An episode of Will & Grace this season really got to me in ways that was meant to be funny but in actuality was quite saddening.
Will (Eric McCormack) finds himself at a local gay bar called The Cockpit with his friend of 30 years Jack (Sean Hayes). For Will's situation, he meets a very cute 23-year-old named Blake (played by Tony winner Ben Platt) who comes off as adorably naive in the beginning of the episode but ends up being incredibly ignorant about any sort of LGBT history by the time the show fades to black.
Jack, on the other hand, went through a traumatic experience that same night when he made eye contact with a younger gay man who then turned to his friend and said, "Daddies love me." This caused him to go into hysterics and rely on Karen (Megan Mullaly) to literally shrink his belly and minimize his neck just so he could look good for men of the younger generation the next time he hit up a gay bar.
Yes, it's funny. Yes, we get it. But it's a major problem that isn't really being discussed overall in the gay community. Age shaming, just like weight, race, financial and many others is a big issue for all of us as many fear hitting a certain number plateau where we would be considered officially gone over the edge. A twink becomes a twunk, a cub becomes a bear, and at some point, we start considering that number when we approach someone we desire or even want to talk to.
New York City has hosted several of these "ageist" moments over the years for me, where I've been witness to many personal interactions and overheard conversations highlighting this sort of problem. It can even be a "seen not heard" type of thing. For example, when you have a group of older men in their 50's and 60's corralled at the front of the bar and the young and hip dudes are everywhere else, the division is evident. Even though not all millennials are guilty of doing this, there are still a ton who not only refuse to interact with the older generations, but also do not understand that the "older gays" are the reason we have our freedom today.
It baffles my mind that so many younger gay men are blissfully unaware of all that these men have done for our community, yet again and again I overhear phrases like "Forty? Ew!" or "He's old and gross. GTFO." Even situations where an older man approaches a younger one can be a Russian Roulette sort of situation, as you never know what the other guy will say. It remains very frustrating to see such animosity towards a group of men who went as far as getting arrested for speaking up for our rights while thousands upon thousands died in the process due to the onslaught of HIV/AIDS.
I'm a millennial and even I can say I have it freaking easy today. I can go into a gay bar, be fierce, and talk about RuPaul's Drag Race or any type of "gay" related subject with anyone at ease. I came out 18 years ago, and was scared to do so, but was accepted because as the years have gone on, the older generations helped normalize the coming out process by showing heterosexuals that we are just like them. Today, it is (for lack of the better word) easier to come out than it ever has been, and we have them to thank.
Yet, we shun the older non-millennials. Author David Toussaint brought this sort of issue up in a piece he did last summer called Daddy Issues: Are We the Lost Generation or The Greatest Gay Generation? The topic, for the most part, discusses how "daddies" from his generation are viewed as sexual objects for younger men, but they seldom forget about what they had to go through in order to even stay alive and get themselves to where they are today. Have none of us actually seen any of these sorts of documentaries or even talked to them about their own personal experiences? For real?
It would sadden me, when us millennials get to a certain age, that the younger generations after us would have an even larger ignorant view than the ones we have now, as the baby gays don't seem to have a clue as to how we got here in the first place. This isn't a case of running to your local LGBT center and brushing up on your history as you have a pop quiz of sorts, but we should at least entertain the idea of talking to an older man the next time they wink, smile, or try to start a conversation with us. You assuming that they are dirty and gross because of their age only makes you the asshole in the situation. All tea, all shade there.
This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine's overall.