I was 23 and Emma was 22. Or so others thought.
Only a few months ago I had accepted that I was gay. Whilst I wanted to tell my friends, I knew that if I did, the natural followup of ‘are you seeing anyone?’ would require me to reveal the identity of my partner.
Jeremy was 55. I was very much working through the concept of liking older men and dating someone twice my age. It was too much to handle. So instead I hid my sexuality. Wanting them to share in my joy of a relationship, I admitted to them that I was dating someone. Everything about our relationship was the truth apart from 3 things.
2. A woman,
3. Called Emma.
I was scared of was my sexuality redefining me. Too often have I witnessed ‘...you have to meet my gay friend John, he’s hilarious’. I hated the concept of being ‘my gay friend Owen’ and more so the added connotations behind ‘...my gay friend Owen that likes older men.’
We were both aware of the stigma: Owen’s a gold digger after Jeremy’s money. Jeremy’s a sugar daddy just paying his way into some young guys pants. We both hated the idea of being reduced down to negative stereotypes, particularly because they weren’t true!! We were two guys that met playing squash, and after a few months of terrible flirting and missed signals, started dating. But that’s not what the media has trained people to see and believe. An older man ‘corrupting’ a younger man. Both seeking to ‘take advantage’ of the other. It was simpler to be ‘straight’ than have to come out twice at once.
The perceptions of age gap relationships both meant nothing and everything to us. Ninety nine percent of the time the elephant in the room was invisible. We would just enjoy each other and our time together. Occasionally though, the doubts would creep in. We discarded the stereotypes of manipulation as they simply weren’t true. However were ‘they’ right; was our relationship wrong? Was it better to split up to save ourselves from long term torment?
The best part of a year later, we had grown in confidence both individually and as a couple. I was ready to come out as gay and as liking older men. I felt able to overcome the stigma I knew would be at the back of people’s minds when I told them.
Admittedly I write this as though I swanned in and delivered this news like superman. I was still nervous as hell. As an example, I confused a few with a garbled outburst of “Emma is actually Jeremy’ causing friends to believe Jeremy was transitioning!!
There were naturally some questions asked, and probably a bunch that weren’t. However my friends were as supportive as good friends can be. Meeting Jeremy they could see who we were as a couple, and any stereotypes at the back of their minds were quickly dispelled. As is often the way with these things I wish I’d done it sooner.
Telling people I was gay and that I liked older men felt like coming out twice at once. I was as worried about the perceptions of age gap relationships as those of my sexuality. Most of the time perceptions are our realities. Paying too much attention to our worries almost stopped us both embracing who we were. I realise now though that’s a fools game; to hide from yourself will do nothing but bring you down. It can require time and some self exploration and I'm not saying this is easy by any means, but learning to accept yourself for who you are is crucial for long term happiness. Just like being gay, our attractions aren't something we choose to have. It can be natural for friends/family to have questions and concerns as your reality may not be the one they envisaged (or hoped) for you. However if they aren't able to embrace you for who you are and be happy for your happiness then you may want to think about how you engage with that person moving forward. Ultimately everyone's situation is unique and only you can figure out how to navigate it best, however embrace who you are and who you love and I guarantee you'll be happier for it.
Love from The Age Gap Guys x