Last week I referred to myself as an elder- and was asked who had granted me the title of Elder.
My first step was to check out what Mr. Webster’s (and some others) collections of definitions had to say. Some indigenous and long-ago ‘Western’ cultures use(d) the word for pretty much every community member who has lived past some specific age. This was in recognition that age generally brings wisdom, or at least some knowledge gained through surviving to that point. (see this wikipedia entry). In certain cultures the term was reserved for the most knowledgeable or qualified members of that age group.
The other common use of the term is as a title in a religious organization. Most church elders are elected or appointed to serve a specific community- either in an ordained or a lay capacity (which tends to vary by denomination). The Mormon church uses the title more broadly- as a kind of junior priest, and applied to missionaries (as demonstrated in the play Book of Mormon).
Here I could just point out that I am Ordained in the Universal Life Church (Monastery) and am the entire ministerial and support staff of RubberChickenMinistries.org and elect myself to that position in that organization. Done. But not really the point.
While grid/hiv/aids did not wipe out entire communities, huge numbers of lgbt, kinksters, sex workers and other queers were sacrificed. The number of queer folk in my generation is a mere sliver of our total numbers in the 1980s. Not to claim this proves my wisdom- my continued existence is due in no small part to random luck and some personal hang-ups. But the fact remains that I am still here (we’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear– but I digress). Despite my failing, if not because of them, I do have some wisdom. And knowledge- much of it still useful, some of it perhaps entertaining.
If only by default (“last man standing” as it were) I am an elder. And I will not be silent.