All summer, people have been obsessing over the ageing filter on TikTok, which is so spot on that some dermatologists have praised its accuracy. But queer men across the social media platform have been completely freaking out at the older versions of themselves — and we need to talk about it.
Whether it’s gay men joking that they need to “drive off a cliff” or pointing out how much they “hate it here,” there seems to be a genuine animosity toward the ageing filter. And although they’re mostly jokes, I can’t help but feel that these TikToks point to a deeper problem within our community: Many of us are extremely uncomfortable with the thought of getting older.
Of course, ageing can be scary for anyone. But in the gay community specifically, youth tends to be such a high metric for self-worth that gay men often struggle with getting old, and derogatory terms like “sugar fossil” are common among older queer men.
There’s more to it than being less desirable, though; ageing can also bring to mind how the AIDS crisis left us without so many of the people who would now be elder queers.
And the reality is that the messaging we all receive daily about gay men — from pop culture to Hollywood — doesn’t really prepare us to think about life beyond youth. It sometimes feels like there’s no road map for getting ready to live as older queer men. Our shortsightedness is evident in the spaces we’ve built for ourselves, especially considering that gay spaces tend to take the form of nightclubs and bars, which usually cater to younger people.
But if we’re lucky, we’re all going to get older, and it’s time we start to seriously address that stigma. When we’re no longer young and we need new kinds of physical and emotional support, some of us could end up in community centres where we might not feel comfortable being ourselves. In fact, a 2018 survey found that 34% of LGBTQ+ adults ages 45 and older were worried about having to hide their identities to access suitable housing. We should all be thinking about that a little bit more.
As queer men, it’s time to accept that we won’t always look young, and that our looks are not a direct reflection of our worth. This TikTok filter is, frankly, too harsh of a wake-up call — but if we need to laugh till we cry with some form of acceptance, I’m OK with that.