Aging In The Gay Community Isn’t The Curse Some People Think

eU42cCVYcYi8sV-zBrdhOW9JiNh4YFn--IU-pgGOfus,OFsBDk96g_UurJgHcaVi0pKGKyfFfnUHzifsVCztWDIWe all know the stereotype: “If you’re not young, if you’re not pretty, you become invisible.”

And yet none of us are getting any younger.

In Before You Know It, a new documentary that takes an intimate look at gay aging (gayging?), the lives of several older men are made not just visible but alluring.

And these are not your early bird TV dinner senior citizens. The film follows “go-go booted bar-hoppers, love-struck activists, troublemaking baton twirlers, late night Internet cruisers, seasoned renegades and bold adventurers” who are among the 2.4 million gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans over the age of 55.

There’s Dennis, the former athlete who likes to put on heels when he’s alone at home and “really doesn’t feel that old, and Robert who found his “family” at the gay bars and isn’t about to stop going out.

We’d do well to learn a thing or two from these resilient spirits who prove you’re never too old to live life to the fullest.

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  • Sweet Boy

    I have met guys at 50 and 60 who are hotter than two guys at 25 and 30

  • Franco C.

    Well it’s not a curse if you don’t buy into the ageism that is prevalent in it. Don’t be a lemming, carve your own path and remember, getting older is natural. There is nothing wrong with it.

  • mgmchicago

    I’m 59 and don’t consider myself cursed at all.

    I am well educated, have a good job, own a condo with a balcony on the lakeshore, travel often and have money in the bank. I also have a lovely partner and an interesting circle of friends. Sexually, my partner and I have an open relationship and I have a choice selection of sexual partners (30s – 50s) who are hot as hell. I don’t get to hook-up with the A-list lookers, but I didn’t get to in my 20s either, so no loss there. Sure, I get the occasional sneer from a twenty-something on the street but it doesn’t bother me – they are usually skinny as a rail, talk funny, dress funny and have funny haircuts (they will grow out of it, as I did.)

  • Kieru

    Our community is rather agist and terrible – 50… 60? Try anything over 24. Once you’re closer to 30 than 20 you’re old in our community and the people below the fold have a tendency to see you as dated and irrelevant. Which is pretty damned sad.

    Those 20-somethings came out to a world more accepting of their sexual orientation because those 50 and 60 year olds endured. Those 20-somethings sit down and cry while watching “The Normal Heart” while those 50 and 60 year olds LIVED the narrative.

    I’m 34 now and it astounds and disappoints me how men just a few years younger perceive ‘old’.

  • Mnjack

    I’m 80 years old and live in Asheville, NC. I have a marvelous partner for nearly 19 years.

    Asheville has a large gay and lesbian population. I am fortunate to have a wide variety of gay friends, of all ages. There are the young 20 year olds, that do the bar scene but us older men, enjoy dining out and dining with friends in their home. My partner and I do not lack a social life.In fact some weeks we wish we weren’t going out, that we could just stay home.

    I never did drag until 2 years ago. Once a year I don my gowns and co-host a cabaret. It is a fund raiser for our local gay men’s chorus. It is a fun evening, but being in drag is not something I would want to do on a regular basis.I have a very full life.I don’t think it is age as much as attitude, to enjoy life.

  • mgmchicago

    @Kieru: I understand what you are saying, but you have to look at who is doing the discriminating (the under 24 crowd, in your opinion, and I tend to agree.) However, this is a pretty small subset of the gay population and can be given a pass (for a few years) because of their lack of experience and general naïveté. I found that if I stuck with my own age group socially, I was never made to feel inferior because of my age. Once I reached my late 20s, I wasn’t that interested in hanging out with the young bar crowd anyway (you can’t drink til 4 am if you have a career to manage.) And, eventually, the young-uns mature and discover the advantages of knowing men of all ages.

  • barkomatic

    @Kieru: I agree. The problem is that it seems the whole gay “industry” (bars, travel agencies, sports teams, etc) all cater almost exclusively to 20 somethings. It’s kinda rare to see an older gay men featured in an ad for anything–its all shirtless young guys. Sadly, older gay men often buy into this themselves.

    There’s nothing wrong with young guys and I hope they have a lot of fun–but eventually they’ll get older too (if they are lucky) and it kinda sucks if your whole self esteem is based on your appearance at that point.

  • Kieru

    @mgmchicago: You’re right of course; hanging out in your own age group makes things less complicated. I started college at the ripe old age of 23, it put me in a position where interacting with younger people was simply unavoidable. And it was astounding how quickly attitudes changed when they realized that I wasn’t 18 or 19 like ‘them’. Sure there was the obvious “Oh hey he can buy booze!” but mostly just … “Wow, I didn’t realize you were old”.

    I’ve been in a relationship for 8 years and… I cannot even imagine. In this community where it seems a 3 or 4 year age difference is insurmountable, it must be difficult to meet someone you can connect with.

  • TampaBayTed

    @barkomatic: The gay informational websites like Queerty also buy into this youth worship. Lots of young hot hunks as close to naked as they can get. Eye candy is great, but I like stories and articles with substance.

  • mgmchicago

    @barkomatic: The travel agencies do feature images of 20-somethings in their ads. But look at the actual photos from circuit events like the White Party Palm Springs – many of those guys are in their 30s-40s. It takes awhile to build those bodies, and 20-somethings (in general) cannot afford a $1000+ weekend.

  • Teeth

    It’s all on us. I’m loving my age. I still have sex, but I don’t feel compelled to go hunting 4 times a week. And my partner and I have accomplished most of our financial and career goals. So I’m not doing a self-check at the grocery store. There are the occasional rude kids when I go out, but I just smirk and figure that they will either grow out of it, or soon catch the new AIDS, when it comes out.

  • Sebizzar

    This stereotype is getting outdated though. Sure, there’s (sadly) always going to be ageism just like racism, but it seems to be diminishing. Most gays reveal what they want online and from what I’ve seen a lot are seeking guys in their 30s/40s even 50s. I think the “dead after 30” thing was more common in the 90s and early 2000s when looking twinkish was more “in”.

  • dave lopes

    My problem is what to do with my time.

    I just turned 46…5′- 8…..145lbs of muscle

    i have done a lot of sexing especially in my 30s and 40s.

    Now i have no interest in sex with another person…prefer self gratification just from the past memories…and from porn.

    Don’t socialize or seek friendship or romantic relationship….even push interested parties away. These things require work and i am not willing to do the work.

    I am financially secure……and my life is work….gym..sleep…work…gym..sleep….lol…lol

    Funny thing is I am very happy with this self centered stress free situation.

  • Teeth

    @dave lopes: That’s exactly it.. do what you want. No compulsion. If you feel like screwing, screw. But it doesn’t obsess you the way it did in our 20’s.
    Take up a hobby or volunteer job. Learn French. Anything!

  • john.k

    Two years ago I went on a holiday to Tenerife with 6 other guys (including my much younger boyfriend). The ages of the group (then) were 23, 25 (my boyfriend), 28, 36, 39 , 49 and (me) 63. We all had a great time.


    I will turn 57 in 3 weeks, my husband is 65…we met 10 year’s ago.we are happy in the life we have made together. life does NOT have to be a meth/dance club /Fire Island extravaganza for every mature man/couple.
    Granted there are mature men who love a wild bear weekend in St Tropez, or an Ocean Gay Cruise, or hang gliding off of the Andes…other’s of us prefer a sedate home life….Don’t cry for us, Chiquititos!!!! We are quite happy!

  • princedeligne

    I think there is ageism in urban gay male culture- there always has been, that will never change. The iconography used to sell everything to us whether its cologne, real estate or HIV medication always features a young man. Its rarely anyone who looks over 35. There is a porn site thats called Men over 30. The message is “over 30 is older”.
    Age can also dictate the service you will receive in many gay establishments. The younger attractive men are first. Just go to any bar on a saturday night. Bartenders will serve a younger hot guy faster. It’s like that in any trendy, upscale, straight nightclub as well. It’s a reflection of the society and culture we live win.

  • DirtyOleMan

    For all you people who still follow the dance scene of the 1970’s, have a good time. Soon, you will be over 30 and a has been. Living in Florida we are all to familiar with the South Beach scene.

    I chose long term marriage, commitment and love over that foolishness.

    At 70, I think I won. Still going strong with the same partner. We are not alone, there are many other in our circle of friends that have been together since the 1960’s. That is pre-Stonewall.

    I shutter to think what would have happened if I listened to the lure of the bath house. HIV would have got me for sure!

  • Tackle

    Getting older is not a curse, but there is a difference in how you are treated and preceved. Look at the pages here at Queerty, when some athlete or entertainer comes out, and they happend to be young and cute, the comment section is filled with
    congratulations/compliments/best wishes etc… However if they happen to be older they get just a whimper: a few congrats and that’s it.
    We gay men seem to be the worst at ageism. But the thing is to try not to let this bother you, live your life, and realize your own self worth.

  • EGO

    Some of us gay men have had partners for many years and aging is not an issue. My partner and I met when I was in the Navy in 1962, over 52 years ago. We have been married for 10 years, an advantage of living in Massachusetts where they practice democracy. We have many gay friends who have partners, some married, some not. Some gays like to party with young, some it doesn’t matter. We had a 50th anniversary a couple of years ago and we had a big party with a mix of gay and straight people. The point is to enjoy life at every age and not worry about getting older.

  • Mars414

    @dave lopes: What a breath of fresh air you are! I look much younger than my 53 years, get hit on regularly, but I’m very happy doing my own thing. I feel truly liberated.

  • frshmn

    @Teeth: Wishing for a “new AIDS” to cause suffering for gay youth? Very mature…

  • Ken

    Yes, aging is a curse. I must have somehow offended a gypsy. I lost 15 years of my life caring for dying relatives and in the process got PTSD and lost my friends. They stayed away because I was busy, then they stayed away because they felt guilty that they stayed away, then they just stayed away. Now I am 63, alone, and trapped in the heterosexual breeding grounds. The gay community is downtown-centric. It’s eerily quiet: the ambulance no longer comes to my house. I have no ancestors, no descendants, and a few lateral relatives far away. I can’t get work. I wish I could have a do-over for my life, but there are no do-overs.

    One pathetic tip for retaining sanity: if you go to a store and pretend to be interested in buying something, the salesman has to talk to you, and then you can pretend that you decided not to buy. But talk as though everything were wonderful, and do it as seldom as possible.

  • drivendervish

    If trolling bars and dating websites as you age to 50, 60 and beyond is what you want out of life, then great. But if that’s what I am doing I won’t consider myself happy or successful.

  • Ben Dover

    @dave lopes: “Work,” really?

    I admit, I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a gay guy in a relationship say, “Relationships are hard work.” (I usually tell them, “You’re doing it wrong.”)

    But I’ve never seen anyone except you take this attitude to its “logical” conclusion, where you think even casual hookups are too much work! Couldn’t you just lie back & get a bj?

    The funny thing is, you seem to love your actual JOB. Most of us consider our actual work to be too much work!

  • Daniel-Reader

    You have to take care of yourself at any age. Like anyone, LGBT or straight, you have to actively stay engaged with life as you get older. Cultivate a wide circle of friends. Don’t shrink or shy away from getting involved. Looks are more about taking care of yourself. Lots of older guys are hot, while plenty of 20’s guys are meh. Do something everyday to look after yourself, your health, and your involvement with the world. Remember straight people start to vanish from society as they age if they don’t actively remain social. It is not strictly an LGBT situation.

  • vive

    @Kieru, that is not my experience at all. I am in my 40s and online I get swamped by come-ons from under-25s, an age group in which I am not interested. Sure there are twinkies only looking for other twinkies, but once you grow up you lose your taste for twinkies very quickly, and it seems to me that the 30-something demographic is the most represented and desired age group, both in gay advertising and in “erotic” videos. (See the popularity of the “Men at Play” brand and similar studios, where the guys are mostly in their 30s and 40s.) My problem is that it is rather harder to find any available men over 30 than under 30 around here.

  • James Hart

    All of America, gay and straight, is youth obsessed. Just ask any 55 year old divorcee whose 57 year old husband left her for his 22 year old secretary.

  • Danny

    This article and many of the comments are part of the problem. You’re all so worried about the hottest guys and how nice/expensive your pad is that many of you are realizing how superficial, selfish, and delusional you have become. I’m not sure I can get a finger on the social or cultural factors that have led you here but even if it’s not the worst thing in the world I’m very fearful of becoming like this myself. I understand that life has many hardships and that coping with these experiences takes endurance and maturity. Yet many of you have become so “necrophillic” in the Paolo Friere sense of the term. I know I’m making a lot of assumptions, so please forgive me and try to read more into my message. Relationships are important, connections are important, and sometimes having a good (NSA) time is important too. I only ask that you pause and reflect for a moment on the superficial things you’ve used to replace the depth and trust you may once have been looking for. If you were to study how people of various ages would describe themselves if asked who are you what exactly do you think a child would say? Now what exactly do you think an adult would say. I guess I’m just worried that if a little boy would describe himself by saying “I like dinosaurs and cars” that maybe one day he may grow up to say the same thing “I have a nice pad on the beach and an expensive car.” I’m this case, have we grown that much? Let me know what you think. This is merely the impression I received from reading the comments.

  • dave lopes

    @Ben Dover:

    Yes Ben, for me relationship is work.

    You have to understand, I am not a lover or a nurturer.

    I am selfish with my time amd my love.

    I have tried relationship…it just does not work for me. I get irritated and feel trapped.

    Yes a BJ would be nice…but I would have to talk to the person and all that blah..blah..blah and feign interest in who they are as a person.

    I prefer the non-talking quickies…lol

    I know me well…so I would not impose my emotional coldness on others looking for love. That would be cruel.

  • mgmchicago

    @Danny: I think you are misinterpreting these comments. We older gays are simply stating that there are benefits to aging. We are not worried about the hottest guys, we only want one (well, or maybe a few) hot guys to have sex with. Sex is fun and emotional/physical intimacy is important at any age. We are not worried about having the nicest pad, we want a home where we can host a nice dinner with good friends and a spare bedroom that our mother will find comfortable when she visits. I don’t see that working hard to purchase a home or working on your body and mind so that you can attract desirable sex partners and interesting friends is superficial. Reading between the lines of your post, I think you are challenging us to be more involved in political/social issues? Believe me, if you own a home, you are involved in political issues (city/state/federal govt) and if you are in a relationship, you are involved in social issues (civil rights/gay marriage.) Acquiring some wealth and property does not preclude one from being involved in the community – money makes the world go around, ask any non-profit agency where the bulk of their operating funds come from donations/benefit dinners. It sucks that Paulo Freire (no, I haven’t read him) lived through the depression – so did my grandparents. It also sucks that so many people in the world live in poverty, etc. I pay taxes that the U.S. uses to support struggling nations and also donate some of my time and money to various charities. But that does not mean that I want to reduce my life to those same circumstances in some sort of misguided attempt at solidarity. I am so frikkin happy/lucky that I was born in the U.S. and have had the opportunity (as does just about everyone here) to create a pleasant life for myself. That was the goal of the founding fathers (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and it has worked out pretty well, all things considered. Life is short (particularly from an older person’s perspective) and (IMO) there is nothing else after you die. I want to enjoy my life to the fullest while I can.

  • jonjct

    @Kieru: I’m 60. When I came out I was 25 and it was 1978, the pinnacle of gay culture in America. I had more acceptance coming out than the guys do today. No, it was not harder, it was easier. Just sayin’.

  • Teeth

    @frshmn: Not wishing.. not at all. Fully expecting though. The same conditions that helped HIV spread are with us more than ever. And now the drugs are better. The reality is that there is probably a time bomb ticking away.

  • Ben Dover

    @dave lopes: I get what you’re saying, except that you must really like your job!

    You say your life of “work… gym… sleep… work” is “stress free.” It’s mind-boggling to me that you include “work” in there. The people at work are the most stressful ones for most of us, and they don’t pay us enough to feign interest in straight people’s birthday parties & spouses & rug rats.

    The “work” of feigning interest in a gay guy for sexual purposes? – I get that’s it’s “work,” of a sort, but sex is such an incentive.

  • Ben Dover

    @Teeth: There IS a threat, but it’s from the extreme overuse of antibiotics.

    If you’re concerned about this issue, there are things you can do:

    – Don’t use antibiotics for ailments they have no effect on (e.g. the common cold), and use them properly otherwise;

    – Buy only antibiotic-free meat, or become a vegetarian.

    Your lurid, self-hating homophobic fantasies in Queerty comments aren’t going to help with antibiotic failure!

  • dave lopes

    @Ben Dover:

    Yes I do love my job. I work with clients in financial planning and investing. It is not 9 to 5 and I control my income and amount of hours worked.

    Was stressful at the start…but after 20 years in the industry, it is now a walk in the park.

    I am of course interested in my clients life…after all they provide me with my income.

    Sex was indeed an incentive, but I think I might have played too much in my 20s and 30s. Now if it comes easily without much effort…I will consider it. Maybe I am just getting old.

  • dm10003

    Like the title says, “Some People” but not all.

    If you want to see the youngest prettiest most boyish guys get ignored in a room full of gays just go to a bear event.

    You never age out of bear.

  • sfcarlos65

    Gentlemen: I am 15 months from my 50th birthday and I really believe that we will be redefining getting older because we’ve not been given a template.

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