Presented by the Health and Society Working Group. Abstract: The aging of gay men of the Baby Boomer generation (i.e., Gayby Boomers) is as novel and revolutionary as the gay liberation and AIDS movements were. It is transforming our views of old age, the composition of LGBTQ communities, and the field of gerontology.
I address the questions: What is like to be Gayby Boomer, e.g., a gay man of the Baby Boomer generation? And what are the implications of Gayby Boomers’ aging for gerontology?
This research draws on ethnographic research (e.g., in-depth interviews and participant observation) with a group of men Gayby Boomers: White, African American, Latino, and HIV-positive and negative in Chicago.
I argue that older gay men are trapped between expressing who they are and the stigma towards gender nonconformity, age, and HIV/AIDS (and race, for some), as they have been for the last 40 years. Yet, they are creating structures to define life as an older gay person. One participant noted, “My generation probably lost a lot of people, but the ones of us that are left are sort of defining what it means to be older because we are out.” While the recent visibility of the older gay men is an important step against discrimination, it has reinforced (heterosexual) norms about aging and masculinity that might, unintentionally, create undue stress on gay men. This is partly due to gerontology’s heteronormative notions about old age.
I further suggest that older age is being transformed, “queered,” and the field of gerontology must follow that change.
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