Generating and Making Sense of Middle-aged Gay Men’s Stories of Ageing: Alienation, Ambivalence, Agency (in Manchester)

P Simpson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Based on accounts from 27 interviewees (aged 39-61) and 20 observation sessions in Manchester’s ‘gay village,’ I explain some of the difficulties of accessing subjects and examine men’s stories of relating in the ‘homospaces’ of the village. In particular, I draw attention to the value of an analytical framework that combines tools from critical realism and constructionism (itself based on critical humanism) to explore how informants differentiated themselves from young (scene-oriented) gay men. Such an analytical move conceptualises social reality as multiform, contingent - arising from the dialectic between constraint and choice (Thomson 2009). It also opens up exploration of the resources of ageing in the shape of ‘ageing capital’ and (age-inflected) ‘technologies of the self’ (Foucault 1987) located in ‘fields of existence’ and how these were used to differentiate middle-aged gay men and enabled generation of different accounts of ageing, gendered sexuality. The dominant narrative involved stories of capitulation to (gay) ageism) and of differentiation designed to recuperate an ageing self but which was implicated in reverse ageism. Contradictorily, men drew on discourses that undermined their generational claims to a more ‘authentic’ gay subjectivity/relationality and frustrated their abilities to mobilise resources of age/ing. In ambivalent mode, men’s narratives indicated negotiation with gay ageism. In empowering mode, accounts of differentiation indicate how resources of ageing (capital/technologies) enable expression of an ‘authentic,’ ageing subjectivity/relationality and challenge to gay ageism in ways that did not derogate the younger gay other.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2013


  • Middle-aged gay men, mixed methodology, participant observation, interviews, ageing capital, technology of the self, ageism, diffrentiation


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