Ageism, which was never a part of gay subculture in India, is now the norm.

Gay and growing old Finding love as an Indian gay man in his late 40sPainting by Bhupen Khakhar
Features Let's Talk LGBTQ+ Thursday, June 09, 2016 - 13:48

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In my late forties now, I am officially a dinosaur in the gay world. Over the last decade or so, with the increased visibilisation of gayness in India, the languages and protocols of Western gayness have become central to zones of gay desire. Websites like Planet Romeo and Grindr now have profiles that mock and debar ‘Uncles’ from writing to them. Ageism, which was never a part of gay subculture here, is now the norm.

This is not to romanticise any earlier moment. The older gay man was, and remains, a central source of exploitation, ridicule and murder (as with the not too distant murder of the 57-year-old banker from Besant Nagar in Chennai by four young boys), but is now the source of open ridicule. To child sexual abuse activists, he was just a predator who had it coming. Hansal Mehta’s unwatchable Aligarh had to airbrush the old, slow-moving and unbecoming Siras into the palatable and hot Manoj Bajpayee and make the sordid sex between two older men (the second being a poor and middle-aged Muslim rikshawala) into hot sex between a hottie and a hipster.

Men insult and abuse me openly on these websites now as an older guy but, worse, they immediately tell me they are ‘paid guys’ (that’s the Indian term). The presumption is that at my age, I ought to pay for sex if I want to expect any at all. When men meet me, they are forever telling me I look younger than I am, that I do not look in my 40s at all and are not happy that I am not grateful for the compliment. Guys who are not even rent boys suddenly become rent boys if I say ‘Hi’ to them even as they fumble with how much they charge and what they will do and will not do in bed.

Most of them are straight, of course. Most are also lying about their age. I do research on these websites, and have been on them for years. I know at least ten guys whose age, like Rekha (who turned 30 for at least three decades running), has not changed despite a passing decade. Their pictures are at least 10 years old, some are just fake pics of other people.

Most men also remain, as they state, uninterested in long-term relationships, interested in just a quickie. But the emotional violence of that bravado is showing in how many new drug subcultures have mushroomed on these sites: from MDMA to ecstasy and poppers, they are all openly on offer. If some gym-cranked hottie hits you up at midnight, you can be assured he’s high on MDMA and needs a sexual fix right now.

Many more gay men now ask me, like straight men and women did all my life, why I am not married, why I don’t have kids, why I do not settle down, why I have never found a boyfriend/husband. Part of the revulsion they have for me, is the fear that they’ll end up alone and sad, like me. Like all straight men, they want not a partner but a servant, a nurse they dream will hold their hand while they die.

Unfortunately for them, I am neither alone nor sad. As a late bloomer, I have only come into my own sexually in my 40s. I still fall in love with men, of all ages, sizes and types, regularly, and still enjoy the tingling sensation it brings. Most days, I am just happy seeing pictures of men I desire and onanistically recounting the memories of men I have slept with in the past. It is much better than the bad sex Indian men continue to offer.

My body is slowing down. I have diabetes and a late and botched circmucision because of phimosis makes life far from priapic. But my heart still thuds in my dry mouth at the sight of male pulchritude.

Because I am skinny and genetic garbage, and I like wearing colourful clothes and a bit of jewellery, I have been called ‘Bottom’ all my life, but I have never believed in these roles and enjoyed balking at them. That process was late and slow because fighting sexual scripts that engrave us in stone is a slow business. It is only in my 40s that I am beginning to slowly, tentatively break free from these roles, these labels.

As a strange ‘bottom’ who has never been entered (40 year old virgin was my nickname a few years ago), I look forward to that experience but not with a North Indian brute who thinks he is a nail and I am a wall. I want it to be gentle. I am still waiting for my Tamil hero who will do that for me, someone who does not model himself on Suriya or Dhanush but who is happy in his scruffy, ungroomed Tamil voluptuousness. And will let me do to him what he wants to do to me.  

He may not exist, but in my 40s I still dream. In my 40s, as an ageing man, I have for the first time ever begun to look after my body, cherish my body, love my body for all its flaws and weaknesses and genetic garbage. I know that the big, dark man I always wanted to protect me is someone I have had to protect all my life. I dream of a commune of gay men growing old with me, all of us enjoying each other and laughing at our silly conceptions of what gay sex and gay love and gay life meant when we were young.

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