I was labeled a sexual threat at the age of five. Nothing’s changed.
(Warning, the following article contains graphic gay-sex references that Mark Zuckerberg does not believe adults should peruse—just reading the piece might land you in Facebook jail. But don’t worry, I added some good old-fashioned graphic straight sex and violence bits to make it kid-friendly. Oh yeah, there’s a Power of the Dog ending-spoiler as well.) –D.T.
Not so long ago a gay colleague of mine penned an article on the joys of, among other things, hand jobs. Since the main subject of the piece was—Good Golden Grief!—Betty White, he received a lot of rather unkind words in response. Most of the comments are unprintable here, seeing as how they were penned by respectable, god-fearing, gentle folk who love their children and are more foul-mouthed on Twitter than Christian Bale on a movie set.
One tweet stood out, however, as the writer, a straight, white male, said the only reason the hand job mention made the editorial cut was because the writer was gay and, therefore, not considered a sexual threat.
Um, did I miss something?
I’m not sure what planet the rest of the country is living on (no, really, I have no clue what solar system Donald Trump Jr. inhabits), but I’ve been a sexual threat since I first started ogling the male lifeguards at the local pool—I think I was five. By the time I’d entered “We Don’t Need No Stinking Faggots” suburban high school, come out at age 16 (sophomore year was such fun!), gone off to Frat Central UCLA, tried to make my way as an actor in Massachusetts Summer Stock—“show us what you can do but never show us who you want to do”—and made my way to AIDS-stricken New York (I tell you, watching guys getting beaten with baseball bats and hearing conservatives scream that my “lifestyle” was the reason for all the pain and suffering in the world was a hoot and a holler and god how I miss having rocks thrown at me from car windows), I knew I was the biggest threat to mankind since women were given the right to eat stray apples.
I get it, things have changed, rights have been granted, straight men are being called out for their shit (those tears you don’t hear are the sounds of me not crying), and our gay world has grown a whole lot brighter. I’m forever grateful. But, and here’s the crazy, really kooky part: now that I’m 57, still gay, still having sex with men, and still not apologizing for my proclivities, I’m an all-new, Remixed and Revisited, 2022 Sexual Threat not playing at a theater or TV screen near you. I’m the Old Gay Man Lech Threat, and it’s the scariest thing to happen to the world since Demi Moore posed pregnant on the cover of “Vanity Fair.”
I’m not sure who made up these older sex guidelines, although, since they apply strictly to gay men and straight women, I’m gonna take a wild guess that some sort of John signed off on the document. I do know that I’m fighting them every single day. Cable television and film, now basically an orgy of sex, lies, and often videotape, is strangely devoid of older, healthy gay men who like sex as much as they like being as non-threatening as Nathan Lane at a Sunday matinee of The Sound of Music before Church services during Prohibition—because that’s the kind of guy we’re supposed to become. Those scoffs you hear are the sound of people saying “hey, we have plenty of gay men on TV,” but, for the most part, these guys are barely out of high school, if they’ve even graduated. The brilliantly depicted David and Patrick on “Schitt’s Creek” give me hope that we’ll eventually see changes in the programming.
Oddly enough, lesbians have a Paris Hilton “that’s hot!” clause, and, regardless of age, their naked bodies and complicated relationships are all over the place, from Reese Witherspoon and Julianna Margulies on “The Morning Show” to Taissa and Jessica on “Yellowjackets” to—them again?—Miranda and Che on “And Just Like That…,” because everyone knows women growing old and in love together is as wondrous and natural and non-threatening as Mary Martin playing Peter Pan.
But gay, older men? Aye, there’s the rub of bodies we’re not supposed to see. Unless they’re the villains. On the sex-and-drug-drizzled “Euphoria,” the scariest of the whole bunch might be Hot Dad Eric Dane, who’s hard most the time, naked half the time, and, spoiler alert, into boys at any given time. In the Oscar-favored flick The Power of the Dog, gay, older, full-frontal-naked cowboy Benedict Cumberbatch is such a threat to the world he inhabits, it takes a young gay to solve the problem—spoiler alert, young gay kills him.
When older gay men are celebrated, it’s generally in a quasi-eunuch fashion. There’s a reason why Neil Patrick Harris has been such a ubiquitous force of nature on stage and screen—he’s less sexual than his alter ego Doogie Howser. On the he-flips side (creepy old men like me are prone to making incessant double entendres), out, hunkable heartthrob Matt Bomer is so movie star handsome and talented that he’s the new Montgomery Clift, minus the closeted status that brings along the best film scripts now offered to Bradley Cooper. A movie star was supposed to be born.
Unlike mega-bucks business star Michael Phelps, fellow water winner Greg Louganis started out being the greatest diver in the world, which took second place only to his spot as the greatest threat to sports since Richard Simmons started making fitness videos. His timeline of threatening queer behavior parallels that of most gen men of my generation, an absence of girlfriend status costing him, among other things, a coveted Wheaties endorsement, his HIV-Positive status and dive-board bloodletting making the Olympic Pool scarier than the beach in Jaws.
It’s through awareness, education, and visibility that we’ve been given the opportunity to witness Louganis grow into much-loved HIV-Positive spokesperson, and even do “straight” things like appear on TV shows, get married and—hey, it happens to queers too—divorced. The only thing that could derail the 62-year-old athlete now is if he tried something even more dangerous than a triple tuck backwards reverse upside down sideways forward jackknife while blindfolded and with chomping alligators below him—talk about sex.
In the meantime, straight, older bros Chris Meloni and Dylan McDermott can have a pissing contest for the camera and social media will explode with a collective orgasm almost as massive as we imagine their equipment. As long as we know they’re straight they can fuck all the way to Oz. Can you imagine if “Two and a Half Men” was pitched as a silly sitcom about an older, single gay guy who drank to excess and slept with randoms half his age? Imagining it is all you can do, because no one would dare write such a salacious script.
Older women are/were cougars, older men, nee playboys, are simply re-inventing their love lives, older gay men are second fiddle to Grace and Frankie (minus a butt-plug line to match the gals’ vibrator business) or doomed to Freddie Mercury morality tale death. Poor Mr. Mercury, if only he’d stayed on the straight and narrow path like all those heterosexual rock stars of the 70’s. It was his lifestyle (there we go again), not a killer queen virus, that robbed him of old age.
My own joy of sex shouldn’t be subjected to anyone else’s expiration date, and, should it threaten you, it’s my problem too because I’m the one who’s being punished. I’m far from a victim, but I’m acutely aware of the perceived danger my very being causes much of the population. Facebook, which has a long, shameful history of censoring anything remotely queer, flagged a story I wrote for this very publication (“looks suspicious”) simply because of the (“may go against our community standards”) title. The degenerate article was called “I’m Gay, Single, Over 50, and Having Lots of Sex,” and Mark Zuckerberg’s police force is “warning users of the risks of opening the link.” From now on, I’m playing it safe and calling everything I write “Covid Is a Hoax, Trump Won the Election, and Big Bouncing Boobies Give Me Boners,” because that’s the America keeping us safe.
The shunning of older gay sex is especially harmful at a time when the Right would love to pull our stories off bookshelves, including George Johnson’s acclaimed memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” Making matters worse is that the calls are coming from inside the house. I’ve been called a tired old predator queen on several occasions—Queerty comments are the best!—and a lot of older, openly sexual gay colleagues of mine are told by their “community” to put it back in their pants. One 50+ sex-positive friend of mine gets death threats. Meanwhile, back at the metaverse, there’s an older gay man group that is filled primarily with sad, lonely guys chatting about their increased invisibility. We don’t eat pussy but we eat our own.
I’ve never sexually assaulted another man, I’ve never engaged in sexual activity that wasn’t 100 percent consensual, and just because I write about sex (a rather important topic, yes?) doesn’t mean I’m having it all day long or that I lack the desire for meaningful relationships and romance. I, too, love long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, and everything else the touch of a Tinder swipe offers. I also don’t wrap myself around a faux monogamous marriage or censor my writing to please a sanitized world. Safety in art is petty.
All of us should be free to explore our sexuality without recrimination, and talking about it, whether in conversation form, writing form, or any other manner, can only be a good thing. No matter who tries to censor me, on a personal or professional level, I’m still going to explore my gayness for as long as it self-pleases me. I started when I was five, and I ain’t done looking yet. That’s not just a promise, that’s a threat.