Linda Heß M.A. (Universität Münster): "New Stories about Old Age: Queer Aging in North American Fiction"

Thursday, 30.01.2014, 10:15 - 11:45 a.m., U5/02.22

“I want that day to pass without a single reminder that I’ll never be young and cute again” – with these words a protagonists of the US-Canadian TV show Queer as Folk (2000-2005) comments on his upcoming 30th birthday. The show, which focuses on the lives of five gay friends in Pittsburgh, frequently takes similar stabs at aging and old age and, in doing so, takes up a prominent theme in North American texts about the LGBT community.

Since the Gay Liberation Movement, and most recently with the overturn of DOMA and the struggle for marriage equality, stories of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Queer people have continually gained currency in the US and Canada. Yet oftentimes the stories of LGBT persons who witnessed Stonewall and are now at an advanced age are left at the margins, be it in on screen or in fictional texts. Conversely, while representations of aging in the media have multiplied over the last decade or two, the protagonists of these representations, if the issue of sexuality is broached at all, are to an overwhelming degree depicted as heterosexual.

Taking its cue from Beginners (2010), a movie about an aging gay man, this talk focuses on fictional representations of queer aging in different narratives from the 20th and 21st century. With the help of concepts and theoretical considerations from the fields of Queer Studies and Aging Studies, it examines not only how a variety of texts from different periods construct “queer life past 30,” but also how these constructions tie in with cultural discourses and historical processes of the time.

Linda Heß is a Ph.D. student and research assistant at the Chair for American Studies of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster. Her dissertation project focuses on Queer Aging in North American Fiction, and her research and teaching interests include Queer Studies, Gender Studies, Aging Studies, Migration Studies as well as Women in the 19th Century.