Metro Weekly

Prime Timers Forges ‘Instant’ Friendships for D.C.’s Mature Gay Community

The D.C. chapter of Prime Timers, which recently turned 25, hosts more than 100 social events for older gay and bisexual men.

Prime Timers DC at their 25th Anniversary in June - Photo: Gerry Woods
Prime Timers DC at their 25th Anniversary in June – Photo: Gerry Woods

In 1996, Bill Latham stumbled across an ad in the Washington Blade for the founding meeting of the Prime Timers of the National Capital Area. He had just come out and hadn’t yet spent much time around the gay community. The Prime Timers, a new social group specifically for mature gay and bisexual men, intrigued him.

“I got up the courage to go to the meeting,” Latham says. “It was probably one of the hardest things that I did [to] go there, because I had not been around a bunch of gay men before.”

But he went back. Again and again.

More than 25 years later, Latham is the longest-term member of the Prime Timers of the National Capital Area, a branch of PrimeTimers Worldwide. The D.C. chapter hosts more than 100 social events a year targeted at older gay and bisexual men, with a current membership of about 120.

Many potential members aren’t clear on Prime Timers’ mission, so Gerry Woods, the D.C. chapter president, makes sure to set them straight.

It’s not a dating service.

Not a sex club.

Not a political group.

“We just do one thing,” Woods says. “We provide opportunities for our members and their guests and their friends to socialize, online or in-person.”

Prime Timers organizes events like weekly Wednesday dinners at DuPont Italian Kitchen, Zoom calls, beach trips, concerts, and parties. Members are primarily in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, though the group is open to anyone 21 and up.

Latham, reminiscing fondly about weekend trips to a bread and breakfast in West Virginia, says he’s made long-term friends. Newer members like James “Hawk” Crutchfield make memories fast: Last year, he dressed up as Santa Claus for the Prime Timers Christmas party.

“You wouldn’t think it, but every one of those little old men wants to get their picture taken with Santa Claus,” Crutchfield laughs. “Just reminds us that we’re still kids at heart.”

Finding that comfortable camaraderie isn’t always easy for older gay and bisexual men. In fact, says Woods, PrimeTimers Worldwide founder Woody Baldwin started the umbrella organization because he struggled to fit in at gay bars.

But when a strong community — like Prime Timers — becomes available, members experience benefit after benefit.

“[People realize] that they’re not the only ones,” says Latham. “There are others out there that have experienced situations where they come out late. You no longer have to feel like you’re the only one that went through all of that.”

Beyond the benefits of a shared identity, Woods also notes that the group encourages seniors to stay healthy and social.

Prime Timers DC's 25th Anniversary Party in June - Photo: Gerry Woods
Prime Timers DC’s 25th Anniversary Party in June – Photo: Gerry Woods

“Sometimes seniors have the tendency to kind of isolate,” he says. “Some of them stay at home and just watch TV and be by themselves a lot, and that is not really healthy for them. We think it’s important that you get out and socialize and mingle with others and try to stay active.”

Additionally, when members are estranged from their families, Prime Timers offers a critical social service. The group recently received recognition for that work by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who issued a proclamation honoring Prime Timers’ twenty-five years of building community.

Prompted by that anniversary, Woods is looking to preserve the group’s history.

“When we had our 25th anniversary in June, I wanted to include some information about the early days of our chapter. I couldn’t find a lot of information. We don’t have anything really written down.”

So Woods started working with the Rainbow History Project. Together, they’re setting up interviews to document the stories of Prime Timers members, starting later in August. Another 25 or 50 years down the line, Woods likes to think people will look in the archives and learn how Prime Timers has grown.

He and Latham would both like the group to expand, though its capacity is limited. Woods suggested new groups could form nearby, in addition to existing chapters in Baltimore, Richmond, and Rehoboth Beach. The reason for more people to join, he says, is already clear:

“The amazing thing is, when you join Prime Timers, you instantly have 120 friends.”

To learn more about the Prime Timers of the National Capital Area, visit https://chapters.theprimetimersww.com/dc/.

To learn more about Prime Timers Worldwide and to find a chapter near you, visit https://theprimetimersww.com/.

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