—This is article #43 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Just last week I sat with a good friend of mine in a restaurant. Her imminent departure to start a new job in Dubai meant our conversation turned towards futures and growing older.
‘How do you feel about getting older?’ she asked. ‘I never think about gay guys in their 30s and 40s.’
This is something that I had to agree with. I started to think about my peers and how many of them have a detached view of their future.
As a young gay guy growing up in London I can invariably see that the focus of the gay community is on looking good, staying fit and warding off the approaching years. Many gay men I know spend their after work hours pumping away at the gym, their spare time scouring dating sites and their weekends on drug-fuelled binges. It’s a huge generalisation of course, but the most prevalent one.
We may have the best hair, the best jobs and the most perfectly Instagrammed smiles but something is missing.
Does it really get better?
Statistics consistently show that gay men suffer from high rates of depression and anxiety, are more susceptible to recreational drugs and the sexually transmitted diseases that plagued the distant 80s are now becoming a threat once again.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a summit at King’s College in London entitled: ‘Does It Really Get Better?’ It was a talk between esteemed members of the LGBT community both young and old, discussing what problems each group face.
One speaker, and HIV activist, talked about the worrying rise of HIV infections due to gay men having unprotected sex. Statistics state that at the end of the 90s, the number of men with HIV was around 2,500. By 2011 that number had risen to 6,000.
I remember one speaker standing up to talk about the issue of loneliness in the gay community. I didn’t need a bunch of statistics to tell me that mature gay men report feelings of loneliness.
A quick flash of excess…
Books like ‘The Velvet Rage’ by Alan Downs addresses the issue gay men have with growing older. As gay boys we are the sons of heterosexual men. As much we may love and admire our fathers, as I do, we cannot imagine ourselves living the lives as they have done. Settling down, marriage and kids are options that have until recently been ruled out for us and are not paths that seem immediately open to young gay men.
Perhaps it is this fear that drives so many young gay guys to live the outwardly fabulous life of excess, to burn up like moths before their time is over.
I believe gay men need to be taught, from a young age in schools, that the chance of them meeting a solid partner and living a fulfilling live with the possibility of marriage and children is a very real thing. Growing older is not something to fear, rather something to embrace.
If we constantly present young gay men with the idea that life is a quick flash of excess, it will lead them to believe that long and happy lives are still just for straight people. We have a right to future happiness too; we just need to know that it could exist.
Liam is a journalist and freelance writer based in London. You can follow him on Twitter @Liam_JohnsonLDN
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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