The Price Of Admission: Equality and Intergenerational Relationships

In dueling blog posts, Michelangelo Signorile and Brian Stone take on the subject of intergenerational relationships among gay males. Their op-eds come as a reaction to the alleged relationship between screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and Olympic swimmer Tom Daley. There is an age difference between the two men of 20 years.

Signorile’s point on this subject is May-December romance in the gay community has always been a part of it:

Historically, gay men have engaged in intergenerational sexual encounters, brief romances and long-term relationships — among consenting adults — probably much more than straight people have. One reason is simply that, historically, we’ve had to find each other and teach each other about ourselves, coming together in a larger world that doesn’t teach us our history, our culture or simply how to be gay, how to protect ourselves, how to have families — even how to have sex. And often, but certainly not always, that’s been about older people teaching younger people — again, consenting adults.

Stone’s position is younger gay men view age gap relationships through a more “traditional lens”:

We also see the structure of our relationships, wants and needs through a traditional lens. Kids, careers, a house, military service… the American dream. Our liberal politics come from traditional desires. In the case of Black and Daley, we frown on their alleged relationship through that same lens.

As we gain equality more and more, I believe we will encounter this traditional lens view more and more. As younger gay people are able to come out and live their lives without shame and stigma, they are more readily able to find each other. The “teaching” that Mr. Signorile references becomes more of a learning process for both partners as they grow up together. This happens because being out at a younger ages allows two men or women the ability to find each other earlier; and within their respective ages. This is a luxury activists have fought to afford the younger generation. But as with many luxuries, it may come with a price.

This greater acceptance for the gay community leads younger gays to think more traditionally, as Mr. Stone has. In his opinion on intergenerational relationships, Mr. Stone is expressing nothing more than what straight people have been expressing for years over a female May pairing up with a male December (and sometimes over an older woman with a young man). This most likely comes because, unlike Mr. Signorile, Mr. Stone’s generation of gays hasn’t “had to find each other.” They are already right there (Sometimes <245 feet away). This familiar association leads to an unfamiliar understanding of the intergenerational relationships of gay men. It’s an unintended consequence for our own equality; a price of admission, as sex-columnist Dan Savage has coined. “There is no settling down without some settling for.” We may have traded in one type of disapproval for another. A disapproval from within our own community that has a much more traditional slant to it. As such, we, as gays of the activist generation, need to be prepared to do a whole new level of education if this disapproval is a price of admission we’re not willing to put up with.

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