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Anti-LGBT retirement facilities forcing queer seniors back in the closet

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Anti-LGBT retirement facilities forcing queer seniors back in the closet

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Though the public acceptance for the LGBT people is growing, there’s still a lot of work to be done– particularly with regard to how queer seniors are being treated by anti-LGBT retirement facilities.

This is because LGBT elders are being forced back into the closet due to homophobia and discrimination when entering senior care.

For example, lesbian senior Marsha Wetzel– with the aid of Lambda Legal– filed a case against the retirement facility she was staying in because of their atrocious treatment of her.

Anti-LGBT retirement facilities promoting discrimination

A report by The LGBT Aging Project revealed that only 22 percent of LGBT elders are comfortable being open about their gender identity in retirement facilities.

“My lesbian friend whose given name is Hazel has gone by the name of Rusty her entire adult life. The staff in the skilled nursing facility insisted on calling her Hazel,” Eddie W., 62, said in the report.

“It is rare that other residents or staff interact or make conversation with her. I feel that she has been excluded or isolated often,” Eddie added.

Meanwhile, a 2010 documentary Gen Silent told the story of six LGBT elders faced with the decision of hiding their sexuality while in long-term health care.

The documentary was screened at several government agencies and healthcare organizations to help in proper staff training that would benefit LGBT elders.

“Our elders already face significant challenges with isolation and loneliness,” said Nikki Therrien, Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) Boston Chapter Executive Director.

“And LGBT elders are particularly at risk and invisible within their communities,” Therrien added.

LGBT seniors and the struggle for a safe environment

As the fight for the LGBT community goes on, we need to remember that this fight should be for all LGBT members, including the seniors who used to fight for us.

“Unfortunately, because so many LGBT elders are not comfortable being out, aging service providers often do not realize that they are serving this population,: Tari Hanneman said, director of the Health Equality Project at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation.

“[These providers] do not recognize that they may need to change their policies and practices to become more LGBT-inclusive,” Hanneman added.

Because of this, groups like Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) has launched an LGBT elder housing project.

This not only includes the construction of the facility but also also their model to share with other organizations that will enable LGBT senior communities to exist within all communities.

There’s also the partnership between Chase Brexton Health Care and SAGE for SAGECAP Baltimore, as well as Chicago’s Town Hall Apartments.

The retirement community So Others May Eat (SOME) in Washington, DC likewise provides an LGBT-affirming environment.

Lastly, websites likes Gay Retirement Guide offer information on the most LGBT-inclusive places to retire.

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