The more I talk and write about my age the more I find people making false assumptions about what it means to be gay and in the middle ages. Some of the misconceptions are understandable if you’ve not spent time with guys like me, while others are just plain baffling.
I’ve tried to clear up a few of my myths, below. Feel free to share your own. After all, I’d hate to get the wrong impression...
1. I feel like an older gay man. Sure, it sounds redundant, but I actually don’t walk around thinking of myself as a Man of a Certain Age. I tend to just think of myself as a gay man, one who happens to be a certain age. Most of my friends agree, and it can feel odd to be pegged into the category. (When I write articles I use the term for clarification purposes.) Excepting physical changes, I’m adamant in my belief that the less ageism that exists in the world, the less we’ll feel compelled to be plopped into any category in regards to our age. Ignoring the “rules,” and living life the way you wish is also important. When I read online that gay men are supposed to stop clubbing at 37 or that 26 is considered old (written by a gay man), I realize how much work needs to be done.
I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve actually forgotten I’m older than the guys I see in their twenties and thirties (no, it’s not senility setting in), until I’m jolted into the realization that I’m probably old enough to be their fathers. That’s the kind of mental whiplash that can make me wish for temporary dementia.
2.) It’s my life’s obsession to lure young men into my bed. No matter how many times I say that I prefer dating men close to my age, I keep hearing how much I’m using every tool in my arsenal, including my tool, to seduce those unsuspecting Benjamins—I’m more comfortable watching a movie with someone who gets that reference. I even read once that I use my wealth to entice the young lads (hello! I’m a writer!). I’ve certainly stated that it can be difficult to date men my age because many of them are partnered, and I’ve also said that young men hit on me…and sometimes I accept. Clutch the Tom Daleys! But when it comes to age and dating, I think I’d be a fool to rule anyone out. Because if you find what you’re looking for and he’s younger than the U2 song, call him maybe.
3.) Like most men my age who write about sex, I’m having it all the time. Like, probably now. Just so you know, I’ve also written a lot about weddings and I’m not married. It’s not an issue of “those who can’t, teach,” it’s about the need to talk about a subject that deserves serious attention. Sugarcoating sexual behavior doesn’t do any good; talking about it in an open and honest way forwards the discussion. The fact that sexual conversation still prompts slut-shaming shows how far we need to go—sexual assault, anyone?
I learned a long time ago that, if a topic scares me, I probably need to bring it out into the open. Sometimes that means saying blunt, personal things, and sometimes those secrets are painful to reveal. I’ve also found that, when I do air my concerns and fears, I learn a lot from others who’ve had similar experiences. When it comes to sex, that’s as comforting as a kiss.
4.) I’ve been around a long time so I must be transmitting a disease. This myth comes from the young gents who often make an assumption that age equals disease. Pre-PrEP and the understanding of Undetectable, 20-somethings who were interested in me would often confess their belief that our sex would equal HIV transmission. They’d ask me a million questions, despite that condom coming out and my Negative status, and often change their minds or tell me they regretted it afterward.
The irony is that it’s around this same time that I discovered many of these same guys weren’t wearing condoms with other young men. Because the kids can’t contract HIV? Today there’s a lingering suspicion that, with all these millions of sexually active years under my belt, I must be harboring horrifying STDs just beyond the surface, like a hamster with his cheeks full. Worse, it’s often based on the conclusion that not married equals not careful. We need to do better.
5.) I’m “generous.” I’d like to think this one’s true. I will offer you coffee, let you borrow my phone, use the bathroom…wait, the term means something else? Um, did I tell you I was a writer?! Good luck on that front.
6.) I have no respect for younger gay men. Sadly, there’s a lot of miscommunication and resentment on both sides of the generation gap. The disconnect is, on many levels, understandable, because so much progress has been made in the gay community over the last 20 years. When I was a kid, the “adults” were dying and our emotional resources went into survival mode. As the grown-ups, we’re late to the mainstream game, and, from what I’m told and witness, the younger guys are tired of being pulled into our luggage department. But heck, sometimes the differences seem as superfluous as Facebook versus Instagram. I love all men, and I wish that I had more friendships with my younger brothers. They’ve got their own set of challenges that I can’t even pretend to understand. As the song says, teach me tonight.
This essay is part of an ongoing series by the author about issues facing older gay men. If you’ve got a “Daddy Issue,” I want to hear about it. -DRT