Building a Bright Future for LGBT Elders
Written by Lance Webster
Why, in the prime of both his life and his career, is actor Robert Gant devoting considerable time and energy to issues regarding gay and lesbian elders? The reasons are many, profound and cause for serious reflection by us all.
Gant is clearly one of Hollywood's rising stars. The Showtime series Queer as Folk, on which he portrayed handsome love interest professor Ben Bruckner for more than four years, catapulted him to national attention.
Two upcoming films promise to cement his reputation as a handsome leading man: Save Me, with Judith Light and Chad Allen, is a love story set against the background of the so-called "ex-gay ministry" movement; and Kiss Me Deadly with Shannen Doherty and John Rhys-Davies, features him as Hollywood's first gay spy. Both are set to open in January. He also guest stars in a January episode of Nip/Tuck and is in development with Logo on a series pilot about "the gayonic man."
In 2003, with Allen and producer Christopher Racster, Gant created Mythgarden, a production company dedicated to "turning the page on gay and lesbian storytelling." The company has a number of films in development.
So why is he devoting considerable time and energy to issues regarding gay and lesbian elders?"I've always wanted to be of service," Gant tells the Blade. "Queer as Folk gave me the platform and opportunity. I began collecting brochures and information from various organizations, looking for the right cause to support. Two were less glossy, less slick, and appeared more needy - brochures from [Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders in New York] and [Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing in Los Angeles].
"Both resonated with me because they brought up my own fears of growing old as a lonely gay man, so I knew I had to go to that place," he continues. "We as gays have to deal with our fear of not being loved, of loneliness, of growing old. It's especially true for people who have been marginalized, and even more important because of our culture's emphasis on youth and beauty. I knew the thing to do was to walk in the face of my fears. Aging is a last bastion, and one that truly affects every single one of us."
"There's an integration here," Gant muses. "My elders are me - just a few years down the road. It is so shortsighted to assume we are separate. We are all going to end up in that place. So why not contemplate what we would like it to look like?" He decided to take Ghandi's advice and become the change he wanted to see in the world.
Gant first volunteered with SAGE in New York because it was closer to Toronto, where QAF was being filmed. "But GLEH was the bigger effort, needing to raise more than 20 million dollars, and with a very real prospect of providing a template for future similar projects across the nation," he says. "GLEH speaks to two great needs for our community: shelter and home."
"I began by donating, by going to events. I was asked to be a spokesperson and became an honorary board member. Six months ago I was asked to actually join the board. We meet at Triangle Square. They've done such a beautiful job with it. It's great the way different artisans have contributed their energy and their love to this project."
"As for the residents, these are the folks on whose shoulders we stand. They deserve this peace, this joy, this serenity. They deserve to be able to live openly and calmly and proudly. It brings me a lot of joy to see and hear how happy the residents are. Triangle Square clearly works. I am very proud to be a part of that."
When he turned 30, Gant's fear of aging made him run out and buy Passages, Gail Sheehy's brilliant roadmap that explores the inevitable personality and sexual changes people go through in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. "I decided not to run from, but rather to embrace the aging process."
"I'm doing my best to be present with the wrinkles as they come, to face aging with a bit of grace, rather than fear and terror," the now 39-year-old Gant says. "I'm continually countering all the ingrained scripts in my head about being gay — and about getting older. I wish for all my brothers and sisters that they find the kind of self-acceptance I am now beginning to find in my life. When I was a kid I didn't contemplate the sort of peace and joy I am finding now."
The self-described "open to relationship" actor lives in the Hollywood Hills with his new love, a four-month-old Chocolate Lab puppy named Bodhi.