Traditional communities were often led by wise old men. So where are the gay men who should be at the peak of their careers and influence, leading the way forward, and serving as role models for the younger generations? Why are there so few older gay male leaders out there?

The answer is easy: They died.

For gay men around my generation, AIDS took many of the best and brightest, the most creative, and those most likely to be daring, extraverted, outgoing, and driven. Wars decimate generations of young men. 60,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam, while AIDS took 300,000 from the 5% of the populations that is gay. Those who survived either suffered decades of serious illness more like the end of life than the middle, or we were so traumatized by the illness – and the country’s judgmental reaction – that many of us have never really recovered.

Because of AIDS, and the lack of a quick medical response when the disease hit, gay men are lacking the cadre of wise old men and worldly success stories that we should be experiencing at this point in history.

Of course this means everything will change in the future. Leadership roles are now being filled by gay women – many of the most famous gay people in America right now are female, a wonderful thing to witness. And now a new generation arises – healthy, empowered, and ready to be the role models of the future.