Meet QueerWise: The LGBT Senior Citizens’ Spoken Word Brigade

We’re frequently told to respect our elders, but how often do we actually get a chance to hear a room full of seniors doing spoken word? That’s the novel premise behind QueerWise, a four-year old troupe of AARP card-waving LGBTQ writers based in Los Angeles. The magazine Poets & Writers recently posted an interview with Michael Kearns, the group’s creator and Artistic Director.

Kearns provides prompts for writers at each weekly meeting, and he tries to keep things lively. “It is my responsibility to mix the palette,” he says, “from the political to the personal, from the past to the present.” The group is extremely supportive of one another. Feedback is framed in the form of a question, and stories take precedence over sentence structure.

The elderly tend to get written out of most LGBT stories, which is why there are organizations like SAGE, Support and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. But people need to express themselves, too.

queerwise, lgbt, poetry, spoken word, art

Kearns is, according to his biography on the QueerWise site, a “writer, teacher, actor, activist, director, solo performer, producer, fundraiser, dramaturg, and artistic director.” In the mid-eighties he began a series of theatrical readings called AIDS/US, which allowed people affected by the virus to tell their own stories. A decade later, he used the stame structure at LA’s Downtown Women’s Center for DIVAS, short for Dames Invested In Very Authentic Storytelling.

Now that he’s older, it’s maybe natural that he would turn to elderly affairs. “Seniors have often been made invisible,” he told Poets & Writers, “especially in the LGBT community, and their voices need to be heard.” His themed events with QueerWise have titles like “Mid-Life Sentence,” “Late Awakenings,” and “Boom Boom Boomers.”

In order to join QueerWise, you must be over 50 years old an identify as part of the queer community. The members are diverse and their bios include phrases like “inner city drama teacher,” “pineapple salesman,” “Emmy nominated producer,” “ballroom dancing instructor” and “former Disney imagineer.” Member Robin Podolsky is a “street activist; suit-wearing functionary; ordained Rabbi; teacher; queer,” while 67 year old Ariana Manov describes herself as a “grassroots activist/alchemist with the dregs of humanity.”

Manov goes on to explain what she loves about the group: “I love my QueerWise family because it’s astonishingly full of deliciously quirky personalities, challenges and transformations — and it gives me political and artistic visibility as a fat, old, disabled dyke.”

Below is a video of QueerWise member Trevor Norris reading a story he wrote:

[images via Facebook]

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