“No one loves a fairy over 40” is a big, fat lie

An older gay couple
Posed by models (Photo: Shutterstock)

About ten years ago, I interviewed the late, veteran, British LGBTQ activist, Michael Brown. He was 78 at the time, and he informed me that in terms of getting sex, the busiest period of his life was between the ages of 56 and 70.

Given he had a history dating back to the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s, this surprised me. I asked him what had happened at age 56 to kick-start this period of abundance.

“I got the knack for picking up men!”, he chuckled mischievously, without elaborating further.

I must have been around 42 when we talked, and like many gay men, I’d been programmed to think that one’s sexual attraction has a sell-by date. In the UK, there was a saying when I was younger: “No one loves a fairy over 40.” It must have lodged in my psyche, along with a stack load of other negative stereotypes around gay men.

This particular cliché, however, was coming from other gay men rather than people outside of the community.

I’m 53 now. That sell-by date doesn’t seem to have materialized yet. In fact, I’m actually surprised by the number of men who message me on the apps or who wish to connect with me. Seriously surprised.

I don’t consider myself a looker, but then I’ve never been my “type” so have struggled to see myself as others do. I go to the gym regularly but am nowhere near ‘muscle daddy’ status.

It helps, undoubtedly, that I live in a big city with a thriving gay population. I know it would be a very different story if I lived somewhere rural.

I don’t really go out on the scene much so I’m grateful we now have the apps, for all their pitfalls. Maybe I’d feel more invisible in the bars and clubs.

I’m not writing this to show off (‘Hey, look at me! Still getting plenty of sex!’), but I do think it’s a valuable message to put out there to younger gay men. It’s not something I heard growing up but lots of older guys have very active sex lives. There are a lot of people who are attracted to more mature men and it doesn’t necessarily all disappear after a certain age.

Related: Neil Patrick Harris bares his soul—and much, much more—in new Netflix show

Gay men and aging

As it stands, most gay men do not embrace aging. In truth, many of us loathe the idea and I can understand that.

The early days of AIDS wiped out a generation, leaving us with a severe lack of older role models.

The commercial LGBTQ scene celebrates hot, young bodies. We have fought hard to get scraps of gay representation in mainstream media, but images of older people are often lacking. Most of us don’t have kids that might keep an eye out for us as we age. Physically, things change.

The idea of getting older, frankly, is scary.

Then there’s the more widespread stigma against older people expressing themselves sexually. Just ask Madonna.

How refreshing it was to read a quote this week from Madonna’s chum, French fashion designer, Jean Paul Gaultier.

“Of course, I see wrinkles and stuff like that, but you have to accept them,” the 70-year-old told Attitude. “It’s as beautiful as an old denim. The more denim gets old, the better it is.”

Sex and love

Obviously, sex and love are two different things. I’m not in a relationship at the moment. I might be happy to occasionally oblige hot young studs with a thing for older men, but I’m not necessarily looking for a big age-gap relationship, and, usually, neither are they.

However, I’m getting enough interest from older guys to keep the hope of a relationship alive. I am dating and keeping myself open to where that might lead.

Oliver Sacks was the famed neurologist the Robin Williams character in the movie Awakenings was based. Born in 1933, Sacks realized he was gay as a teenager but lived alone for most of his life and was purposefully celibate for around 35 years. He met his partner, writer Bill Hayes, in his mid-70s. They were together until Sacks’ death in 2015.

Earlier this year, another veteran, British LGBTQ activist, George Montague died. He was 98, and affectionately known in his home city of Brighton as “the oldest gay in the village”. He met his partner of 25 years, Somchai, in 1997, when he was aged around 73.

Last week, Irish chat show host Graham Norton, 59, got married. This came after he said in 2015 that he’d given up on love and resigned to being single forever. Clearly, something in his head, and heart, changed.

Related: Graham Norton ties the knot to mystery man in lavish ceremony

Closer to home, I know of friends who have discovered “the one” long after the first flush of youth.

We don’t hear enough about these later-in-life relationships between gay men. On Reddit forums, I often come across young queer guys fretting that they’ve passed up the opportunity of ever finding love because they’ve already hit the grand old age of—yikes—30.

Falling in love remains a possibility whichever decade you find yourself in.

There are signs that attitudes may change. We’re soon going to have a new Neil Patrick Harris show (Uncoupled) on Netflix, about a gay man in his late 40s throwing himself back on the dating scene after splitting from his long-term partner. Meanwhile, Billy Eichner, 43, is set to star in Bros, the first gay rom-com to come from a major movie studio. It seems finding love in later (queer) life might be about to have a moment in the limelight.

No one loves a fairy over 40? Yes, aging brings challenges, but let’s not make it harder by propagating nonsense like that.

Follow David Hudson on Twitter: @davidhudson_uk