Gavan Hennigan has opened up about his attraction to older guys, saying his preference for dating men of a certain age left his feeling like a “freak” during his younger years.
The extreme athlete and adventurer, 36, dated a man in his mid-5os for three years during his 20s and he has never had a boyfriend younger than 50, but says he initially struggled to accept that he was sexually attracted to men twice his age.
“I just couldn’t accept it. I found it hard. I found it really hard,” he explains in Attitude’s August issue – available to download and in shops now.
Gavan, who overcame drink and drug addiction to row solo 3000 miles across the Atlantic in just 49 days earlier his year, says he almost had to come out twice; once as a gay man and the second time as a gay man who is only attracted to older men.
“I had a lot of issues with it when I was younger and that was one of the reason I got into alcohol and drugs as much as I did and subsequently why I wanted to take my own life,” the Irishman admits.
“I felt like a freak. I thought ‘there is something seriously fucking wrong with me here – why can’t I just be attracted to somebody my own age?'”
Gavan’s late father was himself an alcoholic who suffered from severe mental health issue, including what is now known as bipolar disorder. He was estranged from Gavan for much of his life and though the pair made efforts to repair their fractious relationship before he died, Gavan believes it may have proved formative during his childhood years.
Told that an amateur psychologist might assume his attraction to older men was related to a subconscious desire to replace the father that was absent during his youth, the adventurer replies: “It’s not a coincidence. My dad was never around so some wires got crossed when I was younger.”
He adds: “I felt it was his fault that I was this messed up sexually.”
Despite his past difficulty in accepting his attraction to much older guys, Gavan insists he now feels comfortable in his sexual preferences.
“I don’t analyse it and I don’t judge it, it’s just what I like”, he says. “There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t need explaining and I think that is the key to life for me.
“Like stuff just is, we don’t need to go into a full explanation, that’s just the way things are.
“Just accept it.”