Gay men and ageing

Document Type


Publication details

Hughes, M & Robinson, P 2018, 'Gay men and ageing', in S Westwood (ed.), Ageing, diversity and equality: social justice perspectives, Routledge, London, UK, pp. 114-130.

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Research indicates that public acceptance of homosexuality is improving in an increasing majority of countries and that younger generations tend to hold more favourable attitudes than older generations (Smith, Son and Kim, 2014). Despite these positive developments, gay men continue to face social injustices across the life course in relation to material inequality, lack of cultural recognition and limited or problematic representation in the political domain. These experiences are intersected by other dimensions of advantage and disadvantage – not least gender and age – that play out differently in different contexts. In this chapter we draw on Fraser’s (2008) tripartite conceptualisation of social justice, which comprises economic, cultural and political dimensions. Thus, we explore the economic and material (resources) disadvantage faced by older gay men in comparison with other population groups. We examine the extent to which older gay men are culturally recognised – including how their gender is positioned in relation to an idealised masculinity – and how ageing is depicted for gay men, both within gay male communities and wider society. We also investigate the representation of older gay men’s voices in the public domain, including in policy and service delivery contexts. We conclude with a reflection on the transformative activities older gay men are engaged in and that are linked to a wider politics of redistribution, recognition and representation. One note concerning language: while in this chapter we use the term or category ‘older gay men’, we resist the idea that such a category is stable and unambiguous.