Birmingham-based Zed Lightheart, who’s 50-plus, and Martin Price, who’s not, are just two of the people involved in Birmingham LGBT’s Ageing With Pride campaign. Midlands Zone recently caught up with them to discuss perceptions about ageing within the LGBTQ+ community, and how they plan to keep their rainbow...
Prior to being involved in the project, had you considered age as an issue for the LGBTQ+ community?
Martin: For me personally? No. But in general, there seems to be such a big divide between the ‘younger’ and ‘older’ LGBTQ+ generations. I think that it can be a shame sometimes, as younger people don’t tend to understand the past and appreciate what those who came before us went through when being gay was illegal, and in terms of Section 28 and the AIDS crisis.
How have your perceptions of ageing now changed?
Zed: As I've got older, I give less of a fuck as to what people think of me, how I look, behave and sound. I've given myself permission to be more assertive about how I am in the world. I'm also more understanding of the physical limitations of the ageing body.
Martin: I’ve always been pretty open-minded about age, and I’ve been dating a guy who’s 10 years older than me. Many of my LGBTQ+ friends are older than me. The project has definitely made me more aware of the stigma attached to ageing within the community. I really hope that the campaign starts a conversation about the topic within the Midlands.
As well as raising awareness, what else do you hope this campaign will achieve?
Zed: I hope that older people will feel less isolated and separated from life, especially LGBTQ+ life. I would hope that more thought might be given to inclusion of older LGBTQ+ people in event planning, facilities and decision-making, especially for BAME communities.
Martin: I’d really love for both younger and older people to take note of the campaign and interact with one another - even if only to say hello and introduce themselves. With the popularity of hook-up apps, there’s a tendency for everything to become instantly sexualised. There’s a misconception that just because an older man is trying to interact with you, there must be an underlying sexual connotation, when in fact they’re just trying to start a conversation.
Someone has suggested a need for gay-only residential homes. Comment!
Zed: Anywhere where people feel safe to be themselves, and express their full selves without censure, has got to be a good thing. As we age, we are increasingly vulnerable and dependent, and that should not revoke our queer identities.
Martin: Will that involve daily deliveries of ‘that Zara shirt’ and flamingo inflatables at a pool? It sounds like we’d have a blast if those were to exist. That is, if we’re not all on a permanent circuit party in Gran Canaria by then…
It’s been pointed out that some older people feel intimidated going into bars nowadays. How could this be addressed?
Zed: I have very little insight on this. Bars have always made me anxious. I project a lot of body fascism and stereotypical behaviour onto them, and I don't know if that's still true.
Martin: Recently, Queeny from The Village Inn posted on Facebook about an incident that she saw and acted on. It’s really saddening to see some older people are teased, but it shouldn’t put them off. Hopefully campaigns such as this one will encourage older people back to the gay village.
When coming out, what was the best advice given to you?
Zed: Honestly, I don't recall anyone giving me advice or support.
Martin: My mum gave me the best piece of advice: “It doesn’t matter what other people think; you’re you and nothing’s changed.”
Zed, looking back to your formative years, what piece of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Zed: Find your people. Fuck the heteromonogamous models that you think you should aspire to, and find the queers.
Zed, what are the advantages of being 50-plus?
Zed: I give so much less of a fuck now. I wish I'd known that I could've done that 30 years ago.
Martin, what are the disadvantages of being 24?
Martin: I’m drawing a blank. But in general? I think that being unable to participate within the arena of political and social discourse without being shouted down or discounted because of age. That’s a wider problem, though.
Martin, where would you like to see yourself at the age of 50?
Martin: I can’t plan my life six months ahead, let alone 26 years! I imagine I’ll still be finding glitter in all sorts of places throughout the year, though!
Martin, at what age should you start planning for retirement?
Martin: The sensible answer would be to say eight years ago, right? I wish I could say that I’m sensible… I think that the concept of retirement is going to be very different, as the current pension model won’t be sustainable by the time any future Theresa May lets me retire!
Zed, how do you envisage your retirement?
Zed: As a terrifying, lonely, possibly suicidal emptiness.
Martin, What are the advantages of having an older LGBTQ+ role model?
Martin: It’s important to remember where the LGBTQ+ movement has come from. So much has been done, but the younger generation seem to forget it, as they didn’t have the same level of hardship when discovering their sexuality. We could do well to look to our older role models and learn from their plight.
How do you plan to keep your rainbow?
Zed: Keeping the rainbow, for me, is more about keeping on supporting my people any way I can, not being intimidated by new terminology and technology, and evolving to be the queerest corpse on the slab!
Martin: By never compromising on my integrity or sexuality for others, and by unapologetically living my best gay life. Whether that’s breaking bones on a podium in the Gale, inappropriately slut dropping at family occasions or standing up for LGBTQ+ rights.
Find out more about Aging With Pride HERE
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