20 February 2014

To Old Age (Or, More Precisely, Getting There)

"Well, gays in San Francisco do not obey the dictates of good sense. [...] First, these men don't really see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual partners. These conditions do not make one's older years the happiest. Second, because sex is the center of their lives, they want it to be as pleasurable as possible, which means unprotected sex. Third, they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick."

Where did I find the above quote?  Well, all right, I found it on Wikipedia. (Shh...Don't tell anybody.) Actually, I remembered seeing it somewhere, but I couldn't recall where or when.

It came, not from the early days of the AIDS epidemic or any of the earlier Dark Ages. Rather, it's of recent vintage--twenty years old, to be exact.  It came from the 5 January 1994 Ron Paul Survival Report.

Now, I won't get into a discussion of Mr. Paul's fitness for public office, let alone the Presidency. But the quote that began this post reveals not only his, but a very common, perception about gay men--and, by extension, LBT people.

None other than Larry Kramer condemned the sexual habits of gay men during the '70's and '80's in language not much different from Ron Paul's.  The first gay men I knew (at least, the first who revealed their sexuality to me) were indeed more sexually active than anyone else I knew up to that time, or most people I've known since.  However, it was a time when many gay men--as well as lesbians--came "out of the closet."  And, like anyone who has been released from bondage, they wanted as much of the very thing they'd been denied.  Also, to be fair, almost no one had heard of what would come to be known as AIDS, let alone the ways it was transmitted.

Still, it's disturbing to read comments like the one from Ron Paul.  If anything has an impact on the life expectancy of LGBT people, it's homophobia.

At least, that's a conclusion of a new study.  When you think about it, it makes perfect sense: LGBT people in accepting communities live (on average, 12 years) longer than those in intolerant environment.  And, until recently, homophobia was everywhere.  In fact, people who abhorred racism and sexism held anti-LGBT attitudes, often unconsciously.  I was one such person.

Before the AIDS epidemic, one didn't see many older LGBT people. Of course, during the epidemic, many died young.  But those who survived are embarking upon old age, and many of us have a better chance of doing so than we might have in the old days. 

Still, even in the most tolerant of environments, we face the hazards of homophobia and the terrors of transphobia.  People are harassed, beaten and even murdered right here in New York for their actual or perceived sexuality or gender identity.  So, while more of us are becoming members of the AARP, there are still things that have just as much chance of claiming us.  And they can't be changed by medical science.  Rather, we have our best chance of living long, fulfilling lives as the human spirit grows and expands.


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