I have a lot of empathy for older gay men. Men who grew up in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. It was not easy.
When you think of what gay men and women went through, it’s no wonder they live with much anguish.
Many gay men, specifically, of a certain age, are damaged. I’ve spent enough time talking and interacting with them to know this.
When I was a kid it was still not okay to be gay.
But these guys grew up in a time when you couldn’t even talk about it.
Sex between two men was illegal. They had to live double lives, marry women and have children. Then when they couldn’t live that lie anymore, they broke up their families and tried to be, well, gay.
Only that it was illegal to be gay. They were fired from their jobs. They had to go to underground pubs and bars to meet people like them. These bars were often raided by the police, these men were arrested and their names were published in the newspaper to publicly shame them.
They had to fight for everything that should have been there’s to begin with and they suffered unimaginable humiliation and trauma. Their families and friends shunned them, they were considered jokes, to be dismissed and laughed at. I mean, the list goes on.
It was awful. I faced some of it too, when I was growing up. But these older gentleman took the brunt of it.
It’s sad sometimes when I do speak to a lot of gay men of a particular generation because I can see the fear in them still, and the anger. I can see the years of humiliation have impacted their mental health and left them broken.
In many cases these men had to form their own families, with other gay men, who were often equally damaged, shallow and well, guided by their desire to find sex, which eventually killed many of them.
I was having drinks with a conservative friend of mine not too long ago who flippantly said, “well, they should just get over it.” I agree that there should be some acceptance that we have progressed since those times, but experiencing the real trauma of those events, that deep humiliation lasts forever.
Thank God we’ve advanced socially, and that younger generations will never, ever have to know that kind of prejudice.