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"Readers Respond to 'Coming Out as Old'"

January 13, 2014

Readers Respond to Coming Out as Old

A recent Diversity Column “Coming Out as Old,” by TTN-SF member Bev Scott received an unprecedented amount of feedback.  We wanted to share some of it, with a response from Bev.

 
I loved this article.  "Coming out as Old" -  what a great title. So well written and so true about ageism.  I have been struggling with my age since I turned 70.  I am surprised at hard it is for me to adjust to this phase of my life.  I am here now but can't seemed to come to terms with the third part of my life.  Bev Scott's article on diversity has been a blessing to me and I hope to read many articles by  her.  I will check her web site out.

Beautifully written!  The beginning of a wake up message for the world.  It is self evident that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights for the pursuit of life, liberty and unencumbered joy.  Time for non-elected rulers or "righteous leaders" of countries worldwide to heed the call.  Technology is reaching the hearts and minds of many.  You can deny but you cannot hide the obvious.  The truth will prevail!   Your message is a message that rings its truth touching a truth that resides deeply in the spirituality of mankind's consciousness.  Thanks for being a willing bringer of the Light. May it light the way for many others worldwide beginning today.

Love your articles, but I found this one to be offensive. As a general rule, is it not a good idea to say that one kind of oppression is like another kind of oppression. It never is. I am 66 years old, and I have been in a same sex relationship for over 24 years. When I came out, my family disowned me and I lost my inheritance. Living in Pennsylvania, I am still not able to get legally married in my state, and I lose out on significant benefits. And this list goes on. It’s not the same list as the stigma of being of a certain age in our youth-centered culture. Yes, there is stigma to being old. But it is not at all like being sexually or gender queer. Although older people are at higher risk for violence, we don’t see the hate crimes that are committed against those in the LGBT community. Thank you for taking the time to read my comments. I hope that my e-mail serves to help educate. I believe we’re all trying to be the best that we can, and we all have things to learn as we move through life.

I totally agree. In fact, there was a recent article in the Boston Globe with a headline I objected to. On the front page it said “75 year old woman jumps from car.” It told of a woman whose car was hijacked and she jumped out of it when she saw a policeman. On the back page continuation of the story the headline was “ELDERLY woman jumps from car.” That’s the one I objected to and wrote to the newspaper to complain. I told the writer that I’m 74 and listed all the things I do which does not make me Elderly! He wrote back that he agreed. In another case, I went to a lecture and the lecturer put up a time line of ages in which she  said 75 is when things start dying. I said “I’m 74 and nothing’s dying!” She changed the age to 80 which did not please the 84 year old woman who was also in the course.

I liked Bev Scott's realistic take on these issues. I, too, never hide my age.  When I think of all the friends and colleagues I've lost through AIDS, suicide, accidents, and illness when we were all much younger, I cannot think of achieving 65 years as anything less than a privilege.  How could I dismiss, disrespect or deny this gift of being alive to see what each new year can reveal to me?
 
I read the article by Bev Scott, Coming Out As Old on your website and I have to tell you, I hated it!  And with a passion!  Although Ms. Scott may have thought she was contributing to the good of people of a certain age - I guess for her that would be 70 - and she made a few good points, she in fact, contributed to the negative thinking of everyone on what it means to be a certain age. Here is what I see about telling people your age - it automatically puts you in a category and they then make judgments about you, most, if not always, negative ones.  If you are over 60, that category in many people's mind's is old. Old is a loaded word and that load is all negative and not at all hopeful, positive or inspiring.  It indicates that something is used up, done for and ready for the scrap heap. When Ms. Scott says that coming out as old is like coming out as a Lesbian - but this too is bogus - to come out as gay means you are coming out as your true authentic self  - but coming out as old has nothing what so ever about being your authentic self.  Sure we all age - we all get wrinkles and lose some of our energy as we go along but people can look at us and see this or not - we don't have to give them a term, a label so they can then begin thinking of us that way and looking for the signs or worse yet, simply treating us that way. The bottom line in all this - as long as a person is growing and learning and contributing then they are not old, I don't care what their chronological might be.   So, calling yourself old is a label with the power to make you old, which is an end point and not a place of possibilities.  

 
Bev Responds:

I want to thank you all for taking the time to respond.  It is always encouraging when readers share their thoughts, experiences and reactions. 

I liked your acknowledgements of the privilege and gift we have of being alive.  Thank you for sharing your perspective.  I also loved your feisty responses -  I agree that there are many times when it is not helpful to reveal our age.  And I am guessing that we just disagree about the overall impact of more of us acknowledging our age as a way of impacting the definition of “old”.  I don’t like any more than you do the condescension, the false compliments or the stereotypes.  I just want to make my contribution to changing those images. 

I also agree that it is not a good idea to say that one kind of oppression is like another kind of oppression. I said “coming out as a senior or as “old” is similar, for me, to coming out as a lesbian.” I was speaking about my own personal internal experience.  That both as a lesbian and a senior I had to overcome societal mental models of both homosexuality and ageism in order for me to “come out.” I believe we absorb the judgmental models of society and for me, I needed to overcome those in order to come out in both cases.”

For me, acknowledging that I am over seventy most often leads to positive discussions, encouragement and comments  recognizing me as a role model and being inspirational.  I agree that words are powerful and that “old” is often a loaded word.  I want to reduce the negative charge to the word and to encourage discussion and recognition that to live a long time, to be old, is to have experience, wisdom and valuable perspectives to be shared.  For the most part, that has been my experience.

Best Regards, 

Bev

We welcome your feedback - what's your take on this article?

Bev is the founder and creator of The 3rd Act whose mission is to support positive aging.  She writes about the issues and challenges of the boomer and traditional generations.  She is currently focused on writing fiction based on the story of her paternal grandparents, her first novel.  She has served as an internal organization and management consultant for over 35 years, taught organizational psychology and established an external consulting and coaching practice.  She published the second edition of, Consulting on the Inside co-authored with Kim Barnes in 2011. Bev is now in what she considers Scene 3 of her own third act, and enjoys creating and writing the script. For more information go to www.bevscott.com or www.the3rdact.com.