Portia Faces Life - 10/7/2019
Imagine having no one to talk to because everyone is so scared of anyone else finding out. That’s how messed up it was when I was young and coming of age. Back in the day, (saying THAT is when you REALLY know you have gotten old) unless you were “family” you had to be careful about letting people know that you were Gay. There was no “OUT and PROUD” the way it is now. We depended on gay and lesbian bars to meet or make new friends…find hook ups or lovers, get our bearings in a new city, or simply feel visible whenever we found ourselves unsure where to turn or who to turn to. And even when you were not feeling on top of your game there was always someone older hanging around that you could depend on to make you feel good about yourself because, let’s be real…the older ones were thirsty and always looking to sip from the fountain of youth that we were.
When I was younger, getting old was a source of jokes about how my friends would end their days bitching about the good old times in a gay retirement home. When I was younger, I got smart with an older dyke and made a stupid comment. She said, “one day honey you’ll get old too”. I never forgot that, and she was right.
Now that I am older, there are other responsibilities and partying has become less important. It can be very difficult to make real connections for friendships. Many people only want to hang out with who and what they know. It leaves people who are new to areas feeling alone…and at the gay and lesbian bars WE are the older ones.
So, as we age, and our friends move away or pass on, WHERE do we go to make those connections that are so necessary to living a life free of social isolation?
I remember at the height of the AIDS epidemic families breaking up over the discoveries that their sons were both gay and dying, where we had to “tribe up” and take care of each other… the parties that happened on AIDS wards, the communities of lesbians who spent time taking care of strangers, making soup and making beds…washing them and their clothes… and the less fortunate gay young men who died terrified, alone and forgotten.
As we have gotten closer to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there is another disease that is taking hold of the LGBT community that people are not facing…it’s called OLD AGE, and it is happening right now…resulting in social isolation for so many of us that once were young and vibrant and oh so beautiful. Most people are unaware of the problem because media coverage has been scarce, and a lot of good people, politicians, religious leaders, and organizations are not doing anything to deal with this challenge, so we need more. More attention. More money. More effort by all of us to address and deal with the social isolation that results from the aging of the LGBT community.
it’s perfectly understandable that most of us prefer not to think about old age, in the hope that we will somehow miraculously be provided for. For gays, could the situation be worse? Despite the advent of gay marriage and gay parents, many gays will still face old age alone or with fewer family supports than their straight counterparts. If you haven’t had kids and you aren’t rich, navigating the transition from an active taxpaying work life to the hopefully still active other side of the social welfare fence may be hard.
To many of the “elites” of the community this isn’t a problem…those that had great paying jobs or business owners that we helped get successful because we supported their ventures. And not only is it NOT a problem…it isn’t THEIR problem! It’s unconscionable to me that someone can’t see how their own life has limited their ability to understand things that don’t primarily impact them. It’s very disappointing.Gays who can’t think past their own selves are a fucking waste. There is more to life than individualism. People are eager to claim the LGBT community but not as eager to live as if it were a community.
Members of the LGBT Baby Boomer generation are the strongest people to ever walk the Earth.We had to learn how to survive. Whether you got put out of your home or not, you had to learn how to survive mentally, you had to learn how to cope with being by yourself mentally, to go out and project yourself into the world.
So how do we show our Silver Pride? By giving older LGBT people the visibility they deserve, volunteering and funding organizations which support them, lobbying politicians and the government to do more to mitigate the economic and social damage society inflicted on our generation and visit the elders still with us.If you’re a younger gay person, respect your elders, look at us and understand that you will be old someday, if you’re lucky enough to avoid dying young of some disease or accident. The older gay and trans individuals have a lot to teach, and you have a lot to learn.
Remember, we learned a lot by having to survive and cope with what we endured during the 70’s, 80's and 90's. And most importantly, everyone remember…we are STILL here, and we are STILL Queer!