I’ve been pondering that question all my life and I’m no closer to an answer today than I was as a lonely college kid standing at the rail of the Panther Hollow Bridge at three in the morning crashing from Dexodrine and wondering why I shouldn’t just jump to clearly establish once and for all that I will never be able to fly. Was that the moment I became a bitter old queen? Of course I wasn’t old then and I would not have known what you meant if you called me a queen. No, the title, Bitter Old Queen, came quite recently.
I was chatting with some friends during happy hour at the Blue Moon in
six or seven summers ago when we overheard a group of young gay men making disparaging remarks about all the old farts in the place. It pissed me off, not the fact that they were hostile to older men but that they obviously included me in that category. Didn’t those pretentious pretty boys realize that we are the ones who made it possible for them to be openly gay without fear? Where the hell were they when we were getting our heads bashed in during the Stonewall Riots? Life was so much more difficult for us; we were the pioneers and they are just ungrateful beneficiaries. Rehoboth Beach
“You sound like a bitter old queen,” one of my friends said. Well that caught me up short. He was right. I had to remind myself how tedious I used to think old people were. They were always complaining about young people. Things aren’t like they used to be, they would lament.
I also had to admit that my generation was the one that coined the phrase “never trust anyone over thirty.” I recall how suspicious we were one day when a grad student came and sat with us in the student union. A grad student! for heaven’s sake. Funny how the tables have turned. Maybe this is what payback is all about.
As to paving the way for today’s young gays, that part is true. (OK, I personally was never in danger of having my head bashed in but it makes a good story and I know of people who really did get hurt.) So give us old farts some credit. It is equally true that the pre-Stonewall generation courageously laid the ground work for my generation and they didn’t even have the spirit of the counter-cultural revolution to buoy them up. Each generation benefits from the previous one and, in turn, has a responsibility to leave a positive legacy for the next.
So, young people, we hand the torch to you. Carry on the great battle. Make us proud. Push the envelope to the next level. But if you so much as even intimate that I’m old or bitter, I’ll teach you a lesson with a bitch slap you’ll not soon forget.