Generations of Mentorship: Conversations With L.G.B.T.Q. Elders

The New York Times 
by Jamal Jordan
June 18, 2019


“It’s weird being dead,” wrote a 51-year-old man from Jackson, Miss. He had contacted me on Jack’d, a dating and social app that’s particularly popular among gay and trans men of color. He wasn’t being literal, of course, but the message was clear: “The gay community publishes your obituary at 40 if you live that long,” he said.

Aging is a challenge for any population, but the L.G.B.T.Q. community faces a special set of obstacles. Gay and lesbian elders are less likely to have children who can care for them in older age, according to Ilan H. Meyer, a scholar at the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has spent decades studying the impacts of aging on the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Additionally, many social support networks (friends, romantic partners) were lost during the H.I.V./AIDS crisis, and nursing homes and retirement communities are often less-than-welcoming spaces for L.G.B.T.Q. elders, often causing people to retreat back into the closet.

Looking back on the 50 years since the uprising at Stonewall accelerated the modern gay rights movement, I wanted to know if the process of aging had changed. As a young gay man, I wondered: After 50 years of fighting for rights and visibility, have queer elders succeeded in recapturing their dignity? And could they pass that along, in person-to-person relationships, to younger generations?

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