Based on interviews with 27 gay men aged 39 - 61 living in Manchester, this article examines how middle-aged gay men are differentiated and negotiate relations in heterosexually defined spaces. I focus on what informants’ accounts of relations in these ‘heterospaces’ say about middle-aged gay men’s responses to homophobia. I argue that ‘ageing capital’ is implicated in subjects’ accounts that capitulate to, negotiate with and challenge heteronormativity. First, the normativity of certain heterospaces could compel self-censoring/‘de-gaying’ of the self. Middle-aged gay men were differentiated by others who claim greater legitimacy within them. Second, informants differentiated themselves through involvement with heterosexual friends from ghettoised ‘scene queens.’ This ambivalent claim to difference could deny inequality and reinforce homophobia. Third, the normativity of heterospaces was thought to offer freedom from the ageist gay gaze, allowing expression of more ‘authentic’ aspects of the midlife-aged self.