Over the weekend of October 27 & 28, 2018, sixteen members of the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network attended a Bodyscapes Healing Art Workshop Experience. They created poetry and colorful pastel drawings to share the many levels of their unique experience as older LGBTQIA+people seeking to assign meaning to living and aging through and after the San Francisco AIDS epidemic.
They are some of the LGBTQIA+ community’s elders— those who lived–who remain. They are the caretakers of valuable insight – deep and rich narratives full of subtlety and surprise – about the condition of the hearts and minds of their generation. They lived their youthful years when being LGBTQIA+ in America was unacceptable. They struggled for self-identity and then the freedom to live that hard-won identity OUT-LOUD.
Today, they are over 50 years old and contemplating what it feels like to be LGBTQIA+, both HIV positive and negative, in the later stages of their lives here in San Francisco – a city now dominated by a new and younger generation, both in the tech culture and the LGBTQIA+ world. Many feel that too familiar gnaw of loneliness and neglect from a culture that does not see them and wants them to be invisible – again.
In his poem, 50-Plus Bodyscapes artist Joseph Leonardi declares, “…To all of you who expect me to abdicate into invisibility… I say…I breathe in. I rise up. I sing out. I live on.”
Aging, with or without HIV, requires amazing resiliency and the flexibility of body and spirit to continue to push back or expand, as needed, in response to new challenges. In his poem, Paul Aguilar remembers being “…Shocked by diagnosis… But not really…Brave & emboldened …But not really…Dying… But not really.”