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Aging for Everybody

by Will O’Bryan
Monday Jul 16, 2012

Don't let the title fool you. ''Coming out after 65: Health Implications for Gay Male Elders'' is going to cover plenty of territory, with enough to hold the attention of any gay man, millennial to mature.

''The title might be misleading. It's open to all ages,'' promises workshop facilitator Ken South, 66, president of the Prime Timers of D.C., ''a social club for mature gay men and their admirers.'' That's not so say South is just a socializing party boy. He's served on the Presidential Commission on AIDS. He's the credentialing director at the American Academy of HIV Medicine. You could say he's a mix of the professional and the playful - though he doesn't take the playful lightly. It's one of the points he hopes to convey at his Gay Men's Health Summit workshop.

''For young gay men today, I think it's terrific for them to think of themselves as 85, what it would be to be a happy 85-year-old gay man, fully engaged and having a great time,'' says South.

As counterpoint, he tells a story from earlier in the AIDS epidemic. He was at a forum where gay men were discussing the advantages of preventing HIV. An attendee pointed to ''getting old'' as one such advantage, though that left many of the guys scratching their heads.

''They just couldn't conceive of that being an advantage,'' he remembers. He also points out that aging anxiety isn't reserved for the young. In gay male culture, it's all along the spectrum.

''It's so much of a youth-oriented culture for old guys, too, who don't think about guys their own age,'' says South. ''For the issue of aging in the GLBT community, there's a big difference between how lesbians and gay men handle aging. Women are a lot more gracious about aging.''

Still, there will be - true to the title - talk about coming out later in life. There will likely also be talk about HIV. South will take his group through a number of topics, heavy on both humor and substance. Most importantly, he wants to emphasize that point that this is workshop that affects any gay man.

''In general, it's about the process of aging. We're all aging at exactly the same time, just on different paths,'' he wisely notes. ''Everyone's invited.''

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