CHICAGO , -- There are many things that can be hidden behind a marriage. It was the fact that Cyndi and Brad Marler are gay.
They shared their secrets a few years later after their wedding. They kept their secret for over three decades.
Brad stated, "We always said that it was us against all the world."
The Marlers lived "the all-American lifestyle" in small Illinois towns Smithton and Freeburg. Now in their late 50s, they decided that they needed to "live authentically."
Research from UCLA School of Law Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy has shown that Americans are coming out earlier than ever before. However, Brad and Cyndi belong to a section of the LGBTQ community who wait until later in their lives.
"Society remains hostile. It's not impossible to see so many remarkable shifts in public attitudes and in laws. But it didn't wash away a hundred-years of homophobia in the society," stated Ilan Meyer, an accomplished senior scholar in public policy at the Williams Institute.
Bob Mueller, 75, a suburban Chicago native who now lives in Iowa, never spoke out about his sexual orientation to his family until the age of 40 when he wanted them all to meet his partner. He didn't tell anyone.
"It was a common practice to keep your job if you want to be able to leave the closet." He said that it wasn't until 2005 when he finally came out at work.
Marlers were raised in small Illinois religious families and couldn't come out of their marriage. They celebrated 32 years of marriage in September.
"Being homosexual is going straight to hell. Cyndi spoke out about the lessons she and Brad received.
Brad Marler is seen on a TV screen during an interview Monday Oct. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast).
The Marlers were afraid of being exposed, even though there was progress made nationally in gay rights. They built their homes, raised their children and never left their marriage. They were very clear about their traditional gender roles. Cyndi wore her hair long and Brad decorated their home.
Cyndi stated, "We wanted the house and the dog, and the two children -- all of that was possible."
"We made the decision to make it work. She added that this was what she intended to do.
But there was a limit. Brad explained that it was a house made of cards that had to be razed.
After becoming depressed, he began weekly therapy to address his homophobia.
"For so long, I hated that portion of me. "I didn't get why Cyndi was not enough for me," he stated.
They also claim that they would not have been able come out if his parents weren't still alive. Brad said that the shame he felt about his sexuality stemmed from his mother's questioning him at age 16 about being gay. He recalled that his mother said "If you're gay, that's OK. You're going to not do this to your family."
Cyndi Marler and Faith play in their Chicago apartment on Wednesday, October 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast).
Brad stated, "It was the overwhelming desire to protect her."
They lived together until March, when they retired and sold their house. Then, they moved to separate apartments in Chicago to experience life as members of the LGBTQ community.
Michael Adams, SAGE's CEO, stated that the organization assists thousands of older Americans with their coming out journeys. Adams says that older Americans face unique challenges, including higher levels of anxiety and fear. He also suggests managing expectations.
Paulette Thomas Martin, 70, left after a 20 year marriage. She was a single mother with most of her children grown.
It was very difficult. "I tried to call them, but they wouldn't return my calls," she stated.
Thomas-Martin says it took her several years to get her children to speak again. But, in the end, it brought her and her family closer.
"My son recently texted me to tell me how proud he was of me. It worked out for me and my children. I'm happier. Thomas-Martin, who lives with her husband in New York, said that she has more joy and peace.
Adams suggests that coming out later in life can make it more difficult to socialize and date.
Brad refers to it as going through a second phase of adolescence.
He said, "Everything's new."
Cyndi wants to figure out herself first before she tries to have a relationship.
She said, "It's almost like taking off the filter and asking myself, What am I?'."
Although the Marlers live apart, they don't have any immediate plans to divorce and see each other almost every day.
"We're still best friends," Cyndi said.
They believe that things have improved despite their struggles.
Brad stated, "Our whole dynamic has improved now."
Their daughter wrote a letter to her parents about the experience.
Brad stated, "She wrote that her happiness was seen in me."