This article was published on March 10th, 2015
You don’t have to go very far to see and hear it, ageism is alive and well in the LGBT community. The conversation generally goes like, “I’ve been dating a guy and he’s really great and I like his company, but he’s too young”.
In other cases, the conversation goes like, “See that guy over there? He dates older men for money and is looking for sugar daddies”.
Far too often, these conversations and perspectives are not called out as ageist and yet the definition would suggest otherwise. Most people do not consider that ageism by definition is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. It’s that simple.
Is there a distinct difference between ageism and preference? Preference is defined as a greater liking for one alternative over another or others. The LGBT community is filled with intergenerational relationships, which are based on preference.
Ageism is where people assume the inter-generational relationship is based on something other than love and attraction and minimize it to be about a payoff. When deconstructed, it appears to be a double standard as most relationships are about preference and attraction but when they are involving one with significant age differences our culture either dehumanizes it or rejects the idea all together.
For hundreds, if not thousands of years young adults, particularly in the 20-30 age-group, have been having sex with adults who are over 40 years, who are old enough to be their parents.
You can call it a right of passage, a forbidden fruit or pure ecstasy, but it is not new. Consenting adult ages are there to ensure that there are laws to prevent sexual exploitation, and after 18, one is considered an adult and legally able to choose whom they have sex with. However, our biases and prejudices with age are alive and well. You don’t have to go far to see ageism presented as a badge of honour on gay hook up sites like Grindr, Scruff, Hornet, GuySpy, and ManHunt with the statements “no one under 35 or no one over 35”.
Making definitive age choices based on generalizations undermine the value that we all have something to offer and minimizes the fact that age doesn’t equate to being immature or wise. Most of us know the intelligent 20 year old and the ignorant 50 year old or visa versa; don’t let you bias get in the way.
A preference is different, as it honors the human and provides the space for the things that are important to you. Making choices based on generalizations are limiting and may leave you with an empty shopping cart. It’s better to love and loose than never loving at all; don’t let ageism get in the way.
Next time you are about to make a comment based on age, think that the comment may be more to do with you and your internalized biases than anything else.