Unlike other cultural histories – which are passed generation to
generation – young people’s connection to LGBT+ culture and history can
be far more tenuous. With less need for community organizing, broader community acceptance
and the digitization of LGBT+ meeting places, inter-generational
connections may be rarer than ever.
“Back in the eighties and nineties you needed to be in the gay
community because you couldn’t belong anywhere else,” says Lyndi, a
50-year-old Sydneysider, “that was why it was so thick and embracing.”
“We were huge, the gay community was massive,” says her 56-year-old
partner Skinny, who worked for an LGBT+ magazine in Melbourne.
The pair tell of the community rallying behind people who were kicked
out of home, who lost partners to AIDS, or were victims of
“We used to walk around with whistles in case we got bashed,” Skinny
says. “You used to be able to walk into a venue and say you had a
problem and you would be embraced, everyone would be there for you.”
“Homophobia forced people together,” says Lyndi.
But those once-strong bonds, forged through activism and organization, have since fallen apart. With broader community acceptance, LGBT+ youth aren’t restricted to
an LGBT+ circle of friends – sexuality is no longer such a definitive
“It’s a good thing, for sure,” adds Skinny, “but what we went through is forgotten now.”
Dr Peter Robinson, an expert in LGBT+ aging and history at Swinburne
University, says the rise in apps like Grindr and the broader acceptance
of diverse sexualities has meant that inter-generational friendships
are rarer than ever. It’s a shame, Dr Robinson says, because older friends can fill
paternal or maternal roles – providing advice, guidance, relationship
advice or even material support.
Maeve McNiels, who runs a volunteer visitor program for elderly LGBT+
people, says that for some volunteers, their partners fill the role of
surrogate grandparents. For older people too, younger friends can fill the role of children they could never have.