From a reader:
Dear Tom: I’m just the opposite of the guy in your last column (“I’m Only Attracted to Younger Guys.”) For my whole life, I’ve only been attracted to guys who are considerably older than me – usually by about twenty years. I met my first boyfriend when I was 18. When I told my mom I’m gay she took it in stride, but she freaked out when I told her that my boyfriend was 38. She kept saying, “Can’t you find somebody closer to your own age?” until I told her that I didn’t want to hear it anymore. That was when I began to realize that, for some people, ageism is a bigger problem than homophobia.
Now I’m in my early thirties, and my husband is in his early fifties. I thought the gay community would be more accepting of my relationship than my family has been, but, if anything, gay guys are even worse about age. A lot of them react the way some straight people still act when they see a bi-racial couple. They’re polite to your face, but you get the feeling that, as far as they’re concerned, there’s just something not quite right about it. And then the comments they make behind your back get back to you, and you realize you’re not just being paranoid.
People make all kinds of assumptions about my relationship. Some think that he’s rich (I wish!) and that I’m being “kept,” which, as a career-oriented, self-supporting guy, annoys the hell out of me. They assume that he’s a top and that I’m just his bitch, or his boytoy. A few even seem to think he pays to have sex with me. Some guys are skeptical of my sincerity when I tell them that I think he’s really hot and that I love him. If they don’t think I’m after his money, they think I have “father issues.” Guys have asked me pointedly if I had a bad relationship with my Dad, or if I lost him at an early age (no and no.) They imply that, if I got over my father complex, I’d like guys my own age more. For years gays were told that they had their sexual preference because they were mentally disturbed, and with that history behind us, you’d think they’d have a little sensitivity about saying things like that to other gay people, but where admiring older men is concerned, they don’t get the connection.
A while back I went to a bar with my partner, and the next time I was there by myself, somebody asked, “What were you doing with that old man?” I said, “You mean my husband?” He was embarrassed, but it didn’t even occur to him to apologize for insulting the man I love. His attitude was like, well, if you’re into old men, that’s your business, I guess.
I don’t really need any advice or anything about this, I just wanted the chance to rant a little bit. I’m disappointed to a degree in my gay brothers, but when I remember the big picture, it’s not a major thing. I feel lucky to be able to appreciate what my older partner has to offer. He’s been through stages of life that I’m still in and has a perspective that no one my age can have. He has a lot of depth and interests that few guys my age have. I enjoy listening to him share information about music and gay history from times I’ve only read about. I trust his steadiness and his commitment to me, and I’m grateful that I get to have so much love in my life. Thanks, Clint.
Dear Clint: Thanks for your articulate and insightful email. It speaks for itself, and the only suggestion I would have would be not to be too hard on your gay friends for their attitudes. The ageism you describe is hardly confined to our community: it’s rampant throughout American culture. You are fortunate to have the presence of mind to be able to see it for what it is and to have the inner resources that allow you to follow what your heart tells you rather than what your culture tells you. Maybe it’s this inner confidence that has made it possible for you to find so much love in your life.