Coming out at 55 years of age leaves a gay gap in my memories. I sat on the sidelines as AIDS raged. I walked the other direction in New York City when I realized the gay pride parade was in full wildness in the mid-1990s. When learned that an old friend of mine, Ken, had died of AIDS, I went to the memorial service, but then returned to my life in the closet.
Now, at 57 I feel torn and cheated in a way I never anticipated. I’m finally out in all parts of my life, but my body does not work the way it once did. I have difficulty achieving orgasm. When I do achieve orgasm it is like a small short whimper rather than a roar or explosion. The BPH medication I take stops the come from coming – i.e. retrograde ejaculation. And I need ED medication to help me get a lasting erection. Whoever thought I would be in this place? It has me feel sad. I feel like less than a man. I feel as though I missed something important and don’t know if I’ll ever find it.
The man I have been dating also has ED issues and is very loving and supportive. Both of us no longer have an orgasm as the goal of our sexuality but instead, enjoy the journey and the pleasure in that journey. I love exploring his body, kissing his lips, and sucking on his lower lip. Feeling his tongue and beard against my ear does something that is akin to feeling like your brain is about to be sucked out with the utmost pleasure. Our bodies fit. I love the hairiness of his chest, the stubble of his beard against my neck, the paleness of his skin, and the tightness of his ass.
I’ve missed my generation. I feel like a kid coming out for the first time, which in many ways I am. I escaped HIV, at least thus far. I am not angry and bitter like so many gay men of my age. I didn’t spend years of my life watching my friends die. I’ve read a lot to catch up. I have ‘fresh’ memories of the plague years from a lot of reading. But I wasn’t there. I was absent from the gay world for many years.
I don’t feel guilty but I do feel cheated. I have missed a whole experience that my generation went through. I was there before AIDS. I was there at Studio 54 back in the early 1980s. I went to the Pines and Cherry Grove on Fire Island and danced at the Ice Palace. I walked Christopher Street in Greenwich Village to the dance bars by the West Side Highway. I went regularly to the St. Marks Bath and the 2nd Avenue Baths. But I was a visitor. A tourist. A stranger in a strange land. I visited and then went back to my life in hiding. Once AIDS arrived, I went deeper into the closet, afraid to venture out.
I feel as though I have woken up from a dream. That life in the suburbs with the beautiful home and wife that cared for me is gone. The truth is I don’t really miss it. I do miss the deep friendship I had with my wife, but I was in tremendous pain during the later years of that life. I welcome my new life. I wish I was younger and my body worked better but I welcome and love my new life.
So I don’t feel old. I feel like a boy. A boy on the march discovering his new environment. Some of it is great. Other things are just ok, and some things not so good. But I wouldn’t trade these years for anything. I am so much happier being out. I love getting to know the men I am meeting. It is exciting and fulfilling. So gay boy marching is me.