The Challenge of Being an Older Gay Man

They say it’s tough to be older and gay. Maybe. But it’s time to face down that challenge.

The memes and messages of gay culture are oriented toward sex and success. They tell us to measure our worth as gay men by our sex appeal and career prestige. By those measures, we peak at about age 40.

Healthy human development beyond midlife requires us to move beyond pleasure and success to two other goals: self-actualization and self-transcendence. We need to find our purpose in life, to do the thing for which we were born. And we need to connect to something larger than ourselves, to give ourselves to a spiritual path.

Gay culture as we have known it for the last 50 years isn’t much help with these developmental tasks. Trauma over our sexuality can keep us fixated on sex. Trauma from religious institutions can stand in the way of our spirituality.

One of the tenets of my personal gay credo is this: I believe we older gay men have an obligation – to ourselves, to younger gay men, to the universe – to find ways to push through the obstacles and blaze trails into gay maturity. To that end, I want to issue three challenges to me and my fellow older gay men:

1. Find your purpose. What were you made to do? As you wind down a career and look toward retirement, give your time to something more worthy than visiting exotic places and sipping good wines. Where do your gifts meet the world’s great need?

2. Find your spirituality. There are many ways to connect to the Infinite. Perhaps your path is flowing with the guiding energy that pervades everything. Perhaps your path is deepening into the blissful awareness that underlies everything. Perhaps your path is relating to others in a way that makes palpable the love that holds everything together.

3. Find younger men to support. So many of us older gay men are hanging on to our unlived youth. We project what we missed onto beautiful young guys. We sexualize them. That’s not what they need from us. Let’s grieve what we missed, withdraw our projections, and become their friends, models, mentors.

This is the challenge of being an older gay man today. We’re blazing trails for those who come after. Let’s do it well.

Photo by Connor McSheffrey on Unsplash, cc0.