Blogger’s note: This post was begun back in April, and sat unfinished until today. While this year’s Broadway Bares fundraiser is now passed, the sentiments I wanted to express remain valid.

Broadway bares 2014

Every year about this time, advertisements for “Broadway Bares” begin to show up in my news feed, and for the past few years, all it does it make me remember J.

The 24th edition of Broadway Bares will pay tribute to the last 60 years of rock ‘n’ roll while raising money to fight HIV and AIDS — all in its signature stripped down fashion.

From its new home at Hammerstein Ballroom, the show brings more than 150 Broadway performers together for a burlesque twist on iconic music and moments of the past 60 years — all to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

J was an older gay man who was first my partner’s client and then became our friend. Three years ago, he committed suicide. Broadway Bares isn’t the only thing that reminds me of J, but this yearly fundraiser full of flesh and vitality is a poignant reminder for me about how precious life is, and how often older gay men are forgotten within a youth and body obsessed gay culture.

J loved Broadway Bares and talked about how he would love to take my partner to see the show one year.

I really don’t know much about his suicide, but I am certain he felt very alone and depressed  and was struggling to find a place for himself within the LGBTQ community following his retirement. J was always a quirky guy; he had come out later in life, he had travelled the world, and he seemed comfortable being on his own. I never saw him without a smile or something positive to say.

My partner and I had just moved into the new house and were inundated with things to do in addition to everything else that made up our lives. J had recently moved from the South Hills to Shadyside as well.  I think it was an effort to put himself into the middle of a gay community. He had a number of friends, but I’m not sure any of us knew just how all alone he felt. J’s calls for Brad’s help in the condo increased, and with our own stuff going on, we were less available than usual. In hindsight it is so easy to wonder- if we had been more responsive, would the outcome have been different?

The trendy topic these days is Marriage Equality, ad some set it up as if when we get the right to marry, we, as a community will have arrived! But with or without marriage, there are issues that plague our community. some are exclusive to LGBTQ and some are probably not. The invisibility of older gay men, is not a unique problem- older persons are made invisible by the whole of the youth obsessed culture, but I also think it says something specific about the queer community. So many of us as gay men, survived as individuals without too much trouble when we were younger, and no one prepared us in any way for what it would mean to become a senior citizen within our community. I have no idea- is it the same for women as well? And marriage equality alone isn’t an answer. Sure, fir straight couples, marriage leads to children, and children help keep watch over the seniors in a family, or at least they should.

Within our community, there isn’t enough intergenerational sharing and friendships. Our “kids” in their 20’s and 30’s need to create friendships with older guys, for their own sake as well as for the sake of the older people. Having some sense of where we came from is valuable in this me-focused world of today. But the closet and social fears have created the world we live in. Gay adults have been scared away from connecting to youth, youth are scared away from connecting with older persons, and the majority of folks get by wearing blinders that serve as survival tools.

At one time within my lifetime, HIV/AIDS was the entity that ravaged out community, but as more and more of us reach our senior years, another epidemic is claiming lives- an epidemic of invisibility and silence.

But things are changing. There is renewed courage to work for protections for queer youth and end school bullying. And, there are growing efforts to care for the older members of the LGBTQ community. Here in Western PA, Persad serves as home for SAGE, the Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders organization. But more efforts are needed so we lose fewer people like J.

I hope we never stop celebrating youth, vitality, the male body, and being gay! I hope however, we couple this celebration of youth and beauty with a reminder to care about and remain connected to all of our community including those entering their senior years. None of us deserve to be alone at any stage of life, and we need all of us to be a strong and vibrant community.


via – PHOTOS: Broadway Bares Rocks Hard.

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