My way of letting off steam!

Archive for December, 2014


Older LGBTs

We Are Here!!

A Space for Older LGBTs

In an article written by Andrew Sullivan in 2005

there is the suggestion that in some ways in the USA, the concept of ‘gay’ community has ceased to exist. He talks of LGB families now ploughing their own furrows without the need to be separate from the straight community and even suggests that the gay male population was so decimated by AIDS that a whole generation was actually wiped out. He also makes no specific reference to Trans people, either young or old. One almost gets the impression that his somewhat blinkered experience of being gay is all there is, and that, coupled with the outrageous assumption that older gay men are just a small minority who were lucky to escape death from AIDS, is sad.

The consequence of Sullivan’s thinking is that older LGBTs are a small group, are of no consequence, will soon pass away and then give way to the neo-gays who have now established a new world, presumably where everyone stays at being 45, or some such age, for ever!

I have frequently experienced this approach, especially from gay men, and have also seen the repercussions of it with men in their 30s, who realising the decline of their pulling power, and then panicking,  refer themselves for counselling in the hope of it creating some escape from the awful inevitability of ageing.  I have seen the way this approach has fed itself through to the straight population with a typical comment, ‘there aren’t any gay people in our street, the residents are all old!’

The consequence of this ‘nothing but the youth’ approach has been that publications have pampered to the bright young lesbians, gay, bisexual and trans people with only just an occasional tokenistic nod in the direction of older ones who might be interesting, especially if they have a unique story to tell, but nothing more.

However  about 10 or so years ago the world seemed to  awake one morning to the discovery that demographically it wasn’t a young person’s world any longer. Someone was proclaiming that there were more people over 65 than there were under 16 AND then one or two bright LGBT sparks had worked out that the same might be true for the LGBT community too. Indeed it might even be the case that, should this change continue, there might eventually and soon be more older LGBTs, living in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s than the rest of the combined LGBT population.

The blinkers were now starting to be taken off. It might mean that Justin might have to put up with the possibility of bedding Peter , 20 years his senior; or Tracey (27) might have even greater difficulty in finding the girl of her dreams within her set compass of 5 years older or younger; or that Barbara might not be so unique, having gone through transition at the age of 37

The nodding acceptance by the LGBT organisations that older LGBTs not only existed but might have  specific and even unique needs has taken awhile to lead to concrete action, but it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that, through the auspices of Age Concern, a conference devoted to older LGBs actually took place. It was an inspiring occasion and led to further action. A few groups sprung up around the country to meet LGB needs and some of these continue and have even flourished, though it has taken much longer for older Trans people to find their place.

However there was an implicit ignorance in the way in which the LGBT community approached the issue.  For example, the Stonewall report about LGBs in Later Life (2011)

unbelievably grouped together all LGBs within an ‘over 55s’ compass and seemed to purposely omit references to such things as the need for all LGBs to create ‘power of attorney’. To be fair, however, the report did highlight some significant details about older LBGs in comparison with their heterosexual counterpart, some of which had not been sufficiently recognised by service providers.

The point is that as 55s we are in one place, but the same may not be true at 65, and slightly less likely at 75 and probably not likely at all at 85. In other words there is still not the recognition that grouping older LGB and Ts together as a single unity, with single needs, is as ludicrous as grouping together 20s and 40s together as one.

There are good signs that research is enabling service providers and LGBT groups to move away from this simplistic approach and thus create projects which recognise such changes and attempt to meet needs at various points in the older LGBT journey of ageing, but the results are still very sparse and there is yet much to do.

One way, and a big, big way is to enable older LGBTs to speak for themselves and give clear advice about their needs and how these might best be met, and a National Forum for Older LGBTs might be an effective means of achieving this. But more about that next time!

Life etc – 3


This is not islamophobia. OK? I am happy to accept people’s religious beliefs as acceptable to them though I,for myself, am slowly losing any personal religious beliefs. However I cannot see the value of such beliefs unless they are expressed in a community. What a community does says a lot, if not all, about its values and the validity of the beliefs of its followers. So I really really do want to hear about an Islamic community, any Islamic community, anywhere, where I can see the shining lights of truth, goodness, love, inclusion, peace, kindness in action. Unless I can see such actions then don’t be surprised if my finite mind starts to concentrate instead on the murder, abuse, bigotry, exclusion, hatred, now being displayed in all its horror, within Islam, in certain places, and if I then begin to interpret that as being a key to understanding the real nature of that religion. To those at the ‘top’ within Islam, especially in the UK, I would urge you to try harder. Your religion is rapidly losing the patience of normally tolerant people like me and you urgently need to find a way of changing this. No I don’t need to understand your beliefs better; I don’t need pamphlets etc. I just want to feel that I can smile when Islam and its followers are spoken of.

The sad, or even happy, thing is that when speaking of other religions there is a general  feeling within me of being content that they exist.  For example I smile about Jewish behaviour even when it appears to be way out. I well remember walking through the district of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem and finding a shop where the faithful could take newly bought clothes to test them for illegal combinations of fabric. Not in the least important to me but it brought a wry smile to my face. I am glad to laugh with the rest of them when Jewish jokes are told. For example I heard of the Rabbi who on a walk along a coastline happened to fall over the edge, but grabbed hold of a branch to stop his fall. He shouted out to heaven to be saved and heard a voice saying “Just trust me. Let go and my divine arms will save you.”  He replied “Is there anyone else up there I can talk to?” This joke is not a denial of the truth but a refreshing acknowledgement of human religious frailty. And I do not let this affectionate approach blind me to the horrendously unjust behaviour which I see happening at times by Israeli jews towards Palestinians.

Similarly within eastern religions such as hinduism there is something gloriously uplifting about beliefs which just do not fit in with my western humanistic beliefs and there is no way I could adopt a polytheistic approach to religion even if modern theologians tried to explain it as being just another way of looking at monotheism.  Nevetheless there is much that is attractive about hindu practice such as the festivals, with their colourful and raucus behaviour, and which don’t turn me off one bit, and the architecture carries with it an affirmation of love, devotion, even sex, which I find liberating.  I am aware of the excesses of Hindu fundamentalism and the violence stemming from it but I am still left with an accepting smile on my  face.

I could, and might sometime, go on about all the other faiths and certainly not let Christianity off the hook either but I go back to my first paragraph that, for me, something terribly wrong is happening within Islam which could have the effect of creating massive problems for our security as humans and which requires urgent action, not by me but by those with the beliefs.

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