Prime Timers: Spotlight on LGBT Seniors

The Advocate turns its editorial eye toward those who came before us, highlighting LGBT people over 65 who continue to inspire.

BY Advocate.com Editors

September 02 2013 5:00 AM ET

While the nation embarks on much-needed conversations about marriage equality, creating safe and supportive schools for LGBT youth, and securing nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, there's an undeniable urge to look forward. 

But as we look to the future and are hopeful for the change that's already coming, we here at The Advocate wanted to take some time to look back and reflect on those who came before us, and those whose bravery, persistence, and dogged determination paved the way for us young radicals to proudly stand up and proclaim, "We're here, we're queer, we won't settle for anything less than full equality!"

Led by an intrepid young staffer, The Advocate team embarked on its first-ever week-long series focusing on LGBT people over the age of 65. Our Prime Timers collection focused on individuals, groups, and projects that explore what it's like to hold an older identity in a subculture that's perpetually fascinated by youth. Keep reading to find our full Prime Timers coverage, including profiles, film reviews, and op-eds from our esteemed elders. 

Prime Timers: A New Age for Activism
From authors and actors to artists and advocates, we've gathered 25 LGBT people over 65 who are living proof that life, like wine, gets better with age. Upon reaching official retirement age, these trailblazers stepped up their activism and influence to become icons in the ongoing fight for LGBT equality. From Alice Walker to George Takei, from Edie Windsor to John Waters, these are the LGBT seniors you won't soon forget. Meet all 25 here.

Op-Ed: Seniority at The Advocate 
The Advocate's esteemed senior Web producer, who's been with the publication for more than 20 years, reflected on his unique perspective on history as he's viewed it from his desk — which used to be a drafting table where he studiously composed layouts for issues of The Advocate by hand. Christopher Harrity brings his characteristic wit and world-wise perspective to this rare op-ed from one of The Advocate's longest-serving and most respected team members. Read it here

9 Tales of Young Love and Old Memories
Hollywood's Triangle Square, founded in 2006, is one of the nation's only affordable housing options dedicated specifically to serving LGBT elders. Operated by Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, the Los Angeles residence is full of characters with lifetimes of stories to share. Two Advocate staffers spent the day at Triangle Square, where residents served our editors tea, cookies, and cupcakes as they shared stories of first loves, coming out, and finding themselves as LGBT people and as seniors. Read nine touching stories, accompanied by exclusive photos, here

Op-Ed: 72, Transgender, and Finally Myself
Rosie Del Mar joined the Army at 18 less out of a desire to serve her country, than from a desire to hide her burgeoning sexuality and gender identity. By the 1960s, Del Mar had found a word for who she was — transgender — and was undergoing therapy for gender affirming surgery that she says never materialized. While Del Mar's sincere story chronicles the times she was threatened by lovers, police, and even members of her own community, her tone is ultimately triumphant as she revels in living her golden years authentically. In addition to being an outspoken transgender activist, Del Mar is also a resident of Hollywood's Triangle Square. Discover how Del Mar found herself here

Before You Know It: Film Reviews Gay Lust for Life After 65
Anyone who thinks that your passions drift off into obscurity after 65 clearly hasn't met the subjects of Before You Know It, the compelling documentary on life, love, and aging in the gay community from 30-something filmmaker PJ Raval. Through intimate portraits and stunning cinematography, Before You Know It introduces its audiences to three gay men whose lust for life is growing along with their age. Meet the film's subjects and explore the inevitability of aging — and why we shouldn't fear it — here

HHS Offers Benefits and Joint Placement to Married LGBT Seniors on Medicare
Someone at the Department of Health and Human Services got our memo about the Prime Timers series last week, since the federal department announced new benefits directly impacting married LGBT seniors on Medicare on Thursday. In the wake of the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key section of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, HHS will now offer equal benefits and joint nursing home placement to any legally married same-sex couples who are on Medicare, regardless of the state in which they live and whether it recognizes same-sex unions. Find all the details about the department's historic decision here

Excerpt: Awakening The Woman Inside
Before she was a classically trained violinist, an accomplished artist, or an out lesbian, José Beth Smolensky was the wife to a cheating, abusive husband. She obeyed him and stood by him until she could take no more. Upon leaving him and trying to forge a new life with her four children, Smolensky was introduced to Miami's lesbian scene, a life-changing moment that helped her move on and eventually find Pat, her partner of 33 years. Read an excerpt from Smolensky's new book, Hide and Seek: Out of the Darkness and Into My Life, here.

Op-Ed: In Defense of Aging
In a gay male culture that's perpetually focused on youth, how does one come to terms with the reality that someday, we all get older? That's what contributor Jon Bernstein, 47, ponders in this inquisitive op-ed. As a survivor of the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, Bernstein reflects on the generation of would-be elders lost to the disease, and the harsh reminder of mortality the epidemic continues to foist upon the community today. Calling out gay culture as perhaps suffering from Dorian Gray syndrome, characterized by narcissism and an obsessive physical pride, Bernstein argues that perhaps gay men would be better served by striving to embody one of Oscar Wilde's most poignant messages from that seminal novel: "Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing." Read the whole article here.

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