Living to 60 is not that surprising for most Can-American white cismales of (sometimes) middle-income.
I Came Out in 1978. Before I turned 25 what we now know as hiv/aids erupted in gay communities across North America- and elsewhere. Large swaths of my generation (and others)
passed on no, were sacrificed. They died. Often horrible, painful, deaths. Too often unloved and rejected by their families of birth. I mourn them all- even as individual voices, faces and names fade from my memory. Every time I return to Toronto I stop, at least once, at the Aids Memorial pictured here.
My life quickly became focused on serving, however I could, my dying community. Being a volunteer on GYT Gay Youth Toronto’s peer counseling phone line, work as a fully-professed member of the Toronto Order of Perpetual Indulgence, fundraising for various non-profits through the Mr Leather Toronto (MLT) competitions, sitting with patients at Casey Aids Hospice, living the message of sex positivity (safely) were all supported by retail jobs and time as staff at one of Toronto’s gay mens bath houses (a few years after the raids).
So much of my work back then was as “a worker bee” rather than being “front and center“. For the record I was Chapter President of TMT (a social leather group) and Production Director of two annual MLT Finals. One of those has been preserved (“Oh gawd“) on videotape.
There are no words to express the deep depression, fear, and righteous anger- at the disease, the official lack-of response, at whatever Creator allowed this. While PTSD may be over-used, too casually claimed, I have no doubt it is what we who survived came away with.
And so I did not expect to live past 40:
# I did not invest in retirement;
# I (over)enjoyed chemical enhancements and recreational sex;
(see my topical t-shirt design pictured here);
# No exercise- outside of playtime or my various retail jobs;
# I do not apologize for any of it- it is what is is; was what it was;
# I didn’t understand that the surgeries I underwent early in my childhood to correct TEV (“club foot”) would weaken my right foot- with additional surgery(s) required in the future;
# I could not know that the repressed memories (and blocked emotional responses) would prevent me seeking proper medical and dental care for decades;
# Nor did I understand that the hiding of those memories and emotions would drive me to (but not over) an edge.
As my 40th birthday appeared on the horizon, I had no career- just years of mostly-retail front line work. My ‘big love affair’ that ended before I was 30 had not been replaced with anything solid (lots of fun stuff, though). So I moved down to Ohio to build a new life, in a new city. Still before PrEP, but being HIV positive had become (at least for some folks) a manageable, chronic condition. And so I stepped away from volunteer work.
The professional sales career I built went away in the 2008 depression; just after I turned 50 and became a certified old gay. So here I am- a survivor of a wide variety of traumas who’s buried so many of my community that I can list the friends I still have from back then on the fingers of one hand. Last year I stopped resisting the T-O-Q moniker. Because I am Tired, I am Old (or gay ancient), and I am Queer.
Sadly writing a book (recording a podcast, or a youTube series) giving my view ‘from the salt mines’ (if anyone was curious) is hampered by repressed memories and consumption of alcohol and recreational pharmaceuticals during those years. I do have info on ways you could support this T-O-Q, should you wish.
But my depression and melancholy is balanced by being deeply loved by my 3 siblings and all their offspring. #gratitude