Brian Heaphy and
Andrew K. T. Yip (2003) 'Uneven Possibilities:
Understanding Non-Heterosexual Ageing and the Implications
of Social Change'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 8, no. 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/8/4/heaphy.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 16/11/2003 Accepted: 17/11/2003 Published: 28/11/2003
The problematization of their own lifestyle (indeed, more broadly, their way of life) has been based upon a conscious imperative among lesbians and gay men to invent the self and ways of relating to others ...lesbians and gay men must create a self out of (or despite) the heterosexual self that is culturally given to them.... They must invent ways of relating to each other because there are no ready-made cultural or historical models or formulas for erotic same-sex relationships, as there are for different-sex erotic relationships.
'I'm going back quite a long way.... When I was young we didn't have any choices... we didn't have any choice about whether we would declare we were going to be gay or not, we didn't. You just accepted that fact that you were gay, if you could, and you got on with it.... You know, we were the twilight men then...we didn't talk about it...we didn't have choices, but it wasn't only in the way we would entertain ourselves.... We didn't have cars...we didn't have houses and flats. So we didn't have all the choices about what we were going to do.' (RM9, 72)
'For me, it's a historical development. I'd have started with homosexual, then moved to gay, because that came in, I don't know [early 1970s].... So I moved to gay then, and then to lesbian, and then if I'm in lesbian company, I'll say dyke, because for me, that defines me more as a feminist lesbian...and it's a reclaimed word too, isn't it?' (RF2, 68)
'I mean gay stands for Good As You, it didn't matter whether you were black, white, Chinese...any colour. It didn't matter...whether you lesbian, homosexual male, a [bloke] in a frock, it just didn't matter, you would always be [as good as them].' (RM13, 56)
'My life's been leaving home, getting married, divorced, and living with another man, a break of about a year when that split up and then finding another relationship.' (RM7, 58)
'I've been through a similar sort of phasing if you like, because I was married for just under ten years, and we got divorced, and then there followed a sort of period of quite a few years where [I had affairs] until I met [his partner].' (RM8, 55)
'I was brought up in a society in my younger days...where no one mentioned it [homosexuality] at all. So, therefore, I have around me or as integral me...that I do not disclose.' (RM11, 71)
'I think, in business terms, there's still a lot of homophobic approach by employers to men who tend to be more obvious...I think gay men have a lot...to lose by coming out...I've seen it myself, as an employer.' (RM10, 64)
'The fact ...of queer bashing...then, it's obviously, you're asking for trouble if you're out, and I've never been involved with gay issues.' (RM12, 60)
'You may, in your own mind, be, you know, assured of your sexuality...but if you're in a village, however large that village is, you're not going to come out, and therefore you have this perennial problem of the rural living, as opposed to the small town or large town living.' (RM11, 71)
'[The terms 'dyke' and 'queer']... that really turns me off.' (RM10, 64)
'That's quite derogatory in a way.' (RM11, 71)
'I mean, in a wider issue, we're part of society, and I think to use words society finds offensive is very retrograde.' (RM10, 64)
'We're part of society, so why [the need for such labels]?' (RM11, 71)
RM7, 58: 'Someone once said to me: "Well, you're a leader because you've been a father and a husband, so you will always take that role", and I think I do. You know, assertive, because I had to be when we were married. I had to take responsibility for the finances and that, and I had to take mutual responsibility for the children and so I've just took that on in any relationship I've had, you know, I've sort of been....'
RM9, 72: 'The trouser wearer.'
RM7, 58: 'Yes, the trouser wearer, yes.'
'[As you get older] you don't make relationships quite, you don't make friends so easily.... After Tony died we had very few friends, we led a very enclosed life.' (RM9, 72)
'I haven't any family, and my partner didn't like other people particularly. Now I've got a few, not real friends...people who you call or ring.' (RM6, 79)
'My family, in the classic gay phrase, are my friends, I have good friends of just about every persuasion...so I do have a network on which I rely because it's [unclear].' (RF5, 51)
'I'm somebody who doesn't have a partner, and haven't had for a long time. My support networks come from people who I count as friends, but I've primarily met through the groups that we were talking about.... So, yes, I would go to my lesbian friends before my birth family, my straight family. That would be my first port of call, I think, and then my family would be last on the list.' (RF1, 50)
'I have a friend who's gay and he had a stroke a few years ago.... but a group of us who know him [help him], like I take him to church every Sunday, and somebody else goes out with him.... I mean, there's a group of us to help him and we all do different things...in a sense [he is] lucky I suppose. He has a group of people who can help him, and who he knows. I suppose that would be nice, if one had friends, again I think it's back to having a circle of people that you know.' (RM5, 68)
RM5, 68: 'When one reaches most of our age, and if you're by yourself in that wide world out there, who is there for anybody? Never mind whether you're gay or straight or otherwise... if you're by yourself, you're by yourself, full stop.'
RM4, 60: 'There's not much you can do about it.'
RM5, 68: 'I often lie in bed and think: well, one of my friends lives next door, but if he doesn't see me for two days he might wonder what has happened. But I mean, who do elderly people turn to if they need help?'
RM3, 59: 'In my family ...there's not many.... I mean they would help if I was ill, but there isn't one to whom [I could really turn]. I may as well have been a monk, I think it would be better if I had been a monk, they look after them.'
RM2, 56: 'Hope you don't fall ill, and you don't need that care, because I'm not sure where it would come from.'
RF1, 50: 'My feeling, for our age group, is pretty good, by comparison...and I think that's because we're from the, sort of feminist band, if you like, who have a history of organising and networking and getting together.... I have to say, actually [there are] lots of things, there's a women's walking group, I could go to clubs, but I choose not to, don't like it anymore, but then there's the lesbian line social. There's lesbian link, all the activities involved with that. I could go to [group for older lesbians] if I wanted to, and I actually think there's an awful lot, there's the [group for older lesbians and gay men].'
RF2, 68: 'There was OWLS...Older, Wiser, Wicked and Wackier lesbians.'
RF1, 50: 'If you choose, there is actually quite a lot, by comparison to younger people, who I think get stuck in clubs meeting people through clubs...I think we're really lucky, but we've also made it ourselves.'
'I mean, we're very spoiled these days, aren't we, for gay groups? I mean there's a gay group for every conceivable activity, it seems to me, whereas...going back to the 80s we were just sort of peeping round the corner of the closet, weren't we really and it was sort of a kick.... But these days there's a gay group for almost everything.' (RM9, 72)
'But, surely, very few people would make a decision on moving somewhere because of a gay scene? Do they?' (RM3, 59)
'I came here because I took a job. But, being gay, moving in my life and being gay has never gone together.' (RM5, 68)
'My impression is that is a very brittle environment ...Whilst it has its place, to be in a place like that all evening and to have this brittleness...is certainly not for me...there's a big gap there...crying to be filled out.' (RM10, 64)
RF5, 51: 'If you're trying to meet new people...and you don't particularly want to consume huge quantities of high priced alcohol...life is tough. So it partly depends on what your interests are.... I know there's a walking organisation, locally, but it's for women born lesbians only. It is very hard to break into a network that you don't know exists, and I also have a suspicion that ...because I tend to wear bright coloured skirts and have long hair, and people say this to me...[but] I am not turning into a dyke clone. If you can't take me as I am, then I possibly don't want to know you anyway.... But I have found it hard, over the past years, very hard to find any friends through lesbian circles.'
RM9, 72: 'I mean, gay people, we have to stay young don't we, we daren't get old. Do you not find that so?'
RM8, 55: 'Well, I'm personally not very bothered about that, but I see around me, within the gay sort of thing, a great thing about age and the search for youth, if you like.'
RM9, 72: 'There is a lot of ageism.'
RM8, 55: 'Oh, absolutely.'
RM13, 56: 'I think, really, we have ourselves to blame for this commercialisation of the gay scene. [Scene providers] are going straight where the money is.'
RM10, 64: 'But the thing is, there is also money to be made from catering for the older members of the gay community...we have money. I don't have a lot but I would happily spend it in a gay bar or club.'
'I think it's difficult [if his partner was to die] making relationships, definitely at that age because, who would you want as your partner, you would tend to want someone who was maybe younger, because that's the way life is.' (RM7, 58)
'I want a relationship, but I'm not really trusting myself, to look too hard, because of the experiences of the past. You tend, with age, I think to be a little bit wary about people getting to close, because there's a lot of...I mean I like youngish guys like, but, that's a difficulty in itself.... There are a lot of guys who like older men, and so many of them are a bit dubious, they want an easier life rather than a sharing sort of life.' (RM2, 56)
The ability to deal with this deeply uncomfortable sense of the brittleness... rebounds in two sharply distinct experiences. For those who can move at will the experience is joyful and exhilarating.... But for those who are bound in a place, the experience is threatening and terrifying.
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