Last week, in response to a page on my website (www.perrybrass.com) about the odious Ann Coulter, one of my readers, John, sent me this note. I thought it was so well-put that I want to share it with you. I hope you’ll find something in it that resonates, and you’ll continue this conversation about something all of us are doing, one way or another—living, and getting older.
“Did I tell you your definition of faggot was brilliant, vis-a-vis your application of the word to Coulter? It was bubbling just below the surface with me like a swarm of angry bees but I couldn’t bring it up and spit it out like you did. I am well aware of the “faggot” you defined from our youth, the menacing queer man among us who seemed so angry at his own, perhaps it was a form of internalized self-loathing which we’re come to hear so much about. Most of all I remember my own reaction to these men. Craving masculine warmth and acceptance, these men with their sharp tongues, exaggerated feminine mannerisms, and shrill voices terrified me in the extreme. This was a case of what Matt Sanchez was possibly referring to of gay men eating their own. Their constant put-downs of other gay men, their unkindness, their clever jokes at the expense of others, all these things drove me away from the gay community of the 60’s.
“Looking at that community now, with its affection bears, healthy buffed bodies, and open admiration and appreciation for every part of the male physiognomy and anatomy, I long to be a part of it but time has passed me by.
“Which brings us to another problem we face as older gays, the derision and rejection of the younger ones. It matters not what we bring to the table, it isn’t good enough. Youth is all that matters. Meanwhile, instead of being called faggots we are now being derisively labeled “trolls” and often to gales of laughter. Like we’re the most poisonous thing on the planet. I notice Larry Kramer has just spoken out for more active participation in the gay world, but I don’t see it happening with the rift between the older and the younger males. Yes, young men are beautiful, and yes, older men are fading away, but we still need one another.”
I thought John’s feelings are open, beautiful, and applicable to us all. Age has been a problem and issue in gay life since the Greeks, who saw, basically, only the beauty of young men and boys. They wrote reams of poetry about pretty young things, and the older men who adored them, and wished only not to be spurned by them. In many ways, for ages gay men have been frozen into a period that only admits and recognizes youth—however, the rest of America, via Madison Avenue, has caught up to us: the whole country is now basically frozen this way. And so, in a strange, paradoxical way, a lot of queer men are, again, way ahead of the curve: we are actually aging well, and starting to enjoy aging in a way that seemed impossible 30 or 40 years ago, when the standard song was “Nobody wants you when you’re old and gay!”
I’m not saying that queer guys have made a 180 degree turnaround, and we now revere age, wrinkles, and sagging bodies like the gold standards of life, but we are starting to realize that we can get old, that older men have a pleasurefulness and beauty you can feel and appreciate—and that all desirable company is not in the 18-27 year old range. But as a writer, I still feel the pangs of feeling out of step, and the rejections that come with it. My books are not for queer kiddies who think that Madonna invented “gay culture”—maybe some aspects of guy cultuPerry Brass in the thinking man’s bathre, but she never invented gay culture. Neither did Aaron or Torie Spelling for that matter. The difficult thing now is not that getting older is getting harder—it really isn’t; it’s that the depth that comes from getting older is less and less a part of the valued substance of this country. It is hard to get deeper and wiser, two aspects of aging that allow you to enjoy life so much. And without that, getting older becomes only a handicap, a “challenge,” with few rewards at the end.