Caring for LGBT seniors is not exclusively an LGBT issue; it’s a human issue.
Video Credit: Justice In Aging
The Greatest Generation
When Tom Brokaw coined the phrase the “Greatest Generation,” he was chronicling the lives of those born in the 20s who survived a massive economic upheaval and World Wars. LGBT elders are among our greatest, having survived the closet, thrived outside its confines and forged a path to equality in military service, marriage and protection from discrimination.
Today’s LGBT seniors are the generation that fought the hardest for equality under extreme circumstances. Their effort to improve our world has cost them their jobs and the support of their families. Many LGBT older adults are haunted by the memory of violent threats and physical harm for coming out in an era when their lives were criminalized and devalued. For some, abuse, arrest, institutionalization, reparative therapy and even shock treatment were the price for their bravery.
This project presents a unique opportunity for the LGBT community and its allies to come together in a remarkable collaboration to honor and support these generational heroes.
Ralph lived with the love of his life Harry, from 1995 until Harry’s death in 2000. Deep in grief, Ralph stopped socializing until an LGBT-affirming church offered him a job and a renewed purpose as minister. When Ralph retired at the age of 84, he was in need of skilled nursing care. Due to his financial situation, a facility in the outskirts of Houston was his only option. Ralph was forced to leave behind the home he had shared with Harry, as well as keepsakes and photos that he feared might “out” him to his new neighbors and caretakers. After 60 years of being “out and proud,” Ralph was back in the closet. Ultimately, friends became aware of his circumstances and, because of his long-term ministry work, Ralph was placed in a Montrose hospice. Had it not been for the hospice, the community he so faithfully served may not have learned of Ralph’s passing.
Angela & Ellen
Together for more than 35 years and now in their 60s, Angela and Ellen spend their days reflecting on fond memories of the life they’ve shared, but are fearful of what the future has in store. They are disabled, living on disability checks and a monthly food subsidy of only $500. Their home is in deplorable condition and located far from the LGBT community they once felt connected to, but it’s all they can afford. Their current living situation leaves them isolated from friends and much needed social and medical services. Worse, Angela and Ellen live each day painfully aware of the fact that if something happens to either of them, it will leave the other homeless and alone.