I am 35 years old. I self-identify as a white male. I am gay. I am gay for older men. Perhaps that latter detail is an unnecessary disclosure, but it is one I consider important: I desire bodies dominant society devalues. Our normative standard of male beauty both within and outside of the gay community fetishizes hairless, muscled, svelte and young bodies (see Patrick Santoro, "Lather, Rinse, Reclaim: Cultural (Re)Conditioning of the Gay (Bear) Body," in Critical Autoethnography: Intersecting Cultural Identities in Everyday Life, Left Coast Press, 2014), yet I have always been attracted to a different kind of beauty--one that is coarse with age, girth, hair. It is an attraction that feels more often than not like a kind of perversion because I, we, live in a world where, despite the increasing acceptance of and support for queer people in our public and political discourse, the prevailing notion of healthy relationship privileges heterosexual coupling between bodies and persons that, at the very least, make for an "age appropriate" match.
Much of what we learn about privately and publicly acceptable intimate relationship begins with family. I grew up in a context of disapproval. The son of traditional Roman Catholic parents who came of age prior to the sexual revolution, I do not have their sanction when it comes to exploring my sexual identity in relationship with other men. For them, celibacy is the only viable life path for me because anything else would be, is, an abomination. Their Church, the Church through which I was reared and which I later joined as member of a vowed religious community, has not equipped them with a language of compassion, inclusion, and understanding, but has instead armored them with fear, rejection, and suspicion.
Where I have sought their encouragement and participation in my own process of coming out, which I did to them when I was 25, they have built a barrier of silence around me. I cannot speak freely of my relationships with other men to them because simply listening would make them complicit in my soul's damnation. In light of this, I live a double life, compartmentalizing my existence so as not to offend them and, even deeper, to avoid abandonment, the fear of which I am still, even at 35, living down.
I am enclosed in voicelessness in the presence of other members of my immediate family as well. I cannot speak to my oldest brother about my experiences as a gay man because any show of support would violate his strict Catholic conscience, a storehouse of scruples he has sustained by way of his commitment to the medieval life of a monk he is now living as part of a monastery in Minnesota. I am meanwhile not allowed to speak of myself as a gay man to my three nephews, now young adults, because my older sister believes it would confuse them. Only she is allowed to talk about me with them--a condition that I violated a little over a year ago when her second eldest son asked me in private about the man with whom I was living at the time.
I broke her rule because I was and remain tired of hiding and I find it wholly unreasonable to "protect" my nephews from my identity as if it were the AIDS virus itself. I chose not to tell my sister about the conversation until much later--in a heated argument we had about inviting my current lover to my grad school graduation--because my nephew received the revelation with such ease and grace, so much so that it slipped my mind to even say anything (not to mention I had other things at that time to occupy my attention, namely a sick partner).
She experienced the exchange between me and my nephew as a fracture of trust. Because I did not tell her about this self-disclosure my nephew had to figure out what my identity means for himself with the added complexity of deciphering the nature of my same-sex orientation toward men who are significantly older than me--all of this without her having the agency to help him understand it, as if she has a better hold on being gay than I do. Yes, she has the right, as mother, to mediate such a topic. But what I ultimately experience in her terms and conditions around my coming out is a kind of censoring, if not silencing. Perhaps on an unconscious level, that is why I did not ultimately tell her of the conversation. It was something over which I wanted to take full agency, without interference. My nephew, in his mid teens by then, handled the news just fine as far as I could tell. In fact, it led to one of the most meaningful conversations I've ever had with him, one in which I finally felt like I could be myself. He did not exhibit any fear or threat; rather, it seemed to bring us closer.
Even so, after my last long-term relationship, which ended around this time last year, and to which she was not averse (indeed, she was very hospitable to my former lover), my sister does not want me to introduce any more men into the boys' lives because she does not believe it is good for them to be subjected to a "revolving door" of boyfriends. It does not send them the right message. Moreover, she has experienced an averse, gut-level reaction to my present partner (I had brought him to two of my youngest nephew's high school volleyball games before she requested that I refrain from bringing him around). I am not sure why she feels this way about him, nor is she. Until I am certain that I have found "the One"--though I have suggested to her that he is--my sister does not deem it suitable for me to bring anyone into the fold, especially given my track record of jumping in and out of relationship.
It is a point of contention between us that has created an irreconcilable rift in our once-close bond and which has prompted me, in light of the "distress and the unexpected disdain that can emerge in a relationship after [sic] the initial coming out act" (see Tony E. Adams, "Post-Coming Out Complications," in Critical Autoethnography: Intersecting Cultural Identities in Everyday Life, Left Coast Press, 2014), to consider absenting myself from any upcoming holiday gatherings--gatherings to which my current partner is not invited, a refusal and rejection which became apparent after I had introduced him to my parents at an Easter dinner this past year. Indeed, I had invited him to my doctoral graduation shortly thereafter, but this caused so much friction in the family--namely between me and my mother and sister--that he decided it would be best for the peace of the tribe not to attend.
So unlike my other older brother, who is now married to the second of his two female partners, both of whom he included at holiday gatherings and other celebrations while he was dating them, I am not allowed to experiment with relationship in the presence of my family. I have only introduced them to one person, my former lover, and, granted, they were very welcoming to him. Yet, as a unit, my present partner and I have been excluded from the realm of acknowledgment.
Save for the friendship I have with my married older brother, I cannot be myself in the midst of the most primary of human relationships--not with my mom, not with my dad, not with my oldest brother, not with my sister, not with my nephews. My sister was one of the first people to whom I came out and the one on whom I have relied so often for support in negotiating the identity politics of being out with my family. Yet, as I enter into month ten of partnership with my present lover, no one has once asked about how things are going for us, much less do they acknowledge that someone very important to me even exists. He is nothing more, nor less, than a proverbial white elephant.
And so this blog is an attempt to break down that barrier of silence surrounding me and my Beloved, to speak into and through the nature of my non-normative same-sex desire as it manifests in a very specific way with a specific someone so as to become more fully who I am in relation to him whom I consider "the One": a man nearly twice my age, but whose vitality mirrors that of any thirty-something I know. In this way, I commit to this virtual space of self-disclosure as a journal of my experiences as a gay man who often feels like he has to qualify his desire not only because he is gay, but because he is gay for older guys, for one older guy in particular. I imagine that there are other men out there like me who are wrestling with an internalized stigma, a doubly-layered homophobia, about being gay for men society deems beyond the pale of desire. Having met other men like me I know I am not alone.
Neither are you.