PHOTOS: LGBT Celebs on the Blessing and Curse of Aging

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com July 31 2014 6:00 AM ET

Last weekend, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which recently joined forces with Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, threw its annual garden party, a "California Bluegrass"-themed soiree to support its mission of providing support, shelter, and services to LGBT seniors.

In the spirit of the occasion, The Advocate asked many of the stars present, including Olympian Greg Louganis, The Fosters' Peter Paige, GLAAD's Wilson Cruz, and Desperate Housewives' Tuc Wakins, to share what they most enjoy about growing older. Moreover, we also asked for the greatest challenges that come with aging, particularly for members of the LGBT community. See their responses below.

Lorri L. Jean, CEO of Los Angeles LGBT Center (pictured right)

Best part of growing older?
Being smarter, and having enough experience not to make some of the dumb mistakes I made when I was younger. More than that, I now have friendships for 20, 30 years that are incredibly meaningful to me, and that are deeper and different from when I was young and had only known someone for a year.

Greatest challenge of growing older?
Too many people in our community don’t understand the problems LGBT seniors face. There are seniors that are four times more likely than straight counterparts to live alone. They don’t have children and grandchildren to help support them in their older years, and everybody needs that kind of support whether they have money or not. For a lot of these folks, they live their lives in the closet, and they lose their partner, and then they are extremely isolated. Isolation, poverty, nobody to take care of them: those are three of the big issues that they face. And it’s something that the Center is working on.

Tuc Watkins (One Life to Live, Desperate Housewives)

Best part of growing older?
I am a new dad. I and my partner have twins that are 18 months old. And when I think about growing older, all I really think about is them. Family is really important to me, and there were a few people who I knew looked into surrogacy, which inspired me to look into surrogacy, which I think helps the LGBT community look into how to have a family. Ten years ago, I would have thought I’d be a guy that never has kids—[I thought at the time], 'I’ll be a great uncle to my sister’s kid.' And now there’s so many different avenues available to us to become 'traditional' families. And I have a family! I have a family now. I have a partner. I have two kids. And we’re a family. I look forward to aging with my partner and my kids. And they’d better take care of me when I’m older!

Greatest challenge of growing older?
I think the aging gay community, up until recently, has been an unknown entity... and I don’t think they should have to be marginalized. I don’t think they should have to be pocketed somewhere. I think they should be part of the mainstream. I think it’s really cool that GLEH is this organization that not only provides primary health care but guidance and housing for the elderly. They’re just what’s going to be the tip of the iceberg. There’s going to be a lot of organizations like this, but they’re the first ones who are doing this. So I’m really happy to be here this year, the year before, and now, because the LGBT community is a very loving community, and this is proof.

Peter Paige (The Fosters, Queer as Folk, pictured right)

Best part of growing older?
[laughs] Giving much less of a shit about what other people think.

Greatest challenge of growing older?
Resources. Community. [LGBT seniors] are from a generation that wasn’t out, necessarily, or was out in secret, that was decimated by HIV and AIDS. I think there’s a lot of challenges unique to that generation in terms of isolation and getting the resources to finish their days in fulfilled and safe ways. And dignity!

Wilson Cruz (GLAAD spokesperson, Red Band Society)

Best part of growing older?
Getting wiser. You hopefully don’t make the same mistakes. You gain knowledge and hopefully pass it on to somebody coming after you. That’s the best part — helping them avoid whatever pitfalls you fell into.

Greatest challenge of growing older?
We lost such a large part of our generation before this one. There isn’t a lot of modeling of how we get older, how we value people who came before us, [and] how we value people with more wisdom. There’s a challenge on their part to be understood. It’s up to us, the younger people, to give them the opportunity to live up to the wisdom that they have and that they can impart.

Greg Louganis (Back on Board)

Best part of growing older?
Being more at peace in my own skin. Not having to feel like I have to please everybody. Doing for yourself, but also be in service, too.

Greatest challenge of growing older?
It’s a very unique situation that many of the LGBT aging group has is a lot of us are HIV/AIDS survivors. We didn’t expect to be alive. When I hit in my 40s (I’m now 54),  I was like, ‘Oh my god! I have to get a job!’ I didn’t expect to be here, so now I have to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

Blake McIver (The People's Couch)

Best part of growing older?
I started working and performing as a singer and actor when I was so young that I feel like I’ve been 40 my entire life. So it can only get better! I can’t wait. I’m finding my number will catch up with how I feel.

Greatest challenge of growing older?
Part of the problem with our community is that we are so youth-centric... It’s almost like, you reach a certain age and you’re gay, you almost don’t exist anymore. But I think that’s horrible. We’re all going to be there someday, so we need to respect and be appreciative of those that came before us.

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