Connect with us

Opinions

Gay. And approaching 40.

Am I too old for house parties and fast dancing?

Published

on

gay couples, gay news, Washington Blade, gay friends, older gay men

The pursuit of happiness can be a real struggle for many gay men. And we can throw so many barriers in each other’s way.

Next week I enter the last year of my 30s. And I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed the past decade. Think of your 30s as your 20s, but with more money and a bit more sense. And I’d like to think I’m happier now, too.

Nevertheless, I find getting older a bit hard, especially knowing that in the gay community, age is not something we put a premium on. In many ways we’re surrounded by those with severe Peter Pan Syndrome — boys that refuse to grow up. As a community we cherish vigor and six-pack abs. While I generally think I have the vigor part covered, I have stopped trying for the six-pack and settled for just “an ab” of sorts.

What brought all this worry about aging on exactly? Last Saturday I went to a house party celebrating the birthday of a friend of mine. Granted, he’s a little younger than I am, but wiser and more mature than most. I was chatting to another guest there, a bit of a twink no more than 21, and after introducing myself he basically said to me, “nice to meet you, but I’m not taking on any new Facebook friends right now.”

Yeah.

Probably a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly wasn’t going to send him a friend request, and talking to him any further may very well have triggered an Amber Alert. But I began to think — am I too old for this? Am I embarrassing myself by being here? All those thoughts akin to the first time I saw my dad fast dance at a family wedding. Is this whole thing getting a bit unseemly?

But then again, who cares?

The pursuit of happiness can be a real struggle for many gay men. And we can throw so many barriers in each other’s way. Older gay men are too quickly labeled creepy trolls with little to offer. (And don’t point out the fact that I freely used the word “twink” above. It’s different.)

Some suggest that as a community we lost far too many in the past to AIDS that we simply don’t have enough strong voices or role models to look to on how to grow up with style and dignity. That may very well be part of it. But finding and keeping happiness as one ages must be its own formula. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, keep moving forward in your life, ditch the fear of missing out, and just live. As writer William Dameron pointed out upon his 50th birthday, we have spent a great deal of time convincing others that being gay isn’t a choice, we should also remember that getting older isn’t a choice either. If we as a community start accepting all of that, maybe we’ll all be a bit happier. And while I may not be aging perfectly, I’m perfectly aware of it. And I will continue the formula of daily moisturizer, cultivating friends from every generation, activity, and keeping at bay anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself.

And as I close, this article became less about how to age gracefully, but maybe about reminding those to respect gracefully those that age. In many ways, I hope to be my dad at that family wedding. Someone who has aged with style and managed to keep his honor and his kindness, too. And he doesn’t put much stock into what people think. He says having a gay son helped him out there.

And keeps on dancing. Especially at family weddings.

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based freelance writer.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Mark Rutstein

    March 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    PUNCH! That would have been my initial reaction. Rude and cunty.

  2. grayzip

    March 11, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I think the problem isn’t that younger gays are agist or older gays won’t grow up; it’s that “mainstream” (straight) society has blackballed us. Straight people stop going to the clubs when they get married and have kids. That’s also when they cut loose their gay friends because time, the kids, you know, though the straight ones usually survive. Straight people then engage in all manner of age-appropriate activities: golf, vacations, dinners out and in, stuff centered around their kids or their friends’ kids, or their grown kids, it’s endless. But even when the kids are grown these people seem rarely to integrate gay friends back into their worlds, an exclusion for which there is no social consequence whatsoever. So that leaves the bars and gay parties for us. We absolutely grow too old for both. But what are our choices? We’re locked out of the larger world. We should direct our anger that way, not toward each other

    • Ada Niemand

      March 14, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      Read what Dave in DC said. Gay people are not “locked out of the larger world”, at least in cities. There is a lot more to life than bars and parties.

      Try doing something else–volunteer work, travel, hobbies, sports. If you are of a religious bent, church, temple or synagogue. In most U.S. places with significant gay communities you can find liberal congregations.

      Expand your horizons. You’re not going to meet many non-superficial people if going to bars and parties is all you do to socialize. That’s true for gay and straight people alike.

  3. Dave n DC

    March 11, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    It sounds like you need different friends. Gays aren’t blackballed in DC. You can live the same life as a single straight person in DC. Instead of parties and bars, how about music, sports, movies, dinner parties, travel, charitable volunteering, hobbies, politics, cultural activities?

    I don’t hang around the Peter Pans of DC. Make some friends that aren’t hung up on six packs and that do fun things other than nightlife. Be a home body sometimes. I lived the night life in my 20s and I’m very happy now doing other things after having moved on (currently 37). I go to gay bars a handful of times per year and I’m not missing anything. If you’re single, you can still meet the love of your life online who likes to do similar activities.

    Aging gracefully is a lot more than moisturizer and working out. It’s also about living a life that’s suitable and makes you feel whole. The party scene will not help you achieve any kind of self actualization.

  4. Tempus Fuggit

    March 12, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Oh, brother…! Mr. Thompson, every last one of the tribulations you bemoan is of your own making. It starts right in your first paragraph. If your 30s were really like “your 20s, but with more money and a bit more sense”, you completely missed the bus. And the point. And the opportunity.

    In many ways we’re surrounded by those with severe Peter Pan Syndrome — boys that refuse to grow up.

    I don’t have any people like that in my life, and that suits me fine. If you are surrounded by arrested-development cases, that’s regrettable, but it’s your own doing. It’s because of your own choices. You choose to buy into silly stereotypes and fatuous tropes about age. You choose to surround yourself with thoughtless, vapìd people who do the same. Big surprise, amigo, the result is that you’re in an echo chamber of mirrors where all you see and hear is one instantiation or embodiment of this asinine life-ends-at-thirtysomething bulk wrap.

    Get a hold of yourself—no, not down there, I mean up by your shoulders—and be a grownup. Part of being a grownup is socializing with other grownups. Part of socializing with other grownups is forming adult friendships based and maintained on stuff that matters. It’s going to be a good few years before you have any business lecturing anybody on anything about aging, perspective, or perspective on aging. You simply and flatly don’t know what you’re talking about, child, and you’re making an aѕѕ of yourself.

    Who am I to be calling you out for your juvenile perspective? Nowt but a newly-40-year-old happier and more delightedly content (they aren’t synonymous) with my life this year than last year, which was better than the year before, which was better than the year before that, etc. My thirties were nothing at all like my 20s, they were vastly and increasingly better in all kinds of ways. And I’m not special; I don’t have any magical powers of perspective or motivation or anything, I just didn’t—and don’t—surround myself with ìmbесіles. Now go get at it; you’ve got a decade’s worth of catchup in front of you.

    • David

      March 14, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Your self-righteousness is nauseating. I recognize that troll-feeding is generally not advisable. But damn. If I could, I’d send you back to your teens for a proper education in humility and self-awareness.

      • Tempus Fuggit

        March 15, 2016 at 12:37 am

        OK, you don’t like me or my opinions. That’s fine; you don’t have to. Will you substantively refute any of my points, or are you just sticking with ad hominems?

        • David

          March 15, 2016 at 10:51 am

          That your argument is self-righteous, devoid of humility and lacking self-awareness, those are substantive criticisms. Ad hominems are problematic when untethered from a proffered argument (e.g. what you said is stupid because you are fat and ugly). That is not the case here.

          Let me help you along. The entire thrust of your argument appears to be: “I adult right, and you adult wrong.” Mr. Thompson has apparently mistepped because, unlike you, he is not socializing with other “grownups” or forming “adult” friendships grounded in “stuff that matters.” Instead, Brock surrounds himself with “imbeciles,” with “thoughtless, vapid, and babyish people.” I will set aside for the moment that the majority of your argument is ad hominem by your own definition (I never accused you of being self-aware anyway). But you very clearly fail to recognize that there are many ways to age, ways that are altogether different from your own and yet no less worthy of praise.

          There is nothing inherently wrong with what Brock has described. He’s self-reflective, he’s making his own path, and he seems happy with that. The problem only arises if we buy into your underlying assumptions about how one ought to age, despite the fact that you have not even endeavored to defend your approach to aging. You have not explained *why* your perspective is correct, ostensibly because you simply take that as a given. And here is where your self-righteous undercuts the force or your argument.

          • Tempus Fuggit

            March 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm

            Well, maybe.

            You’ve misunderstood or misrepresented my position; I don’t think Mr. Thompson is adulting poorly, I think he’s not really adulting at all. But that’s sort of beside the point, and so are what you categorise as ad hominem attacks on the people he surrounds himself with.

            More crucially, there’s a basic, important difference between the underpinnings of Mr. Thompson’s position and those of mine. I’m not the only one to have perceived it, judging by other comments in this thread.

            Thanks for your input—I’m sorry you felt so offended by my comments; that’s no fun.

  5. Ada Niemand

    March 14, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Why did he think you wanted to friend him on Facebook?

  6. Tempus Fuggit

    March 14, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Move, then. Seriously! Nobody should live somewhere he hates; when he moves away everyone’s happier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Commentary

It doesn’t take a miracle

Hanukkah a time for LGBTQ Jews to celebrate full identity

Published

on

(Public domain photo)

For Jews around the world, Sunday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a small and poorly armed group of Jews who took on, and defeated, one of the world’s most powerful armies. 

Upon entering Jerusalem, the Maccabees saw that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s eternal flame for one night. But the oil lasted eight nights — enough time for new oil to be prepared. The eternal flame remained lit, and light triumphed over darkness.

The story of Hanukkah was a miracle. While we celebrate and commemorate that miracle, we should also remember that it doesn’t take a miracle for one person to make a difference. 

The entire world is shaking beneath our feet. The climate is in crisis and our planet is in danger. A viral contagion has claimed the lives of millions, and there’s no clear end in sight. Creeping authoritarianism threatens the entire world, including here at home.

Sometimes it seems like it will take a miracle to solve even one of these problems. The reason these problems seem so overwhelming is because they are — no one person can fix it themselves.

Here in the LGBTQ community, we have made enormous strides, and we ought to be proud of them. But there is so much more work to be done.

Not everyone in our community is treated equally, and not everyone has the same access to opportunity. Black, brown and trans LGBTQ people face systemic and structural disadvantages and discrimination and are at increased risk of violence and suicide. It must stop.

These are big problems too, and the LGBTQ people as a collective can help make the changes we need so that light triumphs over darkness. But it doesn’t take a miracle for individuals to light the spark.

Our movement is being held back by the creeping and dangerous narrative that insists that we choose between our identities instead of embracing all of them. 

The presentation of this false choice has fallen especially hard on LGBTQ Jews, many of whom feel a genuine connection to and support for Israel. They feel marginalized when asked to sideline their identity by being told that the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t even have a place on the map. And they feel attacked when asked about the Israeli government’s policies during a conflict, as if they have some obligation to condemn them and take a stand simply because of their faith.

One of the ways we can shine our light is to fight for an LGBTQ community that is truly inclusive.

This holiday season, pledge to celebrate all aspects of your identity and the rights of LGBTQ people to define their own identities and choose their own paths. If you feel the pressure to keep any part of your identity in the closet, stand up to it and refuse to choose. 

In the face of enormous challenges that require collective action, we must not give up on our power as individuals to do what’s right. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

The tradition of lighting the menorah each night represents ensuring the continuity of that eternal flame. One of the reasons the Hanukkah menorah is displayed prominently in the windows of homes and in public squares is because the light isn’t meant to be confined to the Jewish home. The light is for everyone — and a reminder that we can share it with the world every day to try to make it better.

As long as we keep fighting for justice, we don’t need to perform miracles. But we do need to do our part so that light triumphs over darkness.

It is up to each of us to map out what we can contribute to create a truly inclusive LGBTQ community. This holiday season, be the light. If you can, donate to a group that helps lift LGBTQ youth in crisis. Volunteer your time to fight for the rights and the lives of trans people. And be kind to one another.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of no faith at all, take this opportunity to share your light with the world. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’

Published

on

National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Thanksgiving is a time to share

Take a moment to think about what you can do to help others

Published

on

This Thanksgiving, many of us will once again celebrate with family and friends around the dinner table. Sadly at too many tables friends and family members will be missing. They will be one of the over 766,000 Americans who lost their lives to coronavirus. May the shared grief over lost loved ones cause us to try to bridge our differences and lift each other. As those of us with plenty sit down for dinner let us not forget the many in the world not so fortunate and think of what we can do to make their lives better.

In the midst of the pandemic we defeated a president who through his words and actions tore our country apart — a president who managed to poison relationships among family and friends. We elected a president who we felt would try to unite the nation. But we know that has yet to happen and the recent reaction to the not-guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial shows us that. The use of race-baiting in the recent Virginia governor’s election shows us that. We still suffer from the implicit permission the former president gave to some Americans to once again give public voice to their sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. That didn’t suddenly end with his loss. While we cannot pretend those feelings weren’t always there it seemed we had reached a point in American society where people understood you couldn’t voice them in public without rebuke. While it will take many years to put that genie back in the bottle we need to try if we are to move forward again. Around our Thanksgiving table is a place to begin. I am an optimist and believe we can do that even while recognizing it won’t be easy.

Thanksgiving should be a time to look within ourselves and determine who we are as individuals and what we can do to make life better for ourselves, our families, and others here in the United States and around the world.

Around our Thanksgiving table we should take a moment to think about what we can do to help feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give equal opportunity to everyone who wants to work hard. Maybe even give some thought as to how we change policies causing institutional racism to ones giving everyone a chance to succeed. It is a moment to think about how we can open up the eyes of the world to understand how racism, homophobia, and sexism hurt everyone, not just those who are discriminated against.

We must renew our efforts to heal the rifts in our own families and make an effort to try to see each other in a more positive light. If we start to do that with those closest to us we might have a fighting chance to do it with others.

I recognize my life is privileged having just returned from a 14-day transatlantic cruise. My Thanksgiving weekend will be spent with friends in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and we will remember our experiences over the past year. For many it also begins the Christmas season and the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend each year Rehoboth Beach lights its community Christmas tree. So surely we will talk about what that season means to each of us.

For me each year it means thinking about which charities I can support as the requests for end-of-year gifts arrive. It is a time to think about volunteering some precious time for a cause you care about.
Wherever you live, there are many chances to volunteer and do your part to make a difference for others. The rewards of doing so will come back to you in abundance. As anyone who has helped someone else will tell you the feeling you get for having done so is wonderful.

So wishing all my friends and those of you who I may be lucky enough to call friends in the future, a very happy Thanksgiving. May this holiday find you happy, healthy and sharing peaceful times with those you love.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular