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Elderqueer: Creating an International Online Community

Photo credit: Amina Cruz

From bars and dance communities to digital connections, creating space to celebrate queer identity has been a defining part of LGBTQIA+ history. In a pandemic that changed what it means to gather, queer entrepreneurs and creatives rose to the challenge and innovated new ways — and new spaces — to build community.

For Meg Bradbury, founding Elderqueer — an online platform for LGBTQIA+ people over the age of 40 — grew naturally out of her own search for connection. Launched in the summer of 2019, Elderqueer has grown into an international community that connects virtually through shared readings, guest speakers, happy hours, and other activities. 

Creating space for discussion around topics like aging in body, relationships, emotions, and future planning, Elderqueer continued to scale in the pandemic. Bradbury recently shared how the community has grown and where it’s heading — from developing an advisory council, to raising money for organizations that support older black queers, to thinking about the future of in-person gatherings within the community.

Squarespace: What motivated you to launch this organization?

Meg Bradbury: A few years back as I was navigating my aging process and really wanting to find a community around this topic, it became clear to me that there is a dire need for conversation that wasn’t centered in cisheteronormativity and pathology. The experiences I was having as an older queer were very different than most of the discussion groups I was finding. 

Using my platform as a counselor for folks healing from body shame, food fear, and eating disorders, I threw the idea out on my social channels for my personal website: if you’re over 40, queer, and looking for relevance, storytelling, personal dialogue, and supportive community, let’s get together. I launched the first month-long cohort of Elderqueer the summer of 2019, and we’ve been learning, talking, and growing as a community ever since.

SQSP: Your digital events include discussions, readings, and guest speakers. How do you determine what content and topics will resonate most for your community members?

MB: I am so fortunate to be a part of what we call EQHQ: a trusted, beloved advisory council comprised of folks from all walks of aging queer life. EQHQ meets regularly to both plan and review. Questions we ask ourselves are: what is a hot topic right now (election, pride, racial justice, pandemic all were all vital this year); affinity (butch identified queers, femme identified queers, trans/non-binary queers, fat queers, “baby” queers all gathered this year; BIPOC queers, disabled queers, and more affinity months coming up) and what is interesting and intriguing? This has led to cooking workshops, sex and dating, dismantling relationships, coming out later in life, health care for trans/non-binary over-40s and more. We figure whatever topic is coming up for us at EQHQ is also coming up for other old gays; creating space to tell stories and ask questions is the central tenet of any Elderqueer experience. 

Elderqueer logo designed by Kavel Rafferty

Elderqueer logo designed by Kavel Rafferty

SQSP: Elderqueer has an international presence. What tools and strategies are you using to build awareness of your platform?

MB: We are pretty grassroots/word-of-mouth/low profile. Instagram, our website, our monthly newsletter, and a video chat platform are the only ways we currently throw down, which makes it accessible across borders. All of us at EQHQ have at least one time consuming, bill-paying gig and as such, EQ sometimes needs to take a backseat. We have millions of fabulous ideas which sometimes get excitedly talked about and, because of time and energy constraints, get stuck and go nowhere (thinking about our dating site and directory ideas) — and that’s both OK and encouraged. Creating a collaborative environment that is respectful of time and personal space is encouraged and important. Elderqueer tends to be casual, personal, engaged, and easy-going. 

SQSP: As a digital-first space, what role does your online presence play in your work?

MB: All. All online all the time. We have had literally zero in-person gatherings; not on purpose. Part of our long term vision includes eventual IRL gatherings and retreats, but Covid happened a little less than a year after EQ launched. The first week of quarantine lockdown, we held our first Wednesday evening Elderqueerantine event which we publicized on Instagram. Elderqueerantine was mostly silly, irreverent, and social, and these events were the thing that really gained traction and helped build the community into where we are today. Another galvanizer was Elderqueer Accomplice month last summer, during which we brainstormed ways that elder queers could advance action work in racial justice; we raised over $2500 to distribute to individuals and organizations centering older black queers. 

SQSP: How do you see Elderqueer evolving in the years ahead?

MB: Oh, gosh, so much. Post-pandemic, I would really love to be in actual time and space with a whole bunch of aging queers. A long weekend retreat sounds amazing to me. I mean, as a community, we have SO much wisdom, energy, and experience; there are endless things to explore, discuss, commiserate over, learn about, and create time for. I also see a greater priority given to affinity groups. Queers are everywhere, in every neighborhood, every community, every walk of life. Everyone ages, and everyone deserves to age with respect, dignity, and a sense of worthiness. Helping create experiences that center our differences and our similarities as aging LGBTQ+ folks feels so exciting and important in a way that is personal, joyful, political, and filled with curiosity about what’s next. Elderqueer is a beginning, rather than an ending. It is such a happy place for me.

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