It gets better when we make it better. HIM has a pretty simple idea: gay men with high self-esteem tend to live healthier lives and have access to better health choices. We're interested in improving social health factors that impact gay men, including the big-picture stuff like homophobia and heterosexism. We also have Professional Volunteers who specialize in social health.
Posted by HIM on Wednesday January 25th, 2012
Many of you may remember the documentary Gen Silent from last year’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Gen Silent asks six elders if they would hide their identities in order to survive in the care system. It follows Lawrence and Alexandre as they search for a gay-friendly nursing home; Sheri and Lois as they recall their life-long commitment to fighting for queer rights; and Sheri as she proudly comes out as a transwoman in her late 50s. From capturing human rights issues to sharing heartfelt memories, Gen Silent shows us how critical it is to acknowledge and care for our elders.
Creeping up on the big 5-0 myself, I have also been reading many articles and papers on growing older as a gay man. For example an article in ‘The Guardian UK’ published the results of a survey commissioned by the campaigning group Stonewall which outlines some rather hard to face facts about the current state of growing older gay in the UK health system. While the survey is UK based, any comparable study undertaken in Canada could easily echo the results that Stonewall found. Results like:
Let’s face it, we live in an ageist culture and gay culture can be especially marginalizing and devaluing of older guys who are seen as having lost their sexual prowess which we hold in such high, and in my opinion, false esteem. All this doom and gloom got me thinking about what we can do about it.
My first thought was: is this a generational phenomenon? What about my generation, the ‘baby boomers’? I think we are in a unique situation where we are the first generation of gay men who have been out for our whole lives (many of us). Not only have we forged our own communities and developed our own services – bars, clubs, clinics and non-profit agencies etc – but we were trailblazers for the relative freedom and equality we enjoy today in many of Canada’s larger urban centres.
Many gay seniors have some degree of ‘activism’ in them after enduring decades of an HIV epidemic and fighting for equality, and won’t just roll over and disappear. “Don’t ask don’t tell” is not an option for many of these trailblazers and not only will they not ‘go back into the closet’ (because they were never in there in the first place) but, I believe they will keep trailblazing and create the services and communities they need in their elder years.
We are already seeing many innovative projects such as gay seniors dating sites (for the 40% of us who might be single) and ideas for in-home care (for the ¾ of us who do not have permanent family support) and shared gay-specific senior’s accommodation (for the 41% of us who live alone). See, you just need to take the numbers and use them to affect change. Things are also changing as those very gay men become mangers and leaders of programs and services. Take Eric for example, while not quite yet a senior, he is an out gay man who manages the West End Seniors Network (WESN) out of Barclay Manor on Barclay Street. Eric’s program manager, Bianca, recently invited HIM to meet with them to discuss how to make their services more welcoming to gay men. WESN is open to everyone 55 years and older and people are encouraged to become members for just $20.00 per year. Services are amazing, including movie afternoons, computer classes, Brain Trainers to name a few. They are even starting a men’s breakfast club this February. Check out more at www.wesn.ca or call 604.669.5051
Gay elders need our help now, they cannot wait for the trailblazers to change culture slowly. Our lives are what they are in part because of their lives...and because they survived and lived on through some harrowing events as well as all the condemnation society could muster. They showed us by example what it is to live through it and we did. Reach out to gay seniors and get them in touch with services such as WESN, HIM and QMUNITY’s Generations project; for me it’s just about connecting with others and things will grow from there.
Addiction Aging Coming Out Condoms Dating Emotional Health Family Fighting Homophobia Fitness Food and Nutrition Gay men Grooming Harm Reduction HEP C HIV/AIDS Hook Ups Just for fun Laundry Middle Age Physical Health Pride Queer History Relationships Self-Esteem Seminar Sero-sorting Sexual Health STIs Testing Trans Young Adult