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NYT Says Old Age Hits Homosexuals Hardest

From where else but the New York Times:

Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight


October 9, 2007

Even now, at 81 and with her memory beginning to fade, Gloria Donadello recalls her painful brush with bigotry at an assisted-living center in Santa Fe, N.M. Sitting with those she considered friends, “people were laughing and making certain kinds of comments, and I told them, ‘Please don’t do that, because I’m gay.’”

The result of her outspokenness, Ms. Donadello said, was swift and merciless. “Everyone looked horrified,” she said. No longer included in conversation or welcome at meals, she plunged into depression. Medication did not help. With her emotional health deteriorating, Ms. Donadello moved into an adult community nearby that caters to gay men and lesbians.

“I felt like I was a pariah,” she said, settled in her new home. “For me, it was a choice between life and death.”

Elderly gay people like Ms. Donadello, living in nursing homes or assisted-living centers or receiving home care, increasingly report that they have been disrespected, shunned or mistreated in ways that range from hurtful to deadly, even leading some to commit suicide.

Some have seen their partners and friends insulted or isolated. Others live in fear of the day when they are dependent on strangers for the most personal care. That dread alone can be damaging, physically and emotionally, say geriatric doctors, psychiatrists and social workers.

The plight of the gay elderly has been taken up by a generation of gay men and lesbians, concerned about their own futures, who have begun a national drive to educate care providers about the social isolation, even outright discrimination, that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients face.

Several solutions are emerging. In Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and other urban centers, so-called L.G.B.T. Aging Projects are springing up, to train long-term care providers. At the same time, there is a move to separate care, with the comfort of the familiar.

In the Boston suburbs, the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home will break ground in December for a complex that includes a unit for the gay and lesbian elderly. And Stonewall Communities in Boston has begun selling homes designed for older gay people with support services similar to assisted-living centers. There are also openly gay geriatric case managers who can guide clients to compassionate services.

“Many times gay people avoid seeking help at all because of their fears about how they’ll be treated,” said David Aronstein, president of Stonewall Communities. “Unless they see affirming actions, they’ll assume the worst.”

Homophobia directed at the elderly has many faces.

Home health aides must be reminded not to wear gloves at inappropriate times, for example while opening the front door or making the bed, when there is no evidence of H.I.V. infection, said Joe Collura, a nurse at the largest home care agency in Greenwich Village.

A lesbian checking into a double room at a Chicago rehabilitation center was greeted by a roommate yelling, “Get the man out of here!” The lesbian patient, Renae Ogletree, summoned a friend to take her elsewhere.

Sometimes tragedy results. In one nursing home, an openly gay man, without family or friends, was recently moved off his floor to quiet the protests of other residents and their families. He was given a room among patients with severe disabilities or dementia. The home called upon Amber Hollibaugh, now a senior strategist at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the author of the first training curriculum for nursing homes. Ms. Hollibaugh assured the 79-year-old man that a more humane solution would be found, but he hanged himself, Ms. Hollibaugh said. She was unwilling to identify the nursing home or even its East Coast city, because she still consults there, among other places

The most common reaction, in a generation accustomed to being in the closet, is a retreat back to the invisibility that was necessary for most of their lives, when homosexuality was considered both a crime and a mental illness. A partner is identified as a brother. No pictures or gay-themed books are left around.

Elderly heterosexuals also suffer the indignities of old age, but not to the same extent, Dr. Lantz said. “There is something special about having to hide this part of your identity at a time when your entire identity is threatened,” she said. “That’s a faster pathway to depression, failure to thrive and even premature death.”

The movement to improve conditions for the gay elderly is driven by demographics. There are an estimated 2.4 million gay, lesbian or bisexual Americans over the age of 55, said Gary Gates, a senior research fellow at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. That estimate was extrapolated by Dr. Gates using census data that counts only same-sex couples along with other government data that counts both single and coupled gay people. Among those in same-sex couples, the number of gay men and women over 55 has almost doubled from 2000 to 2006, Dr. Gates said, to 416,000, from 222,000.

California is the only state with a law saying the gay elderly have special needs, like other members of minority groups. A new law encourages training for employees and contractors who work with the elderly and permits state financing of projects like gay senior centers.

Federal law provides no antidiscrimination protections to gay people. Twenty states explicitly outlaw such discrimination in housing and public accommodations. But no civil rights claims have been made by gay residents of nursing homes, according to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which litigates and monitors such cases. Potential plaintiffs, the organization says, are too frail or frightened to bring action.

The problem is compounded, experts say, because most of the gay elderly do not declare their identity, and institutions rarely make an effort to find out who they are to prepare staff members and residents for what may be an unfamiliar situation

It may be difficult to conceive, but once upon a time the New York Times was run by a (mean and ugly) editor named A. M. Rosenthal, who did not actively promote the homosexuality. Indeed, he notorious banned the term “gay” as applied to homosexuals from the pages of The Times.

Mr. Rosenthal’s crimes against humanity are chronicled everywhere, but here is a representative example, marking his passing in May 2006: “Abe Rosenthal’s Reign of Homophobia at The New York Times,” by Larry Gross. (One wonders if Larry Gross is any relation to Jane Gross, the authoress of the piece above.)

Despite Mr. Rosenthal’s long and brilliant career, he was summarily removed from the position of executive editor on January 1, 1987. Soon after all of the top positions came to be filled by homosexuals or those very friendly to homosexuals.

Indeed “Pinch” Sulzberger, who took over as the paper’s publisher from his father in 1991, has made no secret that promoting homosexual rights is at the top of his “to do” list.

Not that any regular reader of the New York Times has to be told.

As we have noted before, a Google search of “gay” and “site:NYTimes.com” returns 1,810,000 hits:


Clearly, the opinion leaders now at the helm are making up for lost time.

But remember when homosexuality was called the “love that dare not speak its name”?

I don’t either.

Lest we forget, it was “Pinch” Sulzberger and the New York Times who promoted the story that Mathew Shepard was killed for being a homosexual, and not in the course of a robbery. Whereas later investigations, including those by ABC News found otherwise.

But the Shepard case led to landmark “hate crimes” legislation. Which, of course, is the goal of articles like this one, with their unsourced melodramatic details:

Ms. Hollibaugh assured the 79-year-old man that a more humane solution would be found, but he hanged himself, Ms. Hollibaugh said. She was unwilling to identify the nursing home or even its East Coast city, because she still consults there, among other places.

Obviously, we need laws guaranteeing separate but equal (or preferably better) facilities for homosexuals.

You must see that. Or are you a criminal homophobe?

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, October 9th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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