Young LGBT people looking for political role models find no shortage of them; ready heroes include Harry Hay, Harvey Milk, Barney Frank, and Tammy Baldwin. Those looking for cultural role models have thousands of muses to choose from — even a cursory list of LGBT artists, writers, and musicians would take the rest of this column.
But when it comes to relationships, to whom can we turn for inspiration and advice? Where do we find examples of healthy long-term same-sex relationships and learn how to build lifelong loves of our own?
Even in the midst of hookup and polyamorous culture, in which relationships are increasingly temporary and interchangeable, the desire for a more durable model remains. It is astoundingly easy to meet lovers when the impulse strikes, quickly fulfilling our desire for physical intimacy. It is much harder for many of us to build a bridge from casual to committed.
This isn’t all that surprising. Gay culture has always been illustrated with images of young, hot, single men. We sing along to Sia, living like tomorrow doesn’t exist. We have been conditioned to live in the eternal present, a sort of endless high school in which relationships are measured in months or years, not decades.
Even lesbians, U-Haul jokes notwithstanding, have felt this sense of impermanence. Far too many of us have internalized the societal homophobia that sentenced us to lives punctuated by passion, but spent ultimately, inescapably alone. Until very recently, few of us expected that we could get married, build families, and enjoy a stereotypically “normal” family life.
On the other hand, none of this is exclusively a gay thing. Many people my age are a product of parents who are bitterly divorced. My own experience — parents who, 25 years after splitting up, still won’t speak to each other — has always made it difficult for me to envision myself in a long-term relationship, never mind a loving marriage. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I was able to believe in a lifetime of love for myself.
Once I did, however, it was easy to see examples of this lasting love all around me. And many of them were among same-sex senior couples, whose wisdom I sought and whose experience I came to celebrate.
That’s what I set out to capture in my new music video, “More Than Temporary.” Working with director Christopher Turner, an admirer of older men sharing a second decade of love with his husband. Armistead Maupin, I sought to tell the story of a young man who sees a future in his fling — and is encouraged by the older same-sex couples he suddenly notices all around him.
The jokes about being “gay invisible” after age 40 (30, even!) are grounded in reality. Despite the growing popularity of bears and daddies, too few of us take time to look at, and learn from, the LGBT seniors who have succeeded in building relationships that have lasted not just for years, but for decades.
In “More Than Temporary,” we wanted to showcase real-life examples of the LGBT people whose love stories are inspiration for us all.
It features four real-life senior couples (Loretta and Pat, Masa and Jim, Stevie and Mel, plus director Christopher and husband Armistead) and endeavors to show that the real beauty in their relationships comes from the simplest of places. We see it in unguarded moments of tenderness, in a deep and daily companionship that lasts far beyond the honeymoon phase of the relationship.
The music video is just the first phase in a larger project pursuing what we can learn about life and love from our community’s seniors. The second phase, currently in pre-production, is a documentary in which LGBT youth interview seniors about their life stories and reflect on what their experiences mean for their own lives.
We have a lot to learn from our LGBT seniors. They are have shaped our history, our politics, and our culture. They are a rich source of inspiration and advice — and some amazing stories — that we should take time to listen to while we still can.
But this Valentine’s Day, let’s let baby Cupid aside and shine a spotlight on senior romance. Because maybe young love is not the best love after all.