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Uncle Barb's

There’s no such thing as autobiography,
there’s only art and lies.

-Jeanette Winterson-




I am hearing more and more tales of seniors in our LGBTQ community, who are in dire straits. I have a few opinions about that.

A generation of people, who broke down barriers, stepped to the front, changed things for our community, are aging and many are without resources. As I listen to the stories, I hear loads of self accusation for not working and plans to get employed to take care of themselves, when frankly, because of age and physical limitations, that is impossible.

As "outsiders", who worked the music circuit or who were overlooked for promotions because of sexual orientation, many of the people who built our legacy are suffering. A recent letter from Ferron broke my heart. Her music is the background for a cultural awakening for many lesbians, not just me. In a request for help Ferron described the hardships of trying to survive in America without a big bankroll. She is not really able to afford her rent let alone a car repair. So what that Ferron was not good at playing Monopoly, she deserves our respect and reverence.

One of the most talented artists I know has been living in a storage unit and just trying to survive. When he gets to a computer to email, his letters are full of plans about how to get a job. Everything in his life has come apart from coordinated medical care to completion of his PhD. In and out of the workplace for health reasons, sometimes at a nice salary and other times at minimum wage, he really doesn't have anywhere to turn. You can't get help without a residence.

The thought that is nagging the most as I review the status of our community is this: "Why do they even have to ask? Why aren't support systems in place to help our elders?" I am humiliated that Ferron had to ask, and feel shame that resources aren't surrounding her to provide the comfort and respect that she so deserves.

Locally the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center has been building a network of resources and funding to help seniors. In little pockets across America there are supports, but for the largest number of LGBTQ seniors, there are none. Housing is at a crisis level. Philadelphia and San Francisco both have initiated smallish housing programs and/or senior care facilities, but there are not enough nationwide.

As people my age "came out", we often lost our biological family. The community around us became that circle for many. I'm remembering all those potlucks at the Unitarian Church and being filled with the assurity of love and support. But things change. Time and distance and most especially income inequality. The very roads paved by these folks have denied them access, because access depends on buying into the system, parlaying your $$$, behaving nicely in the financial world. Even with Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, Heat Assistance those who paid in minimally to Social Security will receive less than $1000/month at current rates. If you can get rental assitance that helps, but last time I checked HUD was serving about 6% of seniors who were income eligible. And if you do win the rent assistance lottery, your choices are limited.

So this begs the question, is the LGBTQ community extended family? How do we work together to provide supports to our elders? There are models for us:
John C Anderson Apartments Philadelphia open
Openhouse San Francisco in progress

However, these models are not holistic, because the dialogue about being homosexual in America has been about trying to mainstream or normalize our existence. Do we have distinct cultural values? a shared legacy? And maybe most importantly, a false sense of acceptance in the larger society?

Lots of questions and few answers, I know. So for now let us try to support and respect those in our local communities while at the same time giving voice and conversation to the need for coalitions based on shared values.

To read Ferron's Letter visit her FB page and see the January 11th post. Note that she corrected her address to MI, not IN.
To BUY Ferron's DVD/Album THUNDER & LIGHTEN-ING click here

And thank you.

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