Being Gay: The Life Experience of Older Men
- Published on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:44
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Many men’s groups, including men only organisations and clubs, tend to have a pretty solid heterosexual culture. They may not be homophobic, but I have sometimes wondered about the absence of openly gay men or couples in the men only groups and organisations I have been a part of over the years including sports clubs and men only societies. Equally when topics of masculinity and male to male sexuality come up in conversations in men only groups these can result in some awkwardness and hesitancy especially among older men. These days acceptable male-male social intimacy includes ‘bromance’, non-sexual (apparently) love between men, but active bisexuality remains a quaking bog territory!
Relationship shipwrecks for men in their 50’s can also of course sometimes be about recognising a change in sexual orientation – Coming Out. I have several older men friends who have made this transition, previously married and some with grown up children, and who now live happily in homosexual relationships. But I also know other older men who have found the transition difficult, or indeed impossible to make, sometimes too troubling and painful to explore and navigate through.
Older men have history to contend with as well as their own sexuality,. I was therefore interested to come across a recent article in the (free) London Time Out Magazine (30th November 2012 http://www.timeout.com/london/gay-lesbian/article/3965/golden-oldies ) ‘LGBT section’, which explored the life experience of older gays. The core message of the article was the need for older men (gay or straight) to bear witness to the momentous social changes of the last 60 years regarding male sexuality: the decriminalisation of male homosexuality, the impact of Aids, and the introduction of civil partnerships in particular.
The Time Out article also featured the courses being run by historian Alec Bell, a 66 year old gay man, who leads walks through London’s past, including to the Savoy where Oscar Wilde dined with Lord Alfred Douglas, and to Bow street where Wilde later stood on trial (to find out more about ALEC Bell’s walks go to http://www.theamazings.com/) . Bearing witness to gay history, including the widespread fears and actual risk of being actively homosexual in the past, is an important part of our being elders.
And my sexuality? I am married – 32 years, monogamous, straight – and I also call myself “multisexual” (you should see the strange and wonderful kinds of metamorphoses that sometimes take place in my dreams!)