Brian McNaught on Intimacy and LGBTQ older adults – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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On today’s show, Joe is joined by certified AASECT sexuality educator, presenter and author, Brian McNaught, to chat about Intimacy and LGBTQ older adults.

Forty percent of Americans age 65 to 80 are sexually active. Before the COVID containment, sexually transmitted infections were on the rise in nursing homes. Even if they’re unable to perform sexually, most older people never lose their desire for intimacy, in whatever form it might take. “Regardless of how their bodies look on the outside, inside they feel young and want intimacy,” says Brian.

Named “the godfather of gay diversity training” by The New York Times, Brian McNaught is considered one of the world’s leading corporate diversity consultants dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues in the workplace. He is also the author of seven books on LGBT issues.

When services are created for LGBTQ older adults, we think about their physical and emotional health. Does it occur to us, though, that maybe we’re failing to address a most important component of senior’s emotional health, the need to feel intimacy?

“Before you help an older person out the door, let’s help someone through their door,” says Brian. “Give them their moment of bliss!”

Find Brian at:

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Welcome to smart sex. Smart love we’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboos and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. I’m dr. Joe Kort. Thanks for tuning in. 

Speaker 2 (00:25):

Welcome to smart sex smart love. I’m dr. Joe court. And this week on this episode, I’m joined by certified Asex sexuality, educator, presenter, and author Brian McNaught to chat about intimacy and LGBTQ older adults. 40% of Americans aged 65 to 80 are sexually active before COVID containment. Sexually transmitted infections were on the rise in nursing homes. Even if they’re unable to perform sexually, most older people never lose their desire for intimacy in whatever form it might take named the godfather of gay diversity training by the New York times, Brian McKnight is considered one of the world’s leading corporate diversity consultants, leading, dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and  issues in the workplace. He’s also the author of seven books on LGBTQ issues. When services are created for LGBTQ older adults, we think about their physical and emotional health before the social distancing of the pandemic they had planned get togethers and outings. 

Speaker 2 (01:29):

Does it occur to us though that maybe we’re failing to address a most important component of seniors, emotional health, the need to feel intimacy. Let’s discuss this. Welcome, Brian. Thank you, Joe. It’s great to be with you Detroit, Detroit. That’s right. You’re from here. Yes, I am born and raised. What year did you move away? Uh, 1976. Wow. Went from Detroit. So I was, I was, uh, 28, uh, 1976. Went from Detroit to Boston. Okay. There, there I met Ray and 44 years later. We’re still together. I know that’s so awesome. You’re such a role model to me and so many people in so many ways. And I just want to tell the story of how I met you, because I didn’t know you in the, in the seventies or eighties. Uh, were you born? I was at 63, but I think because you were speaking to Catholic, was that a cat doing? No, actually Joe, it was in all the newspapers and radio stations in Detroit after the Catholic church dropped my column and I went on my hunger fast, you know, every, every top radio and TV show host wanted to talk about it. And so, uh, you would have had access that way, but maybe because it was Catholic oriented, but as gay, I mean a little, little gay kid. You must’ve thought heard the word monitor. Listen. Yeah. I don’t know. I 

Speaker 3 (03:00):

Didn’t. I just remember you mostly, it was 93, I think when your PBS special case. 

Speaker 2 (03:05):

Right? Well, actually, uh, w w uh, before that, Joe, I did a video called, uh, a conversation with Brian McKnight on being gay and, and that aired on a lot of TV stations and then a PBS station in Denver, filmed three programs with me. They started airing across the country, uh, whatever. So you came up to me, uh, Robin’s town. 

Speaker 3 (03:32):

And I, I, at first, I couldn’t, we saw you first somewhere, uh, at the muse, actually, Mike, my husband was like, go up to him. He said, it’s, you know, it’s okay. He’ll, I’m like, I can’t do it. What if he’s, you know, doesn’t want people to come up to him. You know, you were the celebrity to me, you were like the Gloria Steinem, uh, to gay men or to LGBTQ that she was to women, you know, really pointing out to me, just like how unfair things were and how heteronormative things. So then we went somewhere else. It was at the other end of the strip of, 

Speaker 2 (04:01):

Yeah, we were at [inaudible]. Oh yeah. You remember that? Yeah, I do only enough. And you told me, you told me that you thought I was the Gloria Steinem. You made my, my year. 

Speaker 3 (04:14):

I got it, but it was, I’m so glad I did because you made mine. And then after that we exchanged, it was before the internet, before email, and you said, I told you I was writing for the Jewish news and you were like, well, send me some of your writings. I thought, yeah. Yeah. He’s being nice. And, okay, so I did, and I thought I’d never hear from you and you freaking not only responded, but you hand wrote, you didn’t even type, you hand wrote your note back to me. I could cry. Just remember. 

Speaker 2 (04:39):

That’s great. Did you say that? I did say that I have it in. Good, good, good. You know, the Stonewall national museum, uh, and Fort Lauderdale collects all of that. Ray and I donated a lot of really rare LGBT artifacts, like, uh, uh, one of a hundred copies of Walt Whitman’s work, where he crossed out type and wrote in his own handwriting, a change. He wanted to make it the last minute. Really cool stuff. So all of your stuff, Joe, and I think I’ve told you this before, you know, you need to say, Oh, I’ll definitely do that. You have to. Yeah. So let’s talk about this. Let me tell you how I got onto the subject of seniors. I’m a volunteer, uh, with, uh, a friendly visitor program before COVID containment. Uh, we would, uh, go visit in person older gay men, usually who asked for help from Sage senior action in a gay environment and from the South of Florida Institute on aging. 

Speaker 2 (05:44):

So I signed up, you know, met this guy whose husband had just died. Uh, he was a mess because he didn’t know how to do anything. You know, his, his husband had done everything, electronic paid all the bills. So he was a mess, not uncommon, 82 years old, they’d been together 48 years. So I started working with them initially, just letting them cry and then, you know, help them get, you know, know how to do the cell phone and retrieve messages on the internet. And then he said to me, not too long ago, he said, I I’m lonely. I want to be held. I want to be kissed. You know, I want sex. Is that in my bad person for wanting this? And I thought, you know, obviously you’re not a bad person, which I told him, I said, it’s perfectly normal, but it raised this really important issue for me. 

Speaker 2 (06:40):

Um, I was prohibited by law from telling him what his options were. One, because I represented an organization, right. And 2:00 AM I promoting prostitution and the state of Florida it’s illegal. And the ju the John can be arrested also. So I started calling around, uh, and I wrote a column about it, but I didn’t make them my client. I just made him my friend. And I talked to, uh, uh, you know, a former, uh, bath owner, uh, a guest house where clothing optional for gay men owner and an older gay, older gay man. I said, you know, what, what are people doing? You know, Ray and I have been together for all this time. I don’t, we haven’t called any escort services yet. So, so, uh, it raised for me this issue, which I, you know, I loved talking with you about, because you’re so good on sexuality and, and especially gay men and the issues they face. 

Speaker 2 (07:39):

And, you know, as well as I do that, you know, there’s, uh, an, an unending hunger for intimacy in our lives. And it doesn’t, I, you know, I was another guy yesterday. I was at the polling booth yesterday and, and a guy, a little younger than me, 69, I’m 72. He said, well, I haven’t had sex in years. And, you know, I haven’t had sex in years, but, uh, and there are people who, who are my age, who can’t believe that someone like me wouldn’t have to say because they wanted all the time. I think we’re all different, but we all want intimacy, you know? And, uh, Abraham Maslow in his, in his pyramid of needs, sex was down in with water and, uh, and air and intimacy was at level three before self-esteem. So the question that I have, you know, that I’d love to raise with you is how do we vet, uh, services for older gay men and women. 

Speaker 2 (08:38):

But, you know, my focus right now is gay men. Uh, you know, is there any way to vet, uh, escort services, uh, or, um, well, male prostitutes because, uh, they’re of calling grinder. I said, what about Grindr? He said, I don’t want to be robbed. He said, I don’t want to be killed. And there are people who have been killed on Grindr. He said, I don’t want to get syphilis. I don’t want to get, you know, he was a nurse. So he knew all of, uh, sure. So the question for you and me, and it’s not going to get answered in these 25 minutes, but what do we do? How do we help people in need, uh, who asked us for help? It’s such a good 

Speaker 3 (09:21):

Question, because, you know, um, I do have clients that will pay sex workers and, and I can just see people listening to us going, Oh my God, why are they doing that first? It’s illegal. Secondly, it’s immoral or whatever they think. And I can’t think right. Why can’t they just find each other? Because a lot of gay men, older gay men in my experience, you’re telling me if it’s different for you are looking for younger. They’re not looking for the same age. 

Speaker 2 (09:45):

Well, this guy in particular was looking for younger. Somebody yesterday said to me, this guy that I was assigned to, he said, I would like a good 30 year old. I said, you do not want a 30. Do you have any idea what you’re asking for? You know, and my guy doesn’t want anyone that he’s going to move in. He said, I don’t want to move my former husband’s stuff, you know, to make room for this person. I don’t, I have my own habits. I get up when I want to get up. You know, I watch what I want to watch. I’m not looking for that. I don’t, you know, I’m not looking for a dating service. I’m looking to be held. And then somebody sent me a post or a link for cuddle. You can hire somebody to cuddle with you. 

Speaker 3 (10:26):

Yeah. I know that. So it’s not in every place. Like we don’t have it here, but I know it exists. 

Speaker 2 (10:30):

Yeah. Yeah. And there are professional cuddlers. And then there are people who just joined the organization because they want to cuddle and they want to be cuddled, 

Speaker 3 (10:40):

Such negative images because I I’m sure people can do wrong with these, um, models, but for the most part they’re not. And you know, there’s nothing wrong in my opinion of being a sugar, daddy, let’s say that there’s a younger man that wants to have some kind of exchange with you. Maybe he’s not a sex worker, but it’s, it’s an, it’s a financial exchange or there’s also the whole, um, uh, daddy, daddy, 

Speaker 2 (11:03):

Gray Fox. So yeah, they’re, they, they, they’re attracted to older mature men, uh, who, who really won’t make that many sexual demands on them. You know, it’s like these it’s like these straight women who are attracted to gay men because we’re safe. They date us in high school and college, you know, with the suspicion that we’re gay, but they love us. Cause we, you know, we compliment their outfits and we don’t try to do anything, you know? So there are younger gay men who are attracted to older gay men. And I think that’s fine. This is, that’s not what this is about. And if you want to have somebody that you’d take down the queen, Mary with you and you know, and, and people ask as your grandson, which is you’re going to get at, Oh, see your grandson, you got to deal with that. 

Speaker 2 (11:52):

You, and if you’re proud, you say, no, he’s my partner. Um, uh, and I’ve adopted him. Cause that’s the only way, you know, I don’t know. I, but so yes, let’s, let’s eliminate, uh, the, the, the young men who are interested in older men and they want a relationship and the older man who’s interested in the younger male I’m talking about right now, if we can focus on somebody comes to you and says, help me out. You know, you guys take me to bingo. You take me to the opera. You think that’s going to make me happy. What’s gonna make me happy. Is that if you can help me find somebody to cuddle with me without slashing my throat, 

Speaker 3 (12:33):

This is so hard because ethically as a therapist, I’m not allowed to share, um, that, you know, to say, go get a sex worker. And here’s how you find them, you know? 

Speaker 2 (12:42):

Right. But Joe glad. Yeah. Yeah, Joe. But if I can therapists, when you were young, broke the law all the time. And we gave men, you know, I, it was not until like 2003, that sodomy was eliminated nationally. So from 1974, when I was fired by the Michigan Catholic to 2003, I was advocating illegal behavior. So when somebody, when somebody from Sage told me, you know, we can’t do that, it’s illegal. I said, Oh, come on. What can you know? I understand that. And I understand if a newspaper ever got ahold of the fact that somebody liked me, who was a volunteer for Sage gave out information on a safe escort that the board of directors would resign. The executive director would be fired. No one would give him any more money, all because of this, me and that one person. So I understand the limitation, but the illegality of it shouldn’t stop us from, you know, helping people. It doesn’t. 

Speaker 3 (13:46):

So I’ll tell you what I do. I just can’t directly recommend it. But I’ll say, I know there are lots of older gay adult male that seek out sex worker services. I’ll say that that’s an option. People explore that. I don’t know what you want to do, but that’s an option for lots of people. So it gives you, 

Speaker 2 (14:03):

And, and here are a list of sites that some people go to because sometimes, sometimes the person is fumbled and they think, well, what, tell me more, you know, just tell me that some people do this. What’s the name of the service. 

Speaker 3 (14:20):

Yeah. So what I do rather than, um, again, so I know what you’re saying about the legalities, but I’ll tell them what to put into Google to find those services. And that’s yeah, that’s what I do. So then that’s up to them, you know? Yeah. 

Speaker 2 (14:33):

Or, or clip out the column that I sent you, maybe mimeograph it and put it on your coffee table in the lobby. And there’s some literature out there you might want to look, 

Speaker 3 (14:44):

But I love that you’re doing this because older people in general are not seen as sexual. Right. And I know that, and it’s actually in nursing homes and even, uh, other places where older adults are, and you’re saying, no, we should be. And it’s hard to believe even in the gay culture, it’s like that, but it is, 

Speaker 2 (15:00):

Well, you know why people say it’s gross because the people who are saying it are young people imagining wrinkled skin that they don’t want to touch. Right. Or they don’t want to wrinkle old hand touching. That’s fine. You don’t have to do it. You know, you don’t have to be the one that does it, but an older person, regardless of what their body may look like to you inside is your age and has the same need to be held and touched and loved. And so many older people, women and men, they, they go, the hairdresser touches their head and that’s how they get their fix. Right. Massage, you know, the, you know, happy ending or no happy ending. I mean, you buy a pill, how to get, to be able to have a happy ending. It costs the same amount as the massage. 

Speaker 2 (15:55):

That was ridiculous. So I agree costs, but it does, but we need to talk about how to make it possible because like the guy yesterday and tell me when we’re running out of time, but the guy yesterday said to me, well, you know what, you know, I, I have, uh, prostate problems. And I said, well, I had prostate surgery. I said, you know, so I take Flomax and, and I have what they call retrograde . Well, no one talked to him about that. You know, that’s when you inject, acculate inside your penis, the semen does not come out. And so people think that it’s not an, an orgasm, which is, uh, which is a cerebral thing, or it’s not, or you’re not having, you know, you’re not satisfied. Well, it’s very satisfying, you know? 

Speaker 3 (16:44):

Yeah. Right. Don’t prices, uh, work, uh, sex over 50 working with older adults in sex, but we don’t have one for gay men. 

Speaker 2 (16:51):

No. And, uh, and I think there’s stuff coming out. I saw a book by a guy. Um, and, but I don’t want to, I don’t, this is not a book about how do you tone yourself up, you know, extractive to whoever, how do you, as an overweight, bald, you know, not even wealthy person, so yeah. So can you, can you go to the baths? And I thought, Oh my God, I don’t want to say that because I didn’t want the person hurt, but I call it a bath owner. And he said, look, he said, at the baths, there’s always somebody for everybody. Right. There’s somebody who was not interested in all the muscles and they want the heavyset guy who’s in the TV room, you know, cursing the election results. I won’t go as I go there. So, um, so, so we just need to tell people about that. 

Speaker 2 (17:51):

And in my column, you know, I wrote, wrote a column Congress, South Florida, gay news, but I posted on my Facebook page, you know, I told people what the battles were in Fort Lauderdale and which one has more seniors going to it. Yeah. And a couple of people who read this, that, Oh my God, this is exactly what we need. You know, we need somebody to tell us about rent boys versus rent men, and which is the better for us. And, you know, is there a, a Yelp for, you know, gay eSports services? Can you, 

Speaker 3 (18:23):

I think it’s just rent men. And I do know that people talk about it on some of the other apps, you know, they’ll say, uh, you know, they’ll use words like I’m generous, or, you know, I’ll, I’ll have it, I’ll exchange or I’ll buy you stuff, or people will do that. But one of the things that is the biggest risk, and I always prepare the older guys, um, is there is so much negativity and so much, uh, insulting that goes on. You’re too old. You could be my grandfather. What are you doing on your, they have to, I tell my clients, just put your armor on it’s 

Speaker 2 (18:52):

You, you have to do that as a gay man. Anyway, I walked into the, I walked into my first gay bar, the Woodward, you know, on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. And I had a tie on, you know, I didn’t know no one had mentored me. So I walk in, you know, and I look at pictures of myself, you know, at that age I was pretty cute. So cute guy. And somebody says, Oh, get a load of the tie. You know? And so I was, I felt self-conscious the whole night, because some person who was insecure and angry or whatever decides to pick on me. Right. So we’ve had to deal with that. Our whole lives, you as a Jew and me as a Catholic growing up. Oh my God, he’s Catholic. Oh Lord. He Hagen. He was probably, you know, against the board. Well, I’m no longer Catholic, but nevertheless, I, you know, I have a few scars from gay men who didn’t like that about me. Yeah. So yes, I know we have to prepare older men just, I have prepare myself. So I did a, I did a podcast for Stonewall. That was very visual. And somebody said to me, I said, did you like it? He said, yes, but I would hold the camera differently. It shows your neck up. That’s my neck, 

Speaker 3 (20:10):

  1. You’re going to have when you’re 78, right. This is the gay male. 

Speaker 2 (20:17):

Hey, this is what it looks like. Right. 

Speaker 3 (20:19):

But I love that you have a place for people to go on. It would be nice if it doesn’t sound like Sage can really do that. Right. Or incorporate that. 

Speaker 2 (20:27):

I don’t know that they will. I think that, I think the, you know, the person at Sage that I talked to was really interested in keeping the conversation going. So it’s not like they squashed it. And, uh, and, and I’m feeling kind of encouraged to pursue it. I don’t, you know, I’m not an authority. I I’ve been doing a lot of reading on and dying because that interests me. How do you help older people? And in my area over gay people, how do you help them make the transition without fear, right. About what’s going to happen next. Uh, but I, I’m sort of fascinated now in this in-between stage about, all right, before you have helped them out the door, why don’t you help somebody through their doors so that they can, uh, maybe have their moment of bliss. I love that. I love you. You conduct all kinds of retreats. 

Speaker 3 (21:21):

I don’t anymore. I did forever. I did forever. But in the last, maybe five, seven years, I’d stopped doing more presentations. I got really busy with that. And then the school that I am co-director of I’m, I’m just too busy. 

Speaker 2 (21:32):

Uh, okay. That’s our, that’s our loss. Yeah. Thank you. There. You’re not doing it. Cause I could send people to you, Joe, go to Joe cart, Joe, 

Speaker 3 (21:42):

Thank you so much. And I love doing them. Loved it, but it was something, something had to go for me. But to me that was another place. Cause I could say to guys, all right, so you’re having trouble out there. Let’s come to these retreats and you’d never know, 

Speaker 2 (21:54):

Meet or go to the body electric. You know, there are a lot of people, young and old to go to the body, electric, you know, introductory courses, older courses. Um, I went to naked yoga for a while down here and there were like 30 gay men, different ages that went to naked yoga. It wasn’t a sexual thing in terms of, well, there were people who hung around later, but, but during the, you know, during the time that I was doing my yoga down dog and everything, I said, you know, I thought this is great. You know, people’s bodies are there. They’re being acknowledged as older and that’s and all this is what happens to us guys. But I don’t think Joe, I don’t think we older gay men and I’m not including you in that group. I’m older. I’m 57. All right. Well, you know, you’re young to me, but okay. You are older. I don’t think we’re mentoring younger gay men sufficiently, but I’m also not sure they want to hear from us. 

Speaker 3 (22:48):

Well, that’s the thing I always bought into. That’s why I was so drawn to you. You were older than me. And I was like, what can I learn from you now that I’m older. I still like to learn from the younger two and older, but I want to be there for them. And a lot of them. 

Speaker 2 (23:01):

Yeah. Joe, how typical were you? I mean, you’re one of the really unique kind of gay men who come along. Who’s interested in our history, interested in, you know, who are these people? What have they done? You know, what community do I belong to as opposed to, well, how much are the drinks on Tuesday night, right? 

Speaker 3 (23:22):

I want you to, I’m glad you brought up body electric. Cause I do recommend them. Cause then a workshop and it’s nonjudgmental. You could have any penis size, you could have any body type you want old young and it’s all very sexual, but appropriately sexual. 

Speaker 2 (23:37):

Yeah. My only problem I have to say this, cause it’s not Nirvana. Is that when I went, um, and we got paired, not who we wanted to be paired with, but you know, we got paired up and I got paired up with somebody that I just did not want to be paired up with. I mean, he, he reminded me of an abuser and uh, in terms of body type. And so it’s not necessarily going to be, uh, uh, a perfect experience for you, but it is an opportunity to get naked with, with other men can get touch and gets hot and get touched. Right, right, right. And I think there are a lot of, uh, I wrote in my column that, you know, afraid dies before me. I probably wouldn’t go to the bathroom. I’d probably go to some gay spiritual weekend, you know, where we got naked and, and got in a sweat lodge and, and ate magic mushrooms. And then all of a sudden we were touching, 

Speaker 3 (24:34):

Well, you know, I’ll say this and then we have to stop. I want it. I have people be able to find you, but there’s also mankind project I went there. Did you do the gate by side? I did the 

Speaker 2 (24:46):

Warrior weekend. Yeah. I was the only 

Speaker 3 (24:49):

Gay man and the whole group. Oh wow. So I’ll wow. And the oldest person in the whole group, did you get something out of it though? 

Speaker 2 (24:57):

I did. Um, I did. Although, um, my only problem with the mankind project is that it, it, that in order to continue existing, it pushes, pushes, pushes, education, training, recruitment, et cetera. And Joe, we, we only got naked in the mankind project for like 15, 20 minutes. So we sat in a circle and they said, we’re now going to talk about sex. You each have two minutes. And I said, 

Speaker 3 (25:30):

That’s the 

Speaker 2 (25:30):

Issue we should have sat down with when we arrived. 

Speaker 3 (25:35):

So there needs to be a workshop like that. Maybe you and I might co-create that, 

Speaker 2 (25:38):

You know, the sex camp, the book I wrote sex camp, um, talked about the, the, the experience at a foreign field. And, you know, if anyone wants to, uh, fun sex ed experience and go through a whole week of affirmation, it’s free on my website called sex camp. Lots of fun. It’s my only novel. Uh, and, uh, I know you’re going to tell everyone there. So, so my, my website is www dot Brian, B R I a N hyphen or dash, not underscore mix, not M C, N a U G H And there’s all of my, all of my videos are free. I’ve got seven free videos. They’re about six of my books are free. I have a few more books out now, Joe. Yeah. 

Speaker 3 (26:31):

Watch them. Yeah. You know, you’re very generous to be giving this away. Well, why not? 

Speaker 2 (26:36):

You know, I, for awhile, they were for sale. And, uh, and I made back, but you know what the publisher 

Speaker 3 (26:44):

Wanted to. So I thought I’m buying back the rights and I don’t want money to ever be an issue for people who only with the problem with that, Joe though, is, if you say something is free, people think that they have to pay $20 before they think it’s worth reading. What are you nuts? All right. I’ll go back and sell them again. Have you, well, listen, I can talk to you all day. We, we do have to stop. I’m glad you told people where to find you. I’m so thrilled that you came on the show. Maybe we’ll do another one. I’d love to. I really want I’m with you. I know. I love it. I knew it would be good. And it was, and I just want to tell my listeners, thanks for listening. If you’re looking for me online, they can go to dr. Joe court on Twitter and I also on Instagram and you can find me on Facebook and I’m just so glad you got a chance to listen to Brian today. And, um, everybody stay safe and healthy and see you next time. 

Speaker 1 (27:36):

Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex, smart love. I’m dr. Joe court, and you can find me on Joe That’s J O E K O R See you next time.

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