Gay agism is the idea that life loses value for gay men over a certain age.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary agism is the American spelling while the British prefer ageism, and the definition is: “the unfair treatment of people because they are considered too old.” “Isms” are unfair because only certain characteristics are considered, typically ones that portray the people being targeted in a negative light, because those characteristics apply only to some people in the category, because other positive characteristics are ignored, because the people in question do not consider themselves in the same way and wish to be treated more respectfully, because people are being stereotyped so as to limit their opportunities, and because such categorization is based on erroneous, biased, partial and thoughtless responses that potentially endanger the people and impoverish the society in which they are being marginalized.
Gay agism is widespread.
I overheard a cute “twenty-something” gay Thai guy declare that his life would be over when he was forty. He went on, “I’d rather die than get old.” I found that initially sad, and then alarming. With that attitude he may abandon caution, which could bring about the early death he thinks he would prefer, not to mention the death of others due to his recklessness, and the loss of an era of his life richer than most twenty year-olds imagine.
At seventy-three I can attest that getting old is not for sissies, but most worries about the power of gravity are over-stated. Let me put it this way, important things still defy gravity as occasions occur.
That, in a devious way, brings me to another point.
Putting the best face on it, we do not have to be too careful in selecting gay magazines. There is a dependability about them. We can be sure 100% of the models are going to be beautiful specimen of male development. They will cause our … um … expectations to rise. On the other hand, where do we get any messages to counter the lad’s concern that life is over at forty? Where are our role-models for the second forty years?
I admit that a point comes when we look better clothed, and should avoid strong light when we have nothing on. Unlike younger brothers we probably should not assume that even maximum effort at preservation of our physical assets brings social advantages. But we can definitely perform certain functions in our later decades that were beyond our capacity when we were young and lusty. Life is not over yet.
It has often been said that we are fortunate to be in Thailand where being a gay man “beyond the peak” is not going to automatically sideline us. In fact, there are more young men “turned on” by father figures than may be the case in Caucasian cultures. Of course, there are trade-offs. A few years ago a gay colleague mentioned, “Well, Ajarn, you are getting to an age where you’ll have to pay for sex.” I knew he meant that in several ways, but I think I was right not to take it as a compliment. In other words, gay agism also operates here on and off the pages of metro-sexual magazines and quasi-gay periodicals like the Thai edition of Attitude.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.