We had a visitor in our Patterns of Human Mating class this week, a 70-something year-old gay man named Gordon. One of our assignments is that students must speak, informally, with older people about sex, love, marriage, long-term relationships, etc., and what they’ve learned and what advice they had for young adults. This was inspired by a conversation I had a few years ago with an 83 year-old woman named Evelyn, which I found enlightening. Other than age, we weren’t looking for people from any specific demographic, or people with any orientation. We just wanted to listen to whatever wisdom and experience is out there.
We asked around to find people to speak with, and found Gordon through a local organization that works with older adults. He kindly shared some of his life story, the progress he’s seen on acceptance on LGBT people over the course of his life, and we had a nice discussion for about 25 minutes. He then stayed for the rest of the class to hear the lecture. He even asked a few questions during the lecture, and asked if I could email him some of the studies we discussed in the class.
He was very forthcoming, and answered every question we had for him. He revealed that he came out of the closet in the 1950’s, and although that was a hard thing to do, he came from a large, supportive family. Not everyone had that experience, of course, and he said that he’d seen a lot of people suffer for their sexuality over the course of his life. We asked him if he ever expected he would see such progress on LGBT acceptance, and he replied that “Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to get married,” which he did in 2004 to his husband, whom he called his “soulmate.”
He also mentioned experiencing heartbreak and jealousy in the past, as well as a long-term relationship that dissolved. Sex was more important in the earlier stages of a relationship, but companionship, honesty, trust, and communication should grow as relationships unfold, particularly as libido declines. He also added that it was difficult to learn to love someone without some intangible ‘spark’ at the outset (which he remembered distinctly feeling for his husband).
Finally, we asked Gordon for advice and what message he had for young people. He wrote this down for us:
“It will all come in due time. For now: make mistakes, explore, and experience life until that ‘bolt’ hits you. You will know, maybe not now, but trust me someday it will happen. I had to wait until I was fifty-nine (before finding his husband)… As you age, the one constant that keeps you going is fond memories. Many of our older friends have lost their significant other and these pleasant memories make their every-day life possible. The bad memories fade and the good ones keep you going.”