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Gay senior Robert Harkabus hid from view when he was younger and has to fight to be seen now.

LGBT people have had a lot of practice being invisible. For gays like me, who came of age in the 1940s and '50s, the straight world was a place where we had to stay hidden. Society was much more repressive than it is today, and either people were more naive or they just wouldn't talk of certain things.

I obeyed the dictates of society, family, and community and remained invisible. My gay identity was not apparent to my family (or were they just being kind?). At my workplace I avoided prolonged eye contact with other men who I suspected were in the same boat I was confined to. While I talked about my occasional "straight" date, I imagined how wonderful it would be to work at a place where everyone was gay. Even at my church I was hidden -- though I suspected God knew -- and I stayed that way through my eventual marriage and parenthood.

When I was 55, my divorce set me free, and I embraced the gay world. I thought I would finally be seen -- only now I found myself invisible because of my age. This was and is a gay thing. Although we're intelligent, informed, and attractive, older people become unseen by the eyes of a younger age group. Granted, the reverse is also true: When seniors talk about their aches and pains and pills, we can't be surprised that young, healthy people become invisible -- as fast as they can.

But take it from this older gay man: You don't die after you turn 40 -- or 70, for that matter. Life goes on and in a lot of ways gets better. Today, I can be who I really am. I don't have to reside in a strictly LGBT community, but I can if I choose to. I can be welcomed in the workplace, in many churches and homes, and even in politics. I can have an established support system of LGBT friends and family. It's not perfect, but what is?

It's frustrating that my experiences and those of guys like me are disregarded. In gay films, if we're pictured at all, we tend to be "that sad old queen." But that's just not how it is. In our 60s, 70s, and beyond, we live, love, and laugh as well as vote, march, and make decisions. Best of all, we're starting to see gay retirement communities where we can live while we're doing it. Imagine facing retirement in a facility that does not respect your sexual identity.

It is possible to extend our gay family past the age barriers. Common causes like pride parades tend to wipe away age differences at least for a little while. Lobbying for needed legislation to protect our rights also unites us. And the rest of the time, older LGBT people can set an example. Today, I have choices that I never had before. I choose to live in the mainstream community because I can interact with and educate those less enlightened. I can show my fellow gay citizens that older men still contribute to our progress--because I refuse to spend my gay retirement waiting for the grim reaper, and I won't be invisible

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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