Meeting you after 60 has been an incredible experience. I couldn’t have found a more amazing person. Life is brimming with excitement now.

Norman, aged 73, and Tony, aged 68, crossed paths at an Age UK gathering for older LGBTQ+ individuals in 2019. They eventually formed a romantic relationship two years later.

During his teenage years, Norman was filled with confusion about his sexuality. “I believed I was gay because I was attracted to men, like pop stars. But later on, I began to have feelings for women as well,” he explains. After his parents found out, he was compelled to undergo conversion therapy and, despite his enduring attractions to men, he eventually met and fell in love with a woman whom he married. When she passed away in 2017, he was devastated. “We lived our lives for each other and loved one another. I was utterly lost because we did everything together.”

It took another two years for Norman to consider coming out as bisexual. He recounts, “I volunteer as a cultural champion at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. A new coordinator from an LGBTQ+ foundation came in and mentioned that they were looking for volunteers aged over 60 to create videos about what life was like for gay people in the 1950s and 60s.” Since youth, Norman desired to be open about his identity, and it seemed like the right time to do so. “I simply wanted the world to know that I am bisexual,” he asserts.

During this period, a theatre friend introduced Norman to Out in the City, an LGBTQ+ support group for older individuals, supported by Age UK Manchester. Tony, who resides in Manchester as well, made contact with Norman to provide more information about the group. “I wanted to meet like-minded people, so I decided to join and immediately felt at ease and welcomed,” Norman recalls. “It was an incredibly friendly group.”

Tony, who also resides in Manchester, describes Norman as sociable. “I wasn’t immediately attracted to him, but he was easy to converse with. We hit it off immediately.” Soon after joining the group, their meetings were interrupted by the pandemic. “It was a terrible time for me, and I felt very isolated,” Tony shares. “In the summer, Age UK advised us to resume meetings, with certain restrictions. We sat in a large circle, two meters apart from one another.” It was during this period that Norman and Tony started spending more time together and discovered their common interests.

Although Tony understood that he was gay from a young age, he also faced adversity and underwent psychiatric treatment. “My family ostracized me, except for my sister, but then I found a partner, and we lived together for 31 years,” he recounts. Since his partner’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2011, Tony had grown content with being single. However, by the end of 2021, he came to the realization that he yearned for more than just friendship with Norman.

“I invited him to the cinema, and on our way back to the station, I confessed my feelings to him,” Tony recalls. Norman admits he was taken aback since he had never been in a relationship with another man. “It really shook me, so I suggested that we remain friends.”

During Christmas, Tony went to stay with his sister in Slovakia. They exchanged text messages daily, and Norman soon realized that he eagerly awaited Tony’s messages. “It suddenly occurred to me that I must have feelings for him,” Norman shares. “We met up, and I told him I wanted to give it a try, but that I needed time. He told me to take all the time I needed.”

Since then, the two have been a couple. In their retirement, they attend various Out in the City events together, as well as cinema outings and art classes. “We’ve tried ceramics and have visited numerous exhibitions,” Tony notes. “I love his sense of humor. He always tells cheesy jokes, but we laugh a lot. We have so much fun and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.”

Norman deeply appreciates Tony’s patience and compassion. “He’s incredibly caring. He’s always there for me to talk to, and he’s so understanding. I couldn’t have met anyone better. My life is now filled with excitement,” Norman expresses.

If you have an extraordinary or heartwarming story to tell, we would love to hear it. Perhaps we could even interview you and your friend/partner(s) for our weekly column. We will be in touch to arrange an interview.

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