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Sexy seniors

Sexy seniors

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Older queers struggle with desire & invisibility
Is there sex after the age of 60? After 70? What about while living in long-term care?

"I'm 73 and still hard," says Roland Le Blanc, who will be participating in a discussion on sex and older queers at the upcoming Opening The Closet On Aging conference on Tue, Mar 20.

"I know of people older than I who've got a very healthy sex life because they've been meeting people on the Internet," says Le Blanc. "Their needs aren't necessary for intimacy but just sexual. The intimacy is found from friendships and support groups."

Le Blanc says that while age doesn't necessarily diminish your sex drive, lack of privacy and assisted living can present complications.

"Some may want to bring in a male prostitute," says Le Blanc of older queer men living in a long-term care facility or retirement residence. "It's something for consideration.... We're speaking in a [senior's] home, and in your room. This will require some adjustments in society."

Fellow panelist Anna Willats says there's a tendency to dismiss older folks' interest in sex.

"My reality is that people in general — straight and queer — are of the mind that your interest in sex and your sexiness, with few exceptions, disappears after 40, when you become more concerned about other things in life," says 50-year-old Willats. "That sex is a young person's game."

She adds that this can be more difficult for queers than for straight folks.

"The homophobia in the world says being queer is only about who you have sex with. Agism may have an even bigger impact on gay people. Gay men talk about the fact that once you become older you aren't seen as a vibrant queer person. I think for women it's a bit different because we're not as defined by our sex lives but by our relationships."

Willats has this advice for heterosexual caregivers: "Make sure you don't assume people are heterosexual, that you understand that older people need affection, sex and human contact."

A third panelist says he's pleased his sex drive has waned as he's aged.

John Alan Lee, a retired writer and professor of psychology at U of T, refers to the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, who at the age of 70 wrote, "Thank the gods I am finally free of a cruel and insane master."

"As you probably know most males from 16 to 70 are under the influence of a powerful drug: testosterone," says Lee, 74. "It's nice to be finally free of it and be able to look at a beautiful young man and not want to get his pants off.

"I'm not saying that's the case with all men over 70. Many are still out cruising the baths and the Internet.... The baths is one of the safest places you can have sex."

Back in 1978 Lee published a book titled Getting Sex: A Guide For Gay Cruising.

"Any talk I would give would be called: 'Not Very Much, Not Very Often,'" he says, adding, "You can do without a sex life but you can't do without good health and money."

But a diminished sex drive is far from the only factor when it comes to the sex lives of older homos.

"Some older gay men feel that at 40 they are aging and no longer attractive," says Dick Moore, one of the conference coordinators and the coordinator of the Older GLBT Program at The 519, adding that an increased sense of undesirability can contribute to riskier sex.

"In the literature there are stories of older men who are desperate for touch and will do anything in terms of taking risks for affection, so they can be among a high risk group to get AIDS and HIV because of this situation.

"I do run across men who have lost their partners through death or otherwise who are somewhat desperate for a relationship and ask if they can get laid if they come to the seniors drop-in. I make it clear that the purpose is socializing and opportunity to get to know people, not particularly with sex in mind, not that they can't hook up. I understand that different bathhouses attract older men at off times of the day and that there are particular bathhouses that attract older men."

The workshop on sex and queers seniors will be moderated by the Sherbourne Health Centre's Carole Baker.
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