As someone who has been part of the bear and gay community as a whole for twelve years now, I have seen a bevy of trends come and go in our culture, yet there is a constant that remains throughout it and that is an incredible lack of respect from younger and older gay men to each other that needs to stop immediately. Seeing as we can be a culture that hardly comes together as a community with how vicious we can be, it can be something as simple as this that can break these walls downs and we can unite better as a culture.
Seeing as I am turning 30 in July, I feel for the most part that I am in the middle when it comes to experiencing both sides of the coin as I represent “the middle” on the age spectrum and most likely will for the next 5-10 years. That being said, I can see both angles on why it can be hard for different generations like the Millennials and Generation X/Y to get along as we come from vastly different time frames and a myriad of other factors such as technology, presence of gay culture and more. It can be easy to separate us, however there are trinkets of things that can help us understand one another.
I’ll start with the lack of respect younger gay men can have for older. This is far too common in the gay bars and scene in New York City, and even in the media like on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” last season when Kandy Ho looked at Tempest DuJour and said “So, how old are you?”, without even saying hello to her. Seriously? There is a difference in shade and just ignorance, and that’s a prime example of one. Not sure if that was designed to create drama on the show, but it is something I’ve seen flutter through conversations online and in person between people I know and don’t know. Age is simply a number and you shouldn’t look on it in a negative way if you are younger.
The biggest pet peeve I see amongst the younger gay crowd is the entitlement and pedestal many put themselves on when it comes to older men hitting on or even just generally talking to them. They feel because they have reached a certain age that they are past their expired due date, and that can lead them to use the general expression of “creepy, old dude” and “Ewwww he’s so old“, and even (yes I’ve heard this several times) “He looks like he has AIDS“. Classy.
Here’s a newsflash for the younger crowd- that “creepy old dude” who is probably just standing there enjoying his drink went through a ton of shit so that you can be doing the same in a safe environment. That is something that I’ve acknowledged ever since I started going to bars when I was 18, and even if they are making a move, you be respectful and generate a friendly conversation. Sometimes that’s all it takes and it can leave not just one but both parties feeling better afterwards. Hell, it might lead to something so much better than that like a friendship, relationship or hot sex for the night. But to dismiss someone because of your pre-conceived notion and arrogance is just immature and rude.
That leads into another issue of younger generations not being educated on the history of the LGBT community. I’ve seen several movies and docs such as “And The Band Played On”, “How to Survive a Plague” and “The Normal Heart” to fully grasp what we had to go through in order to be where we are now, especially through the AIDS crisis that left millions of us dead. Even though our culture has amazing advancements in medication for both HIV Positive and Negative men, it is good for the younger crowds to educate themselves in many ways so we can lower the infection rate ten fold and hope that one day HIV and AIDS will be a thing of the past. Watching these movies and getting the education will hopefully bring a ton more respect to the ones who went through it for the younger crowds, and it can lead to a much more unified community in doing so.
For the older generations, there are things that I went through in my 20’s that quite frankly reeked of condescending behavior that for the most part is unjustified. I’ll preface it with this- everyone has their own story, everyone has been through different things in life that have gotten them to where they are now so when you say things like “Oh, he’s young, he doesn’t know anything yet“, is bullshit. It comes off like we are naive, simple minded kids who don’t know their way through things, and to use our age as a factor for that really is a poor excuse to talk to someone.
Even though it can come off as terms of endearment, saying things like “Kiddo” or “Youngin” or “Boy” even, especially to guys like me who are about to enter their 30’s, is harsh and once again has a condescending undertone to it. How its perceived from my angle is that I’m not well cultured, don’t behave well in certain settings, or even worse, stupid. I, like many gay men around my age, have worked our asses off in this tough economy to get to where we are and using our age to demean that is really wrong. Also- we can’t help that we have grown up in a excessively savvy technological age. Yes it can be annoying, but it’s something we can’t stop.
Those are just a few thoughts on what I have seen transpire over the past decade or so. With all the shade in this world we live in, I do have hope that we can find better ways for all of us to be one and the word “community” has a much better meaning for generations to come.