Darlings, have you ever heard that saying “growing old ain’t for sissies?” Well, I’m on a crusade to test its validity.
Last Saturday I hosted an event for the Utah Pride Center (I know, I know, I was as surprised as you are!) for gay and lesbian folk who are over 50. It was the kick off of a new program that the Center is developing for gay elders called SAGE. (am I the only person perturbed that the acronym also includes SAG and AGE? ), which is a social network for support, events and community service. I think it’s a great idea whose time has come. If SAGE can build itself up like sWerve (which has become an invaluable resource for the women’s community), then I am very optimistic for the program in the long term.
I have to confess, petals, at one point of my life I never thought I would live to see 40, let alone 45 or beyond. I survived being a maelstrom of freshly out of the closet, sexually active hormones through the 1980s and 1990s when AIDS was killing my peer group left right and center. So many local characters, leaders and potential leaders of our community were taken out way before their natural time (and frankly, we still haven’t recovered from that void in the men’s community). I was volunteering in the AIDS arena, and it just seemed like everyone my age was coming down with HIV, or often at that time full blown AIDS. It was a dark, scary, fatalistic time, so the idea of settling down in some semblance of normality and eventually retiring rarely entered my head.
It wasn’t until I had gone through many years of periodic HIV testing and not sticking my knife into the toaster as it were, that I realized maybe I wasn’t going to die prematurely (although if Aqua-Net really is carcinogenic then I’m a goner!). Once you’ve had that internal “holy crap I might not die after all” discussion with yourself, you start pondering all sorts of important questions. Where do I want to grow old? Who do I want to grow old with? How financially secure am I? How are my relationships with family? Who will have power of attorney over my medical decisions? And so on.
These are enormous questions that can’t be put off until the day you retire, or when you enter hospice. Which makes all of this Sarah Palin malarkey about Obama’s death panels drive me absolutely nuts!
But petals, there is one group of guys that I am really worried about as they age. That’s the gay men about 30 to 65 years old who were victims of the LDS “get married, look normal, and pay your tithing” version of reparative therapy. Aside from losing a lot of their gay peers, so many of these guys went through failed marriages, ugly divorces and estrangement from their kids and their families, and then eventually left, or were forcibly removed from the church of their upbringing (and what do people fall back on in their old age or during the terminal process? Their family and their faith!). These folks are already isolated, so any attempt to build social support and advocacy for them is a completely worthwhile goal.
So munchkins, check out the Utah Pride Centers website and their email blasts for upcoming SAGE events, and help spread the word to your friends, families and especially those homesteaders that you know who never go out. SAGE events and service projects could be a great way to reintegrate these folks back into the community. They need to know we miss them and we need them!
You can see Ruby Ridge and the Matrons of Mayhem performing live, in all of their politically incorrect polyester glory every third Friday of the month at Third Friday Bingo, First Baptist Church, 777 S 1300 E in Salt Lake City at 7:00 p.m.