Letters

Imagephoto: roger wingfield

Hi.  I searched.  I read.

It was funny, offbeat, intriguing.  A lot of it.  But I’m wondering if it’s okay to say there was something troubling in there as well? 

I was reading the letter to you from Kevin bemoaning the racist attitudes he encounters among gay men.  You were – justifiably – sensitive to his concerns and gave a mostly reasoned response.  That disturbed me in his letter were the ageist comments, especially given that he was complaining about people stereotyping Asians.  I felt sad that he needed to stereotype older men.  What was more troubling was your compounding of those stereotypes in your response to him (“weirdos who are decades older”). 

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It’s a destructive image that plays itself out in sites like Grindr, where some men make assumptions merely based on age, with no other facts to back up those assumptions.

You seem like a thoughtful person.  I doubt you really believe that all older men are ‘weirdos’ or ‘creepy’ or that all weirdos are actually older men.  So, I’d just ask you to be as thoughtful in how you address ageism as your are in addressing racism.

Thanks for listening.

A.Y.

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Hey A.Y.,

Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in.

You’ve brought up a very valid point, and given me quite a bit to think about.

I’d like to clarify that I never said that all older men are creepy or weird.  I said that I had been hit on by creepy weirdos who were decades older than me.  I’ve also been hit on my creepy weirdos my own age, and jerks who are much younger than me.  Also, I’m sure that at some point, to someone, I’ve been the creepy weirdo.

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I’m not going to be dismissive of your point – that Kevin’s letter had some ageist sentiments, or that by sympathizing with him on certain points I appear to condone ageism.  That certainly wasn’t my intent, even if it came off that way.  I don’t condone ageism.

I think that we, as a gay community, could certainly stand to exhibit more tolerance, sensitivity, and kindness toward each other.   I’m sorry if Kevin’s letter (or my response) offended or hurt your feelings in any way.  That wasn’t my goal.  I can’t speak for Kevin, but I’ve corresponded with him a bit, and he’s a bright, kind fellow – I don’t think he was trying to hurt people when he penned his letter.

ImageThis does, however, lead me to my secondary point.  Intent.

Kevin expressed to me, in an email, that he’s tired of ‘creepy guys… that are older’ hitting on him all the time.  I agree with you, that it might come off as an insensitive, ageist statement – but I don’t think his intent was to be hurtful. He was just expressing frustration in an email to me.  If anything, I’m to blame, for making it public on my site, and seeming to sympathize in my response.

I think there’s a difference between that, and making ‘ching chong’ jokes in public, to someone’s face, because you’re mortified that an Asian tried to talk to you.  The difference being intent.  When you do that, you’re purposefully trying to be hurtful – and I think that’s kind of evil.

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This dialogue is very helpful, A.Y..  You’ve certainly given me pause. We could stand to examine ageism in the gay community, and I do think we could better police the offhanded remarks we make, especially in public and on the internet. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.

If I were to substitute race for age, I’d be uncomfortable making a similar statement. “I get hit on my a bunch of creepy weird Asians,” probably wouldn’t fly.

Even so – this last bit of observation begs an entirely more frivolous question:

Where are the creepy weird Asians when you need them?

(Seriously – get at me.  Jerks.)

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