Sep 112017
 
RELATIONSHIPS

Coming out is often framed as a youthful rite of passage, but many people only embrace their true selves later in life. Zosia Bielski explores the tentative joy and painful losses of LGBTQ seniors living openly for the first time

Roman Blank came out as gay at age 95, after 65 years of marriage to his wife Ruth. His story is told in the new film On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi.

Roman Blank came out as gay at age 95, after 65 years of marriage to his wife Ruth. His story is told in the new film On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi, premiering at TIFF.

ANDREW RUSSO

The daughter applied a moisturizing mask to her 95-year-old father’s face. She filed his nails and carefully trimmed his ear hair. Looking slick in aviators and a scarf adorned with neon palm trees, Roman Blank was off to the prom. The gay senior prom.

At the party, Blank hugged other gay men, clinging to them as if to a life raft. He won the title of “prom queen.” And then he grew wistful, wishing he’d been born 50 years later than he was: “Then I would be free, completely free, like a bird.”

Blank is the spark of the devastating new film On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi, about a 65-year, seemingly happy marriage that is detonated when Blank comes out to the family as gay. The documentary, which premieres Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival, follows Blank and his wife, Ruth – both Holocaust survivors – through the fraught revelation that he’s been in the closet all his life in order to survive. “For 90 years I was in pain – and still am,” Blank tells his family through the camera. “I never let you know or feel what is going on in my heart. Never. Until now.”

LGBTQ seniors who come out later in life do a difficult calculus all their lives: risk losing everything to liberate themselves or remain in the closet, embraced by their families but probably miserable all the while. Some come out when a spouse dies or when they themselves become terminally ill. Others, as with Blank, decide they don’t want to spend their twilight years living a lie – this could be their last chance.

But coming out late can come with dire consequences. Some LGBTQ seniors suffer estrangement not just from their spouses but from their children and grandchildren. They are also faced with having to build entirely new social networks in an LGBTQ community that may be completely alien to them after living with a heterosexual spouse for decades.

Ruth and Roman Blank had been married for 65 years when Roman came out as gay to the family when he was 95. His grandsons are directors of the new film On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi, about their grandfather’s secret and the rupture in the family.

The documentary, directed by Roman Blank’s grandsons, follows him and his wife through the fraught revelation that he’s been in the closet all his life in order to survive.

COURTESY OF THE BLANK FAMILY

Coming out doesn’t guarantee happiness. Out seniors can become isolated as they decline physically and mentally. They are half as likely to have life partners or close relatives and four times less likely to have children to lean on, according to U.S. organization SAGE (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders).

“People who come out later in life risk losing everything – their jobs, families, access to their children. For some, the risk is way too high and they never do it,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director at Egale Canada, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. “A lot of people structure their lives to save shame and to save family so they can be stealth in how they live their lives. It’s a dreadful way to live.”

Shoshana Pellman is a 70-year-old transgender woman who transitioned when she was 58. A parent to seven children from two marriages, the second lasting 17 years, she braced for the reaction from her Orthodox Jewish family.

“I didn’t feel in the right place,” said Pellman, a retired engineer in Toronto. For years, she’d been secretly cross-dressing, often in her second wife’s clothing. “She suspected. Her bras and her panties weren’t exactly folded the way she folds them.”

After separating and losing her job, Pellman began seeing a psychiatrist, who told her “you never get over” cross-dressing. She did some research online, slowly coming to terms with her gender identity. She didn’t need a formal coming out: In 2007, her ex-wife walked in on Pellman in lipstick and a wig.

“She freaked out,” Pellman recalled. “She said, ‘Why did you marry me?’ I told her, ‘I didn’t know.’ I honestly didn’t know when I got married that I was trans.”

Among her children, reaction to Pellman’s transitioning has been mixed. One is praying for her.

“When you start feeling the isolation, when you feel the fact that the kids aren’t really wanting to talk to you, it really hits you,” Pellman said. “It does hurt. Those of us in our community, we’ve lost siblings, parents, children.”

Beyond familial rejection, social alienation remains a serious issue for those who come out later in life. Not only do LGBTQ seniors need to find resources and alternative kinship, they need to learn how to navigate new social mores. Dating, for instance, is a significant challenge – especially in youth-centric gay male communities.

“It’s a feeling of being lost,” said Stephanie Jonsson, a York University researcher who looks at LGBTQ seniors’ experiences with long-term care. “They’re trying to build these communities from the ground up. They haven’t necessarily been involved in LGBTQ communities. They may have never gone to a Pride event before.”

Brian Cope, 71, had been married for 25 years when he decided he couldn’t conceal who he was any longer. At the age of 52, he came out as gay to his wife and their two “worldly” teenage children, who seemed largely unfazed by the news. The couple separated three weeks later. On the one hand, Cope was finally independent. On the other, his new future was daunting.

Brian Cope, 71, was 52 when he came out to his wife. The couple had been married for nearly 25 years and had two children in Toronto.

Brian Cope, 71, was 52 when he came out to his wife. The couple had been married for nearly 25 years and had two children in Toronto.

ROBERTO BONIFACIO

“Starting a new life in your 50s is not highly recommended. It felt very scary and lonely because I had no life at all,” said Cope, a retired Toronto marketing consultant. “There’s a saying that when we come out late in life, our actual age is 16 plus the number of years we’ve been out. … You know how awkward a 16-year-old boy is, fumbling his way around, trying to figure out who to invite to the dance or whether to even go to the dance? We’re maturing as a completely new person.”

He started going out for solo dinner and drinks in Toronto’s gay village, where he’d never been before. “I took baby steps,” said Cope, who’s had three serious relationships since coming out. He joined the peer support group Gay Fathers of Toronto. Recently, he mentored a man who left his wife several weeks ago.

Advocates argue that those coming out later in life need more support than is currently on offer – as do their spouses. “The spouse who is liberated is on the fantastic journey,” Egale’s Kennedy said. “The other person, it’s not their journey per se. They find themselves totally isolated. What are they going to do now?”

Family and caregivers also need education. Those who might question why a 70-year-old is coming out now need a better understanding of LGBTQ seniors’ early life experiences and of the historical and social realities that forced them into hiding. Not so long ago in Canada, people weren’t just socially stigmatized for being gay, they were imprisoned for “gross indecency.”

As people now come out at various points in their lives, advocates believe it’s time to reconsider how we treat these revelations among the grandparent set. LGBTQ people can genuinely love opposite-sex partners even as they struggle with their own identities.

After 20 years of marriage, Bill Staubi came out at the age of 45 after his wife discovered his online chats with gay men, some of whom were also married to women.

“It was extremely upsetting,” said Staubi, a 62-year-old retired Ottawa public servant. He described his ex-wife’s reaction: “The person that you’ve been living with and about whom you had a clear idea of now reveals to you that they’re someone different – in a significant way. It brings a sense of betrayal and self-doubt: ‘How did I not know this about this person?'”

Bill Staubi, 62, left, came out at 45 after 20 years of marriage to his wife. He attended last month’s Pride parade in Ottawa with friend George Hartsgrove.

Bill Staubi, 62, left, came out at 45 after 20 years of marriage to his wife. He attended last month’s Pride parade in Ottawa with friend George Hartsgrove.

HANDOUT

Today, society still has scant idea of what goes on between closeted men and women and their opposite-sex spouses. “One of the very first questions people coming out from a marriage get asked is about the quality of their sex life with their partner: How can you perform if you have this other attraction?” Staubi observed.

“More education about how those dynamics actually work in people would help spouses who are worried that their marriage wasn’t authentic. The relationship was authentic, but people are capable of a multitude of feelings and desires. These are challenging ideas for people.”

Eventually, his ex-wife made a crucial distinction that allowed them to move forward, just separately. “She could accept who I was,” Staubi said, but she was still angry that he hadn’t expressed his suspicions about his sexuality earlier. This was her life too, after all.

Will marriage ever be more expansive on this front? Will spouses grow capable of forgiving each other these trespasses, given the steep cost of coming out in decades past and what we are now learning about sexuality not necessarily being fixed in place forever?

It’s an empathetic lens the directors of On My Way Out are holding out for. The film was made by two of Blank’s grandsons, Brandon and Skyler Gross. Brandon believes his grandparents’ turbulent marriage was also “a great unconventional love story.”

Even as wretched misery lay under the surface – Ruth learned that her husband was gay in her 20s but guarded the secret for almost seven decades – the two raised a family and ran a chain of beauty salons in Los Angeles. Against all odds, the marriage was also marked by playfulness and affection, singing and dancing.

At 95, as Roman begged Ruth for a split and raced the clock to find romance with men – encouraging his wife to move on and do the same – Brandon Gross wondered: Had they had more time, would his grandparents have been able to build something else between each other?

“If Ruth had the time to realize what she could experience if she were a little more open,” he said, “maybe there could have been an evolved partnership.”

Jul 162017
 

LGBT Assisted Living in America

Don’t think you need to consider an LGBT assisted living facility? According to a SAGE study, older LGBT people are more likely to be single, live alone and be childless. As Prudential’s 2012 LGBT Financial Experience Survey suggests, the “most pressing concern” and the “bigger financial confidence gap” for LGBT people are outliving their retirement money. What resources do we have?

Alta Prime Assisted Living, an LGBT-Friendly Assisted Living Facility

It’s important to celebrate older generations in the LGBT community for their strength and resilience. Their willingness to stand up and fight got us where we are today and the best way to say thank you is to ensure that our seniors have a place to call their own, where they can receive the care they need, such as adequate LGBT assisted living facilities.

Tony Ramos is the executive director of Alta Prime Assisted Living, a unique senior residential care facility in Aurora, Colorado. Alta Prime is an LGBT-friendly assisted living facility, and its model of converting single-family homes into care facilities for four to five seniors allows for customized one-on-one care for all people, including LGBT seniors.

Tony is a Colorado native with ten-plus years in financial services and a Master’s in business administration. This background coupled with a growing interest in real estate and experience caring for his grandparents led Tony down the path to entrepreneurship in the senior housing industry. Being gay himself made him eager to help LGBT seniors.

Today Tony explains the difference between assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the costs associated with senior residential care, and strategy around preparing for retirement. He also helps us understand the unique needs of the aging LGBT community, the availability of LGBT-friendly senior care facilities, and the discrimination faced by some LGBT seniors in non-LGBT-friendly residential care. Tony is ready to share what sets Alta Prime apart as they ‘spoil the seniors’ so their retirement looks more like The Golden Girls and less like Grumpy Old Men.

Topics Covered

How Tony gained an interest in senior residential care

  • Helping grandmother explore options
  • Heart for ‘taking care of our own’
  • Experience in hotel management

How Alta Prime is different from other facilities

  • Converted single family home
  • More oversight in smaller setting
  • One-on-one care and customization

The cost of senior residential care

  • $80,000/year average for assisted care facility
  • $8-10,000/month for institutional facility ($12-15,000 for specialized care)
  • Traditional health insurance does not help cover cost
  • Long-term care plans offset some expenses

The financial advantage of a smaller residential facility

  • Less expensive than institutional care
  • Shortage of availability of Medicaid homes

How long people stay in assisted living facilities

  • Varies by home, specialization
  • Average stay of two to three years

The difference between assisted living facilities and nursing homes

  • Assisted living provides 24/7 concierge service, may use outside vendors to deliver medical care
  • Nursing homes offer 24/7 medical care

The clients served at Alta Prime

  • 65 and older
  • Ambulatory
  • Need help with bathing, cooking
  • Parkinson’s patients

The standard services available at an Alta Prime facility

  • 24/7 supervision
  • 3 nutritional meals, hydration, and snacks throughout the day
  • Medication administration
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Errands
  • Bathing, getting ready
  • Social activities
  • Exercise to minimize dementia risk
  • Excursions (e.g.: Rockies game)
  • ‘Spoil the seniors’
  • Come and go as they please

The availability of LGBT exclusive senior residential facilities in the US

  • Only a handful in the nation
  • Fountain Grove Lodge, Stonewall Gardens, Rainbow Vision, Birds of a Feather, Triangle Square

The unique needs of the older LGBT community

  • Some still dealing with HIV
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Fear of isolation, loneliness

The numbers around the aging LGBT population

  • Three million in LGBT community over 55
  • Will double in next 20 years
  • 51% of older LGBT community concerned about financial future
  • 2/3 of older trans people worry about being denied access to medical treatment
  • 24% of older LGBT people of color have experienced housing discrimination
  • 71% of LGBT population scared won’t have money for happy retirement

The discrimination of LGBT seniors in residential care facilities

  • Testimony of aging seniors regarding discrimination, isolation
  • Verbal abuse from staff, other residents
  • Some cases of physical abuse

Tony’s suggestions around preparing for retirement

  • Planning is crucial
  • Research available services, funding access
  • Consider long-term care insurance
  • Acquire retirement vehicle [i.e.: Roth IRA, 401(k)]
  • Build wealth by investing in home
  • Explore Social Security benefits at MassMutual.com/social-security
  • Study financial benefits of marriage

Why Tony is passionate about caring for LGBT seniors

  • Celebrate by giving space to share lives, stories
  • Grateful for strength, resilience of older generation

Connect with Tony

Alta Prime Website

Alta Prime on Facebook

(720) 810-4279

Apr 042017
 

From one of our Las Vegas friends – Fundraiser for Senior GLBT housing

Subject: NOT ANOTHER SEX ORGY IN VEGAS? (when will it ever stop ?)

As you probably already know, Las Vegas in July & August is HOT – but our “May”
weather is perfect. I hope you will consider attending our annual Las Vegas 2017
May “Gay” Fun Festival (April 30 – May 4, 2017). This is our Spring Fundraising
event to provide affordable Senior GLBT housing. We are expecting around 300
guys, young, middle aged and older. Please send me your email address and I will
add you to our email list for updates. Sincerely, Pete at –
info@newhorizons-nv.com –
https://www.newhorizons-nv.com/may-2017-fundraising-festival (click on Events)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Las Vegas 2017 Annual May Fun Festival –
Click on the link Below for Information, Registration Forms and Discount Hotel
room codes.
http://www.newhorizons-nv.com/may-2017-fundraising-festival

Let us know if you have any questions.
Bear Hugs from Vegas.
info@NewHorizons-NV.com

Apr 022017
 

Chicago Prime Timers is honored to be hosting the Prime Timers Worldwide Convention.

Come enjoy “The Windy City”, Prime Timers style! You’ll meet new friends, greet old friends from across the world, and maybe find your soul-mate here in “. . .the town that Billy Sunday could not shut down”.

The Convention Committee has put together 4 days of events and workshops which will make your time at the Prime Timers Worldwide Convention truly memorable. Check the Dinner Cruise Link for a very special evening on Lake Michigan.

Also take a look at the Site-Seeing Link for a list of our suggestions about places to go and things to see while you’re in the “Windy City”.

You’ll stay at the beautiful Double Tree Hotel by Hilton Chicago along the famous Lake Shore Drive and just 5 blocks from Chicago’s iconic Magnificent Mile. PT negotiated a great rate for a hotel in the heart of a major metropolitan area! Check the Hotel Link for more details.

PT also made it possible for you to Register online so it’s super simple and easy to make your reservation for what promises to be a fabulous 4 days. Check the Registration Link for more information.

 

 For more information and to visit the convention website, please click here

Mar 192017
 

GRACE

They can face discrimination and isolation, but—as in one Florida group—LGBT elders are getting together to share company, and a lot of laughter.

SAMANTHA ALLEN

WILTON MANORS, Florida—The hottest party in South Florida doesn’t happen in a Miami nightclub. Hell, it’s not even on a weekend.

It happens every Tuesday. At 10 a.m. In a room packed full of LGBT seniors.

When I visited the Coffee and Conversation happy hour at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors—a Fort Lauderdale suburb proud to be known as the “second gayest city in America”—I could barely find a parking space. Eventually, I stowed my car on a patch of grass in the back and joined the stream of gay men rushing toward the building as if there were a private Cher concert happening inside.

Alas, there was no Cher but instead an endless supply of coffee, bagels, and donuts in a hall so filled with the noise of chatty seniors that my voice recorder was useless.

“It’s crowded today,” Gene Majka, an adjunct nursing professor with snow-white hair and sparkling blue eyes, told me as we hovered awkwardly between tables.

Majka started coming to the Coffee and Conversation program after his husband died 18 months ago. He attended a bereavement group led by Reverend Anne Atwell, whose local congregation is primarily LGBT, and discovered the event through her.

“It’s difficult when a spouse dies—married friends go bye bye,” Majka said. “I came here and, wow, these are really a bunch of nice guys.”

By “a bunch,” Majka means at least 150 people, most of them men—a reflection of the demographics of Wilton Manors—with one table of women, where I sat with Reverend Atwell. According to SAGE, the nation’s largest organization for LGBT seniors, the Pride Center’s Coffee and Conversation program is one of the largest weekly gatherings of its kind in the country and it could not be more essential.

Seniors are already at high risk of social isolation and depression, and those problems are exacerbated if you are LGBT. According to a 2010 report from SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project (PDF), LGBT seniors are “more likely to be single, childless, and estranged from biological family” than their non-LGBT peers. They have also survived multiple generations of bigotry only to encounter echoes of that prejudice in doctor’s offices, assisted living centers, and nursing homes.

Against that backdrop, a simple thing like an hour or two of weekly conversation can be “life-changing,” Serena Worthington, SAGE’s Director of National Field Initiatives told me.

“Everybody wants to hang out,” she said. “Everybody wants to learn and grow and contribute—and LGBT elders are the same as everyone else.”

LGBT Elders

THE PRIDE CENTER AT EQUALITY PARK

Hanging out is indeed the main order of business at Coffee and Conversation. For a full hour, there is—pointedly—no programming whatsoever. The vibe is somewhere between bingo night and gay bar in the best possible way. During that time, ex-marine Thomas “Tomcat” Pence, president of a local organization that holds gatherings for “mature men and their admirers,” circles the room, assuring each table that they are his favorite.

“These people are beautiful,” Tomcat told me after he had made his rounds. “These are the people who fought in Stonewall.”

The unstructured quality of the Coffee and Conversation program was the brainchild of Bruce Williams, the Pride Center’s senior services coordinator who came to Florida from Houston, Texas, where he had spent 25 years in a top position at a retirement facility. Well, almost 25 years.

“A month shy of my 25th anniversary, the company had sold and I was fired by homophobes,” Williams, now 70 years old, told me.

After relocating, Williams started coming to Coffee and Conversation as an attendee but there were only “about 20 to 25” people there every week, he estimated, because the organizers were dominating the microphone instead of making time for mingling. Once Williams took over, that all changed.

“I have real serious mic restrictions—we don’t go on that mic until 11 o’clock,” he told me. “They come in and you can see that they just bubble talking with each other and it’s in a no-pressure situation.”

Under Williams’s tenure, attendance skyrocketed to the point that they got in trouble with the fire marshal for filling the room beyond capacity. (“Isn’t that a nice problem to have?” he joked.) There are often lines out the door, especially when the snowbirds are in town. And the event is now a “nationally renowned” model for other LGBT senior care providers, as South Florida Gay News reported last fall.

When Williams finally took to the podium on the day of my visit, the crowd was caffeinated and punchy. After telling some jokes that would have fit right into a late-night monologue, he welcomed each of the first-timers—“virgins,” they were called as if we were at a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Pride Center’s CEO, Robert Boo, came over to give an update on an affordable housing project, and everyone booed—not, apparently, because they hate him, but as a pun on his last name.

And Williams, I discovered, has devised an ingenious way to cut costs and help his attendees through the aging process at the same time. Each week, a sponsor helps to provide the treats and, in exchange, gets a few minutes at the podium. (This week, it was a local dentist who touched on the importance of oral health for HIV-positive people.)

“I sneak it in this way,” Williams confessed to me later. “They come in, they enjoy their company with one another, they enjoy the coffee and the goodies. And every week, whether they know it or not, they’ve been introduced to a doctor, to a dentist, or to a long-term care facility manager.”

The 2010 SAGE report (PDF) noted that “LGBT elders are more likely to delay getting needed care” so connecting this demographic with LGBT-affirming physicians serves a valuable purpose.

Although Coffee and Conversation at the Pride Center is certainly a unique event, LGBT seniors nationwide can build similar communities. SAGE provides programming through 30 local affiliates in 20 states—even a thinly-populated one like Maine where Worthington says LGBT seniors participate in regular group phone calls, just to catch up. Last year, SAGE also launched a hotline to help LGBT seniors find peer counseling and local resources.

After the crowd at Coffee and Conversation thinned and before I fetched my car from the grass, I stopped by Williams’s office where he sat beneath a poster that said “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies.” It was there that the cheerful master of ceremonies waxed serious about the importance of this simple Tuesday morning activity.

As an outside observer, I had seen dozens of people share a cup of coffee and disband. But Williams knows them all—and he sees firsthand what it means for them to have a weekly milestone.

“It helps to keep everybody alive and kicking and active,” he told me. “It’s a raison d’être. We all need a reason to live.”

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline (1-888-234-SAGE) is open Monday through Friday from 4 PM to midnight EST and on Saturday from noon to 5 PM EST. The hotline can also be reached by email at SAGE@GLBThotline.org.

Dec 042016
 

janjamboree-flyerA celebration of friends provides warm, comfortable, safe and engaging gatherings recognizing and promoting self-worth, dignity, kindness and friendships within our senior population. To that end, they strive not only to host celebrations of our seniors, but family type reunions of friends and brothers through supportive connections within our nationwide and international scope.

WELCOME TO THE JANUARY JAMBOREE!

January 26 – 29 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Host Hotel: Ramada Fort Lauderdale Oakland Park Inn

For more information go to http://www.celebrationoffriends.org Lots of great pictures – you really will like them.

Nov 302016
 

Facebook user Jicama Fine posted a wise open letter to young queers this week and you need to read it no matter how old you are. His breathtaking history lesson will inspire you as our community works our way through the grief spawned by Donald Trump‘s election.

Letter to my Queer community

I would like to speak to my younger Queer community. Those of you who weren’t around during the darkest times of the AIDS plague. Some of you call me elder. It’s a title I often want to run from. It scares me. Most often because I will have to live up to any advice I give you.

Since the outcome of the election I’ve been in a dark place. I’m scared, I’m reduced to tears at times. My hands shake. I want to hide in my house with the doors locked. I’m in pieces. Yet through my own grief and fear I see you. Your faces come to me, some familiar some unknown. I see your pain and fear and they are valid. They are not imaginary. The threat is real. I want to comfort you and tell you things will be alright but I’m not sure of this.

Many of you are estranged or have a tenuous connection with your birth family because you are Queer or HIV positive or because of this last election or other circumstances. Many of you don’t have an elder to turn to. Many of you feel alone.
I’ve been waiting to feel stronger or whole or for when my thoughts are more organised to speak to you but I’m unsure of when that will be. One thing I do have to share with you now is my experience.

I’ve been in this dark place a number of times before. One of those times was during the mid 80s through early 90s. AIDS was decimating our community. Loved ones, friends, strangers and ourselves were suffering and dying from this horrible disease.
I , myself tested positive for HIV in 1985. I cried, I hid, I spun around and around. Effective treatment was still about 9 years away. I thought I had 2 years to live tops. Luckily I had the support of the Queer recovery community and the larger Queer community in Seattle.

The government was doing nothing to stop the spread of AIDS. Some so called Christians were calling for mass internment for people with AIDS, telling us that we should die and go to hell. Even some medical professionals were refusing to touch patients. Families were torn apart and sons and daughters were abandoned, stigmatized and left to die alone.
Our community members were broken physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We were in pieces.
We started taking care of ourselves and each other. We didn’t have time to wait to feel better or get ourselves together. We took care of each other the best we could. We used the skills we had. We built community using the broken pieces of ourselves. Many new skills were learned by doing. We made mistakes, we cried, we grieved, we buried our loved ones, we kept going somehow.

I had an elder who would often say ” Do the next obvious thing”, I had just gotten my massage license in 1985 and decided to use this to help. I started massaging one or two patients in my home once a week and eventually joined the massage team that went into Seattle hospitals and hospice to comfort the sick and dying. I massaged emaciated bodies sometimes covered with KS lesions. I did things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. My fingers still hold the vivid memory of what that feels like. Sometimes these people were loved ones but often they were strangers. Some had no birth family support others did. There were mothers and fathers and siblings that took care of their loved ones amid the fear and stigma. Some died alone. We tried to catch the ones falling through the cracks. We often failed.

From this basis of love and care organisations sprung up. We washed dishes, cleaned houses, wiped asses, made food and fed each other. We organised protests and actions to bring attention to the lack of government response. Real people of faith came forward and helped. Some of us ran for political office.
I tell you these things not because I want to be called hero or feed my ego but to give you the benefit of my experience. Many others did a lot more than I did in the face of greater fear. I went to the hospital to comfort a dying friend and instead he was the one comforting me. He died clean and sober and faced his death with grace. He was a hero.
I cannot talk about these times without acknowledging the women that came forward to help. They were the backbone of this movement. A lot of us men were broken and sick . Many times I fell into the arms of women who were there doing the work. They held me up literally at times. We came together from different gender identities, color and economic background.

Though the circumstances are different today I see many similarities. Hate is hate and fear is fear. Hate is a powerful dark spell fed by more hate. Try not to feed it. This thing called courage is not something I carry around with me that I can give. Real courage comes from within oneself at the time it is needed. It doesn’t come with flags waving and trumpets blaring that is something else. It often comes with tears and shaking and the urge to run and hide. Courage isn’t the absence of fear.

I see you, the younger members of my communities and I am given hope. You are bright, strong, energetic and loving. I am honored by your presence in my life. I see the work you do and the risks you take and I am humbled. I have often looked at you and have seen the faces of Queer ancestors I have known. Your Queer ancestors are with you in Spirit and also in more tangible ways. They survive in the rights and organizations we benefit from today.

This is a stressful time. The pull of addictions is strong. If you need help, get it. It is there. I love you. We need you. Mend your broken fences, We need everyone. Take good care of yourself and others, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Strengthen those bonds. The work will present itself if we are ready. If you are feeling down look around you. There is always someone else hurting more than you, Reach out to them.

Other communities are under attack. I cannot speak for them. I can only tell my story. You can find their stories elsewhere.

I offer you these words and the broken pieces of myself. It’s all I have

Nov 282016
 

Loren A Olson MD  73-year-old semi-retired, gay psychiatrist. Author of “Finally Out”, http://www.lorenaolson.com

Click on the name and you will find more interesting articles

Gay and bisexual men seek mental health care more frequently than heterosexual men but are more likely to have attempted and succeeded at suicide.

Suicide in the United States has surged to its highest level in nearly thirty years. Although this rise was particularly steep for women, it increased substantially for all middle-aged Americans, a group whose suicide rate has been stable or falling since the 1950s.

The majority of gay/bi men maintain good mental health, but compared to other men they are at greater risk for mental health problems. One group of researchers found that 12% of urban gay and bisexual men have attempted suicide, a rate three times higher than the overall rate for American men. Almost half reported multiple attempts.

One common theme underlies most successful suicides: a sense of hopelessness.

Some psychiatrists have described predicament suicide, circumstances from which a person cannot find an acceptable escape such as financial loss or forced marriages. A decision to come out in midlife might represent such a predicament; older men may feel they are sacrificing everything they once valued and feeling there is no one with whom they can speak about it.

Dr. Whitney Carlson, a Seattle based geriatric psychiatrist says, “Some individuals decide this is as far as they want the road to take them. Many of them are completely rationale and accurate in their assessment of their situations. If they are lucky, they will cross paths with someone who can offer hope. For some, this does not represent depression but perhaps, rational choice.”

Most research on suicide has been done on youth with an increasing emphasis in recent years on bullying, but very little research has explored gay, middle-aged men and suicide.

Several things account for mental health issues for older gay men:
• Homophobia, stigma and discrimination
• Social isolation
• Lack of trust in healthcare providers
• Lower income
• Alcoholism and illegal drug use
• HIV

One study found that the age of serious suicide attempts by gay/bi men coincided with major coming out milestones. At whatever age a person first begins to seriously question their sexual orientation, that conflict has been implicated in the lead up to the suicide attempt. When coming out milestones are reached at a later age, the first suicide attempt for gay/bi/questioning men occurred at an older age.

Most gay and bi men can cope successfully if they have access to the right resources. Therapists who are knowledgeable and affirming provide helpful therapeutic experiences, while counseling from therapists who focus on changing sexual orientation or encourage hiding it are unhelpful and sometimes damaging. People who seek counseling from religious advisors who considered homosexuality sinful have a higher risk of suicide risk than those who counsel with affirming religious groups.

A recent study found that strict conformity to masculine norms had implications for negative mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and poor body image. The three characteristics most closely associated with poor outcomes were self-reliance, power over women and sexual promiscuity. Boys are taught to be self-reliant by gender police who continuously remind them to take it like a man when they transgress from this norm. For gay men, this is often accompanied by a sense of shame: I am bad therefore I don’t deserve help.

A consistent correlation exists between race and socioeconomic factors. Those from a racial minority or living in poverty have poorer outcomes and higher risks of successful suicide.

Many of the challenges that lead gay/bi/questioning men to consider suicide are not immutable. As more and more people have come out in recent years, social attitudes toward homosexuality have changed albeit with significant backlash. One of the most necessary changes is to deconstruct the requirement for self-reliance and reconstruct a new sense of masculinity.

Coming out is not an event but a process. Not everyone has to come out to every person in every circumstance. Having a supportive group of family and friends is very important. When families are not accepting, developing a “family of choice” may be essential. The Internet has helped men isolated in rural areas or cultures with strong prohibitions against homosexuality, and it allows for an anonymous discussion of questions concerning sexuality.

Medications may be indicated particularly if there is significant insomnia or a failure to function in most areas of one’s life. Counseling may be helpful, but choose carefully. A good therapist will not impose their values on their counselees. Care-seekers are often intimidated by their perception of an imbalance of power in the counseling relationship, but you have a right to interview the therapist about their attitudes and training before making a commitment to therapy.

For those struggling with conflicts about sexual orientation, reach out to someone who can offer hope.

Nov 252016
 

With a little planning, your later years can be absolutely amazing.

by Peter Field is a UK registered psychotherapist

The gay world, with its emphasis on youthful good looks and hip fashion trends can be a cold and unwelcoming place for those who are no longer young.

For many, aging is a frightening concept, something to be denied, fought against and held at bay for as long as possible. Botox, collagen injections and cosmetic surgery, our obsession with youth seems to know no bounds.

In so many ways, being old and gay is one big taboo subject, a topic to be shunned and avoided at all costs. But age, like the future, cannot be avoided; like it or not, it is something that will come all too soon.

Research is really only beginning to uncover what it means to be older and LGBT. Because many older LGBT people felt unable to be open about their sexual orientation, gender identity, and preferences earlier in life, some may experience even greater difficulty adjusting as they continue to age.

Rutgers University professor, Dr. Michael C. LaSala, believes that aging may be particularly difficult for gay men because historically gay culture has focused on youth and beauty, and as sexual attractiveness diminishes, so can self-esteem.

To free ourselves and develop a robust and lasting sense of self-worth as we age may mean going against the current of many present-day gay attitudes.

Aging can be especially difficult if we are overly dependent on one aspect or dimension of our self, but when we remember that there is much more to us, and that we have far more value than mere physical beauty, then growing older can be better accepted and handled with dignity.

In 2010, the UK organization Stonewall conducted a survey of LGBT people over the age of fifty-five. The data, intended to assist in planning for long-term housing and medical support for the aging LGBT population, revealed that older gay and lesbian people are more likely to be single and to be living alone than their straight counterparts.

LGBT people are less likely to have children and they tend to see their conventional families less often. This is sometimes due to the family’s rejection. People who came out later in life, or not at all, also have less time to build up lasting relationships within the LGBT community.

In many other ways, aging LGBT people share the same concerns as others involved in the aging process. We may have concerns about finances, health, and death. Some of the health needs and concerns of LGBT people are unique and require further study, but many are not.

Gielgud, pictured with co-stars Dudley Moore (left) and Liza Minnelli (right), won the Best Supporting Actor award in 1982 for “Arthur.” He is generally considered the first openly gay actor to win an Oscar, though he rarely discussed it openly.

As we age, it is important that we learn to assert our rights in terms of the kind of care we receive.

Unfortunately, homophobia continues to be an issue for older adults. Not every doctor, social worker, senior community or gerontological physician is knowledgeable or prepared for LGBT seniors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to assert your rights in order to help educate these health care professionals. If necessary, shop around to find the right doctor and the right community for you. They are out there, and they can be found.

If all of this makes you feel blue about your golden years, don’t be! Remember that you have control over many things, and this includes a huge part of your own happiness. With a little planning and determination, your later years can be absolutely amazing.

Many older LGBT people manage to find wonderful, long-lasting relationships, even in later years. The same rules that apply to youthful relationships apply to relationships in later life. As long as each partner is loving and supportive, the relationship can be healthy, regardless of age.

One U.S. not-for-profit association that offers support to the mature gay person is SAGE, the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBT people. SAGE offers numerous services to gay people nationwide, and their website gives much useful information. The address is www.sageusa.org.

In the UK, Age Concern is a not-for-profit organization that does much to support and improve the lives of older LGBT people. Simply type “ageconcern.lgbt” into the address bar and click on the link.

In the coming years, the LGBT community will continue to increase in visibility and in power. As society changes and becomes more open and accepting, it is likely that life for aging LGBT people will change for the better as well. But this will not happen until gay people themselves end the taboo on becoming old.

As long as we maintain a dismissive attitude to older gay people, we will continue to fear the aging process, and we will continue to make those uncomfortable beds upon which we ourselves will one day have to lie.

If our lives are to have any meaning beyond the pleasure principle, any real relevance and authenticity, then we need to end our denial and come to terms with the aging process, of what it is to be gay and older.

It really is time to break the taboo about being gay and old.

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” – Betty Friedan

Peter Field is a UK registered psychotherapist and Director of Rainbow Champions, assertive life-skills and confident communication training for LGBT persons. His book ‘How to Be Gay and Happy’ is now available on Amazon. Peter’s hypnotherapy Birmingham and London clinics provide hypno-psychotherapy services for a wide range of issues.

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