I was talking with a long-time friend today and we both commented on the number of younger adults who are coming out or transitioning earlier in life. I watch this phenomenon unfold with awe and appreciation. It wasn’t that long ago they weren’t comfortable enough to do it. Society didn’t accept the idea of LGBTQ quite as readily as it does today. Anyone who wasn’t straight or cis often chose to hide it much longer than the youth my friend and I were discussing this afternoon.
I watch the kids who go to school with my teenager who are comfortable in their own skin and don’t care who knows it. How great is that?! I wasn’t comfortable in school and it had nothing to do with my lifestyle. These kids have so much confidence in themselves. It makes me happy to see it.
(And yes, I fully acknowledge that I live in a progressive area. The comfort young people around here feel in coming out is not represented everywhere. I get that. I am so happy to see it, regardless!)
Then I read a NY Times article that made me think about the opposite end of the spectrum: the elderly LGBT community, which doesn’t necessarily enjoy that same comfort. The article talked about how many of them feel they have to go back into the closet when it’s time to go into a nursing home or some sort of assisted care. My heart broke all over again at the thought that they are once again forced to live a lie.
Studies prove they’re right to worry. One showed that 48% of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have faced some sort of mistreatment. “Bias” is the reason given in the article I read … that “the older someone is, the more likely he is to harbor bias.” Call it what you like — bias, or stubbornness, or someone who’s set in their ways. At it’s core, it’s still discrimination. And it’s damn sad.
And then, just as I was about to get discouraged about their plight … hope! I read about Sage, a nonprofit organization that provides services to older people who are LGBT. Among its other efforts, Sage is building NYC retirement communities with subsidized rents. These facilities ensure seniors who live alternative lifestyles have a safe and welcoming place to call home in their golden years. What a gift!
Sage, you and the people within your organization are doing such great work to give seniors a better life. In fact, this seems like a good time to celebrate all of the efforts on behalf of members of the LGBT community. Those who make it their mission to help this group feel comfortable, worthy, safe, and loved are amazing. Well done!