerned that less progressive communities and societies will treat them differently because of their sexual orientations.

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In fact, in 2017 The Guardian reported that homosexuality was still forbidden by law in many societies around the world. But while more and more locations are removing their unfair restrictions on love, there is still a long way to go in the fight against homophobia. As Matt Horwood, spokesperson for an LGBTQ charity called Stonewall, told The Guardian in 2017, this is just the beginning.

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“Same-sex relations are illegal in 72 countries and punishable by death in eight,” Horwood told The Guardian. “We all have a part to play in ensuring all LGBT people are accepted without exception. And all we can hope is that, in 50 more years, we will have lots more progress to look back on.”

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But even in countries that we might think of today as progressive, general tolerance of the LGBTQ community has been a relatively recent occurrence. As an illustration of this, one need look no further than high-profile coming-out stories of celebrities. Society was very different for A-lister Sir Ian McKellen when he publicly revealed his sexuality, for instance.

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McKellen is perhaps best known for his performances as Magneto in the X-Men franchise and as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He’s also a famously gay man who helped found the Stonewall charity. And in 2018 he celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the moment he came out to the world.

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McKellen first announced his sexuality on BBC Radio 3 on January 27, 1988. As far as gay rights go, though, the ’80s were a much less forgiving time, and McKellen was thus discussing the controversy surrounding the Local Government Bill 1988. Specifically, section 28 was his point of focus.

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You see, Section 28 of the bill put restrictions on local authorities and schools in order to prohibit them from “promoting homosexuality.” Understandably, the actor was against such legislations – and he even came out to express as much. “It’s offensive to anyone who is, like myself, homosexual,” he said on the radio broadcast.

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Fast-forward three decades, and Sir Ian has never looked back in regret on that moment. And he announced as much on Twitter. “I’ve never met a gay person who regretted coming out – including myself,” he wrote. “Life at last begins to make sense when you are open and honest.”

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Ellen DeGeneres is another LGBTQ celebrity who famously came out on a public platform. The chat show host made her announcement to Time magazine on April 14, 1997. She even made it onto the front cover, with a to-the-point headline reading, “Yep, I’m Gay.” And perhaps unsurprisingly, the story attracted the wider media’s attention.

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In fact, the buzz was reflected on the sitcom Ellen, in which DeGeneres’ character also came out as lesbian. During “The Puppy Episode,” which aired on April 30, 1997, the lead actor’s personal announcement made interest in the show skyrocket. In fact, it initially increased Ellen’s viewer numbers by a factor of three.

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And Degeneres has since enjoyed enormous success with The Ellen DeGeneres Show and has a host of accolades to her name. In fact, she has scooped up more People’s Choice Awards than any other individual. She’s often spoken openly about her sexuality, too, on such shows as Oprah and Diane Sawyer’s 20/20. And despite the intense media coverage that reportedly contributed to her depression after coming out, the comedienne claims that she has no regrets.

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“I decided this was not going to be something that I was going to live the rest of my life being ashamed of,” DeGeneres told Diane Sawyer in 1997. And her bravery undeniably paved the way for many other queer celebrities to come out, too. In fact, since the 1990s, several big names in Hollywood have also opened up about their sexual identities.

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Lady Gaga is perhaps one of the most famous stars to have revealed their non-straight preferences. The singer, who is now engaged to Christian Carino, first discussed her bisexuality publicly back in 2009. In fact, she revealed that her orientation had actually inspired one of her hit songs.

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To be more specific, Gaga was talking about her romantic interest in both men and women when she sang the song “Poker Face.” But despite the pop star’s support for LGBTQ groups – she even created the Born This Way Foundation in 2011 – some critics have claimed that her announcement was a publicity stunt. Such accusations were so persistent, in fact, that they provoked a response from Gaga herself.

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After the release of Gaga’s 2013 album, Artpop, she went as far as to direct a passionate speech at her naysayers. “You know what? It’s not a lie that I am bisexual and I like women,” she said during an event in Berlin the same year. “Anyone [who] wants to twist this into ‘she says she’s bisexual for marketing,’ this is a f***ing lie. This is who I am and who I have always been.”

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But despite the negativity that continues to color some individuals’ minds, the world is by and large more accepting of LGBTQ communities than it once was. And these changing attitudes have opened doors for many people who’ve been hiding in the shadows. Thankfully, it seems, more and more members of the gay community now feel that they can finally step into the light and be themselves.

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One such person is Martin, who, in his eighties, finally felt able to come out – and in a spectacular fashion, no less. In fact, the senior addressed the world on May 15, 2018, through YouTube channel 5 Gum. And the video allowed him to tell his story, which is both deeply moving and incredibly inspirational.

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You see, Martin grew up in an age where being gay was actually a punishable offense by law. “I was literally having to hide my sexuality,” he explains of his childhood and adolescence in the touching clip. “It’s tough to be an outsider,” the elderly man adds, visibly emotional.

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What’s more, as Martin explains in the video, he even chose a career that would allow him to conceal his orientation. “I started photography when I was about 16,” he says. “But who’s going to accuse me of being gay because I’m photographing a guy?” No doubt it was like the young photographer was looking at a world in which he couldn’t take part.

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“I regret being such a sissy,” Martin continues. “So nervous, so bloody shy. I left it until I was actually 85 years old to really basically come out.” As a result, then, there are lots of milestones on which the senior feels he has missed out – and one of them is settling down with a man.

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“I missed the boat with regards to finding a lovely partner – a soulmate that I could love,” he continues in the emotional video. However, Martin hopes that other people can learn from his experiences and live true to who they are, regardless of their sexualities. And on that note, he has some poignant advice for those watching his clip.

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“If you ask me, if you want to set up with another young guy, go ahead, do it,” Martin urges his viewers. “You’ve got it. You owe it to yourself – and to him.” In fact, Martin’s advice encompasses a point that gets right to the heart of the video series as a whole, which is called “No Regrets.”

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The series actually features five seniors, including Martin, who reveal their life stories and regrets in short, powerful videos. The tales are poignant, and they each hold an important message – one that urges people to ensure that their lives are full of happiness. In fact, this is apparently the reason that 5 Gum chose its specific speakers, as the company told Huffpost in May 2018.

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“Regret is a powerful, universal emotion,” Ashley Findlay, brand manager at 5 Gum, commented. “5 Gum believes that you regret the things you don’t do in life more than the things you do.” And that message is what makes Martin’s story so meaningful to the company.

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“When we heard Martin’s story, we knew we had to help him share it with the world to encourage younger generations to live life to the fullest,” Findlay explained. And judging by the reactions from the public – particularly those of young people – that’s exactly what the video has achieved.

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After Martin shares his inspirational story, the 5 Gum short shows him watching recordings that have been sent to him by complete strangers. The clips feature happy, smiling youths who reveal just how much his words have moved them. And they explain how their own lives have improved thanks to the elderly man’s moving message.

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“Martin, your story inspired me to be true to myself and to be proud of who I am,” one young man says to the senior. A female couple are up next, and they agree with this sentiment. “Yeah, I think that the video made me very happy to be in the place I am now,” one of the women reveals.

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Another recording shows a man proposing to his partner on a windswept beach. And this is followed by another man, who, so inspired by Martin’s story, decides to come out to his dad. However, the uplifting moments don’t end there; the short has one more scene to reveal.

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The final part of the 5 Gum video shows Martin attending a LGBTQ pride parade for the very first time. And his beaming face proves that it’s never too late to be proud of who you are – whatever your orientation. The video finally fades to black as Martin joyfully dances around with a rainbow flag.

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In a touching conclusion, Martin offers up one last piece of advice: “Go to it, be together – it’s wonderful.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the senior’s 5 Gum feature has inspired many people since its upload to YouTube. In fact, internet users have viewed it just under 85,000 times to date and shared some overwhelmingly positive comments.

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In fact, Martin’s story has moved people from all over the world to send him heartfelt messages and expressions of gratitude. “Thank you Martin and 5 Gum,” one viewer wrote. “Martin has just made countless friends and admirers… and most importantly is inspiring many to come out.”

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“I want to hug this man so much,” another person wrote. “I want to hug him for the sorrow he feels. But I also want to hug him to celebrate his courage and his strength. Martin, you truly are courageous and an inspiration to me and to countless others! Love you!”

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Others, meanwhile, took strength from Martin’s words and braved something they’d been putting off. One YouTuber said, “This touched my heart and convinced me to come out to my family. Thank you.” And social media users were also quick to reassure Martin that he hasn’t waited too long to find romance, either.

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“Martin, you are still alive, so it’s not too late,” one commenter assured the 86-year-old. “Even this late in life, people can still find love.” And yet another YouTuber left him a message that read, “You are lovely, Martin. It is never too late to be yourself. Welcome out!”

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So as heartbreaking as Martin’s story might have seemed at the beginning of the 5 Gum video, his future looks set to be filled with love and acceptance. And his inspiring story seems to have already helped others who may have been struggling, too. Most importantly, though, it’s wonderful that Martin is now living in a time when he can be himself and no longer feel that he needs to hide.

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Martin believes that it’s important to live your life as happily as you can, which means loving who you love without shame and being true to who you are. And although society undeniably still has a lot of work to do, it looks like things are starting to move in the right direction.

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