Gray Is Good: 6 LGBT Seniors You Should Know

Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert at their Chicaco civil-union ceremony in 2011

Today is the last day of LGBT History Month, but instead of pulling out some factoid from the past, we decided to honor some older LGBT activists who not only witnessed gay history—they continue to help make it.

Even as a new generation of LGBTs  gets its feet wet in the activist waters, it’s important we celebrate those vital individuals who have been breaking down barriers for decades. Some are championing causes they’ve celebrated their entire lives, and some are working with groups that target the needs of older gays, like Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

Get to know a handful of these still-fired-up trailblazers in the pages that follow.


FIRST: Is there a doctor in the house? You bet!


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  • Jim Hlavac

    Oh geez, there’s not 6 of us geezers you should know — it’s all of us — all of us 50+ who have put up with the most astounding nonsense you youth can’t fathom. Hell, at least you youngun’s get to have 1/10th, well, maybe 1/4 loaf, now. Oh, well, all of us grey haired geezers have a few stories to tell. Ah, yes, the wonderful bar raids, the firing from jobs, the chased out of places for a slight flicker of emotion — you all are so damn lucky it’s wonderful — I smile at it all. — It has gotten so much better you can’t imagine, though I wish you all to try.

    and let me give you a bit of history, not just because I was involved — no, it’s because every grey haired gay person was involved in too many stories that it would be impossible to pick just six. — enjoy.

  • Jim Hlavac

    Oh yah, I see around here bewailing the “thousands” of gay young men who are homeless — well I remember when it was tens of thousands, millions even, hell, it was near 90% of us. I was extraordinarily lucky, my family loved me just as I am — I got all my vast family to write to the Florida Orange people against Anita Bryant — here, a bit of gay grey haired geezer history: —

    but I remember when every gay bar had a Thanksgiving & Christmas spread, for few of us were welcomed at home. I remember rescuing 1 or 2 young guys a week off the streets of the cities I lived in, for their families threw them out. I was not the only one, all of us living grey haired guys did this. I don’t see this as much any more; it’s diminished 90% or more.

    Just like all of us grey hairs helped those in the early and mid 1980s die as peacefully as they could. Six? No, all. All of us geezers.

  • ewe

    I think this thread is sweet. Bravo to all those mentioned.

  • Chad

    Once again queerty misses the mark with their “5-6 people of a category that you should know” feature.

  • Lawrence Ferber

    @Chad: “Misses the mark” how Chad? Let me/us know how to improve our work and hit the mark. Thanks!

  • xander

    Bravo Queerty for this article about our trailbreaking elders. this is a nice selection. More posts like this, please.

    Hearing stories of and from our ‘foreparents’ helps keep me inspired when I get discouraged.

  • chpinnlr

    Queerty might consider more posts like this, and keeping tha gay history posts…maybe once a month or so? It’s fine for the rest of the world to acknowledge our history one month out of the year, but surely we, as members of the LGBT tribe could do better than that!

  • Pep, Italy

    @ No. 7 agreed ! Make that once a week!

  • Daniel S

    Dr. sprinkle spoke at our LGBT affirming interfaith service here at Texas A&M University on Sunday and a bunch of us went to dinner with him afterwards, he is an amazing man.

  • Burch

    Shelly and Ellen are great, but you have reversed their names – Ellen is on the right and Shelly on the left. They are sometimes jokingly collectively known as “Shellen.” They applied for a marriage license every year to the county clerk, and often all three women ended up in tears when the clerk had to deny them. The clerk said that when marriage equality arrived she would marry them and pay the license fee herself and she kept her promise, making Shelly and Ellen the first married same sex couple in Yolo County.

  • Stephen Sprinkle

    What a surprise to be honored like this! Thanks so much for lifting up the contributions of older LGBTQ activists like me. Your words of encouragement move me. I also want to lift up the very many courageous LGBTQ people whose work goes unrecognized as they labor of justice to come everyday. In their name, I accept this honor. Appreciation to Queerty!

    Steve Sprinkle
    Dallas, Texas


    age is a good thing. it helps us to be more open and understanding our own ignorants within ourselves.we learn from each other. thanks for the internet

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