Older Gays: “Tired Old Queens” or “Grand Gay Geezers?”
A still from the movie version of The Boys in the Band — are gays doomed to loneliness?
In the ancient days of Doctor Jon’s youth, he read a play called The Boys in the Band. He was particularly struck by the famous line, “Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse.” Chillingly, this play was considered a “realistic” and “sympathetic” portrayal of homosexuality in 1970, one year after the Stonewall rebellion. Surprisingly, an articulate, contemporary “queer” blogger refers to the play as “brilliant” and “accurate to a decimal point.”
But how accurate is the notion that gays are doomed to loneliness—perhaps the most dreaded fear of aging—and how accurate has it ever been?
In a recent article, I wrote about the double stigma of bisexuality—how both gays and straights feel threatened by the ambiguity of this sexual orientation. Older gays also suffer from a double stigma. Homophobia remains powerful in Virginia, as evidenced by the recent “conscience” legislation allowing discrimination against gays who adopt and gay children for adoption. And ageism is rampant throughout our society, as people fear the mortality that they read on the faces of older adults.
People will go to scary lengths to stave off the inevitable. I had a gorgeous client in her twenties, who was already using Botox.
Many years past the writing of The Boys in the Band, the stereotype of the “tired old queen” remains. But Linda Woolf of Brewster University suggests that there is little evidence for this. According to Woolf, by the time they are older, gays have learned to counteract the stigma of homosexuality, leaving us better equipped to deal with the stigma of aging than the average bear. And many gays have a better network of friendships outside of the family than their straight counterparts.
I remember, as a gay youth in New York City in the late seventies, meeting a group called “SAGE,” which then stood for “Senior Action in a Gay Environment.” These folks were lively and engaging—hardly the stereotype of “tired old queens.” I met gay couples who had been together for twenty, thirty—even fifty—years, most of whom, my guess is, had not been interviewed for studies. Coming from a shyer era, these folks had glowed like a steady flame out of the public view.
In my therapy practice, I have worked with gays of all ages—including a man in his seventies who was just coming out and dating much-younger men. Personally, I’ve always preferred an older man—hence my nearly fifteen-year union with “My Old Man,” Robin—a Grand Gay Geezer if there ever was one!
For women and men:
Jonathan Lebolt, PhD (“Doctor Jon”) is a licensed clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and group psychotherapist specializing in relationship issues. He lives with his partner of 14 plus years, Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline, and their princely pooch, Cocoa. Robin and Jonathan are proud grandfathers of a beautiful one-year-old girl, Juna. Feel free to contact Doctor Jon at his website.
Nemeth, a lesbian, said she sensed that the relationship between the woman and the nursing home resident was more than just friends.June 30, 2015
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