Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa #16: The Gelders (Part One)

“Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa” is a biweekly web comic by Alyssa


Alyssa is a totally complete incomplete paraplegic and thirty-something hanky-in-the-pocket cartoonist weirdo!

A. has written 67 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. Man that sounds like the best job ever. I also seem to really get along with the older genre of humans, because they see that I know how to talk the language of a failing body. Your comics always make me want to work harder to find ways to enjoy life despite (or perhaps with) my body, especially on the bad days.

    • don’t work too hard! just make it work for YOU. that’s the ticket. there are a lot of days i don’t enjoy. and sometimes that lack of enjoyment also lacks a sincere reason. it’s incredibly hard just being* sometimes. so. for what that’s worth…

      i never thought i’d like working with older folks. i thought especially in working with folks in cognitive decline there’d be a lot of “mean” things said, purely out of an inability to understand how that would make me feel. but my experience was the contrary. we bonded, and it actually helped me to help them a lot with accepting their body’s limitations (being honest about aches and pains, or falls, or accidents they were too proud to share). it reminded me that my body worked enough for me and that was a-ok, and it reminded them that their bodies could still work for them, and that change was a-ok. I’ll share more on the gelders beyond the hilarity and the d’aww moments. we tend to trivialize older people and while they had me rolling all the time, nothing about them was trivial. they are these incredible living testaments to this incredible terrifying world. and i’m so glad i challenged my anxiety and went for it, because if not i’d sincerely be without.

      so. UNTIL PART TWO! be well, friend xo.

      • I spend a lot of time with older people with chronic pain. I have found a lot of them feel like talking about it is admitting to some sort of weakness, but as soon as they see me talk freely about it with both humor and painful (lol) honesty they really enjoy sharing a fundamental truth. That always makes me feel like my own pain has actually imparted some value upon the world. Also now I know how to play bridge, and my wheelchair has some really excellent buttons on it.

        I think I have said this in a comment on one of your comics before, but ever since I started reading your stuff a few months ago, it has made a measureable, positive influence on my life. I really can’t express the thanks I owe to you.

  2. Genuinely curious, how many explicitly asexual-identified elders have you met during this work? There seems to be controversy about how long LGBT folks and asexual folks have been in a coalition and learning from elders might help resolve this.

    • That’s a great question. While I should have clarified that regarding elders, the A in our group stood for Allies (many of our elders either chose not to identify, were uncomfortable with any terminology, or were brought to the group because family or caretakers identified and we could better collaborate with them regarding their care), I’m really glad you bring this up.

      In a lot of our sex positivity and group discussions, I found that many knew of or might have even noted that they themselves identified as asexual but that term had different meaning for them than it does for asexual-identified folks I’ve spoken to of younger generations. For most I spoke to regarding identifying as asexual amongst my group of elders, they identified that way more so because they felt they had to abstain from seeking sexual relationships with partners they were attracted to because it didn’t coincide with society’s views at the time (or the law).

      I’d love to explore this topic with you, and learn more about it myself but I don’t have a fair amount of knowledge to give you an accurate number.

      I will say though, and I’m sure this will come up throughout anything that I say about the elders, that language use regarding terminology can be very different in working with them surrounding identity. Terms that we feel are more inclusive like “queer” you’ll note I did not include because those terms are still considered derogatory and triggering for them. Homosexual is equally hard as it was used as a mental health diagnosis, or a stamp of criminality and perversion for a lot of older generations.

      So I’m actually really thrilled you mentioned this as it brings to light a really important, if not the most important thing I ever learned from them in my time with them, which is the variation of “appropriateness” in language and how language has changed to suit the needs of people for the times we are living in. We’re now entering a new phase really, where LGBTQAI people who have been identifying openly in a number of different ways will thankfully* inevitably be aging, so it will be really interesting how we approach that shift and bring those identities and the understanding of those identities into the aging community.

      I’d love to hear more of your thoughts.

      • One of the very first people I ever came out to as identifying as asexual was my grandmother, and this was back before I even knew it was a thing. We had a long conversation about whether I identified this way because I felt more romantically attracted to women, because I had really dramatic body image issues (which I also had never admitted to anyone), because physical affection is really difficult for me because of the way my body works (shoulders and neck are essentially locked) or if I would be that way even if none of those things were true. Ten years later I was still really struggling to decide if I was actually asexual or just had so many obstacles in my way to sexuality that it was easier to identify that way, when that same grandmother came to me in tears and told me that she thought she was asexual and never would have even known there wasn’t something seriously wrong with her without me. I still don’t have a difinitive answer about myself, but I am very glad that I was able to give someone I love a way to let go of a secret she felt like she was holding for all of her ninety years – and that it wasn’t shameful anymore. I don’t think that answers the question about how people organized or defined themselves as a whole over the past several generations, but it is a story that is important to me.

      • Thanks for the reply! It’s really insightful!!! 🙂

        I shouldn’t have assumed that the A stands for asexual – nowadays it often does, but afaik this trend has only started in the early 00’s. It’s really interesting that the term ‘asexual’ had a different meaning before that! I also should’ve picked up on you not using ‘queer’ – I’ve heard lots of elders express a deep sense of uneasiness if not outright offence or ‘being triggered’ (again not the word they might use, but I think that’d describe the experience very well) of being offhandedly labelled as such. There is definitely a lot we younger ones have to learn to be more respectful towards the people who came before us and who fought to make this world more liveable for us.

        I’m very much looking forward to the other parts of this series 🙂

  3. I recently tried to explain to my 20-ish y.o., French students how ubiquitous Mean Girls references are if you are a 30-ish y.o. American. Even in an endearing conversation about gelders! 🙂

    I don’t think they will ever believe me/understand.

    Also, this was great.

    • for the record… the gelders lovelovelove mean girls!

      they also love grace and frankie and told me grease wasn’t a “real” musical (false) which probably isn’t as surprising. but they taught me all about the world, and pointed out that all i wear is flannel or black. and i taught them how to play nintendo, lipsynch, and how to be mean to their doctors in more effective ways in order to produce more results.

      also let the record show that i bought them a lot of gourmet donuts and my caps key is stuck. more soon! thursday not wednesday this week!

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