Written By: Andy Shearer
The other day a member of our LGBTQ community referred to me as a ‘middle-aged gay man.’ It was said with complete respect and absolutely no offense intended. But I was still taken aback. Intended or not, I felt a hint of judgement and whiff of moral superiority as if since they were younger their story and their struggle was more valid than mine. That I’ve been able to coast through life and that their history and their hardship made them somehow ‘realer’ to the cause.
Yes, I was blessed to grow up in a middle-class home with new school clothes every fall and camp every summer, but if you think growing up in the burbs in the 60s and 70s means kids weren’t bullied, beaten up or spit on for being different, you’d be mistaken. And trust me, back then you didn’t run home after a beating and tell your folks that you were attacked when somebody called you a fag, a femme or a queer. You were on your own to sort that out. And it left scars you carried with you for the rest of your life.
The central struggle in my coming out was the Reagan decade and the AIDS crisis. It was about anger and activism, funerals and fury. We felt that combat made us stronger. That surviving the pandemic made us veterans of a life-and-death battle.
Today, many perceive the younger generation as ungrateful for the work that got us this far, entitled and so easy in their own skin, it can be uncomfortable. Unprotected sex seems a sign of recklessness and just plain stupidity.
On the other side of the generational divide, those of us with a bit of gray in our hair are considered self-righteous, condescending, out-of-touch and, the worst of all, boring. Technologically challenged and socially prehistoric with no relevance to the world around us. A friend said to me that he feels that younger gays “don’t want anything to do with us. They either think we’re creepy and predatory or just old relics that ought to be shoved to the side.”
Both sides feel they have nothing to gain from the other.
But we know that’s not true. While we’re a diverse community of different ages, colors, gender identifications, regions and incomes, we fight the same fight for human rights.
So my advice is this: Young people, recognize what you and older gays have in common – the threads that bind us in a common struggle. Value the experience of years of success and failure and capitalize on our access to resources. We can help make your journey less treacherous.
Fellow middle-aged men and woman, cherish the new insights, new tools and new energy a younger generation brings to problem-solving. We need to listen to and honor their stories. They can help us make our journey less treacherous.
We need to reach out to one another and recognize that we’re stronger together than apart. We should be grateful for establishments like Savannah's LGBTQ Center and events like Savannah Pride that give us the opportunity to cross over this gay generation gap.
To move forward, adults musts be prepared to follow the lead of youth and youth must be prepared to rely on the mentoring of adults.
It’s all about R*E*S*P*E*C*T.