Bruce J. Little believes that older gay men have a role in mentoring the younger generation
As older gay men we can choose to be mentors or dementors.
Back when he was a nineteen-year-old freshly minted twink in the queer mecca that is Cape Town, he wanted to look up to the older more experienced gay men around him.
He wanted to confide in them, pick their brains and learn from them, but he also secretly hoped for their support and encouragement. He did manage to meet a few older wiser gay men who showed him the ropes, supplied much-needed encouragement and advice to help him navigate the often-ruthless snake pit that the queer scene can be.
But he also found himself targeted by several older gay men who had no intention of helping him (other than out of his underwear).
These were much older men with more money and influence than he had who made no ‘bones’ about the fact that they just wanted sex and weren’t afraid to manipulate or put pressure on him to get it.
Eventually, he began to develop a self-preservatory prejudice towards older gay men. They were pervy old queens until proven innocent and most of his friends around his age felt the same way. “Ew, not another dodgy old queen grabbing my ass on the Bronx dancefloor!”
You could argue that he should’ve counted himself lucky. That he should have been grateful and flattered to get that sort of attention. But all it did was make him feel wary and even afraid of older gay men. We all know a shady old queen (or two) like that.
Plot twist: One day he woke up, and HE was the older gay man. And now all the twinks were avoiding HIM like the plague.
This article isn’t about discouraging or passing judgment on young people dating much older people (been there, done that), or older people dating much younger people.
I’m posing a question, perhaps offering a suggestion. I guess it’s more a critique on some older men preying on younger men and taking advantage of them instead of providing a safe space or being someone they can trust or look up to.
Where do we draw the line between acting on a mutual attraction and abusing power and influence to coerce a younger person into doing something they may not be sure of doing? I think we have to determine these boundaries for ourselves, but it’s not rocket science. If it’s wrong, you’ll have an inkling.
An argument may be that older and more experienced gay men owe younger and less experienced gay men nothing. Or that younger gay men are disrespectful and dismissive towards older gay men, or that younger gays have it “easier” than those of our advanced vintage.
It’s precarious to speak in absolutes, but there are trends and tendencies that persist.
At the end of the day, I may not be a young gay boy anymore, but I can still recognise the same distrust and occasional distaste on the faces of some young gay men that I’m sure I used to don when I was that age. This tells me that younger gay men are still being preyed upon. Not much has changed.
I can appreciate the beauty and exuberance of youth as much as the next 40 plus queer man, but I really want to be someone that the young ones can feel safe around. I want to be someone supportive and encouraging and not come across as lascivious and opportunistic.
It’s what I wanted when I was that age and when I found older gay mentors, they made all the difference and I owe them a wealth of gratitude. I guess it’s a bit like an accountability call-to-arms. To be the change we’d like to see in the world.
I hope to be the old queen I needed when I was young.
Bruce J. Little is a playwright, health journalist and creative group head copywriter in advertising.