(2) Who We Are

WE ARE A GROUP OF GAY MEN, more or less fifty-five or older, who have assembled to support each other in becoming gay elders. We come from a wide range of backgrounds and are united in our primary purpose of being useful to younger gay men and of service to the gay and larger community.

A healthy and thriving community honors ancestors, needs elders, depends on adults and invites youth. In the process of growing from one stage to the next, both the community and individuals are transformed. the CIRCLE understands the West African saying:

“If elders are lost, adults will be lost; and if adults are lost, youth will be lost.”

It has been recognized throughout history and across cultures that life usually consists of four stages—youth, adult, elder and ancestor. The GAY ELDER CIRCLE is designed to assist gay men and others to make the transition from adult to elder, in the process consciously assuming a new role in the community—a life of continuing usefulness to to others within the context of group support, encouragement, and genuine brotherhood. At our first planning meeting, Ray Hogenson, a founding member, put it succinctly:

“We are planting a tree we will never sit under.”

The CIRCLE makes a distinction between “elder” and “older.” An elder is someone who consciously claims that role through visibility in the community, is aware of being a part of the continuity of life, honors those who went before him, is of assistance to those who are coming after him, and actively tends to the spiritual needs of a community in the broadest sense of the word. An older (senior citizen, old person, golden oldy and so forth) is often a person who celebrates a birthday each year and waits for death with little sense of a larger role for himself in the community. He often retires, disappears or is discarded. The CIRCLE shows respect for both elders and olders.

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