Wisdom

Older gay gentlemen offer 15 life lessons to their younger gay counterparts

A hip older man wearing pink sunglasses
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

Things are better for young queer or gay men coming to terms with their sexuality these days compared to the past, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Advice from those that have struggled with the same things may help or give a different perspective.

“What I wish would have been available to me when I was 20, was the opportunity to speak with someone who had experienced what I was experiencing as I was coming out,” says Jeff Levy, a gay, Chicago-based psychotherapist.

“At the time, there were no role models in the media and I was coming out during the AIDS crisis. Although there are more role models for younger gay folks now, I’d encourage younger gay men to reach out to older gay men and to ask questions about their life experiences and relationships. I think intergenerational friendships and opportunities for mentoring could be incredibly valuable and enriching.”

We messaged some gay men over 50 and asked them about things they wished they’d known earlier about love, life, sex, and relationships. Some replied anonymously while others were happy to be named.

Related: Older gays reflect on thirsty photos of their younger selves

1. Don’t forget your friends

“When you are dating, don’t forget to maintain your close friendships. Friends often endure beyond romantic relationships. But they too require nurturing and maintenance.” (Dominic Davies, of UK-based Pink Therapy)

2. Own your sexuality

“Don’t be embarrassed to tell sex partners what you like doing in bed, or to ask for the sex you want. As gay men, we’re often taught to feel ashamed of our sexual desires, and that can leave many of us forever challenged when it comes to saying what we do and don’t enjoy.” (Anon.)

“Learn what turns you on and discuss that with your partner. Then explore more things to add to the list. Erotic pleasure is infinite, there is no need to be bored if you share your active imaginations!” (Dominic Davies)

3. Stay safe

“Have as much sex as you want with whoever you want and never feel guilty about it… but always be safe. There’s no sex so mind-blowing it’s worth risking your health for. And if someone tries to persuade you to be unsafe, that should be a reason to leave.” (SG)

4. Prioritize the right people

“Prioritize people who wish to prioritize you: not those who treat you as an option.” (DK)

5. Support others and they’ll support you

“Challenge prejudice and discrimination even when it isn’t aimed at you or people like you. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and, yes, even ageism, are toxic, depriving people of opportunities to fulfill their potential. Our enemies seek to divide us. Don’t let them. Support others and you will be supported by others.” (Matthew Hodson, Executive Director, NAM / aidsmap)

“Help when you can and accept help when you need it.” (JM)

6. Actions speak louder than words

“Someone may say that they’re committed to you or feel a certain way about you, but if their actions say otherwise, listen to what those actions are telling you. People really do reveal themselves through their actions.” (DK)

7. Strive to be kind

“Always try to treat others with kindness… even if you have the perfect, bitchy response to hand to put someone down.” (Anon.)

“Cruelty is not funny.” (Matthew Hodson)

8. Don’t ignore warning signs

“Don’t ignore red flags when getting involved with someone. They nearly always turn into bigger issues further down the line.” (Anon.)

9. Swap contact details

“If you have amazing sex with someone in a bathhouse or other sex venue, don’t be shy of asking them for their phone number. If you don’t, you’ll likely never see them again and may regret not asking for it. I never used to do this, but when I started doing so, I was surprised how often guys wanted to connect again or meet up. Not everyone is looking for an anonymous, brief encounter. In fact, most people aren’t.” (Anon.)

Men kissing
(Photo: Shutterstock)

10. The right partner goes beyond the physical

“Good sex involves your heart, head and dick. If your dick is the only part of you really involved, don’t be surprised if, after you orgasm, you feel lonelier than ever…this is your heart and head saying, ‘Hey, why didn’t you let us in on this?’ Learn to open your heart and your mind as well as your legs!” (Michael Dale Kimmel, a California-licensed psychotherapist)

“Don’t fall in love with a man just because he has a gorgeous dick … or any other gorgeous body part. In a long-term relationship, sex will only ever be a small part of your adventures together: and personality and shared values will become more important.” (Anon.)

11. Don’t fall for myths

“The old saying that ‘No-one loves a fairy over 40’ is a big, fat lie.” (Anon.)

12. Things will change and that’s OK

“What would I advise my 20-year-old self about love? Love is different when you’re in your twenties, it’s supposed to be an adventure; you’re meant to love lots of people in many ways. That’s what happens at your age. Love changes, as you get older: things get calmer, problems become more subtle, you’ll probably look for more stability and less drama. So, enjoy your lovers now, knowing it will just get better over time.” (Michael Dale Kimmel)

13. Cherish all generations

“Every generation is fabulous in its own way – and every generation will face its own struggles. My generation was decimated by AIDS. Chemsex continues to take a toll on our communities. We cannot be certain that the freedoms and rights we enjoy now will continue unless we remain vigilant. We deal with our challenges more effectively when we learn from the generations that came before us.” (Matthew Hodson)

14. Choose the relationship that’s right for you

“It’s possible to love more than one person at the same time, equally and differently. Some of us are naturally suited to non-monogamy and that can also be a ‘committed relationship.’ But be honest with yourself and your partner. Cheating sucks.” (Dominic Davies)

“Make sure you get the relationship you want. The great thing about being gay is that we don’t feel like we have to have a relationship like our parents. If you want to be open, negotiate that. And if you want to be monogamous, then that’s OK too.” (SG)

15. Life is too short to not be yourself

“Life is too short to spend time hiding your true self or trying to live up to the expectations of others. This is your life and you only get to live it once.” (DK)

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