I’ve been thinking about age and the different social and political contexts different generations grow up in and I’m now of an age that usually requires younger people to mistrust me, view me with suspicion and/or frustration. Get the hell out of the way, old. It’s our time, now.
I remember being that age. But I also remember going into the activism trenches with a lot of people 10, 20, 30, 40 years older than I am. Some even older. They’d been around a while, and had seen a lot of shit, and they continued fighting, not only for themselves, but for youngs like me, and they shared their time, energy, resources, experience, and wisdom to do that.
I hadn’t gained the luxury of hindsight yet, but watching those older activists work, and their patience and fortitude in the midst of hell — I was lucky to have worked with them and to have learned from them.
It is possible to age in such a way that you remember who you are and who you were. I hope I’m doing this right, because I’m drawing a lot of strength and inspiration from younger people (and okay, maybe I’m proud that my generation is raising these young people I see as kindred spirits…ha!).
I’m reminded of a queer conference I attended soon after the 2016 elections. I went to an intergenerational panel, designed to foster discussion between olds and youngs. I came of age in the 80s, and I know the weight of political and social boots on your neck. I know the lack of resources and the lack of policies to support those of us who were marginalized then and who are marginalized now. I know that people have died in this fight, and they will continue to do so.
Some of what I fought for was the right to marry even though I figured I’d never see it and so it was never part of my personal world view.
But fuck, I wanted people growing up behind me to be able to have that right, to be able to make that choice if they wanted it. And I wanted younger people maybe never to experience the fear of expressing affection for their partners/spouses/baes in public. To just BE in public, in all the glorious, multitudinous ways queerdom expresses.
We’re not there, yet. We’ve made gains, but we’re not there yet, and all we’ve gained can be taken away. So my work’s not done.
My work also means that I’ve expanded my worldview, and educated myself, and my fight now is for all marginalized people caught in systems of oppression, to hopefully use the privileges I have to do whatever the hell I can.
The work is never done, and I see that now, at this age.
I listened to all those young people in that discussion expressing their fears about that 2016 election, and their uncertainties about what would happen, and what it meant.
I said that we’d been here before. We’d been facing opposition for decades, and we will continue to face it going forward, but, I said, a lot of us olds have organized, created space, fought shitty policies, and changed hearts and minds. We can do it again. I also said that I wasn’t going to sugarcoat things, because it’s bad, and it’s going to get worse, but they all had backup. I said this is, sadly, your time. You’re first string, now, but the cool thing is, people like me are on the bench and we have your backs. I’ll offer whatever wisdom I’ve acquired, whatever tips I can share that might be adapted to these times, whatever support I can. We’ll do this together.
And I will go into the trenches again with these new generations. I don’t know how not to do that, and I wonder if those older people who continued their activism when I was so much younger had that same realization.
They said the work is never done, but there was so much life in their eyes, and so many stories, and such strength in their smiles. There is beauty in a life lived in service to the work and to others, whether those others are alive, gone, or not yet among us. There is beauty in finding joy, love, and comradeship even in the worst of times. Working alongside those older people taught me that.
And I hope I can be as cool an old as they were, and that I know some of them still are.