Saturday, April 08, 2006

Age discrimination among gay men.....

When I return to Florida after vacationing in New Orleans and recount some of my escapades, I'm usually asked how ever am I able to keep up with the fast social pace of partying, drinking and [safe] sexual adventures half the night at my age. I quickly slam back with "I might be old, but I'm not dead!"

When they see photos of some of my "friends", some considerably younger that I am and ask how, I slam back with "because I can!"

I have no clue why, but I attract younger men. It's certainly not my money.... there simply is none. It's not my jewelry [inherited], I don't wear it on vacation. It's definately not because I try to "act cool"; I don't.

What I do is drink moderately, dress conservatively but up to date (Ralph Lauren, Claiborn, etc.), wear baseball caps for the reason they were intended, to keep the sun out of my eyes and to keep my bald head from burning; visor to the front, not to the side or backwards.... (a fashion statement of the youth of today); and I listen!

Never, never, never do I attempt to express myself in the "lingo/slang" of the thug generation. "Yo man", "dude" and "bro" are not in my vocabulary; but I certainly try to engage in intelligent conversation and give honest opinions on current music, movies, books, sports, TV programs, or whatever else may be of interest. I try to be interesting and witty (and I can be very funny).

And once again, I listen to what each person has to say, and I expect and show respect to each individual. SCORE!

When I socialize or date, I don't date younger men, I don't date middle-aged men, I don't date older men. I date men! AMEN~

Is there age discrimination among gay men, of course there is.... have I seen it, heard it, most definately. Have I experienced it, not at this time.

Age discrimination is well expressed by Harold Kooden in his book "Golden Men, The Power of Gay Mid-life". Excerpts follow.......

"Age discrimination and segregation in our Western culture, and particularly among gay male society in America, is as destructive to the soul of humans as is racism or homophobia."

"Ask any gay man what he fears most, and after AIDS, most would respond growing old, or more specifically, 'being alone in my midage', or 'being unattractive (and alone) in my old age'".

We do this to ourselves in our culture with its over emphasis on youth and beauty as defined by an unreal standard to which most of us secretly or openly aspire. But it does not have to be this way. There is enormous hope for the future despite what our modern culture tells us about aging.

For many years gay men (along with our lesbian sisters) have fought valiantly to achieve equal rights, acceptance in our community and self-dignity. Yet we continue to discriminate and separate within our own community over the issue of age, perceived power, beauty, and other often skin-deep issues.

"Gay men have spent three decades struggling to overcome messages of shame, self-loathing, and homophobia of the "non-gay" world in order to create a community of love, pride, acceptance, joy and power." We have created new families and new social networks. We've defined our own community standards and new value systems. It seems; however, that just as we are beginning to experience a new freedom, we undermine ourselves with two-way judgment and discrimination based on age that may very well undermine our entire gay culture.

Just as a gay man may begin to come into his own, perhaps settling down from the bumps of coming out and overdoing the scene, perhaps even beginning to experience personal or financial stability and success with a career, this very same man may suddenly begin to feel he does not belong.

"Understandably many gay men become angry and frustrated that just when they begin to feel as if they are coming into their own, both American culture and gay male culture begin to reject them for being 'over the hill.'"

In fact due to the unique life clock that we as gay men often experience, (such as beginning our "real" same sex dating rituals at 18 or even 25 rather than the non-gay standard of 12 or 14), we frequently become adults in our late 20s, or 30s just when we are staring 35 and 40 in the face. It all seems pretty self destructive for us to build individual lives and an entire culture that is set to disappear just as we are experiencing the prime of our lives.

The generation gap perpetuates itself with further isolation between gay adults of various ages (20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and so on) because of our gay community's ageism.

Role models can change that dynamic of exploitation and avoidance." It is the job of mature gay men to overcome isolation and rejection and to serve as role models for younger gay men. "Whether we choose to be or not, we will become role models for younger gay men, and if we do not engage "ageism" personally and collectively, each generation that follows will merely reinforce the negativity and perpetuate the stigma around aging."

"Don't let 'ageism' make you invisible. Some of us drop out of the gay community when we get older, but our participation in our culture is vital.

It is time for gay men to show the world and especially themselves a new breed of gay man; older, sexually active, positively visible in all arenas, productive, adventurous, energetic, and committed to every generation including their own in our community.

Long time gay activist Frank Kameny, is quoted in Golden Men as saying, "Now that I am among those who are older, I do not merely sense that the stereotype [of older gay men] is wrong. I know it from first hand experience. My 40s were better than my 30s and my 50s better than my 40s.

Life continues to be more rewarding, exciting and satisfying than I could have ever imagined when I was twenty. My life is too full to permit time for misery or loneliness."

All paintings are the art of Steve Walker


ConnieJane said...

Though we live in the same town, we have never met. Yet, I know you are beautiful.

You state your feelings so eloquently. Love to read your words. XOXO


Good post mister.


scrappy rose said...

I think your sidebar is great! How do you find all that interesting stuff to include?

BostonPobble said...

I think straight men are the only ones who do not suffer relationship ageism that begins in their mid-30s. It is disturbing to be considered "too old" now in my life when I know I have more to offer ~ I'm more interesting, more self-actualized, more adventurous, more sexual, more MORE ~ than I have ever been. Interestingly enough, I attract younger men or older men. Most men my age aren't really interested.

sttropezbutler said... usual. Great post dondon!


Hypoxic said...

Thanks, DonDon!

An absolutely great commentary on a serious problem in our community.

Ageism is one of the reasons I waiting so long to provide any information about myself on my blog. I wanted people to get to know me for who I am rather than how old I am.

A great post!

Brad said...

Some folks like older men, some like them younger. My partners were typically older than me by several years.

Then, I met Justin. Although he is 5 years younger than I, we seem to be kindred spirits in a really old-fahioned, monogamous way.

I've met some mature men that I thought were very attractive, but after talking to them a while, they continued to belittle themselves and their age.

Self loathing is an unattractive garment for anyone to wear. It can be destracting and even annoying.

It seems that you have an appreciation for who you are and you probably radiate that to others.

A certain self confidence on the other hand, is entirely attractive.

woe said...

Thought provoking. My frame of reference been someone who is closer to midlife than my twenties, and only now starting to come out of the closet. It is scary.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! Sounds like you are a lucky one. Since coming out and dating in my mid-30's, I've experienced nothing but pain in the gay scene/so-called community. Since turning 40, things just got worse. I am celibate and back in the closet for all intents and purposes. I won't return to the vicious cruelty of faggots and their ageist ways.