(A few notes to myself)
I have to acknowledge that definite challenges lay ahead for me as I work to find my place within the aging sector of the LGBT community. Daily occurrences serves as reminders that I’m not as young as I once was.
In fact, at this very moment, I am engaging in a form of self-administered behavioral therapy. I’ve actually started making grunting noises as I begin my mornings, moving around my house. It drives my husband insane: WTF is that? Stop that!
And do I succumb to the often-appealing attitude to let go of long-held standards of dress and vibrancy, or do I beat back the jungle of old age ineptitude and remain relevant.
That’s the struggle. So here are a few guidelines I’ve come up with for gay men who are, like me, getting older.
1. Keep your balls shaved. Even if you are the only one looking at them, it’s still important. If you are fortunate to have a sexual partner, shave. No one wants to see a 1975-style crotch. Nobody.
2. (I am in a relationship with arguably one of the most attractive men in the city, so this next point probably comes off justifiably as very sour grapes. But I find it worth the mention.) My vanity has not overlooked the fact that at some point, other gay men cease to pay attention to you. You are no longer desirable. You are invisible.
It takes a while to get used to this. Be patient with yourself. It’s a good lesson in the long run. You no longer need to depend on their approval. You are free to dictate your own sense of beauty and self-worth.
3. When the time arrives that you must pay for a sexual partner (and yes, that time comes for all of us that are single or who become so due to the inevitable loss of one’s husband through death or divorce), please deal with a professional hustler not trade. You’ve lived too long to become another elder abuse statistic or worse. You deserve better. After all, isn’t it all about enjoyment? Spend the extra cash and be safe.
4. Maintain your social networks. Do not hide out because you are no longer “mainstream.” You have everything you’ve always had to offer plus as you age, you do acquire a certain amount of wisdom. You do. So use it.
You’ve lived openly as a gay man. That means you have lived truthfully. Use that knowledge. We need that right now. Really, you owe it to the world. Maybe you’ve never spoken out. Find your voice.
5. Seems that a disproportionate amount of gay men of my generation have arrived at their later years never having been in a lasting relationship. It’s been extremely easy to coast along in our world. One gets laid regularly or occasionally as one can. The usual group of friends is around, hopefully. Gay life makes it easy to be single into perpetuity.
But, 6. No one can deny the overwhelming loneliness that a life spent alone entails. I see single men living in suspended animation — no real possessions, bachelor living at its worst. The aching is palpable. An attitude of “We’ll pick out the china pattern together” keeps them from stabbing themselves.
But waiting for Mr. Right to come along is an indulgence of a much younger and less aware gay man. Give it up. He’s not coming. Settle for someone flawed, like yourself. There’s still time.
Being involved with another human makes us more human. It doesn’t always involve living together. Bonding helps us grow and mature. Arrested development in gay men is rampant. Lives are wasted while they wait for the perfect fellow to show up.
7. Those who have been fortunate enough to maintain decades-long relationships, I hope, are enjoying these final years. They know well — and they accept — the weaknesses and the strengths of their partners. They are blessed.
8. Those of us who have been married for a long while to men younger than ourselves are challenged. Most of our careers have reached their zenith. We are headed into retirement or are inventing some kind of business that intrigues the elder versions of ourselves.
But we need to respect that our partners are probably in a different place. Most likely, they are now at the top of their game. Resist the competitive edge inherent in the DNA of a gay man. Support their careers. Encourage them. Do not let green-eyed envy find a place in your home life. It can rot a once-solid relationship.
9. We are the generation that was the first to be able to live openly as gay men. The time was right for our existence. It wasn’t always easy: We had to fight. We had to sacrifice. We lost many of our own along the way. There were no answers that were put in place for us.
We just had to figure it out.
But I think it’s made it easier for the gay men that have come after us. I hope so, at least. And now aging is the next thing we have to deal with.
At times, we come off as a flash mob of aging Norma Desmonds. We have been youth-centric throughout our queer existence. Now it’s biting us in the ass. Karma — what a bitch!
Maybe we will find a way to have grace in this process. I look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of us.
Gary Bellomy is a longtime Dallas activist working on issues of LGBT equality, HIV/AIDS services and family violence prevention. He is a war resister and a Trump resister.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 5, 2017.