When writer's block strikes me where it hurts, I turn to friends for advice. They all have wonderful ideas and have had experiences rich in oddities or fruitful relations with others. A dear friend of mine who always has something humorous to say alerted me to an issue at large with gay men aged somewhere between 21 and 36. While our generation of homosexuals is fast at work, busy living the life of the young and fabulous, it seems those who reside one or two generations before have an interesting time relating to us.
As my dear friend suggests, there is a barrier between the generations that creates an awkward whiff in the air whenever a gay fifty-something and a gay twenty-something intermingle. I wondered if this could have been a strange disparity that flew far beneath my radar. His beef states that apparently the older class of gentleman creates a feel for us young ones that we don't really have it as rough as they did when they were our age. Perhaps they may be on to something, but is this a reason to create an awkward situation?
In puzzling over this quandary, I myself realized I have encountered this first-hand as well. Though I appreciate the strides of those who came before me and fought so that I didn't have to, it certainly doesn't give the more seasoned homo a free pass at making me feel clammy in the palm, skittish, and plain uncomfortable. We have had to pick up the torch, after all, and push on to fight for equal treatment, equal marriage and equal lives. So it exists now that in professional and social settings, the older gentleman often takes our lack of grey hair and crow's feet as a sign we could use some battering and hazing.
When an illness robbed me of most of my hearing in one ear, I took voice lessons from a man who would make Harvey Fierstein look like Mister Rogers. My voice coach did everything he could to make me feel as comfortable as I would sitting on a porcupine with his inappropriate jokes and light touching layered between insults and cheshire remarks. The tone would get completely creepy whenever I would take off my jacket to reveal a close-fitting t-shirt. I got the impression that even though I was there to open up my vocal cords, use my breath to my advantage and create a more powerful auditory impression, I was also there to prove that a gay guy is his twenties knew a thing or two about how to be courageous. As I proved my worth, the awkwardness only intensified, and my coach didn't seem to quit with the crude jokes and disgusting behavior. He was simply trying to maintain the upper hand as an older man whose lifestyle wasn't as accepted as mine. The same scenario plays out for others whether you work in finance, media, show business, publishing, or anywhere else in life.
Decades ago, gay men in their 20s and 30s created their very own subculture of acceptance. Mostly existing in metropolitan areas like the Castro district of San Francisco, forming a "gay section" of town, and changing the world one neighborhood at a time. Forty years ago, the Stonewall Riots took place, giving gays the empowerment to stand up and fight. For gay men over 55 years old today, you were either there, or you heard about it. Chances are, the latter is true. So again, why must it seem that the younger generation must bow down to those who are older? Respecting your elders is a worthwhile practice, but where in the book does it say that talking down to those younger than you is also acceptable?
My friend essentially deals with the awkward behavior of his older gay co-workers with the proverbially handy grain of salt. My significant others past and present have worked in the theatrical world, thus encountering this on a regular basis from directors, producers, stage managers, older co-stars and the entire gamut of gays not born in Generation Y. Therefore, this is a concept not entirely foreign to me, yet I still find it somewhat strange that the standard of generations creating their own gaps at times and failing to bridge the differences somewhat staggering.
So, as we nod to those who came before us and know that they worked hard to create an open lifestyle for the rest of us, we still wonder why we need to feel uncomfortable around their jokes and their deprecating manners. Perhaps the best medicine for these strange scenarios is to reveal the courage we have to carry on the battle, for courage is something no close-fitting woven fabric has the power to contain.
Thoughts, questions and comments are all welcome by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org