Nancy Valverde pulls out her jingling set of keys and unlocks one, two, three padlocks attached to thick silver chains on the door to her apartment. “They didn’t like lesbians” in her old East L.A. neighborhood, she says. Today, the 83-year-old finally feels at home at Triangle Square, a low-income housing development built especially for LGBT seniors. But having spent her whole life fighting to be herself — complete with stints in jail for wearing pants — she just can’t give up those locks.
If Valverde isn’t quite used to the idea of a safe space, one can forgive her — not least because the phenomenon of residences for gay seniors is proving a juggernaut. By some counts, there are more than 500 homes throughout the country, from liberal New Mexico to the more conservative woods of South Carolina, and demand is expected to surge: By 2030, there will be six million LGBT Americans over the age of 65, double the number now, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Though the residences fall along the economic spectrum, from pricey, upscale setups to government-funded facilities like Valverde’s, there’s little doubt they’re a boon for LGBT seniors. To move into “mixed” elderly homes, some fear, would shove them back into a culture that regarded homosexuality as sinful, illegal or bizarre. “We want to provide a place where our LGBT seniors can talk candidly about their lives and don’t have to be forced back into the closet,” says Tripp Mills, deputy director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s senior services. Read more via OZY