Anna Clifford, Programme Manager, Adult Social Care and member of Leeds City Council’s LGBT Staff Network discusses the importance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans History Month.
“February is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans History Month” and if you didn’t know that then I can tell you neither did I until I joined the fantastic LGB & T Staff Network and thankfully had my awareness raised. The LGB&T Staff Network also work in conjunction with the LGB &T Hub group.
I have the good fortune to be writing this from the comfort of my own bed this morning and that got me to thinking: thinking about people who are in a different kind of bed right now; maybe a hospital bed, or a care home bed.
Care to join me in thinking about it? I’d urge you to.
Why? because I can think of no finer examples of the personal and private meeting the public and political than hospital and care home beds in the 21st century and I’m sad to say that I don’t think it’s fine at all.
It’s not fine because this morning I am reading a research report by Stonewall entitled ‘Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual People in later life, which was published in 2011.
It’s not fine because I’m reading that:
- Three in five over 55 LGBT people are not confident that social care and support services, like paid carers, or housing services will be able to understand and meet their needs as they grow older.
- More than two in five over 55 LGBT people are not confident that mental health services would be able to understand or meet their needs as they grow older.
- One in six over 55 LGBT people are not confident that their GP and other health services would be able to understand and meet their needs as they grow older.
Not confident about being understood or having their needs met? You might wonder why not or what that really means. Let me enlighten you and for avoidance of all doubt please do take a trip through our ‘ history timeline’ before you read on.
All of us, gay and straight, should be very concerned about how public services will meet our individual needs and expectations now and in the future. But ‘everyone’ is hard to envisage isn’t it and I’m not talking about everyone. I’m talking about the one million LGBT people in this country who are over 55, these older people who will need public services and the 3.7 million LGBT people in Britain who contribute £40 billion to them every year.
People such as:
William, 73, who when asked about the ‘facts of older life’ said, “In my younger days I paid taxes to be hounded and criminalised by the police”.
Neil, 67, “My family rejected me a long time ago hence no contact or support- no children and my partner of 43 years died from cancer as soon as we retired”.
Teresa, 64, “I would like to think that my daughter will speak to me again. My two grandchildren don’t know me”.
James, 55, “I would, by virtue of the need to have carers in my home, be at a particularly vulnerable stage of life. The thought of being in my own home requiring help from someone who brings with them the prejudices and judgements of the world I experience ‘out there’ fills me with dread”.
Ray 59, “From personal experience of visiting older friends in retirement and nursing homes I know as an absolute truth that they have felt more comfortable in hiding their sexuality from other residents and carers”.
Molly, 68, “Everything is predominantly heterosexually orientated. Sheltered and residential care is mixed with no provision for those who prefer the company of their own orientation. It’s depressing to think I might end up in a home where I could be isolated because to disclose or talk about my life would lead to ostracism”.
I have clocked up 50 years on this mortal coil and lived through some of the fights and victories that make up our LGBT history. I want to make sure I contribute to making better the lives of people like Neil, Teresa, James, Ray and Molly and the millions more, who like them are afraid, anxious, lacking in confidence that public services they helped to pay for will help them when they need it.
So, my call to arms is to fight for an end to isolation and loneliness, an end to fear and anxiety, an end to no choice, an end to ending one’s life in an institution with a sad single bed and wipe down furniture: an end to discrimination. Let’s resign it to history where it belongs.
Let’s fight for ‘a better life in a better place, a place called home’: with a room of one’s own and a big beautiful bed where no one cares who we sleep in it with. Now that’s a future worth fighting for, isn’t it?
February is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans History Month a time to promote tolerance and raise awareness of the prejudices faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through the celebration of the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.
Yorkshire MESMAC and Age UK Leeds are getting together to provide a programme of bespoke services for older LGBT*Q people city-wide. A community development worker and steering group of at least ten LGBT*Q older adults will work together to create new activities which will be fun and easy to access. The team will also work to strengthen the LGBT*Q inclusivity of existing services, through training and partnership work, and will be delivering a truly “gay old time” to people all over Leeds.