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Aging With Grace in the Gay Community

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I was born in 1963. It is now the year 2013. If you aren't too quick with math, I'll tell you what that means: This year I will be 50 years old. That's close to 100 in gay years, or so it may seem in the gay male community, where there is a fixation on youth, vigor, full heads of hair and six-pack abs. I'm pretty much rocking the mono-pack ab and gray hair these days, and even with my new year's weight-loss goal (I have decided that the term "resolution" is too rigid), I doubt I will ever see my abdominal muscles again. Here are a few reasons why I'm OK with that.

There were many people from my generation who never had the chance to contemplate middle age. In the 1980s, when I was in my 20s, many gay men were developing a strange new disease called "the gay cancer." If you are too young to know what that means, it is now known as AIDS. People did not live with AIDS; they died from it. I escaped the epidemic, and while my chance of contracting the disease remains a remote possibility, it is more likely that I will die from heart disease or old age. I am fortunate to have reached an age at which my arms are not long enough to allow me to read a restaurant menu.

Every year I see gains in the rights and acceptance of LGBT citizens. When I was born, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. Though we certainly have a way to go, my marriage to my husband Paul is now recognized in nine states and the District of Columbia. This is something I never dreamed possible. I cherish this right, because I know how hard-won it was. I will keep on fighting until it is legal in all 50 states and recognized by the U.S. federal government. If you want an example of true beauty, look no further than Edie Windsor.

More gay couples are experiencing the joys and pains of parenthood. Paul and I have five children between us, which means we have experienced much joy and much pain. We look forward to the day when we can spoil our grandchildren and pretend to be sympathetic when our children complain about the antics their children pull. Note to our children: There is no rush or expectation that you will have children.

With age comes wisdom. There is a joke that goes something like this: "What is a redneck's most famous last words? 'Hey, ya'll, watch this!'" Much like rednecks, young men full of testosterone are more likely to feel invincible and therefore more likely to do unwise things. With close to half a century of making decisions under my belt, I have learned a few things. For example, "let's do one more shot before we drive home" is rarely a wise suggestion. Also, those cold sores on his lips are herpes and can be transmitted to a different part of your body.

There are certainly days when I feel the breath of age on my neck, and it gives me pause. I recently asked Paul, "What if I turn 50 and let everything go: I get fat, bald, smelly and lazy?" His response was quick: "Oh, honey, you're way too vain for that." He's right. I expect to age gracefully. Would I prefer to look and feel 18? Of course, but here's the thing: I don't have a choice, just as I didn't have a choice when it came to being gay. I just am. And if there is one thing I have learned in my half-century of life on this Earth, it is that accepting and loving who you are at any stage of life is the foundation of becoming happy. I'm proud. I'm gay. I'm 49 and a half years old, and I'm going to rock 50. Birthday party in Ogunquit, Maine, on July 6. Who's with me?

Bill Dameron's personal blog is The Authentic Life.