Monday, June 14, 2010

Gay and Lesbian Boomers

Recently, I had a visitor.  Fiona is someone I came to know when both of us, along with a number of students from senior secondary schools around the province, attended the Summer Theatre Workshop at the University of Victoria--in 1975.  That's right.  Fiona and I have known each other for nearly thirty-five years, although we lost touch somewhere around 1976 and didn't get back in contact until she located me on Facebook last fall. Since then, we've exchanged a few messages and finally got together last week.

Among the subjects we talked about, during our brief but delightful visit, was my writing. I told her that, when I'd first set out to begin a writing career about two and a half years ago, I'd written forty gay relationship essays, at a time when I'd hoped, upon submitting them to "XTRA! West," that I would be the new voice our local gay and lesbian newspaper was looking for.  I thought since the paper had never, to my knowledge, featured articles or personal essays from someone in a long-term, committed, and monogamous gay relationship, the editor might be interested in what I had to say, and I might have the chance to make a contribution.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Disappointed, I didn't drop my idea, and I sought another outlet for what I hoped would be worthwhile, particularly to those single gay men who wanted to be in relationships, and to coupled gay men who were curious about how another gay couple handles such things as money, aging, and monogamy.  Eventually, I came up with the idea to use this blog for that purpose--to share aspects of the relationship I have with Chris--although, over time, it's become so much more.

"Does "XTRA!" publish mostly those types of articles?" Fiona asked.  By "those types of articles," I understood her to mean primarily with sexual content, or with a sexual slant. Yes, I had to answer.  There's no question "XTRA!" is focused on the younger gay and lesbian reader, emphasizing such topics as clubbing, drinking, partying, and associated pursuits.  Of course, to be fair, there have been political pieces, too, and news stories about gay bashings, the resurgence of beards (which I quoted in a recent post), and an Olympic athlete coming out, for example.  But "XTRA"'s target audience is obviously young, single, into the clubbing scene, and I, as a middle-aged, gay man in a long-term relationship, have moved far beyond that.

I suspect many, many other gay people in the same situation have moved beyond that, too.  Those of us of a certain age haven't stepped into a club for years, maybe even decades, and have increasingly lost our interest in the gay community as a whole because it's youth-centric and all but irrelevant to us.  In other words, either we've lost touch with what it means to be gay (which I doubt), or our publications think they're still serving the needs of our entire community by emphasizing cute faces, tight skin, abundant muscles, and things you can do with them.  (I recently found a post from a fellow blogger in the Vancouver area who is considerably younger than I am and equally disenchanted with "XTRA!", so I can't be too far off in my opinion.)

My point is this.  There's a huge gay community out there that's no longer youthful, but that's just as important as those whose lives depend on partying and clubbing.  As the boomers grow in number, so do the number of gay boomers, and there's a whole market of established, usually affluent, and influential men and women, whose interests are not being served, and whose voices are not heard.  These people are in their forties or older, in long-term, committed relationships, and they've moved out to the suburbs, finding the gay villages no longer have the allure they once did.  

The opportunity to reach out to these people is enormous because, in some respects, not only do they feel disenfranchised from the cities and towns where they live (because we're gays living in a straight world), but also they feel disenfranchised from the gay community.  Let's face it, the gay community has always been about youth and beauty, and, over time, older gays and lesbians slowly disappear from sight, settling into areas where you might not expect them (like __________, for example); living quiet, suburban lives; and losing touch with each other.    

Someone needs to publish a newspaper or magazine from the perspective of older gays and lesbians, in the same way that Moses Znaimer came up with the idea for "Zoomer," "Canada's Boomer Lifestyle Magazine."  Znaimer's recognized that 14.5 million Canadians are over forty-five years of age, and "they are the single most influential consumer group in the history of the world.  They have more money and time than any other demographic by far [taken from]."  And some of them are even gay.

In fact, if we are to believe that one in every ten people is gay (I think the figure is probably higher), then that means in Canada alone, there's a gay population of nearly 1.5 million over the age of forty five.  With a  population of almost 310 million, who knows how many people in the United States are over the age of forty-five, and how many of those are gay and lesbian, but it's safe to assume there are many.  In short, a huge market exists, in just North America alone, for a publication that serves the needs of older gays and lesbians (not to mention presenting an enormous opportunity for middle-aged gay writers to contribute to it).

If I had the money, the means, and the connections, I think I'd start a publication intended for middle-aged gays and lesbians like me.  True enough, much of what we want to read can be found in mainstream publications, like local newspapers and national magazines.  But, like I told Fiona, the gay sensibility, or spin, is lacking in these publications, and there are many issues specifically concerning us that can only be addressed on pages that target us.  If someone were smart, on the ball, and into making money, they'd see what an opportunity there is in providing us with material and subject matter that's meaningful to us at this stage in our lives.  I can't imagine who wouldn't benefit--from advertisers, to readers, to writers.

If anyone's interested in putting this together, go ahead, use my idea, and count me in.

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