In my hometown, I knew a man, Clarence, who came out late in life. When he was well into his 60s, with his wife dead, his daughter grown up, he decided to start his new life as a gay man.

Clarence had gray hair, thick glasses, and had grown up poor on a farm in eastern North Carolina. He was active in the MCC Church and had lots of gay friends. Clarence was friendly, always laughing a little too loudly, talking to you for a little too long, and always quick with a joke about his favorite pastime sucking cock. Clarence was famous in the small gay circle in Gastonia, NC, for his expertise and insatiable desire. You might say Clarence was making up for lost time.

People closer to Clarence said he frequented interstate rest stops, flea market bathrooms and gas station restrooms, somehow convincing men gay and straight to let him pursue his hobby. I heard that men came to his home regularly by appointment, probably. I was always amazed that he wasnt attacked or killed. His best friend told me that Clarence had gotten beaten up once for his aggressive cruising, but this was on a trip up north. This didnt slow down Clarence a bit.

At a trip to the Rivers Edge gay clothing-optional campground in rural Georgia, he described an experience with a younger, attractive naked man. Clarence approached him with supreme confidence, telling him how good-looking he was. Clarence continued masterfully, describing his skills at his favorite form of pleasuring. When the guy responded with an erection, Clarence smiled and said, See. It wants me.

In his 70s, he discovered he had prostate cancer. It progressed slowly and he turned down surgery or chemotherapy because he felt this would reduce his quality of life. He wanted to live and do what he wanted to do. And he did for several more years until the disease spread and he entered a nursing home before he died. At the time, he was the oldest gay man I knew. 

Was Clarence a good example of a gay elder? Years ago, Id laugh and shake my head. Id put him in the same category with other men over 60 Id see in gay bars who stared hungrily at me. Now that Ive gotten older myself and met men of all ages, I can see older gay men in a different light. I see many of them as gentle, loving spirits who can offer valuable teaching, based on their own life experience. Their calming, steady influence can help me make better decisions and serve as an example. Unfortunately, it seems most of the gay community and our world disregard or ignore our elders and the rich guidance they can offer us.

Spirit willing, most of us will reach gay elderhood both in years and experience. I remember Clarence and realize that maybe he made the best of a challenging situation to create a colorful, satisfying life for himself. He loved life and lived exactly the way he wanted. There is wisdom in this. 

-- Jennings Fort
Jennings and John in Florence