Older LGBTs and Younger Queers

Posted: July 28, 2014

I recently read with interest a guest editorial in local gay periodical, where the writer discusses us older folks who identify as gay/lesbian/bi and younger folks who identify as queer. He very eloquently explains why he and his generation identify as Queer instead of gay or lesbian, and that started me thinking.

I’m a gay man over fifty, (well, closer to sixty), and when I came out we called ourselves gay (cheerful, colourful, joyous, sunny, lively, sparkling, playful), because it was something we identified with. It was positive, uplifting and in our minds it was us actively defining who we were/are rather than let our opponents do so. As the guest editor rightly pointed out in his article, the term Queer was held with such disdain it was akin to using the N word.

Nobody denies we were the generation who fought on the front lines, particularly through the 1960s. We celebrated our victories in Canada by dancing to the Village People, Donna Summer and the Bee Gees in the 1970s. And just when we thought things couldn’t get any better we found we had to fight on the front lines again, this time for our very lives in the 1980s.

The thing I understand very deeply about life is change is the only constant, and change has come around once more. My generation of LGBT warriors are now retiring from the 9 to 5 workforce, some of us are long term survivors of AIDS, some of our partners are going through various stages of Alzheimer’s, and some of us are concerned about having to go back into the closet because of the lack of respect by staff and clients in many nursing homes. We’re thinking about writing our wills, and collecting our pensions. We also understand that it is our time to pass the Rainbow Flag on to a generation of younger Queers who inhabit a new world where everything has changed yet again.

The younger generation has reclaimed the term Queer as their identity and I get why. Even though homosexuality has been legal in Canada for many years and in spite of the fact we now have same-sex marriage legalized in Canada, our younger Queers face new challenges on a whole new playing field. No longer male or female, gender identity has become a whole new grey scale; we now live in a world where individuals can create their own gender identity. And we now live in a more highly competitive and violent world where the forces that are against us are no longer content to have us shut up and go away…they want to kill us. So in an increasingly divided world our younger Queers have a new battlefield to cross.

I have a message for our younger Queers from us older LGBTs, it’s your turn and it’s your day. My generation, although still very active, are now very aware that all too soon we will be preparing to ride with Charon across the River Styx. However, you’re the generation that is preparing to carve a new path forward in a new way. As you prepare to make this old world a better place for all of us to share, please remember that for now, us old queers are still here and we’ve got your back. If you need advice, remember, we’ve been there, come and talk with us. When you need support, or when you need a father, mother, and sister or brother figure in your lives, we’re here. Even if all you need is a big ol’ hug and a shoulder to cry on, we’re here.

I have a lot of faith in you younger Queers. I know you’ll hold that Rainbow Flag high and you’ll do us all proud. What can I say? Our Queer communities are in good hands with the younger Queers at the helm.