50 years. 50 queers.

Andy Sacher

Andy Sacher

Apr 29, 2013

Name: Andy Sacher
DOB: Spring 1959
Occupation: Executive Director & Founder of The Lavender Effect
Favourite Book: 1984
Favourite Movie: Victor/Victoria
Favourite Music: Dance
Favourite Person over 50: Oprah
One word about 50: Unstoppable

He didn’t really give much thought to being 50 until he turned 50. That’s when Andy Sacher felt the full effect of hitting the half-century mark. It wasn’t a time filled with angst or fear; instead it was a time of total liberation. “I felt very free to do what I want, to be who I am, to shed any responsibility of trying to impress or be anything that I’m not,” he explains. “That was very empowering. I didn’t expect that to happen because until that point I kind of felt you are the way you are most of your life but at that point I really felt freed from the previous 50 years.” Turing 50 also sparked a new sense of self for Sacher. “I found my spirit for the first time. I really feel like I’m in love with myself for the first time,” he says. “We say the words, we walk the walk, but I have a newfound appreciation for myself which was part of the empowerment and a lot of that had to do with the commitment to myself to be who I’m destined to be, to follow my destiny, to follow my calling however you want to phrase it. It’s been an exciting time.”

As with many queer people who are making their way into their 50, 60s and beyond, Sacher sees some intrinsic issues that the community must give more meaningful thought to and begin to dedicate more action. “There are the standard challenges of housing, elderly housing,” he says. “We have one of the first, if not the first, elderly housing complexes in California called Triangle Square. That’s a big issue, just affordability. People entering those golden years without a family supporting them, many of the people in their 70s and 80s if they had children, they were probably divorced and maybe separated from those families so that’s definitely a big issue. The economy has hit people tremendously at every age,” he continues. “But if you’re not willing to work 60 hours a week, chances are you’re not going to have a full-time job, so there’s that.”

“We need encouragement to connect with each other as human beings, not just a torso on an app.”

Another issue he sees for people of all age ranges is the growing phenomenon of separation and loneliness. This concept seems anathema to the world of social media, however, as Sacher sees it, online presence doesn’t necessarily translate into real world connectedness, especially as we get older. “A lot of people may appear to be social but there’s a lot of isolation now with social media and the Internet and the apps and so forth, so our social behaviour has shifted,” he explains. “I did my thesis at USC on interactive media and the observations I was having was that 20-somethings are relating to each other quite differently than the 40s, 50s and 60-somethings and I’m a little concerned about losing community because we need places, we need this kind of connection [interpersonal, physical] where we’re here together to maintain community, in my humble opinion. We need spaces that are for that. We need encouragement to connect with each other as human beings, not just a torso on an app.”

He sees the phenomenon of hook up apps like Grindr and Scruff as being useful to a degree but perhaps presenting a Band Aid solution for connecting but only ever presenting ourselves as one-dimensional avatars and body parts as opposed to real human beings. “They’re great for getting laid,” says Sacher. “But when we want something that is more meaningful and for relationships it’s a crapshoot. You might find that person behind that torso but chances are you’re going to find that person through conversation, through a party, through a museum experience.”

Living in Los Angeles—like any great metropolis—can be a haven of freedom for queer people. However, it can also be a place where added peer pressure to be cling to the gay male ideal of youth and masculine beauty can feel overwhelming for some. After all, its not every city where you have so many people vying for the attention of an industry built on a mystique of perfection. This is something Sacher sees as affecting a great many younger gay men. “I think it’s frightening for most people,” Sacher observes of many gay men in West Hollywood. “As evidenced by walking down the street, health and beauty are really, really prominent and it can be very intimidating for those of us who don’t fit the mold exactly.”

“We’re a community that has done amazing things, and not just in the past 50 years, we’ve been doing amazing things as individuals for thousands of years.”

“I also see a parallel experience for people where they are really trying to discover more and be more and in some ways we can be victims of our own type casting,” he continues.
“In some ways we focus on that.
That seems to be just the obvious thing. We don’t in many cases get to the level of conversation that we really need to get to and that’s one of the things I’m trying to change here in West Hollywood and in queer
culture at large.”

How Sacher is trying to change not only the narrative but add texture and depth to his community is with an ambitious project called The Lavender Effect, a non-profit organization spearheading an LGBT history and cultural museum in Southern California. “I sold my house in the suburbs to build a non-profit and I’m working with some amazing advisors from the LGBT community who have similar values of not only creating a space that celebrates who we are as we evolve as a culture but also connecting the past with the future,” he explains of this project that is a labour of love fueled by sheer passion. “It’s so important that we embrace our history, that we can be proud of who we are, We’re a community that has done amazing things, and not just in the past 50 years, we’ve been doing amazing things as individuals for thousands of years. But I think our community is finally coming together and certainly is visible at this turning point in the United States, especially. So we want to celebrate that in a state-of-the-art, interactive, immersive museum-like experience. Something like the Holocaust Museum, only for queer culture.”

The Lavender Effect was born partly out of recent legislation by the California government called the Fair Education Act. The Act mandates that public schools in California teach about the contributions of LGBT people throughout history. “This is a paradigm shift in our educational system and we may have some opposition from some conservatives but when this is initiated,” explains Sacher, “it’s going to teach young people about those people in the history books who are not known for being queer. I think that instantly this communicates to young people whether they’re queer or not, that you have something to be proud of. Look at your queer ancestors, how much they’ve contributed to society.”

“The Lavender Effect is a phenomenon just as much as a non-profit organization…our impact is amazing and it has a ripple effect throughout the world.”

Sacher’s vision for the Lavender Effect is a state-of-the art museum and cultural centre that is both bricks and mortar as well as online. Both entities will be immersive and interactive. “We want to focus on Southern California just because our regional story is really untold,” he explains of how the project will start. “Everything from Hollywood to the grassroots pioneers that no one knows about. Everybody knows about Harvey Milk and Stonewall, they don’t realize that a lot of the movement actually formed here in Southern California. People know Hollywood but they don’t know what an amazing influence Hollywood has had on our perception of queers, both good and bad.”

“The Lavender Effect is a phenomenon just as much as a non-profit organization,” Sacher continues. “Our impact [as queer people] is amazing and it has a ripple effect throughout the world. I think we want to connect certainly with other states, other countries, and other key cities that were integral players in our movement, our evolution, and our rights. I was just in Berlin doing some research and the oldest LGBT museum in the world is there and that was an eye-opening experience. Berlin was a very controversial city at one point. They’ve been telling our story for a long time so I want to make sure that we don’t look like adolescents boasting about our life experiences. We want to show the context of how Southern California fits into the larger picture. We’ve never thought of telling these stories in isolation, we’ll focus on the exciting attributes of this part of the world.”

Sacher has found—and is continuing to find—the power and freedom that comes with being in his 50s and discovering what fuels his passion for life and for his community. He is curious, activist and challenging precepts and the evolving ‘norm’ both inside and outside the queer community. Not unlike RuPaul, whom he admires and would love to work with. “He really is starting to send very important messages in the context of his wonderful expression and I can’t wait to get him involved with the museum project because he is an important representative of popular culture but on the edge,” Sacher says. “It’s empowerment and being yourself. Whether you want to wear a dress or not, is not the point, the point is to find your true self and that’s the spirit that I adore.”

 

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