The dating scene has never been more passionate among the elders of the gay community. They use gay dating apps, have open relationships and go to clubs. But alongside these, there’re some who still fear being outed in front of their families. “Tel Aviv is a very open city, but on the subject of gay seniors it’s a bit lagging,” they say.
It’s noon at the LGBT Center in Gan Meir. Six men are going out slowly from the center to the boulevard. Most of them have passed their 70s a long time ago, but age is just a trick, as is their physical appearance. On the inside there’s a burning desire to live the life of the gay community to the fullest, and unlike many young men – they are not afraid of talking about it openly. “We lack a beautiful woman in our group,” says Adam, a member of the LGBT Seniors of the LGBT Center. “Would you like to join us?” he asks without shame. “Are you sure you like men?” I ask back. “I’m also in the group of bisexual seniors, at least at the level of interest. Not so much in the level of performance,” he says, and everyone laughs. “I’m a women virgin, so-called pure gay” shouts Danny Edri, 69 year-old widower from Tel Aviv. “Sixty-nine is the most beautiful number.”
Despite the years, they explain, the lives of gays don’t end when you’re a senior. The LGBT Golden Age Group has existed for 11 years and has gone through several incarnations. First it was called ‘The Civilized Social Circle,’ and ‘Like An Old Wine,’ then it became ‘Golden Age.’ The group has twenty five members and aims to expand the circle, but time is a major problem and every year they lose more and more members. “It’s known that the gay community is very linked to the young guys, parties and parades. But most community organizations are dealing with the early ages, and often there is no answer to the senior community,” says Avihu Meizan, Cultural Director of the LGBT Center in Gan Meir who leads the project along with Yoav Ben Arzi and Anna Talisman. “What happens after the glory of the Tel Aviv life or the Jerusalem glamor runs out ? The group tries to address the cultural and social issues of the seniors in the gay community. It’s accompanied by social workers, and they meet three times a week for activities, movies and theater.”
The hope of the project managers in the LGBT Center is to expand its operations and scope beyond the major cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. “There is a need to establish such groups in the periphery, because even where there are LGBT adults, we need to understand that the LGBT community also has seniors. They want to feel this togetherness that transcends the LGBT center,” says Meizan. Each member of the group has a different life story, from difficult divorce and disconnecting from the children. Some are still married to women and others are just eager to find love again, rather than end their lives alone. There are also those who only in recent years have decided to tell their families about their way of life. The group provided them with the family they lacked.
And although the center has them meet three times a week, members of the group feel that it is not always enough. “I would like to have the same opportunities that straight or young gay people have, a community center of gay seniors, a meeting place for people from all over the country. You may not know it, but there are plenty of older people who are in the closet and afraid to go out, especially in the periphery,” explains Dan, a widower who lost his partner in recent years.
“Many don’t join us because there’s no awareness. If only there was a permanent open club where we could be together, meet, support each other. Here we are limited in time and hours, like an adult community center that’s open from eight to five.” After long years of relationship, Danny is looking for love again. “I can get sex without a problem. You need luck in life, and I want love,” he explains. “In Israel there’s nothing for us apart from this place. I wish we would receive funding like IGY. There must be awareness that there are people like us, so that people will come, get to know other people and not stay alone, that we’ll have clubs and bars as they do in other countries.”