Differentiating selves: middle-aged gay men in Manchester's less visible ‘homospaces’

Authors


  • Thanks are offered to the editor and three anonymous reviewers for their generous and insightful comments that encouraged me to extend/deepen my thinking.

Abstract

Scholarship on gay bars/‘villages’ has overshadowed study of ‘homospaces’ (gay fields of existence) less available/inaccessible to a wider public – websites, saunas and social/support groups. Based on interviews with 27 men aged 39–61 living in Manchester, this article addresses what middle-aged gay men's accounts of these particular homospaces say about their experiences of age/ageing and how relations of ageism work within them. Specifically, I focus on how study participants use ‘ageing capital’ in these fields to differentiate themselves from their younger counterparts in three ways. First, ageing capital is implicated in capitulation to gay ageism and a reverse ageism – visible in accounts of differentiation from the ‘superficial,’ reckless ways of sexualized space that participants associated with younger gay men. Second, it was visible in accounts of resistance to/questioning of gay ageism – strategies that could make sexualized homospaces more habitable. Third, ageing capital was implicated in negotiation with ageing/gay ageism – visible in ambivalent stances hovering between compliance and resistance – towards ageing and ageism, which could reinforce constraints on uses/display of the body. The first and third accounts indicate the multidirectional character of gay ageism, limits on the deployment on ageing capital and show how middle-aged men can undermine their generational claims to represent a more authentic form of gay male embodiment. En route, I also complicate stereotypical thinking that gay social/support groups represent more inclusive, empowering space whilst overtly sexualized spaces of the ‘gay scene’ represent the opposite.

Ancillary