Have you ever been told what your age is “in gay years”? I have, and by that count I should probably be six feet under. It’s a calculation, of course, based on the idea that older you get, the less attractive and relevant you are. This idea is as pervasive for gay men as it is for straight women, with so much of gay culture centered on the young, the buff and the beautiful.
Ultimately, it’s a losing game, for everyone, no matter how young and beautiful they are, gets older. The question is how do we cope with getting older in a world that lionises youth?
I started losing my hair when I was 33. I avoided looking at the top of my head in the mirror for almost a year, but eventually asked my barber if it was actually happening. He said, “the more you stress out about it, the quicker it’ll go.” So, I told him to shave it all off there and then. I’ve tried to take this attitude towards getting older too, to fully admit it to myself and embrace it, rather than pretend it isn’t happening – to age gracefully, as they say.
Of course, it’s not always easy. My mother always lamented looking in the mirror in the mornings, and I know now how she felt. There was a time when in gay bars I got plenty of attention (believe it or not), whereas nowadays I’m fairly invisible. Ageist jokes are often jovially flipped in my direction, and I’m expected to laugh along (I do, if they’re actually funny), and on one or two occasions, I have been insulted by younger gay men in gay bars.
That was a bit of a shock, but what’s more surprising to me is how much I’m actually enjoying getting older. In the last few years, I’ve grown to be so much more confident in myself, in my body, in my voice and in my freedom to be exactly who I am. I look back at the younger man I was in earlier years, wishing he knew what I know now.
In this issue of GCN, we have a focus on getting older in the LGBT+ community and what that means. For the most part, the story is a positive one, rather than the negative it’s portrayed to be. I believe that giving voice to older people in the LGBT+ community is essential for our mental health, and in GCN we want this to be part of the greater mix, rather than in one issue a year. So, if you’re older and queer, get in touch. We want to share your stories.
Speaking of age, GCN is 30 this year (how old is that in gay years?), and we’re having a beautiful exhibition to celebrate the fact, charting three decades of queer Ireland through the pages of your community magazine. We’d love you to be part of the endeavor, which is a momentous look at our shared history, so please visit our fundit.ie campaign (search ‘gcn’) and see how you can contribute. There are plenty of great rewards in store too!