LGBTQ South Florida

‘Queer As Folk’ star Robert Gant speaks out about LGBT people and aging

Herb Sosa of Unity Coalition, actor Robert Gant and Deborah Plutzik-Briggs of the Betsy South Beach on Sunday at the hotel’s Breakfast Arts Salon.
Herb Sosa of Unity Coalition, actor Robert Gant and Deborah Plutzik-Briggs of the Betsy South Beach on Sunday at the hotel’s Breakfast Arts Salon.

Robert Gant, co-star of Showtime’s groundbreaking American TV drama Queer As Folk, was honored with four others Saturday by the ADL Florida for their “tremendous courage, compassion, and determination in confronting hate and intolerance.”

“Among these various honorees, they were recognizing my work in the LGBT community in relation to aging,” said Gant, 47, originally of Tampa. “Because LGBT elderly didn’t for the most part create families, the incidence of being old and alone — there’s a much higher likelihood of it.”

Also honored:

▪ Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow, “who worked tirelessly to investigate the murder of Guatemalan teenager Onesimo Lopez-Ramos.”

▪ Onesimo Lopez-Ramos, who immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala and at age 18 was targeted by three men because of his nationality and beaten to death.

▪ Angela King, who grew up in South Florida and struggled with her identity. A one-time racist skinhead, she served three years in prison for armed robbery of a Jewish-owned store and turned her life around, getting a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Central Florida. She now is deputy director of Life After Hate — a group for individuals who have left extremist groups.

▪ Steven Stoloff of Miami, a journalist who was kidnapped near near Aleppo, Syria, and publicly executed in August 2013 by ISIS.

Sunday morning, the ADL and Unity Coalition, a South Florida Hispanic LGBT organization, hosted a breakfast with Gant at The Betsy South Beach hotel. Attendees included Chuck Panozzo of Wilton Manors, one of the founding members of 1970s rock band Styx, who in 2001 announced his is gay and living with AIDS.

“Because of the tremendous focus on youth and beauty in our culture, people become invisible all the more quickly as they grow older in this community,” Gant told the Miami Herald. “So much of our community does not want to take a look at this issue and help to create a world that we want to age into.”

Gant, who from 2001-05 played HIV-positive Professor Ben Bruckner on Queer As Folk, said portions of the LGBT community have become less obsessed with thin bodies and movie-star good looks.

“The bear culture has expanded in a lot of ways. There’s a large part of the community that really rejects this pigeonholing,” said Gant, who received a law degree from Georgetown University but has concentrated on his acting career.

“The best work I can do for myself — and hope for my fellows — is to awaken, is to evolve my perspective of who I really am beyond this ego-based idea — that limitation that requires me to have to adhere to these ridiculous standards,” Gant said. “As the body fades — which it will inevitably do as we stay here on the planet — it really behooves us to wake up to who we really are. You can either go along willingly or be dragged, because it will happen.

“For those of us who are trying to wake up sooner than later, hopefully it will be a less painful transition. And a more graceful transition to getting older. At some point you can’t continue that dance. The sooner that one can wake up and realize you don’t have to be do that dance, the better.”

To view a Facebook photo album of Sunday’s Breakfast Arts Salon, click here.