I am a 73-year-old drama teacher, actor and director who has travelled the world. I met my life partner, Ann, in Canada and brought her back to the north of England. Since my retirement from Wentworth College in 2010, I’ve been busy challenging us humans to respect life in all its manifestations!
Actually it’s not retirement but rather resurgence! It’s quality and not quantity of life that matters to me. While you’re alive just get on and live your life to the best of your ability, in a spirit of goodwill, sharing skills and stories as you go.
Having been on the York LGBT Forum committee since it began in 2006, and having done a human rights course run by Age UK, I offered to coordinate the Older LGBT subgroup. Out of this has emerged ‘Free to be Me’, a project designed to raise awareness of LGBT+ people in care homes and in workplaces, through drama and poetry.
Don't rock the boat
Silence can be oppressive as anyone who has been ‘sent to Coventry’ will know. A silence that fills the room when you enter, a silent look between others, an uncomfortable silence between you and someone you thought was your friend. Better to pretend just to be like everyone else than risk being ostracised.
That’s why it’s better not to rock the boat when you’re feeling old and vulnerable. That’s why you keep memories of your same sex partner hidden, never mention your previous life with them, never show photos or share stories. You never reveal your ‘criminal past’ because, for you and your peers, who you were and what you did was illegal until 1967. Stigmatised by society, labelled sinful by religion and shamed in your own eyes for so many years, your own silence is perfectly understandable.
How sad not to be able to talk about those you loved.
How sad to have to spend every day in hiding in your last years. How sad that care homes routinely report, ‘We don’t have any LGBT+ residents here.’ However the Care Quality Commission is now asking the question and it is no longer acceptable to give this answer. Our training is designed to help make ‘holistic, person-centred care’ a reality and it has received overwhelmingly positive and heartfelt feedback over the years.
I couldn’t have achieved all this without the support of my partner, Ann, who has been with me every step of the way.
Have you been affected by these issues?
If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this blog, or simply need someone to reach out to, you can contact Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline on 0300 330 0630 10am-10pm every day, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org