Photo via AARP.ORG

AARP Returns to Atlanta Pride

AARP is returning to Atlanta Pride this year with a scaled-down experience due to pandemic-related planning concerns.


At this year’s pride, AARP will have a presence and hopes to include a 360-degree photo experience. However, they will include fewer of the events and accommodations they have become known for, referred to by some as “Gray Pride.”


“This year the volunteers felt we need to be involved without a huge experience,” Hillary Thomas, AARP Georgia Associate State Director of Advocacy and Outreach, told Georgia Voice. “AARP didn’t start having in-person activities until spring. It takes a lot for [Gray Pride] to happen. We wanted to make certain we were fully prepared for the next time it could happen.”


Gray Pride

AARP, a nonprofit aimed at increasing the quality of life for people 50 and over, sponsors several pride parades and organizations nationwide, including Atlanta’s Black Pride. AARP started its annual presence at Atlanta Pride around eight years ago. Older Pride attendees expressed to AARP staff that the event would be more enjoyable and accessible for them if they had access to seating, a cooled room, and water.


By providing water and renting a cooled building in the park, AARP’s space quickly became a hit. When they added a DJ, the space transformed into a dance party that grew each passing year. Over the years, AARP has hosted several education events as a part of Gray Pride, including talks on caregiving, fraud, voting access, and prescription drug pricing.


In 2020 and 2021, AARP hosted a series of virtual events, including workshops, story-sharing sessions, dance parties, and concerts.


The needs of older LGBTQ+ people

Thomas, a member of the Atlanta Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, expressed the importance of creating space for LGBTQ people over 50 and addressing their needs.


In some cases, decisions regarding an older person’s care and postmortem arrangements might be left in the hands of homophobic or transphobic family members. This means some older trans people could be subjected to having people who deadname them be the ones left in charge of their wardrobe, hormone access, and the name ontheir tombstone.


“If we are fortunate enough, we will age, and we need to make sure there is something for us as we age,” Thomas said. “Imagine someone with dementia losing the ability to communicate, knowing they are a woman and maybe not having the ability [to say], ‘I’m angry because I’m not supposed to wear [clothing that gives them gender dysphoria].’”


In other cases, people in care facilities may go back into the closet to avoid being judged by their peers or even their caregivers or health care providers. Thomas gave the example of an older gentleman in a care home who was uncomfortable coming out because he thought his peers would treat him differently.


In one discussion, a man living with HIV said doctors told him that he wouldn’t live and suggested he spend his retirement money. He did, only to find himself decades later over 60 and without the money.


Thomas said that when she began working with older LGBTQ people, there was a common perception among care facility staff that older people don’t have sex and therefore couldn’t be gay or bisexual.


Besides that misconception, the concerns and experiences of older LGBTQ+ people might often be overlooked because of a lack of representation or a hesitation to confront aging and mortality.


Thomas hopes to have Gray Pride return in its full glory next year to continue telling these stories and working toward solutions.


To learn about upcoming events, visit