DFW Prime Timers turns the focus on gay, bisexual men over 50
Although turning gray seems like the end of the world to many in this youth-obsessed society, to members of Prime Timers, aging is something to relish. And gay men come in a variety of sizes and, as the group likes to point out, ages.
Jarvis Cummings, president of DFW Prime Timers said the youth-oriented gay culture is making a huge mistake to ignore older LGBT people.
"Don’t count us out," he said. "Older men have just as much to contribute these days."
Cummings described Prime Timers as a social organization providing mature gay or bisexual men and their admirers with opportunities to come together and enjoy a wide assortment of activities.
He said the group’s members participate in movie and theater nights, restaurant dining nights and potluck dinners called "Prime Beefers." Members also get together for game nights to play bingo, bridge and other card games.
"Basically we have the opportunity to exchange ideas and bond through socialization with one another," Cummings said. "We also provide an alternative option to the bar scene for our members.
"Our generation had lots of issues with coming out of the closet. It wasn’t the thing to do. Many of us had wives and children. It was difficult for us to find people to socialize with," he explained.
He said at the time he realized he was gay there were lots of consequences for coming out: "If your boss found out you were gay you could get fired. Things were not like are now."
Prime Timers was founded in 1987 in Boston by Woody Baldwin, a retired professor, who felt there was a lack of organizations focusing on the social needs of older gay men. Within a few years, through word of mouth and some pamphlets that Baldwin distributed, a series of chapters formed around the United States.
As time passed, Prime Timers grew to have an international presence. As a result, Prime Timers Worldwide was created so members of one chapter could network with members of other chapters. Currently, there are 67 chapters worldwide.
DFW Prime Timers was the third chapter. It formed in March 1990 and the group will celebrate its 19th anniversary next month.
"We started out with 15 members, and then we peaked at about 235 members in the late ’90s. Now we have about 110 members," Cummings said.
He said festivities for the anniversary have not been finalized but usually to mark the occasion, "We usually have a potluck dinner on Friday night, a banquet-styled affair on Saturday night with entertainment, and a farewell brunch on Sunday."
Cummings, who is retired from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, said he formed the Atlanta chapter after randomly bumping into Baldwin in New Orleans and finding the organization interesting. He said he joined the Dallas chapter after moving here with his partner, who was already a member of DFW Prime Timers.
"At that time in my life and still today the organization remains tremendously important to me. I wasn’t one who particularly was into the bar or the bath scene," Cummings said.
According to Cummings, DFW Prime Timers also offers opportunities for its members to become involved with the community through a variety of service projects. As a result of Primer Timers’ involvement with the Resource Center of Dallas and local AIDS organizations, he added, they were able to help some people living in hospices throughout Dallas.
"We talked to a man in one of the local hospices to find out if there was anything he needed. He told us he didn’t need anything. But if we wanted to get him something we could get him a fedora because that’s one thing he had wanted his whole life," Cummings said. "So we shopped around and bought him a fedora. We thought if it was all he needed to make himself happy, then why not make his wish come true?"
He continued, "We also do a lot of service for members of the organization, such as helping each other with personal services such as trips."
Cummings said most DFW Prime Timers members are between the ages of 60 and 65, and there are just as many couples in the organization as singles.
He said the organization is always on the lookout for new members, both younger and more mature, since DFW Prime Timers has benefits for both age groups.
For older members there is the socialization aspect and for younger members there is the opportunity to spend time in the company of older men, he said.
"They [young people] can be officers, work on the board if they are qualified and wish to undertake an office. We don’t exclude anyone from the organization, as long as they are 21 years old," Cummings explained.
Anyone interested in the organization, can contact DFW Prime Timers by e-mail via the organization’s Web site, www.primetimers-dfw.org or by calling 972-504-8866 and leaving a message.
"We would love to extend a welcome to anyone interested in spending time with or wanting to get to know us," Cummings said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 6, 2009