Many of us in our 60’s or older are feeling that our community has moved on without us. While we were stuck with having to choose between “lesbian” or “gay,” “butch” or“femme, a whole new vocabulary is evolving (and our acronym expanding!) to describe an ever-expanding range of sexual preferences and gender identities. Many LGBT youth have also reclaimed the umbrella term “queer” that we who lived in less-accepting times grew to hate. Also meet-ups, websites, and on-line social media options catering to a wide range of LGBT interests have replaced the smoke-filled bars that were often our only option for socializing and dating.
Do we, as LGBT elders, continue to have a role in our community? If so, what do we have to offer our youthful counterparts? I am recommending an exciting forum for exploring answers to that question – the upcoming LGBTQ+ Summit scheduled for September 16th at Sonoma State University.
The LGBTQ+ Summit is the vision of Javier Rivera-Rosales, the director of Positive Images. With seed funding from the Community Foundations’ s LGBTQI Giving Circle Fund, Javi has put together a creative and diverse Summit planning team of individuals and agency representatives. The team is committed to producing an innovative event that will bring together a cross-section of Sonoma County’s diverse LGBTQ+ community with the intention of stimulating an ongoing collaborative approach to building safe, welcoming, inclusive communities for LGBTQ+ individuals of all ages, races, ethnicities, sexual preferences and gender identities.
It is important that we LGBT elders make sure our voices are represented in this effort. We have personally experienced our tumultuous history. In our fight for equality and for compassionate treatment of those affected by HIV/AIDS we learned the importance of working together. We also know how quickly our rights and protections can be lost if we do not maintain solidarity. We have the skills and experience to lay a strong foundation for collaboration. That is our collective legacy.
The planning team is making every effort to ensure that all segments of our community are represented including LGBT elders so I am encouraging my peers to seize this opportunity to contribute their rich history and wisdom in community-building that will ensure that future generations of LGBT and, yes,“Queer” individuals will not have to experience what we have. Registration is limited and will soon be open so you can continue checking the Summit website (www.lgbtqsummit.com) to learn when.
By the way, the planning team is seeking sponsors to provide help with funding and donated goods and services so that Summit participation can be offered at no cost. It is also seeking volunteers. You can do either or both at the Summit website. Don’t miss out on this opportunity for you to contribute the legacy of our generation!
Buz Hermes is co-facilitator of the Sonoma Valley LGBT Seniors Group and a former staff member of Spectrum’s Senior Outreach Program. He is currently a consultant on LGBT aging and can be reached at GaryDHermes@comcast.net or (707) 227-6935.