Gero-Punk Dispatch: Ageless Amorous Revolt

Preamble: One of the central commitments of the Gero-Punk Project is to offer a welcoming, vibrant collaborative space where diverse stories about our lived experiences traveling through the life-course can be shared. The dispatch that follows was written by a long-time follower of the Gero-Punk Project whom I only recently met upon receiving a wonderful message from them in which they shared with me their ongoing anti-ageism efforts. Ryan Backer is a queer gero-punk who has lived in NYC for the past nine years and recently earned an undergraduate degree in Gerontology.

 Gero-Punk Adventures at Queer Kinky Camp

 by guest essayist

 Ryan Backer

Ryan2As gay culture melds into straight culture with the legalization of gay marriage, and kink becomes accepted by the mainstream with the problematic book Fifty Shades of Grey, it is more important than ever to remember how these movements got to be where they are today.  A radical underbelly of disruptive queers is the main reason why gays can get married and why that book, which unfortunately does not depict BDSM accurately, did so well.  In the face of attempted standardization by mainstream culture, it is vitally important that queer kinky culture continues to bloom.

Amorous Revolt is a queer kinky camping retreat that took place this summer in the woods in Maryland.  People gathered from all over the country and even the world to partake.  AR is an intentional space designed to “celebrate our bold love, our brilliant spirits, our playful (and sometimes serious) sex, our creative relationships, our radical interdependence, our perfect bodies, and our unstoppable power and agency.”  Part of the mission of the retreat was to host skill-share workshops in order to “unsilo information to spread power.”

The workshop I facilitated, originally titled “Intergenerational Power” and then later renamed “Consciousness-Raising around Ageism” (after Ashton Applewhite’s booklet on the subject; see thischairrocks.com for more information), was an attempt to unsilo not just information, but also experiences as well.  We gathered to discuss age and aging across the spectrum: how we are affected by our own age and aging, as well as the ages and aging of others within the queer and kinky communities we are a part of.

There were eight of us in all at the workshop and everyone got to share about why we were at the workshop and how we were affected by internalized-ageism.  The conversation then shifted to ageism within our communities and how it is a disservice to us all.  I concluded the workshop by speaking about Jenny’s work and I read her “Gero-Punk Manifesto” in closing.

In my mind, gero-punk is a solution to ageism within queer kink culture because it inspires a common ground for all of our experiences with aging, no matter how little or how much aging we have actually experienced.  It helps me to realize that experiences of “feeling young” or “feeling old” are false notions, because age simply does not dictate how we feel.  Throughout the retreat and during the workshop I saw some very special connections being made between attendees, both younger and older.  I hope this is a conversation that continues between and within generations.

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Gero-Punk Pop-Up: You are Invited!

Hello, fine folks living in the Portland, Oregon Metro area and surrounding environs!

The Gero-Punk Project will be convening the planet earth’s first ever Gero-Punk Pop-Up! We’ll be converging on Sunday, August 30th,  from 10:00 a.m. to noon at Westmoreland Park in Portland, Oregon.  Here’s a link to the park: Westmoreland Park

The theme of our pop-up is: Gero-Punk Self-Care.

What is “gero-punk self-care”? Well, one hint is that it focuses on walks, naps, and baths, in any order that suits you. There might also be hula hoops and jump ropes involved.  And beautiful food, which is a crucial part of any respectable gero-punk gathering, so feel free to bring a nutritious and yummy treat to share, since it will be brunch-time.

How will you find us at the park?  Well, we’ll be staking out the lovely shady spot that’s to the left of the path (if you are walking North) that is on the south-west approach to the casting pond.  And if that area is unavailable, we’ll find another sweet spot under the tall trees. We’ll have signs and people to guide you to the pop-up  location, so never fear that you’ll be wandering aimlessly. Though if you do find yourself wandering aimlessly, might I suggest you check out the nature playground?  (Wandering aimlessly is an important component of self-care, btw.)

Oh, and bring a blanket to sit on, just in case.

Need more details? Email me: jsasser@marylhurst.edu

See you!

jenny

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Gero-Punk Preoccupations: Writers Write

A writer writes. Or fantasizes about what they hope to write. Or cogitates fragments of what might become future writing (and then hope they can record the fragments before they evaporate). Or worries about not writing enough or, sometimes, about not writing at all.

A writer writes. Or tries to get their “other work” out of the way first so they won’t feel guilty spending the rest of the day writing. Or tries to push their “other work” to the hours after they’ve put in some writing time but feels anxious that perhaps they’ll get punished (by whom?) because they’ve prioritized their “real work.” Or gets trapped in indecision about how to prioritize let alone discern what work is actually important and then the day is mostly gone. Or obsesses about how to regulate their limited energy and time only to succeed in dissipating both.

A writer also lingers over morning coffee, exercises, washes up, meditates, cleans the dishes and starts a load of laundry, walks and feeds the dog, waters the garden, wakes-up and talks to the daughter home from college for the summer, makes breakfast, answers a bunch of email, runs necessary errands, and then makes lunch (already?). That’s a lot for a morning’s work, don’t you agree? (Mostly) necessary, (sometimes) pleasurable tasks. But when strung one-after-the-other, necessary — even pleasurable — tasks can poach several prime morning hours that had been pre-designated as “writing time.”

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These days everyone I see who knows me asks how my writing is going.

What am I writing, you ask? (Thanks for asking!)

Well, clearly I have not been writing Gero-Punk Project essays! It has been some months since I’ve published anything here for you to read – a situation about which I feel some regret, disappointment, and concern. Though let it be said that I never aspired nor claimed to be the world’s best blogger, nor did I intend to be posting little keen tidbits most days of the week. Rather, I wanted to create the causes and conditions for sharing stories about our travels through the life-course, for trying out alternative ways of experiencing and writing about time/space/place, about age and aging, and about the complexities of being human beings, creatures who are aware of the passage of time and how time has its way with us.

The gero-punk approach to experiencing, reflecting upon and writing about such juicy stuff takes the time it takes.

So, now that I’ve gotten out of the way what I’ve not been writing, how about I tell you what I’ve been up to these past couple of months?

I’m working on a fantastic project (with back-up played by Harry R. Moody, my mentor and co-author for Aging: Concepts and controversies) which truly embodies my commitment to bringing Gerontology – specifically Critical Gerontology* (see below)– to the streets. The project will result in a book, Gerontology: The Basics, part of The Basics series published by Routledge. Look for it sometime in 2016.

What’s really cool about this book is that it is meant to be a primer, an introduction to the complex human aging experience and the multi-faceted field of Gerontology, written for a wide-range of readers: secondary school, college and university students and teachers, as well as curious members of the general public. Our intent is to provide readers with a way into exploring the complexity not only of the field of Gerontology but of the human experiences at the center of Gerontological inquiry and practice: the aging journey. We hope to instigate readers’ critical thinking about and reflection on their own aging journeys, to compel them to apply what they are exploring in our primer to their own lives. In other words, we aim to emphasize the idea that aging isn’t something that happens only in later life but is a life-long process, nor are old people strange “others” but are our friends, kin, and future selves. Even if old age seems to be in the distant future, there is much we might wish to be present to and ponder as we travel together through the life-course.

Doesn’t it sound like the perfect project for a gero-punk?

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I want to take a moment to thank those of you who continue to follow this blog, read what’s been published here, and even send me love notes about how what I’ve written has inspired your own gero-punk adventures. (You know who I’m talking about, Ryan!). I’m grateful — thank-you!

I’d also like to invite you to think about contributing some writing of your own. I’m always accepting submissions for publication, so if you’ve been carrying around inside yourself an idea for an essay, feel free to email me and we can have a dialogue about your ideas.

And if you have something ready-to-go, you can just go ahead and send it to me at: jsasser@marylhurst.edu

But perhaps you are feeling a bit confused about what this “gero-punk thing” is. Perhaps you need to know a bit more about what’s what before you’ll feel willing to venture further.

That’s understandable. How about I say more?

Gero-punks take seriously the idea that we are time-travelers: a particular age, all ages, and no age at all. We give  voice to our flummoxing, fascinating, mundane and profound, odd and perhaps transgressive thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to this grand and strange adventure of being and becoming human in and through and outside of time.

Gero-punks legitimize confusion, uncertainty, and vulnerability, states of no-sense. As well, we harness our inner authority, our sovereignty, our growing expertise about our own inside experiences and our curiosity about the inside experiences of others.

Gero-punks ask questions such as:

Where does age reside?

What does it feel like to be the embodied creatures we are right now in this present moment? (And what might it feel like to be a differently embodied creature?)

What assumptions are we holding about what a particular age should be like, or look like, and where did these assumptions come from? (And are we served well by these assumptions or do we want to blow them up and create something new?)

How might our confusions, mishaps and missteps as we muddle through this life be sources of learning and wisdom, for ourselves and, by sharing them, for others?

(And for those of us who are formally engaged in the work of gerontology) We ask to what extent do we see our aging experiences reflected in the official Gerontological theory and research? And to what extent are our aging experiences and our capacities to support others with their aging experiences informed by Gerontological theory and research? What are the connections and disconnections? What is missing and what might we add? What new questions might we ask?

As well, we ask: What capacities for self-care and intentional aging do we want to develop so that we can live vibrant and purposeful lives, no matter what challenges we might face as we continue our travels through the life-course?

Also this: What are the ways in which we might be of service to others, to the larger community, and to the world that allow us to enact our deepest longings and commitments,  help us grow in all directions as human beings as we continue to ripen?

And perhaps most important of all, we ask: If we had play-dates with our 8 year old selves, what would we do? If we invited our future older selves over for a glass of wine, what would we talk about?

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A writer writes. So off I go. Thanks for the chat. More soon, I hope.

*(For more on the principles of Critical Gerontology, see my essay Transforming Trauma through Reflection and Praxis: Embracing the Principles of Critical Educational Gerontology Life-Wide, published by the journal SAGE Open.)

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