By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
Considering how quick our chatty community is to talk about any number of subjects, there’s one that’s far too rarely in the headlines and on our lips. We shy away from it, put it on the backburner (or take it out of the house), and pretend it isn’t happening to each of us every single day. Just as the mighty Columbia will always separate Portland from Vancouver, so too will we age — with every passing day and breath.
It’s something that’s come up often lately among my circle of friends — around the brunch table, during happy hour, you name it. Since a great many of us are choosing to slog through life without children — perhaps with just our partner or our pet — there’s a very real concern about what, precisely, will happen to us when we’re older. So far the best we’ve come up with is a group commune in the Australian outback. Thankfully, we have the dedicated professionals at SAGE Metro, who’ve done the majority of the legwork for us.
To address those queries is at least in part why SAGE puts on the Gay and Grey Expo — this year dubbed “Kiss and Tell” and taking place on Oct. 26. Now in its fifth year, Gay and Grey is an annual dynamic outreach event for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) older adults and allies, and this year the expo aims to celebrate the rapid shifts in our collective queer history, like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the marriage equality movement in Oregon.
Gay and Grey means business: as baby boomers reach retirement age, an estimated 12 LGBTQ adults throughout Oregon will turn 65 each day for the next 18 years. That’s more than 4,000 people per year. The annual event builds community among older adults, allies, and activists and celebrates the achievements of LGBT older adults, all the while advocating for a fair and inclusive future. This year’s keynote speaker is Linda Campbell, a retired air force colonel.
“Linda was the first in the nation to be granted permission for her same-sex partner to be buried with her in a military cemetery,” says Vaune Albanese, Friendly House director. “She fought for the right to have Nancy Lynchilds, the love of her life, buried at Willamette National Cemetery. Linda has an amazing story to tell.”
The expo will also feature an interactive vendor hall, providing attendees with access to a wide range of agencies and businesses committed to improving the lives of LGBTQ older adults and seniors. Vendors will include housing providers, legal advisers, and pet adoption services, to name a few. But Gay and Grey isn’t just informative, it’s inspiring and entertaining; there’s a “speed-friending” breakout session, food and wine demonstrations, chair massages, beauty makeover stations, food, music, and dancing.
While “Kiss and Tell” is merely a one-day event, this important work is carried on throughout the year by SAGE Metro Portland and Friendly House. SAGE’s focus is programs, activities, and advocacy. Friendly House, a non-profit neighborhood center and social service agency, has been around since 1930. It focuses on children’s programs, community recreation and education, and community services, providing its programs and services at no charge — or on a sliding scale — to ensure access to all members of the community.
Leading up to last year’s expo, PQ cited some startling statistics. Experts estimate 10,000 LGTBQ seniors live in Portland alone. National estimates place that population around 3 million, and that number is expected to eclipse 5 million within the decade. Add the 4,000 people turning 65 every year, and the culmination sort of boggles the mind. It’s probably fair to assume the average person hasn’t taken the time to think about what that really means.
In short, it means “Kiss and Tell” is timely and vital. It means our community should rally around and support SAGE and Friendly House. And it definitely means it’s time to tackle the much-maligned, much-ignored, taboo subject of aging. And perhaps take in a documentary — we recommend “Gen Silent” or “Before You Know It.”
The Gay and Grey Expo 2013 will take place Oct. 26, at The Colony (7527 N Richmond Ave.). Expect to see the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court in attendance. Sponsors include Cedar Sinai, Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital, and New Seasons. Admission is $5-$10 — sliding scale — but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. More information: gayandgreypdx.org
9:30 a.m. – Doors open
10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. “Let’s Make it Legal!”: Marriage Equality
11 a.m. – 12 p.m. “Love in the Afternoon”: Sex After 60
12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Speakers/Keynote (Brad Avakian/Linda Campbell)
2 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. “Love and Other Strangers”: Speed Friending
2 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. “Strictly Ballroom”: OUT Dancing
3:15 p.m. – 4 p.m. Imperial Sovereign Rose Court: Performance
Other activities throughout the day:
“Network”: (Ballroom) – An interactive vendor hall featuring local businesses and organizations ranging from pet adoption to financial planning. All vendors attended a mini-training prior to their participation intended to enhance their knowledge of the strengths and challenges of LGBT older adults.
“The Road to Wellville”: (Office/Coat Check Room) – Health & Wellness Screenings
“Some Like it Hot”: (Fireside Room) – Sign up early to receive a free, 15 minute chair massage from licensed massage therapists from Dragon Tree Spa.
“Kiss and Make Up”: (Ballroom/Vendor Hall) – Make up application instruction, make overs/unders.
“Eat, Drink, Man, Woman”: (Kitchen) – Cooking demonstrations from Food Front and New Seasons: Learn new, low cost, easy ways to eat healthy.
“Tastings”: (Foyer) – Morning “mock” tails and tasty snacks turn into afternoon libations and indulgent chocolate tastings.