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 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.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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