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Gay seniors face a new activism as they age

Gay seniors face a new activism as they age

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'For gay men, aging is seen as repulsive': Walcott
Tim McCaskell admits he doesn’t know much about Twitter. But the oldest member of human rights group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) says he has watched with amazement as young activists have harnessed social media to get the message out.

“Social media is being used to engage and empower activism,” he says.

In fact, the 50-plus age group is now the fastest growing demographic on Facebook and Twitter.

Local seniors took part in a Nov 28 workshop on how to use social media for activism at Opening the Closet on Aging: The 50+ LGBTQ Empowerment Conference, held at the 519 Church St Community Centre.

"The need for activism doesn't stop just because we hit freedom 55," educator and moderator Anna Willats notes.

Although gay seniors have seen big changes in their lifetimes, there are still rights left to be won.

Hosted by the Senior Pride Network, the two-day conference is looking at several issues facing queer seniors, such as aging, partner benefits, trans needs, wills and long-term care. Its first day focused on activism and ways to bring the community together so seniors don’t end their lives in isolation.

The audience of about 100 was a mix of seniors, family members, caregivers and health- and long-term-care professionals.

Rinaldo Walcott, associate professor and chair in the department of sociology and equity at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), kicked the day off with a keynote speech praising the years of grassroots activism by those now in their senior years.

“You are the soldiers who paved the way for us to come out.”

By 2036, roughly a quarter of Canada’s population will be over the age of 65, the CBC reports. About one million will be from the queer community.

Walcott says he hopes the younger generation continues with their activist tradition by working to make all queer lives more livable.

Reaching out to queer seniors is important because they are twice as likely to live alone, half as likely to have partners, half as likely to have no close relatives to call for help and four times less likely to have children to help them, compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE).

“This is a time to be energized with a new activism,” says Walcott. “We must engage young people.”

Discussions about aging should also move beyond hospitals and medicine, he says. Will caregivers in long-term care understand the needs of queer seniors?

“For gay men, aging is seen as repulsive,” he says. “We hear, ‘old faggot, old queer.’ It’s so important to the queer community that we retain our social spaces and our culture, like clubs and drag shows. What does it mean when we see aging just in terms of the medical model? Why can’t seniors have sex? In our culture, youthfulness is valued.”

The panel, made up of Anna Travers from the Rainbow Health Network; Rupert Raj, from the Sherbourne Health Centre; Tim McCaskell, from AIDS Action Now; and youth advocate Lali Mohamed, looked back on some of the struggles and victories throughout the gay and lesbian liberation movement.

Audience member David Dingwall asked about what support there is for gay and lesbian seniors in smaller communities. “Where do they go to ask a questions as they move into nursing homes?”

Carol Andrews came from Peterborough. She says she happened to stumble across news of the conference and made a point of attending. She says there is little support for queer seniors outside Toronto. “This is important information.”

Travers said it is vitally important that the Rainbow Health network continues to expand to reach out to all communities and to promote the health of gay, lesbian and trans people across the province.
 
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Comments

Kudos, Jeff
Jeff is right. There are many ways to describe Tim McAskell, and his activism in AIDS, Pride, education and curriculum development and gay human rights seems much more relevant to this article than the relatively recent and divisive work in QuAIA. But it appears there's no place that it can't be shoe-horned in. I do wish Xtra would stop acting as their rag, when so many of the Qers have been exposed as hypocrites calling for the censorship of others and shutting down dissenting opinions they don't share. I actually thought that Ms Houston was a better reporter than that. I'm disappointed. The issue seems to think that it can take any other issue hostage, just as it parasitized Pride to become infamous.
Time has come ...
Yes, we all age, no big deal. For 61 I am still working, retiring at 65, remained independent, single and active. It is the seniors that will have the vote and have the power in the next 10-20 years. We will be able to be active, involved and will at all costs refuse to go back into the closet.

The younger generation may have fought for gay marriage, yes we all did, but it is us 55 plus who bore the brunt of the abuse, but stood fast and fought back. The Gay Liberation movement is alive and well, and continues, gay marriage was not the end of it. Watch the documentary Gen Silent and you will see what others face.

I am lucky I have family, but I also have the power to be an activist, I fight for all, doesn't matter who. If people only knew what power they hold in numbers, what the younger generations needs to know is one day you will be where we are at now. You don't stay young forever, drugs, booze, too much all night takes its toll, as well as working 24/7. You can only do that for so long. If everyone works together, our world will be better.

There has always been a bond between young and old, it's a natural thing. get together and learn, teach and things will fall into place. There needs to be a "gay infrastructure" put into place for all. Once done it's there for good, and everyone benefits. I value myself, and I am valued.

Work together and it will happen, not only in Toronto, but Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, Calgary and all over Canada. Not just in the gay community but in all communities.

Activism starts with an idea, grows into a concept and moves forward with a purpose. I trust that we will all be able to pull it off. It will take time but it can be done.
Xtra's unrelenting promotion of QuAIA
Leave it to Xtra to promote QuAIA in the first paragraph of an article about gay seniors.
people care
Nobody with any shred of class uses words like "old faggot". To teach activism it's not necessary to fire up the victim card and make people feel like nobody cares about them. Care for seniors is something we all have to think about, for our parents and ourselves. The last part of the article really touched on a good point, where is the support for gay seniors outside of Toronto? In recent years we've seen LGBT youth groups spreading out into the suburbs and rural parts of the province. I hope this soon happens for LGBT seniors as well, they need safe spaces too. Let's face it, more people will be joining their ranks very soon, and they won't all have boatloads of cash and families to support them. I worry that with a younger population in such economic trouble these days, caring for the flood of aging citizens at our doorstep is going to be one of the biggest challenges we face moving forward. There is an imminent need for activism on this front.
Stereotypes are repulsive Mr. Walcott of OISE.
“For gay men, aging is seen as repulsive,” says Walcott. Jesus H Christ! Is it any wonder people are becoming less and less engaged in matters that matter? Who decided these are the people to lead the dialogue?
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