Sunday, September 13, 2009


A newspaper in Portland, Oregon reported:

"Sharing a meal at a Loaves & Fishes Center gives senior citizens the opportunity to save money, get out of the house, catch up with old friends and make new ones. Now GLBT seniors can enjoy these activities at a new Loaves & Fishes site designed as a safe, welcoming space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex seniors. This is the first program of its kind in the Northwest."
Don't get me wrong. I think there should be special spaces and programs for LGBT seniors, but what made me laugh is the inclusion in the news story of the word "questioning." [The inclusion of "intersex" also gave me pause, as I doubt if there's any -- or many -- intersexed individuals in Portland or anywhere else. Not putting anyone down, here, just being factual. At least they didn't include "asexual!"]
I mean, imagine being a senior citizen and you're still "questioning" your sexuality!
Of course, this probably isn't as bizarre as it sounds, as there are many repressed and closeted individuals-in-denial of all ages within the fringes of the gay community. Larry Craig, anyone? And all those "straight" guys seeking regular sex with men that gay therapist Joe Kort thinks are really heterosexual. Give me a break!
Still, imagine that you're pushing eighty and you're still confused about your sexual orientation!
Confusion is understandable in youth. You don't fit the stereotypes, you have some (minor) interest in the opposite sex, you're dealing with internalized homophobia and so on. But after awhile one has to face the facts.
In other words, if you're questioning whether or not you're gay, you're probably gay.
And as I've said many times, it's okay to be gay.


leo said...

Interesting post, but kind of insensitive and condescending on your part (which I know isn't like you, because I am a loyal Ask Gay "Dr. Bill" reader). Working on hotlines and just from "real life," I have encountered many older men who are not quite sure about their sexuality and who would love to come out but are classifying themselves as questioning because of inertia, internalized homophobia, shame, or perceived stigma. Let's let the "Q" people remain comfortable with their own category until they are ready to choose another, no matter what their age, and not make fun of them.

Bill Samuels said...

Point taken, but consider this: exactly how long do we let "questioning" people live in denial -- until their lives are practicaly over and there's little if any chance for them to enjoy self-acceptance, let alone a satisfying relationship with another person? I mean, this is the 21st century, forty years after Stonewall! You're absolutely right that it's internalized homophobia and shame etc,. that keeps them from fully acknowledging their sexuality, so all Out and Proud people can do is show by example that it's Okay to be Gay and makes no sense to live a life in a closet of denial and shame.

You're right that I don't mean to be insensitive -- it's actually more sad than funny that some seniors still can't come to grips with who and what they are. But anything that can be done to help them face reality -- and the fact that that reality not only isn't so bad, but can be very good -- should be done. If we just let them stay comfortable in their Q "niche," how can they ever
feel good about themselves? How can they feel part of a community, or ultimately in some way join the struggle for Gay/LGBT Rights [even if it's just coming out to freinds and family)?

Your comment is appreciated, and I'm glad you read Gay "Dr. Bill!" What a fellow!

Elyaqim Mosheh Adam (Mark) said...

It probably has a lot to do with how old “questioning” seniors are. I am picturing, for example, 82-year-old widows who had been married to men their whole lives and are wondering if the intense relationship they seem to be having includes sexual attraction or not, a question possibly made more difficult to answer when dealing with diminished sexual urges overall.

You twice mentioned “letting” them do things: “[H]ow long do we let ‘questioning’ people live in denial…? … If we just let them stay comfortable in their Q ‘niche,’ how can they ever
feel good about themselves? How can they feel part of a community…?” Our only alternatives to “letting” them do these things is to exclude them from the community or demand they make strong statements of gay identity, things I don’t imagine you’re advocating. I agree they should not live in denial and should feel good about themselves, and including them in our community activities is the only way they’ll get there, no matter how late in life it happens to be.

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for your comments. I think some "questioning" people do eventually in some way become part of the gay/LGBT community even if it's just by going to gay bars or attending meetings of some kind at the local GLBT center. And of course they shouldn't be excluded or forced to come out or make any kind of declaration they're not yet comfortable with. You're right that the more time they spend among out, comfortable gay people the more likely they'll eventually reach the same space.

Of course in most social situations one can't tell a "questioning" person from a gay-identified person any more than you can tell who's Out and Proud or in the closet just by looking at them. So they're unlikely to be shunned even in gay social situations. Although I do think it might be bizarre -- or even a little insulting -- to trick with a hot senior citizen and in the morning find him scratching his head and still "questioning," LOL.