Enter my world and largely the world of those of us who are in our 70s. Yes I know there are some of us who would say that they were never in the closet but for the most it wasn’t like that. We grew up in a world where newspapers and family chat assumed that being ‘gay’ belonged to others; to Piccadilly and Soho; to the secret bar and club; to comedians and theatre actors and actresses; but not to us.
At times there would be the odd scandal which would break out. Scout masters with their troops, choir masters with their choristers, peers or MPs with guardsmen, but that was them, not us. Not our family.
So what you knew was going on within you had to be kept firmly in its place. Perhaps those feelings might go away; perhaps it is a phase, some of us thought. Marriage might cure it. No point in talking about it to anyone, they might tell and then you would almost certainly lose your job.
The arrival of the wonderful world of gay rights and legislation protecting LGBTs was an enormous relief but the trauma of earlier years takes a lot of undoing. You might have relationships, friendships, and work situations which had all assumed a straight life and coming out to that lot takes time and, in some circumstances not a little courage. Better then to start a new life away from them all?
So we appreciated our new freedom but for many of us we were ‘out’ and ‘not out’ at the same time. Some of us might now fortunately be in LGBT relationships but we still carried with us the baggage of the repression of previous years. There might even be a fear that this new freedom might not last and our world might regress back into repression and the reports of homophobic violence were scary enough. So we learned to build defensive walls around ourselves so we could be safe and we could decide who would be allowed to know our secret.
Those are the experiences and feelings which LGBTs bring to the event of being diagnosed with dementia. Before you blandly trot out, ‘we treat everyone the same’, please understand what that news might mean to us – it could be different to your experience; but more about this next time.