Beginners, the title of the movie, and his director, Mike Mills, are making the rounds in the Advocate and NPR this month, June PRIDE month. Beginners joins another recent coming out story – that of the Phoenix Suns’ president, Rick Welts, who is 58. Mr. Welts’ story was featured in the New York Times and in NPR in May 2011. These two stories tell us about the ritual of coming out in old age. Of course, age and old age are all relative, but we are used to see this ritual earlier in our lives, sometime between our teens and early 30’s. Now, as the Gayby Boomers reach older age, we are witnessing older folks re-inventing and re-constructing their sexuality. Yet, the stories of Paul (Mr. Mills' father) and Rick Welts are different. Mr. Mills’ father was married until his wife passed away. And, by Mr. Mills’ account, he was a pretty good father and husband. Mr. Mills, in the interview with NPR, notes that the marriage of his parents had some loneliness in it. The story, in the form of a film, is more about the son’s view of his father and their relationship than about Paul and his own sexuality.
Mr. Welts’ story is that of a gay man who kept his sexuality out of the public eye. There were always rumors within his industry that he was gay. His long time partner died of complications from HIV. He suffered this loss in silence. This story was captured by the media because it happened in professional sports, not because of Mr. Welts' age or tale of the closet. Professional sports are still pretty homophobic. Gay men and lesbian women are forced to live in the closet.
These are two worthy stories, even if a little too sugary and trivial, because they point at the changes in the way we live both old age and our sexuality.