In January, EFNIKS will be talking about ELDERS.
Last month, I posed a question on my social media platforms. I asked folks if they had upper or lower bounds for people they would marry, people they would date, people they would have sex with, and and people they would be friends with. I really didn’t care about the responses to any category except for the one about friendships. I asked 4 questions but I was only interested in one of them.
Before I get to the responses, let me take a step back and lay the groundwork for you. EFNIKS tries, through the monthly Cover Story theme, to cover issues and concepts that are not only relevant to our LGBTQ+ PoC experience, but that may be under-discussed by our community write large. This focus on ELDERS is one of those issues that is not only important to us, but is also absent from our discourse.
I say this for two reasons. First, while it felt intuitive, while it seemed to be true that this issue wasn’t discussed enough, the process of collecting pitches and proposals for this Cover Story proved challenging. That is, while talks on FEMME (femme experience and gender presentation), WHITE (the face of subtle white supremacy in the modern era), and NERD (QTPoC experiences in geek culture and academia) brought more than enough pitches to work with, ELDERS was a struggle.
And I blame this struggle on both the broader media depiction of LGBTQ+ culture, and also squarely on the lap of our own gay media. With discussions largely absent about aging, about mentoring, about living activists, about resources, about the responsibility young folks have to our elders and they to us, the average LGBTQ+ person is left without the linguistic architecture, without the concepts to even begin a conversation on this topic. Growing old is something they never bothered to examine; forgetting our elders is behavior they were all-too ready to engage in. And so, this information is largely limited to specific activist circles and academics, our media sources having failed in their duty to inform and filter information through to our conversations.
My second reason for the belief that ? The results of my social media survey.
The responses seemed to run contrary to what people stated in their responses. While so many respondents said they would love to have friends of all ages, you never seem to see them with anyone not of their age group, let alone an elder. So there’s a disconnect between stated values and lived practice.
There is anecdotal evidence of a disconnect. And when so much of our history has been done in silence and our culture developed in darkness, it means we never got to learn from those just a bit older, and those a whole lot older. Role models, socialization, values, history--we end up learning from porn, media caricatures, or the spit-on-a-sidewalk depth in the works of corporate personalities like Andy Cohen.
We don’t even know how to talk about this, about elders and the intergenerational kinship in the LGBTQ+ community. Clearly, we understand the lesson. We understand the value and the meaning of the responsibility we have to our elders and the responsibility they have to us. We know there are lessons to learn, and lessons to teach. We know there is value in experience, value in lives not yet done, value in learning how others did it so we can focus not on rebuilding the ship with every generation but on keeping that ship moving as far as it will take us.
That is the lesson of this ELDERS collection. That is why we did this, and at the start of a new year, no less. We wanted every younger person in our community to know that we aren’t alone. We don’t have to start over again. That everything in life isn’t new just because it’s new to us. And if we know that it isn’t all new, if we pay attention, if we reach out, then we can learn from our elders and then keep moving forward.
It is the lesson that maybe some of us will have it hard, but not all of us have to. They build for us and we build on what they did for the next ones. “Each one, teach one” on an intergenerational level. Just like the growth of Martin’s words to an Internet meme to Jay-Z’s lyrics, we see these lessons play out in culture and we can apply these parallel lessons to our broader QTPoC culture and community:
Some of us will sit for the culture. Some of us will crawl for the culture. Some of us will walk for the culture. And some of us will run so that eventually we can all fly.
This, is ELDERS. And EFNIKS will be taking a look at these issues all month long…
For all of us.