Speaking with Fischer, one gets an immediate sense of how important community is to him.
Fischer speaks softly and affectionately about the importance of groups like Prime Timers of Baltimore. The group is one of 75 chapters of the Prime Timers Worldwide organization, whose mission is to enrich the lives of older gay and bisexual men, and the younger men who admire them. At around 70 members, the Baltimore chapter presents several social events a month for its members and acts as an organizing entity through which gay and bisexual men throughout the region can keep in touch.
As one might expect, the group has a broad range of interests. In addition to the monthly meetings, brunches, bingo nights, and dining-out events, the Prime Timers of Baltimore connect over shared interests in a number of smaller groups who meet to share hobbies from antiques to films, video games to nudism.
“We share a lot of common interests—opera and many other non-sporting events,” Lee jokes. Yet when the group assembled recently for their February members’ meeting, a week after the Raven’s Super Bowl victory, several of the men were proud to sport their black and purple.
At the national and international level, the parent organization offers a chance to connect with members of other Prime Timers groups during travel. Through this connection, Lee recently had a chance to meet and spend time with older gay men during travels to Minneapolis and Portland.
Of course, there is a lot more to Prime Timers of Baltimore than antiques and outings. Being organized also allows the men to get the attention of businesses. When marriage equality was passed in Maryland in 2012, the group was contacted by a Marriott Hotels representative interested in offering spaces for weddings and receptions. Additionally, the group has brought in representatives for their speaker series from organizations like AARP and senior-living communities to discuss issues unique to aging same-sex-loving men.
“We’ve also had a lot going on medically with people of age,” Fischer points out. His group has supported its members by helping them stay in touch with those in the hospital, organizing calls and visits. The group has even arranged transportation when needed for medical appointments.
In addition to all the other issues facing aging men, same-sex-loving men must cope both with the fact that they are still the population most heavily affected by HIV infection, and that despite advances in hospital visitation rights over the last couple years, sexual and gender minorities still face regular roadblocks when interacting with hospitals and nursing homes. Fischer is quick to point out the importance of groups like his in cities like Baltimore, which lacks a local chapter of the national group for GLBT seniors, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).
The connection between many of the men is tight. During meetings, the men poke jokes at each other, yet they are proud to celebrate each other’s milestones. Fischer prepares a monthly newsletter that promotes upcoming events, keeps members abreast of each other’s lives and, of course, honors the birthdays of Baltimore Prime Timers. The newsletter is not only printed online, but also mailed to members for the sake of those less comfortable with internet use.
Fischer is in his final stretch as the president of the local chapter; on March 1, he will step down to make way for the incoming president Ralph Welsh, who was voted in during the group’s annual election at the February members’ meeting. Welsh said at the meeting that his goal is to expand the visibility and availability of the organization in the coming year.
“My journey to find Prime Timers was considerable,” said Welsh. “There are more men out there like me and I want to ease their struggle to find us.” Welsh already has begun to expand the group’s speaker series, and while the group has already been present at Baltimore’s Pride Festival, Welsh hopes to see Prime Timers marching in the parade in 2013.
Fischer won’t be stepping away completely; during that same election he was voted to the position of secretary, where he will handle much of the group’s communication. During his final moments at the helm, Fischer handed out certificates thanking many of the members who were present for the work they had done over the last year. In return for this, and for a year of service to the club, the members offered him a standing ovation before he closed the meeting.
Prime Timers of Baltimore
P. O. Box 22122
Baltimore, MD 21203