It took Hector Black a long time to come out as gay.  The ninety-year-old has certainly lived a long, action-packed life — over the years, he’s been a husband, a father, friend, and a closeted gay man.  Following the brutal murder of his daughter, he opened up for the first time about his lifelong struggle with his sexuality – and why he didn’t come out until he was 70 years old.

 

 

Black tells NPR that there weren’t words to describe the way he felt while growing up:  “No word for it at all. I had nothing. I had no idea what it was. All I knew was that I was attracted to men. The word gay was never even mentioned, or even homosexual. It was whispered if it was used at all.”

He first discovered there were other “people like him” while going to university in the 1940s — where he had his first-ever sexual experience. “I thought this is not me,” he says. “This cannot be me. And I was just horrified. And then, you know, after a few months, I started thinking about it and then I realized that I’d wanted to experience this again. And – and so we became lovers.”

 

Afterwards, Black joined the Army, where he began to receive treatment for his “condition.”  Treatment included regular doses of estrogen, and in consequence, Black started growing breasts.  Around that time, he felt “cured,” so got married and had children. The whole time, the urge to have sex with men was never far from his mind.  His wife was even aware of his relationships with men, but didn’t want to end their marriage because of the love she felt for him.  But when his daughter came out, Black finally found the courage to do the same.

 

“We both loved her just as much as ever,” he says. ” More even because I knew how much she had been through, how much she suffered because of who she was. And I just said this is it – that I can’t – how can I love her and hate myself for what I am?”  Black gives a moving answer when asked if he has any regrets about coming out so late in life:  “There were some things just amazing how being gay helped me to understand what it means to be different. I really am grateful that my heart has been broken a good many times because it does help me to love.”

 

LINKS:

 

NPR: Interview with 90 Year Old Hector Black

LGBTQ Nation: 90 Year Old Man Reveals Long Struggle With Coming Out

 


LGBT Seniors
 


Aging Back Into the Closet

January 2014

 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults are pioneers who bravely pushed open the doors to coming out. It is unconscionable that many of these leaders of social justice are forced to retreat into the closet as they age. The troubling reality is that the U.S. lacks a complete understanding of the LGBT senior community and is particularly unprepared for the needs of LGBT older adults at the intersection of multiple disadvantaged populations, such as LGBT seniors who are people of color, disabled, living with HIV/AIDS, undocumented immigrants or socioeconomically marginalized. Many LGBT seniors fear that the health-care system is judgmental and have experienced discriminatory care or lack access to culturally competent aging services. To address this crisis, the U.S. must adopt a new perspective that emphasizes health, rather than just health care. All sectors of society must come together with a renewed sense of social responsibility that focuses on social determinants of health -- a holistic view of everyday factors that impact the health, economic and social well-being of LGBT seniors.

Eliminating LGBT health disparities and providing more personal and equitable care to LGBT populations depends on overcoming a primary obstacle: Many LGBT patients are uncomfortable discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with health-care providers, and many providers need training on these discussions. Consequently, LGBT patients often forgo prevention screenings or seek care late in their illnesses or diseases, and clinicians lack information that helps in making a diagnosis and recommending treatment. Research has found that more than one fifth of LGBT older adults have not disclosed sexual orientation or gender identity to their primary physician. Almost 20 percent of LGB seniors and more than 50 percent of transgender seniors fear that they will be treated differently, and almost 35 percent of LGB seniors and more than 60 percent of transgender seniors have encountered a health-care provider who was unaware of their health needs. These factors contribute to LGBT adults (24 percent) being more likely than heterosexuals (18 percent) to receive services in emergency rooms.

Medical care influences only about 10 percent of health status. The truly powerful determinants are genetics, behaviors and social circumstances. For many LGBT seniors, numerous factors complicate the path to health security, such as low likelihood of biological family assistance during health crises, lack of health insurance or same-sex partner retiree benefits, low incomes and high rates of poverty, geographic locations without LGBT-welcoming support systems, and social isolation for those who are single, live alone or do not have children. Addressing these determinants is critical to finding sustainable solutions for responding to LGBT older adults' health needs. There are inspiring examples of upstream approaches to addressing the health needs of the LGBT senior community. They represent advancement of social justice for the LGBT community, yet we have more to do. We have what it takes: skills, knowledge, caring, determination and, most importantly, a passion for doing the right thing. Now is the time for all members of society to come together to help prevent LGBT older adults from aging back into the closet.

 

(From Claire Pomeroy, Lasker Foundation)

 

LINK:

 

Huff Post: Help Prevent LGBT Older Adults From Aging Back into the Closet
 


LGBT Elder Issues

Need to Build More LGBT Senior Housing

AARP Launches Website for Older LGBT Americans

Gay Seniors: Mental Health and Stress

SAGE Publication: Practical Guide for LGBT Elders

 

 


LGBT Conference on Aging

May 2012

 

Gay seniors, like seniors in general, worry about safe housing, good health care and having enough money in retirement.  But according to those attending the first White House conference devoted to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender aging, held at the University of Miami on May 7, 2012, they also face unique obstacles because of discrimination, health-care inequities and fear of retaliation. The White House LGBT Conference on Aging is the first-ever conference dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) aging issues.  Sponsored by SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), it was hosted by The White House Office of Public Engagement, in partnership with the University of Miami Center on Aging.  It met at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where it provided advocates, community leaders, and members of the public an opportunity to engage with the Obama Administration on the health, housing, and security needs of aging members of the LGBT community.

 

LINKS:

 

SAGE News: White House LGBT Aging Conference

Gay South Florida: LGBT Activists Gather in Miami
Huffington Post: First White House Conference on LGBT Aging
Sun Sentinel: First White House Conference on LGBT Aging
White House: Conference on LGBT Aging
LGBT Weekly: LGBT Aging Conference in Miami
HRC: White Holds Conference on LGBT Aging Issues

 


Elderly LGBT People

"We are always the same age inside."

-Gertrude Stein
 

Despite advances in LGBT civil rights, many older adult care providers never stop to consider that their older clients may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).  And sometimes those who do know may not know how to provide services in culturally-sensitive ways.  As a result, LGBT older adults often avoid seeking needed services out of fear of discrimination. The tendency for LGBT older adults to go "back in the closet" is particularly pronounced in situations where they are most vulnerable - such as when accessing home health care or residing in assisted living or residential care facilities. One study indicated that LGBT older adults may be as much as five times less likely to access needed health and social services because of their fear of discrimination from the very people who should be helping them.

 

 

This type of social isolation has an enormous impact in the health and well-being of LGBT older adults. With LGBT older adults twice as likely to live alone than heterosexual older adults, more than four times as likely to have no children, the informal caregiving support we assume is in place for older adults may not be there for LGBT elders.  LGBT people face a number of particular challenges as they age. They often do not have access to adequate health care, affordable housing and other social services that they need due to institutionalized heterosexism and transphobia.  Mainstream senior providers have limited information or training in how to appropriately work with and serve our diverse communities. Existing regulations and proposed policy changes in programs like Social Security or Medicare, which impact millions of LGBT elders, are discussed without LGBT views and interests as part of the debate.

 

LINKS:

 

Care and Aging With Pride
Gay Rights: Articles on LGBT Aging Issues
SAGE: Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders
LGBT Aging Project
National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
LGBT Aging Issues Network
NGLTF: Issues of Aging for LGBT People
Center for American Progress: Protecting our LGBT Elders
 


Wellness Challenges of LGBT Seniors

There are many challenges faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender elderly community. Family and support networks can be critical to the wellbeing of the elderly. Due to homophobia and other factors, LGBT elderly may not have strong ties to traditional social support networks such as adult children to provide care, extended family or faithbased support, and frequently end up relying on friends and service agencies.

 


 

A recent Met Life survey noted that 27% of LGBT baby boomers reported great concern about discrimination as they age and less than half expressed strong confidence that they will be treated “with dignity and respect” by healthcare professionals. Financial challenges include inability to transfer assets such as social security, Medicare, Medicaid and pensions to the surviving partner. The same Met Life survey indicated that 51% of LGBT Baby Boomers indicated they have yet to complete wills that spell out their long term and end of life wishes. This is of concern since LGBT partnerships frequently are not recognized legally in matters of health care decisions and finances.

 

 LINKS:

 

NGLTF: Challenges Facing LGBT Elders
Senior Pride Network

Education Resources for Older LGBT People
Future of Aging: First Congressional Briefing on LGBT Aging
Common Dreams: LGBT Aging Issues Take Center Stage on Capitol Hill
Old Lesbians Organizing for Change
Still Out, Still Aging
Mautner Project: Fact Sheet on LGBT Aging
You Tube: Ignored Needs of Elderly Homosexual Community
You Tube: Gay, Elderly and Alone in New York
You Tube: Gordon & Elliott, Gay and Over 75


Message for LGBT Seniors

If any of you are at least 50 or older, you, along with me, can remember how important it was to keep your gay secret. Of course, before the 70's there weren't any polite words like gay. All the standard insults were there. Being homosexual was the epitome of perversion and degradation; something never spoken of in any type of polite or common conversation.  For example, before the early 70's, New York had a law that prohibited any bar or club from serving alcohol to a homosexual. Of course, most gay men passed easily. Imagine not being able to legally get a drink in a public bar like the other straight patrons. This was the law that the police used to back up their bar raids. When things were slow out on the streets, they would just get prepared with the paddy wagons and go raid a couple of known gay hangouts, arrest and fine the patrons, close and fine the bar owner, and call it a night. Imagine kids, being hustled out of a bar and arrested for being gay and having a drink! In Atlantic City there were gay clubs but you couldn't dance or touch in any fashion. Even when dancing became permissible, you were not allowed to touch because that would get a club closed down and fined. Try to imagine it.


One night in 1969 (yes only 30 years ago) in New York's Greenwich Village at the Stonewall Inn, the police pulled one of their many gay bar raids and all hell broke loose. The fight started and continued for several nights. Gay Liberation as a national struggle was born.  I remember in 1972 (I was 22 at the time) tuning in to The David Susskind Show because he was having a panel of lesbians on to discuss being gay and gay liberation. You young people won't remember but, at that time, talk shows were not like they are today. The David Susskind show was a serious show with serious and informative discussions. The audiences at the talk shows were adult and quiet and sometimes allowed to ask questions at specific times. There was nothing like the ridiculous carrying-on that you see all the time on Springer, etc.   Anyway it was the first time I had ever seen such an open discussion on TV. Where I grew up, I was absolutely certain I was the only gay man within many miles. I watched that show on every channel it appeared for a whole week. Being that there was no such thing as a video recorder, I taped it on cassette tape. I still have it and listen to it at least once a year. I had to make a copy of it about 3 years ago as the tape was getting too old and fragile. It still stirs me like it did 30 years ago.


Things have changed and we are not so much the filthiest things on the planet. However, as we all hear and see all the time now, the hatred is still very much alive and as vicious. It's just all out in the open. The old myths about "queers" are still going strong. Kids, let me reassure you that these self-righteous bastards will do anything to send us back into nonexistence. We see that in the news all the time. This year Oregon will be voting on an antigay measure for the 32nd time. They are relentless and we have to be also. Don't take it for granted that someone else will do the fighting for you. We all need to do this together in any legal fashion that we are able. We deserve everything that the law grants to them. Don't wait expecting them to someday get nice to us. Your society still would rather you didn't exist.  And for us older people, we must not allow ourselves to just sit back figuring that we don't have to bother because it's up to the younger folks. They need our voices as much as we need theirs. Do something to help us all become equal citizens.

 

(From Gianni / Tampa Bay Coalition)

 

 


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ALGBTICAL

Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama