Group Life

This is an interesting topic for me. One of those story-telling prompts that made me start thinking back on my life and right up to the present actually. I certainly lived a group life with my biological family from birth up to age 18. Numerous siblings and many cousins along with parents of course and aunts and uncles meant that alone time was very rare. Then from 1967 until the mid-1980s, I was usually in a variety of roommate situations, communally sharing rent, utilities, and groceries. I did have a brother who was often in these living situations especially throughout the 1970s but for the most part, the living arrangements were shared with unrelated individuals who most often shared cultural and political interests or to use a descriptive phrase at the time we were a bunch of commie, pinko, hippies. We were also not averse to a variety of mind-altering substances with the most common though is just alcohol.

Then in the 1980’s came the AIDS nightmare and my own infection and the end of my group life..These decades were dominated by two long term loving companions in sequence both very different but both named David. Two individuals co-habitating really doesn’t seem like a group.

The one opportunity for a possible group life that presented itself in 1979-1980 was the gay male communal dream strongly advocated by Harry Hay and the Radical Fairies. I am certainly truncating and perhaps doing a disservice to Hay’s vision here, but the broad idea was for gay men to separate themselves in sanctuaries. Then we would have the opportunity to cultivate our differences from the hetero world but then eventually interacting with that world when we realized what unique gifts we would have to bring to the larger society.

Harry strongly believed that we queers had many unique gifts to share and innate abilities to nurture that went way beyond our particular sexual proclivities. I will once again resurrect a phrase of Harry Hay’s that I have written about on numerous other occasions for this group and that is “the only thing we really have in common with straight folks is what we do in bed”. For a variety of reasons, AIDS being the most prominent, I never latched on to any communal Radical Fairie living situations. Several sanctuaries do exist in the U.S. that seem to persist and thrive to this day.

So as I am into my 70’s and looking around for the possibility of group life the landscape is not very inviting to me though the available options may become a reality for me like it or not. So many of the senior living options available seem to me to be creations by a society that no longer supports or maybe even values the extended family. Even if it did I am not sure how gay folks would be incorporated if at all.

There have been attempts to get dedicated aging queer facilities up and running but outside of New York City and San Francisco there has not been much success it seems. Thanks to years of LGBTQ activism though many living communities for the elderly do seem at least on the face of it to be relatively queer friendly.

With the daunting logistics of establishing LGBTQ senior-focused communities places of refuge such as The Center and particularly its SAGE programming takes on a vital role. It would be sad really to think that after many decades of liberated group life that many of us would fade back into hetero-dominated living situations to dance out our remaining years. We so need the succor of interacting with our own people and really that is what SAGE Story Telling is really all about isn’t it?