Having a G(r)ay Old Time

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Having a G(r)ay Old Time

A few weeks ago I went through a mini-crisis when I discovered my first gray hair.  My friend, Randy, aka the Notorious F.A.G., recommended that I might not feel so bad about getting older if I went with him for a visit to the Old Queers Home, where he does volunteer work.  I took him up on his offer, and I am happy to report that there is still plenty of gay after gray.

The Old Queers Home, or OQH, is located in an old mansion in Northern Indiana.  When I say mansion I don’t mean to conjure up images of Tara or some modern Hollywood crib, instead, it looks more like a big old three-story house with a wrap-around porch that looks out onto a manicured lawn.

There are 15 residents, who all have their own rooms, 11 men and 4 women.  And the place is equipped with full-time nursing staff, two cooks (one vegetarian, the other Kosher) a cleaning / wait staff, and a rotating host of volunteers.  Stewart Bigg, the current general manager, told me that there are enough rooms for 20 people, if some of them don't mind sharing the larger, top floor rooms.  There is also, of course, an elevator, since most of the folks are on wheels, walkers, or some other mobility aid.

I met some of the residents while Randy showed me around, but I really got to know a number of them over dinner, which was held around a large round table in the Camelot room.  I didn’t record the conversation, but I paid enough attention to give you the flavor of our dinner conversation.

Almost before I’d gotten my napkin in place, a very distinguished looking senior butch named J ( just the letter J ) seized me by the virtual lapels and started putting me through the information wringer: “Where do I live?” (Chicago) “Naturally, but what neighborhood?” (Andersonville).  “Where was I born?”  (New York City, but I didn’t grow up there).  This led to the explanation that my father was an officer in the Navy and I moved around a lot as a kid.  “Oh really, what does he do?”  (He’s an admiral.) “Still?” (Yes.)  Then there was silence while this sunk in, as often happens after confessing that one has a military parent in the face of two such unpopular wars.  I imagine people wondering how warmongering I might

Comments [4]

Jenny Aisenberg's picture

I wanna retire to the old queers home!

and i agree I haven't lived 'till i've seen an 84-year-old drag queen wearing a Givenchy gown and Jimmy Choo pumps. sounds like an amaaazing place to hang your hat and enjoy the golden years in queer community.

and thx, btw, for at least trying to defend the we-don't-look-that-dykey contingent. I have gone out of my way from the age of 15 to look as queer as possible, but I'm still fundamentally a gender normative woman (see tosha's butch-femme spectrum piece from last week) and I don't appreciate anyone telling me that this is the same as "trying to pass." I had daily panic attacks in high school over feeling like I didn't "look gay enough," but I dealt w/ this my dying my hair pink and getting stuff pierced. if I were to "butch it up" just to please other queers, I'd be just as confined by social expectations as if I'd never come out at all! Interesting conversation between the queer generations. 

"We're all born naked. The rest is drag."
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Tosha's picture

wow, I LOOVED this Sissy

And you are incredibly adept at capturing dialogue...it's a great piece!

Conlite's picture

Thanks for sharing this crazy

Thanks for sharing this crazy interesting tale!

Sissy Van Dyke's picture

Crazy is the operative word!

Hey, thanks for reading and for taking a moment to comment!