Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 20, 1984)
photo bit Sherri Riqqs
"Lesbians are looking for a relationship with
a person," he said. "G ay men are looking
for a relationship with a body."
“Lesbians are looking for a relationship
with a person,” he said. “Gay men are looking
for a relationship with a body.”
The search for that relationship exhibits
itself most in the bars, and experiences there
can prove to be disheartening and depres
sing for the older gay male. Sagging biceps
do not promote a good self image in a culture
in which acceptability is often determined by
“The bad feelings develop when I go to the
bars two or three times a week,” Earl, 45, said.
“Relationships there are purely based on sex
ual attraction and chemistry.”
However, the poor self-image of many ol
der gays make Earl resist dating people his
age. “They bore me. Younger gays are more
exciting to be around," he explained.
Some older Lesbians would agree with
Earl. However, the interest in older women
shown by many young lesbians make age
and youth a more comfortable marriage in
the Lesbian culture. Age is viewed far more
positively by most women.
Delores, 38, says, "I can’t wait until I’m 40."
Just Out January 20-Fetoruarv 3
She and Ruth, 46, have been lovers for over
15 years. The attraction to older women is
partially due to the fact they are seen as
"more emotionally and financially stable," ac
cording to Ruth.
"You feel more secure in the relationship
than you would with a younger person," Kelly,
18, agrees. “It’s not as likely to just be a fling."
Young gay men, on the other hand, are
portrayed as being largely uninterested in the
mature man. Earl calls the bars a "very one
dimensional existence. Older men are
sought after only by those who are pretty far
Another man over 60 said he felt “hostility
and rejection” in the bars. In those bars, as
elsewhere, people are seeking coupledom,
often considered the best defense against the
hazards of aging. Those seeking relationships
are far more visible than the element of the
gay community that is surviving, prospering
and aging in existing relationships.
Warren and his lover are a good example
and a sharp contrast to the bleak picture
painted by some older single gays. Age takes
a back seat to other considerations. Warren
describes himself as being "62 and a half."
His lover of 26 years is 74.
“We have small groups of people, mostly
couples, who meet regularly. We don’t have
that negative feeling," he said. The alterna
tives to the bar scene are limited, Warren
admits, and he stressed the need for cur
rently non-existent support groups for aging
gay men. Being half of a couple makes
approaching age a better experience, he said.
“I lived alone about 20 years ago and I
wouldn’t want to do it again."
Even couples, however, realize chances
are good one of them will be left alone. The
problems of widowed spouses are well
known. Gay couples may face the additional
problem of coping with intolerant or ignorant
The horror stories of gay people losing
mates and subsequently losing all joint be
longings to grasping relatives are numerous.
Brenda Maddox, in M arried a n d Gay. an
In tim a te L o o k at a D ifferent R elationship.
details one woman’s experience.
She and her lover had not admitted their
relationship for 20 years. One of the women
was married, the other lived at home with her
parents. The woman called her lover, whose
mother told her, "She’s dead." And hung up.
The woman summoned enough courage to
call her lover’s parents and ask for photo
albums the two had compiled in their trips
together. She was told they did not know what
had happened to them.
Since lovers cannot be considered legal
relatives, other immediate family members
not supportive of a gay relationship can
cause serious problems for the surviving
mate. Couples are urged to seek legal advice
as insurance against potential problems.
Family support, though, can provide a safety
net for older gays with the opportunity to
Earl calls that support the most important
option available to the older gay. "We need to
realize we are human first, gay second," he
said. Friends and co-workers can provide
another support network. Warren agrees and
cites the loss of contact with friends and col
leagues as a major problem for the retiree.
The men concur that the range of options
for the older gay male is limited. In addition to
cultivating relatives and friends, Earl says,
men should "try to remain friends, rather
than just tricking. We desperately need in
tellectual stimulation." He also stressed the
importance of formation of an image en
hancement group for gay men, "maybe as
young as 25."
Despite a better self-image and more
widespread community acceptance, older
Lesbians deal far more with a very physical
reality than do gay men. That reality is
Burnside Community Council reports that
20 0 to 3 0 0 women are homeless in the Port
land metropolitan area. About 75 of them are
served by community shelters. The others
survive in other ways. Older Lesbians, without
family support or a means of economic survi
val, could easily find themselves in that
Some members of the Portland Lesbian
community are working on a unique solution
to that problem and the problem of older
Lesbians no longer able to take care of them
selves. It’s called the Old Dykes’ Home.
Grace, who will be 51 this month, said
she’s been thinking of this since she was 35.
The project is still definitely in the planning
stage, but interest is high from Lesbians in all
"Who want to be another Alice Paul?” she
asked. Paul submitted the first Equal Rights
Amendment to Congress over 50 years ago,
was a Lesbian and died in a nursing home
unknown to those around her.
“When I die, I want to be surrounded by
dykes," Grace said. "I want to have a dyke
The options for older Lesbians are far
more extensive than they are for gay men on
a community level. The Lesbian forum, and
rap groups held the first and third Friday of
each month are a sampling of programs in
the community which provide valuable con
tacts for older women, especially those who
are single. Metropolitan Community Church
provides another resource for both men and
Aging is viewed with disdain and often dis
gust by society. Homosexuality is viewed and
treated with the same distaste by many. The
prospect of being both can be ominous and
frightening, especially since aging, and
identity, are inevitable. Bitter, lonely, unpro
ductive isolation, however, is not
“I do a lot of self-hype,” Earl admits. He
recently closed a business, is in the process
of working on a play, has an idea for a novel,
arid just sent a resume to a donut company.
"It’s my life. It can get nothing but better.