The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Redefining Community

Still catching up to Bernie’s series on black gay men at mid-life, as he delves into redefining community.

It is not uncommon in the gay community for many people to grow up feeling emotional distance, if not in fact alienation and abandonment, from their biological families. In order to establish some kind of support network, they may consciously choose with whom they associate, creating “family” out of friends. However unlike biological families where ages range from grandparents to parents to children, these created families may have a sameness in age or gender that, while supportive, shuts one off from valuable knowledge. Wisdom ordinarily passed down from elders may not happen if there is no interaction across generational lines.

Middle age is the “bridge” period between seniors and young adults, with both learning and teaching opportunities if such relationships exist. If not, history may simply repeat itself from each generation to the next.

And the question:

Discuss the nature and quality of any interaction you may have with gay men either younger or older.

My life as a gay man has changed more than I expected when was younger. Even ten years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d have a partner, a son, and a house in the suburbs. Then, most of my social interactions were with gay men in my age group. Even at work, most of my contacts were with other gay people, because I worked at a gay organization. It was a cozy kind of immersion. I worked, lived, and socialized in almost exclusively gay environments.

Now, most of my time is spent in non-gay environments, outside of home. That’s probably because having a partner and being parent were the source of huge changes in my life as a gay man. My interactions with other gay men are still with men mostly in my age group, but also older and younger than me, and most often what we have in common is that we are parents. Still, most of the other parents I interact with are heterosexual. So, in many ways, I’ve entered a totally different world than I lived in as a younger gay man.

What are some of the best and worst aspects of being gay and the age you are now?

There’s a great deal of freedom in being a 30-something gay man for me. That may be because in my 30s I decided I wanted a relationship, and set my sights on finding one. Having a mutually loving, passionate relationship with my partner for the last seven years, and being a parent for the last four years have shifted my center of gravity as a gay man, in a way that’s probably made getting older easier than it might be otherwise. There’s a freedom in shrugging off the stereotype of an urban gay man, and in not finding myself in bars competing with or vying with younger men for attention. Instead, I’ve finally reached a point where I can begin to appreciate my accomplishments, what I’ve learned, what I have in my life.

The worst? I think the worst is that I’ve been out since I was in my teens, and an activist for more than 20. Sometimes it’s discouraging to look around and see not only how far we have to go, but how much ground has been lost in states where our families have no legal recognition.

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