Flicking through an old copy of a local Gay Rag, I came across an article on 'The Older Gay in Our Community', this week. I was a bit disappointed with it because it launched into the 'interviews' without anything by way of an introduction. Nothing about the context of the feature and nothing about the author-though it stated a male name. The format of each interview followed a set sequence of questions asked of all 6 interviewees. I was left with the impression that they hadn't actually been interviewed at all but instead had been sent a questionnaire to which they had provided written responses. Three gay men and three lesbian women were asked questions like 'What was your first LGBT experience?', What are your hopes for the LGBT community?', What are your views on LGBT Age Politics?', 'What would your advice be to a 17 year old identifying as LGBT?'
All the interviewees were well old [60-odd plus!] and although in the article the interviews were alternated boy-girl-boy-girl, I preferred to read what the men had to say first. Of course I
was reading as a younger man hearing the wisdom of the older generation- much as I imagine this column to be read and, as I suspected, I was struck by the damage that was speaking out at me from the page.
The first guy had had a family grown up and then was divorced before he allowed himself to come out and even then, by the sound of it, via a few dalliances with bisexual blokes and being forced to be their 'bit-on-the-side'. The second guy had been court-martialed for having sex in the navy. He was released from prison with the news that his lover had shot himself! Then there was the guy who had been maimed 'in action' whilst in the forces. He had lost his mother in Auschwitz concentration camp and his father at Dunkirk. 'And how had he noticed his sex drive had changed with age?' His answer was: 'It's not changed at all since I've always paid for sex finding that professional sex workers are able to ignore my disability and treat me with dignity and respect! And then there was the guy who had been sexually abused as a child regretting that he had never spoken out.
On to the women most of whom had been emboldened through the women's movement and one of whom felt far more disadvantaged through her second class status as a woman than as a result of her lesbian sexuality. The bits I liked best of all were to do with 'what advice would you give?' mostly because all the bits of advice seemed a little naff really-except for one of the lesbians who said something like : 'If you can, let your family know, make lots of friends, and treat everyone with the respect you would expect of others for yourself. You've picked a long row to hoe. Be brave' Hmm! I liked that!
Makes me want to do a better job and I'm wondering now how best to go about it. Maybe I'd be better served doing a series of features on the older gay or the gay elder- but with more detail and more searching questions. Think I need to check out how best to meet some older gay people and see if they'd be prepared to be interviewed! Hmm!
So my message for today can't improve on our sage lesbian- Recognize that you've picked a long row to hoe. And Be Brave!