I sit here with my 49th birthday behind me and 50 staring me in the face. It leaves me a bit anxious and reflective, at the same time. I have been out for about 27 years, which means I was 22 when I finally announced to the world that I was a gay man. I wonder what the next 27 years holds for me and what Being Queer and Turning 50 will be like.
It is a common story that many of us do not come out as young kids. As such, we often dont have a puberty like our heterosexual friends. Sure, we still go through body changes and such, but dating and social adjustments take a backseat out of the need to often protect ourselves. This may also affect how we view aging, to some degree. As such, we often seem more “immature” when it comes to certain matters. But getting older and being queer does resent its own unique sets of challenges.
Unfortunately, it seems that the population of gay men is missing a generation of elders due to the AIDS epidemic taking so many that could have been here to be the mentors we needed for proper mindset around growing older and being queer.
Opulence of Gay Life
Growing old, as a gay man, comes with its own unique set of challenges. When we come out as young gay men, often our thoughts do not extend beyond the moment. Many of us think of ourselves as young, skinny, and desirable to all men around us. Having fun and dancing the night away can often be the only priority we have in our lives. Growing older, we see that everything is not always bright lights and fabulous parties. Then we have to reshape our views and start to cope with reality as it descends on us like a morning after a hangover with someone passed out beside us that we don’t recognize, it becomes ugly – too many. How do we learn to cope?
Throughout history, gay men have even typecasted as only having an interest in appearance, attractiveness,and sex, youth and sexual attractiveness become the most valuable currency. This isn’t only limited to gay culture, but somehow it seems to become concentrated among gay guys. As we age, it feels as if our bank account is slowly losing those needed funds and we are left wondering how we will navigate life.
This view is a double edged sword. While youth is a large component of this equation, if you are missing out on what’s considered physically attractive then your chances are as equal to one. Movies and magazines force us to believe that the only way we can achieve happiness is through the purchasing of clothing, perfect bodies, parties, and having an endless stream of sexual partners. It is a huge ideal to live up to and unless you live in a large city, the chances of you being a part of that brand image is really small.
Lost on Life’s Trail
Growing up queer is already hard enough, we dont have the same avenues of information as our counterparts do. There is no manual for how to accept and grow as who you are. The benefit of youth is that media has more representation of how your life can go or be viewed. All of that changes when you hit age 40. Youth often affords you beauty and physique, things that seem to run from you screaming as you age. What’s even harder to grasp is that fact that, for many of us, our teen years were already confusing as we had no concept of how to deal with what we are going through. Our 20s and early 30s often feel like our teenage years. We are often left scrambling to catch up as we feel we have lost valuable time in our lives.
We often waste our earlier years dating a string of people, partying to the wee hours, drinking and drugs. We don’t save money for the future, we don’t work on our relationship issues as we see new possibilities everywhere, and honestly we really do not know how to interact with others since it is often all based on hurried advances and limited talking. If we are alone in our later 30s and into 40s, we are looked upon as the spinster sister that will never marry. The unfortunate truth here is that these views are placed on us from both sides, heteronormative ideals of setting down in your 30s and the youth centric attitudes that the LGBTQ community toxically has created.
Each of us has the ability to not let those ideals be placed on us and want for better.
The angst of aging
The first thing we notice as we age is how our looks start to change as that number starts to climb. A simple but sad truth is that at age 30, much of the gay male population starts to notice you less and by 40 most of us are invisible to the masses. Our hair starts to grey or thin. Those lovely little crow’s feet start to show around our eyes. Our metabolism starts to slow and we notice more pockets of softer areas on our body.
All of this adds up to appearing less attractive to others.
These feelings of anxiety comes from us having only the approach of focusing so long on what our outsides look like. We often forget that a wealth of things come to us as we age.
We have experienced so many things in our life. We have had multiple relationships, good experiences, bad times, and career changes to name a few. These all add diversity to who we are becoming. We can slowly start to realize that the inward focus on beauty and body image are fleeting and men offer much more for us and us to them.
Health and aging
While we do learn a lot, while we are aging, there are things that we also start to lose. Our bodies start changing in ways many of us do not like, almost like puberty in reverse. You may not be able to lift as much as before, running becomes harder, your hair gets grey, and thin. As much as we would prefer to not let things take control and affect us, they do. The good news is, we have the power to control those feelings and their effects.
One of the best places to start changing your mentality is by what it means to be healthy and getting fit. When we are younger, we often don’t pay attention to the right way of doing things. If we go to the gym, we don’t put the emphasis on proper form and fuel. It seems we eat anything and push our bodies to achieve this ideal of fitness. With age, we need to shift our focus from the ideals to what is real. Our bodies need time to heal, we need specific kinds of exercise/training to stay fit, and food doesn’t treat our bodies the same way. Here is where we start our journey to being better.
Now we need to focus on what is best for us to eat, what exercise will keep us strong and active, and reshape our ideas of what beauty is.
Ya gotta have friends
One source of support we have, but often forget about, are our friends. Many of us worry that it becomes harder to make friends as we age.
As young gays, we often seem to pickup friends from everywhere. We go out for the night and meet new people, work provides us with connections, and even going to university gives us a larger circle of friends. We are even saddle-bagged with the age old idea that by the time we are in our 30s we have made our life long friends.
That simply is not true. In fact, you will probably start to realize the circle of friends you have around you are missing things you realize you need. But you are now older, does that mean you won’t find friends as easily?
There is some truth to that.
Our tastes change as we age, we become more discerning on the types of people we want around us. We have less time due to life commitments, so getting out becomes harder. And we end up not going out and partying as much, so that becomes less of an issue.
These are all good things as it allows our life to be steered to where we can find people who match what we have learned we need in our lives. We aren’t just using our friend pool as a backup hook up scene, but value them for what they contribute to our lives on an emotional level. We only need to change how we search for those new connections.
This does not mean to fire up Grindr and change your profile to friends only, that may not be the best option for new connections.
A shift in how we think
Age is the one thing you cannot stop, you simply need to figure out how to embrace it.
Sound words that seem easy at first, that is until you start to put them into practice. We have relied on our outdated modalities for so long that it is hard to recognize them as bad. It is all we have known. As we continue to age we must take deeper looks into ourselves for what is most important to us. Those are the values that we need to use as a guide for finding new people in our lives. Dont let age be the ruling factor in your life, only the guide.