I’m 39 and gay. Does that make me “old”?
As I walked amidst the sea of rainbow flags, immersed in the electric atmosphere of inclusivity at the Chicago annual LGBTQ Pride Paradelittle did I expect an unexpected encounter to test my resilience.
It happened around 1pm near the corner of Halsted Street and Roscoe, near the 7-11.
A guy in his late 20’s (and drunk) hurled hurtful words my way, labeling me an “old troll” as he pushed his way through the crowds. I must have been in his way.
“What’s up with all the old gay trolls at this parade?” he said loudly as he looked at me and rolled his eyes. I can still see the gold glitter on his face in my mind. “Move it girl – I’m trying to get through!” he added.
Did I mention that I am only 39? Yep, that’s right. I’m not even 40 years old! But apparently, I’ve graduated to troll territory in gaydom. You may be wondering what “troll” means? Well, keep reading.
Troll: An Nasty Term
The term “troll” is a derogatory term used among some gay men to describe another gay man as elderly and unattractive. To keep it real, it’s hugely insulting and even thinking about it now pisses me off.
Once I was called this name. waves of mixed emotions crashed over me—hurt, anger, and confusion. Yet, in the depths of my being, I summoned the strength and determination to turn this painful moment into an opportunity for growth and compassion.
Just like anyone else, I wasn’t immune to the sting of hurtful words. Realizing the significance of acknowledging my emotions, I allowed myself the space to process this encounter. This happened when I told this story to my gay therapist.
Encouraged to seek solace from trusted friends, it didn’t take long before I started to feel the support I needed to move through the hurt. Through sharing my experience and opening up about my feelings, I was even able to find humor in the situation.
I mean when you think about it, being 39 is young by most standards. It’s only in my community that some put such a heavy emphasis on age and appearance. I hate saying that but its very true.
One of the major reasons gay guys seek out therapy relates to body image issues and self-esteem. I know this is true for many of the clients I work with as a counselor in the queer community.
Transforming Hurt into Compassion
As a therapist, I’ve always understood the profound power of empathy and compassion. Instead of nurturing anger or resentment towards the individual who insulted me, I chose a different path—one rooted in understanding and compassion.
I came to recognize that hurtful behavior often arises from ignorance, fear, or personal struggles. With a heart brimming with forgiveness, I empathized with the person who had called me an “old troll,” understanding that they might be fighting battles of their own. Perhaps they were having a quarter life crisis?
Turning my personal experience into a catalyst for change, I seized the opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion and respect within the LGBTQ+ community. I recognized the need for dialogue and education, leading me to organize workshops and discussions in collaboration with local organizations.
These events aimed to bridge gaps between differing perspectives, fostering understanding, and nurturing a more inclusive society.
Throughout this transformative journey, I discovered the immense power of celebrating diversity. By embracing my identity as a gay therapist, I became a role model for others who faced similar challenges.
My presence at subsequent Chicago Pride Parades radiated pride and resilience, encouraging individuals to embrace their true selves without fear or shame. I became an advocate for the crucial role that mental health plays in the LGBTQ+ community and how therapy can offer support, understanding, and healing.
In the face of adversity, my journey as a queer therapist, Ryan, showcases how an unpleasant encounter can become a catalyst for growth, understanding, and compassion.
My story serves as a reminder that hurtful words can be transformed into a force for positive change and empowerment. By sharing my experiences, I continue to inspire individuals to stand tall, embrace their true selves, and celebrate the beautiful diversity that defines the LGBTQ+ community.
I hope my story inspires you to be better allies, therapists, and individuals who contribute to a more inclusive and loving society. Together, we can create a world where everyone feels safe, seen, and celebrated for who they truly are.