Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Boys Who Never Grew Up

The LGBT Religious Archives Network is currently running an online exhibit of the quarterly publication Open Hands, which Chris Glaser edited from Winter 1998 through its final issue in the Summer of 2002.

My mother said that she never wanted to grow up.

That could be why she taught first grade all of her professional life and was beloved by her students. She was one of them. In her later years, she confessed with a laugh, she couldn’t quite “get” that she was the old woman who looked at her in the mirror! She felt so young, she said, despite her arthritis, macular degeneration, hearing loss, and aging body.

Now I know what she meant.

Saturday afternoon I sat in a gay bar with my partner Wade and our neighbor Marc, watching mostly men having a good time. Atlanta’s Pride shifted from June to October some years ago due to a drought and the toll it took on the lawns of Piedmont Park. The joke is that rain is traditional for our festival and parade no matter which time of year the events are held. And rain had forced us indoors from the Pride festival to Blake’s, an old establishment in Midtown with a usually younger clientele.

I have always loved watching people. And despite a more mixed-age gathering than usual, I thought of how young they acted, how animated: smiling, laughing, flirting and being downright charming with one another, a coping mechanism many of us developed as children to gain approval.

I admit that at first glance I judged their charm to be affected, just as Thomas Mann’s character Aschenbach near the beginning of Death in Venice judged the older man trying to fit in with younger men by affecting their style of dress and coloring his hair. By the end of the story, Aschenbach would do the same thing in pursuit of a beautiful youth.

But then I watched more compassionately. These were boys who never grew up despite the harshness they may have experienced being gay in anti-gay families, churches, schools, towns and workplaces, plus whatever personal and political efforts they’d made fighting inequality and AIDS. Not to say they hadn’t matured and adapted and managed, but they had somehow also preserved their boyishness in their playfulness, humor, dress and manner. They had grown up without growing old.

I thought of the friends I name during my morning prayers who died of AIDS. These too were boys who never grew up, or perhaps had to grow up too fast. I wish they could see the changes the LGBT movement has wrought over the decades, all the way to this week’s Vatican study paper saying that we have gifts to offer the church.

This is what I took away from Pride this year.

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Copyright © 2014 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 


  1. At first I felt my own judgment for the "boys who never grew up" among us at celebrations like Gay Pride. And then your comparison to those lost to AIDS, who never got that chance, was like a sudden knife to my heart. Thanks for the reminder of those lost to time, and your empathy for those who remain.

  2. I think i hear you. Thanks. Child-like hope is for more joy in near, very near, like next few seconds, future. Almost like happiness is neverending anticipation. I think that is child-like. Trust that IT WILL BE WELL, ALL WILL BE WELL. ALL IS WELL. Trust that OTHERS can and do figure into all that anticipated joy. Being overwhelmed with gratitude as if the joy of whatever it was will go on and on and on and so it does in truth if not reality. It makes me think also of the phrase "only the good die young." being interpreted to mean that it anyone can be young when they die, even the oldest among us. I liked bars and dance clubs where the young in the older guys was irrepressible and it was yielded to and respected by the younger guys.Mostly that seemed to happen in church settings. Thanks, Chris.