Why Do Gay Men Fear Aging?
Today I crossed another milestone as the Sun is in the exact position it was in on the day of my birth in 1980. I turned 32, which if you look at it in some philosophical or existential manner I’d question what is age but some sort of metaphysical awakening as a result of experiences. Or if you’re a nerd like me, you calculate that I’m actually 32 years and 10 months old. I’m in the in-between, not middle-age with grey hair but also not a bubbly (okay I’m still bubbly) 20-something going out to clubs every night. But I am still Sly, so at the moment nothing else about me has changed except a number.
My point is that typically anything over the age of about 28 is considered old, ancient, or archaic in the gay community. So being 32 means that basically died four years ago, came back and died again. Several friends have made awkward statements with this look of fear and impending doom on their faces as they say “How does it feel being THAT age” to even “Awww, don’t feel bad, you’re still great” What the hell do you mean STILL great?! I have ALWAYS been fabulous, regardless of my age. But honestly, Why is that? Why do we put so much emphasis on our age as a detriment, something to be feared, even hidden in shame?
Some say it’s because of our past. Michael C. LaSala, Ph.D, of Psychology Today states that it’s because as we were going through puberty, we were awkward and had to deal with our struggle to find our identity in being gay and what that meant to us while facing the oppression and negative perceptions we faced from society as well as our loved ones. as a result, when we’ve embraced our sexuality, we use our youth and beauty as a sign of our self worth, that depreciates over time as we grow older.
LaSala’s description does sound accurate. It’s heavily ingrained in gay culture to be in tip top shape at all times and to use any anti-aging mechanisms that are at our disposal. There’s supplements, formulas used to help enhance and maintain our physiques. And unfortunately some do detrimental things to their bodies like performance drugs or even extreme and excessive plastic surgeries to keep that youthful appearance.
What do we do to stop this stigmatization that we place on age? LaSala believes that we should first remember that we are human, prone to make mistakes and that we’re not perfect. It’s also to realize that about not only ourselves but that this applies to everyone as well as knowing the difference between self critique and unrealistic expectations. Most of all, love yourself completely, flaws and all.
Okay I know that as we age, we have to be more mindful of our past than most consciously realize. Our experiences are the reason behind that. What I mean is that we accumulate a lot of stress because of our collective struggles as a community. We fight for equality and fight against discrimination every single day. That stress builds on us and according to an some, this can lead to mental disorders caused by anxiety, stress, and depression. Still this isn’t a reason to fear our age.
To sum this up, aging is not what should be feared in our community. Embrace it with all of your being and be thankful, for there are some that didn’t make it to that milestone. Think of your age as opportunities to change your life and others for the better not limitations. Always love yourself, every wrinkle, grey hair and know that is not what makes you valuable or beautiful, your heart does that.