Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is age segregation in the GLBT likely; is it a good or bad thing?


While gay clubs have to watch minimum ages and even fake id’s carefully these days, I sometimes wonder about issues on the other end of the spectrum in the GLBT community: ageism. It is something that cuts both ways.

In the movie “54” (Miramax, 1998, directed by Mark Christopher) there is a scene at “Studio 54” where the proprietor scans the people in line as to whom he will let in. He asks “Jersey” character Shane O’Shea (played by Ryan Phillippe, then 23) to remove his shirt to judge him before letting him in. I don’t know whether this really happens at many clubs (maybe some visitors do) and I have never tried to go to that particular club, but it makes a point. Is age segregation good or bad? Could such a trend develop in the future, or would it violate age discrimination laws in public accommodations?

In Minneapolis, where I lived from 1997-2003, there is a group called “Pride Alive” associated with the Minnesota AIDS Project, link here. Pride Alive would arrange talk groups and in-person chats, and in 2000 the organization started the practice of limiting about half of the talk groups to persons 18-30. Yes, there was an upper age limit. There was a belief that men should be encouraged to socialize more with persons their own age. To some extent, this comports with a notion that emotional maturity means "empathy" and the ability to maintain some of of intimacy within one's own age group (as with a committed lifetime partner -- "marriage").

Gay institutions do practice other kinds of "segregation." Leather bars, for example, often have "dress codes" (at least on Saturday nights), to keep away the starers and gawkers. I've always wondered why some mixed or straight discos don't allow "tennis shoes." I also recall that in the 90s the Washington Blade advertised a weekly private party in the Dupont Circle area (unpublished location) that was age limited and that one had to call for the address. I don't know if this is the case today (a visitor might know).

I remember back in the 1980s, when AIDS (first called GRID) was the encroaching monster, some people gave the advice that gay men should segregate themselves by age so as not to “infect” younger men just coming into the community. This idea was promoted before there was a test for HIV (or HTLV-III as it was first called) and before there was a clear understanding with many people that a single new virus could be the cause, and before there was wide discussion in information forums of safer sex practices

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