Middle-aged gay men in Manchester differentiate themselves through accounts of ‘friendship family’ from relating/kinship associated with heterosexuals and younger gay men. Based on interviews with 27 men aged 39–61, I explore narratives of friendship family. This critical space enables development/mobilisation of the resources of ageing - ‘ageing capital’ – needed to reclaim self-worth in the face of homophobia and gay ageism. It helped men develop the emotional and political resources to question heteronormative family and practice non-monogamy. However, in the struggle for dominance over meaning/representation, generational claims to differentiation could reinforce reverse ageism. Young gay men were constructed as threat, insubstantial or vulnerable, obliging a duty of care to avoid exploiting them. The discursive strategies men deployed could limit/thwart use of ageing capital and undermine men’s claims that ageing involves a linear path towards enhanced awareness of self, other and authoritative knowledge of the relations of gay culture.