UK: The drive for better care for older LGBT people

Sue Lister cannot stand the thought of older LGBT people in care living in fear of discrimination – and she’s not going to wait for things to change.

“When I reach the time of going into a care home, I need to know that all the staff and residents know about my partner, Ann, and my entire life history,” says the 72-year-old. “I’m not going to put up with any kind of prejudice or discrimination, and I’m not prepared to wait 10 or 20 years [until] the younger generation, which is far more open-minded, is older.”

The first generation to have lived their whole adult lives after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 are now reaching their later years. The chances are that every facility is home to someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), but as the subject is still taboo among many older people, care staff are not always aware.

“There’s a great deal of silence because LGBT folk tend to go back into the closet when they are in need of care,” says Lister. “They grew up in an era when to be LGBT was either criminal or sinful. If any staff have particular [anti-LGBT] faith or cultural beliefs that might impinge upon their care, they don’t want to risk that – or saying anything to their peers. It’s as if they’re wearing a paper bag over their head that masks their true identity … and it’s oppressive because they’re not being treated as a whole human being.” 

To address the lack of diversity awareness in care, Lister and three colleagues have taken a training play into homes and conferences since 2015. In Free to Be Me, Lister and her partner, Ann Murray, Kevin Sell (a gay man in his 50s) and Lisa Kelly (a trans woman in her 40s) explain why a care home must be LGBT-friendly, share their experiences and answer questions from staff. Read more via the Guardian