The other day, as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I ran across a post that said, "I've always been afraid of losing people I love. Sometimes I wonder, is there than anyone out there afraid to lose me." It struck a chord in me. I realized that sometimes, this was exactly how I felt. I am a baby boomer. I was born on February 7, 1954. It would not surprise me to know that many other baby boomers feel the same way. For me, the worst thing about aging is all the people you lose.
Many of us who came out in the '60s and '70s, became estranged from family members and friends we had known since childhood. You can eventually learn to manage that kind of rejection, but I don't believe you ever get over it completely. From a very early age, I knew that I was different. This knowledge was the first attack on my self esteem. When you are different, you are no stranger to rejection. By the time I actually came out, I was much more familiar with rejection than I was acceptance. Inability to deal with this rejection manifests itself in many different ways. Drug and alcohol abuse, the need to control everything, in my case, an addiction to food and the very worst, low self esteem.
Many baby boomers were completely rejected by family. For gay men, the thought of ever having children of their own was practically unheard of. We made our own families with people in similar situations. Now, as we age, members of the families we created are leaving us, and we increasingly find ourselves alone. If you don't live in an area where there are resources for LGBTQ people, it can be very lonely. Rather than reach out, it is easier just to isolate.
Many intersex and transgender people of my generation, did exactly what I did after transitioning. They blended. If they were like me, there were very few people in their life that understood their physical make up. My parents, who supported me in my transition, are gone. The one immediate family member I have left, my brother, never accepted me and I have no relationship with him. I have extended family that accept me, but we are not geographically close. I have friends who I can no longer physically or financially keep up with, who I am letting fade away. I have friends who love me close by, but that drive to isolate as I get older and feel less relevant is hard to resist. I am used to being able to do for these people. I am not used to having anyone do for me, so isolating is much easier than facing the deeper issues. I don't have to deal with my failing stamina, my failing body or feeling that I am not worthy of love and attention when I am alone.
We all know that after the age of 60, for most of us, the body starts to fall apart. We develop health problems that most people would visit their doctor to address. When you live most of your adult life in what we in the transgender community refer to as "stealth mode," the last thing you want to do is go to a doctor and be completely honest. I think people would be surprised how many people there are living in stealth mode. I think people would be surprised how many gays and lesbians are still in the closet. These are the people I'm most concerned about. I believe that as they get older, they are more likely to isolate and not address their health issues, especially if they live in a rural area or a small town.
I am a survivor of the trauma of being raised as a male, of adolescent sexual assault, of violent rape, of sexual coercion by a law enforcement officer. Transitioning in the '70s and '80s was dangerous. I have survived two cheating husbands. Therapy told me I had PTSD. And yet, I am not crazy, and I am a loving and compassionate human being. In my generation, to be LGBTQ meant you lived a life of some kind of trauma and, if you were lucky, you survived. Very few escaped unscathed.
After coming back out in 2005, the Diana Cage show, the Michelangelo Signorile Show, the Frank DeCaro Show and the Derek and Romaine Show on Sirius/XM satellite radio have all been kind enough to let me talk on their shows. Beau J. Genot of 5100 Films was kind enough to make a documentary with me as the subject. In many other ways, I have been embraced by the community. Some people know who I am and it has given me a small voice. The seniors I am talking about don't feel like they have any voice.
Freeing myself from living a lie and all this wonderful, positive attention should be a huge boost to my self esteem. Blogging for the Huffinton Post should be a huge boost to my self esteem, and in many ways, it is. It bothers me, in more ways than I can articulate, that once in while that little voice in my ear telling me I am a freak of nature and not worthy of love still whispers. As I get older and weaker, that voice gets stronger. It is then that I want to isolate. When I am alone, no one can hurt me. When I'm alone, no one can reject me. If I can still feel this way, imagine how those who have been isolated for years feel.
As sociable as I am, and as huge a capacity I have to love other people and to show love to other people, it is still very difficult for me to accept that I am worthy of their love. When I isolate myself from other people, I don't have to deal with this. When other people don't notice that I'm isolating, it reinforces the feeling of not being worthy. Once again, if I feel this way sometimes, I wonder how people that have not been shown the support and acceptance I have, feel.
My generation came out in a time of violence and hate. My generation lived through the AIDS epidemic and saw way too many of our loved ones die because of ignorance. That which does not kill you makes you stronger, and in many ways, a truer statement has never been made. However, as strong as we have made ourselves, the older you get, the more vulnerable many people feel. When you are vulnerable, that's when the doubts come out.
I am hoping that anyone who is still living in stealth mode or in the closet and reads this will realize that they don't have to isolate. People care. Resources are available. You are not alone. Taking care of your health is more important than anything else. Those of you who are in a position to help, reach out to our seniors. Make it your business to show them that people really do care. They are too proud to ask for help. Some of them may be suspicious because it is so hard to trust when you have been hurt. Some of them may be fearful because they have been living an inauthentic life for so long. Show them compassion and understanding.
The world is a much better and safer place today for the young people because of, in many cases, what our seniors have been through. Getting old sucks. Many people smarter than I did a much better job of preparing for their retirement. Unfortunately, many didn't, and in some cases couldn't. Some of us are lucky enough to have a fixed income, but too many are homeless. Retirement communities for gays and lesbians are few. For intersex and transgender people, almost nonexistent. No one should ever have to feel alone and as if they have no value. As a community, we need to step up and make sure our seniors are taken care of. Love and hugs from trucker Patti.
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