Why We Must Not Ignore the Lives of Older Black Gay Men

Craig Washington
Craig Washington

The lack of focus on older brothers is one of the most troubling aspects of federally-funded HIV prevention and its influence on dialogue and media coverage about black gay men. I cannot tell you how many discussions I have been in where black people, black gay men and/or allies have resisted engaging black gay men of all ages and through an either/or paradigm defaulted to those under 25. Specific engagement of young men (HIV prevention, education and activism) is obviously warranted. However this focus neither requires nor justifies the lack of intergenerational focus, or public attention and innovation committed to older men.

The wisdom and resilience of older black gay men who survived the early holocaust years of the epidemic should be more widely acknowledged and utilized in our HIV prevention and other efforts. Gay men do not live their entire lives in exclusive age bubbles, even though age does shape our personal networks. I know that I benefit greatly from the presence of younger brothers in my life, that we benefit mutually across generations. As an HIV prevention worker, writer and activist and -- most directly -- as a 54 year old black gay man who has been HIV+ since 1985, I have spoken/written about the significance and perspectives of men from my generation. I have also recently joined a group called Men of Color in Motion not only because it affirms positive black men but it is comprised of "men of a certain age." We are developing a project that will honor positive black men who have been living with HIV for 20 years or more. I need to connect with other older men for my own support/gratification and my community building work.

As one committed to social change, I want to help ensure that other older men are not isolated, disconnected. I want to find/create more intergenerational spaces as well as spaces/groups/activities tailored for us.

"We Are Here: Black Gay Men in the South," is a blog tour curated by the Counter Narrative Project and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance to amplify the voices of Black gay men in the South. For more information feel free to contact: thecounternarrtive@gmail.com.

Craig Washington is the Manager of Prevention Programs at AID Atlanta and a co-founder of Atlanta's Bayard Rustin-Audre Lorde Breakfast. He has written various articles and editorials for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Arise, Atlanta Voice_, the Black AIDS Institute,_ Southern Voice, Venus Magazine_, and the_ Washington Blade.