Navigating Generational Rifts in Queer Communities

I reflect on generational rifts in queer communities and my fears of someday becoming one of the "problematic" queer folks.

This post was written for the December 2022 Carnival of Aros, where the theme is “Getting Old.”

This is one of two submissions I’m writing for the Carnival this month; the other one is “Growing Old and Finding My People”.

Participating in different aro communities and actually meeting fellow aros in meatspace has made me realize some things I didn’t realize when I first came out.

There are generational differences within the aro community. Which is obvious in hindsight, but is easy to miss when you’re a young aro who only talks with other young aros (which is easy to do, since the age distribution in many popular online aro communities tends to skew right).

I had this realization a little over a year ago when talking with an aro/ace friend about the aro communities on TikTok and Reddit. The Reddit aro community was pretty instrumental to me coming out, but I realized that I don’t really participate in that community anymore, and the main reason is that I think I’ve grown out of it.

That’s not a problem with the community itself per se—I just realized I was no longer in the average age range of the popular subreddits, and the content didn’t really feel as relevant to me anymore.

Meanwhile there are folks who have been participating in the aro/ace blogospheres for some 10 years or longer, and it’s a very different vibe here.

I’ve noticed this with the trans community too—realizing I feel somewhat disconnected from both trans folks significantly older and younger than me.

This has all had me thinking about how my place in the broader aro community will change as I get older.

I see a lot of infighting among queer communities between older and younger folks—problems like older queer folks using terms or conceptual models that younger queer folks find problematic or dated, because those were the preferred terms at the time. Older trans folks who call themselves “transsexual” and non-binary folks who came out before the term “non-binary” was in common usage are examples that come to mind.

I guess there’s a sort of persistent existential dread that I will become one of these “problematic” queers someday.

Conventional cultural notions of gender and sexuality have been shifting a lot in recent times. Like, the term “aromantic” is a fairly modern invention in its contemporary/queer sense, even if the underlying orientation is as old as humans.

So what happens if I fall out of touch when I’m older? I think about how impossible it is to explain being aro to most folks over 50, and then I remember that I will be 50 someday.

There’s a general sentiment among folks in my age group that people over a certain age are permanently and irreparably poisoned by the cultural norms they grew up with, but folks don’t always acknowledge that we too will be “old” someday.

Does the fact that I’m thinking about this now inoculate me against it actually happening to me when I’m older? Or is failing to adapt to cultural shifts as you age just part of being human?