The young and the rest of us

With Pride celebrations around the corner, and warmer weather, I’d like to make what I call a “modest proposal.”

Elsewhere, I have admitted to trolling Facebook. Rather than spending the rest of our natural lives discussing whether FB honestly reflects or distorts a clear vision of our communities, humor me and assume this: A lot of folks use it.

If FB is to believed, every group, event and me-too organization needs you to attend, supported by your attendance, or best yet, with your dollars. Now, the Goose is good with all that. There is little question that I use FB to extensively promote this publication and other volunteer activities I find of value. But, I also like to say, as a senior, I know better to wait for an email or a phone call – I learn about most events I attend via FB and “distribution lists.”

My informal non-scientific frequency table of FB topics: Transgender issues, bullying issues, youth events, youth needs, youth housing, youth abuse, pride events and all the other fine stuff from bars (yes, they were the original supporters), and maybe suicide prevention. Note that I didn’t mention all of this season’s political stuff and latest outrage.

Having recently whined publicly about the state of the “communities,” I have been politely welcomed to become part of the modern notion of what gay life is today. This invitation was from a group of younger peers. My friendly pundits suggest that I am much too caught up in the old war crimes against our communities, particularly from the bad old ‘80s and ‘90s.

The message to me was “to stop looking for a boogey man” behind every event. They argue there are many places that are accepting and supportive of us. In other words, to quote someone less kind, I was “a tiring pale copy of Larry Kramer.” Actually, I thought it was a great shot to be compared to Larry Kramer. I admire his passion, but I would not compare to Mr. Kramer or his personal sacrifice.

I am sure that after seeing 200 friends pass on of HIV, and probably another 500 “I knew of,” my world view has forever changed. Some of my readers lived or studied that history and keep that memory alive. No one has to like it, accept it, or even endorse it. Generally, most just ignore it. Even Hillary got it wrong vis a vis Nancy Reagan’s role and the HIV epidemic. Bottom line: Once you have a friend die in your arms from HIV, it changes you. I don’t expect my younger peers to understand. I ask for no sympathy – they are my memories, and they are your history.

Today, I am making a modest proposal of my younger friends in return. I’ll try to be more with it and be, for want to a better word, “less tiring,” on one condition: You work to be more senior aware.

What does that look like?

Ask yourself, how many seniors are in your life? Do you include them, socialize with them, ask them about their histories, or honor those histories? Do you ask them questions about the past and how they see the world the today vs then? “Did you marry?” “Tell me about your first boy or girl friend.”

Seniors, like other groups, go into a room, and say “oops, I don’t’ belong here” – no bald spots, grey hair or sagging flesh. Are the groups you support age diverse? Have you ever seen any of the number of films of the “bad old days?” Do you immerse yourself in activities where mostly seniors attend?

I have never doubted that the youth need and deserve a safe places and support. A wise queer, the late Barron Wilson, supreme dowager, said, “Where to do these people think the youth learn? It is the seniors.” Baron was a lifelong educator.

Why isn’t there a place for seniors, or an interaction between seniors and the youth, or for that matter, the community? We have a youth prom? We have an initiative for youth homelessness, right? We have learning sessions on transgender issues, HIV and youth homelessness, almost weekly, sure?
Here is an example: I witnessed one of the most diverse and effective interactions at the EPA a few years back during Pride. They hosted a moderated diversity panel – youth, old, white, black and transgender folks were invited to speak to their employees. The speakers were not the “usual” social worker, attorney or loud-mouthed queers. I have to say it was excellent. Everyone gave a brief introduction of themselves, followed by questions from the audience.
What is stopping “us” from doing such an event once a month? Like the EPA, I envision a moderated panel held at a local church, with free parking, handicap accessible and admission by donation only. All our great organizations could “host” or sponsor the monthly events. Now, there is a community building idea! A new topic would be presented each month, from HIV, aging, youth, etc., with diverse panelists, with plenty of time to talk before and after. Just for good measure, a light buffet might be offered.
If my younger friends might consider this: You advocate for youth and never think about it for a moment, so why don’t we advocate for the second biggest band of your community, the baby boomers? We are your parents, friends and teachers. Our time is limited hear our stories.

Rather than invite me to your world, lets us share this one, and learn from one another.


Article republished with permission from The Gay Word.

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