I had a great day with project colleagues recently at Age UK Camden exploring issues around Equality and the Older Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gender population. It was good to re-address the issues raised in the Equalities Act but most important to have a reminder about not making assumptions about people. It is so easy to ask someone if their ‘wife is coming to visit’ or ‘will your children be popping in?’
We looked at a timeline that told us that the first mention of punishment of homosexuality was in 1290 and that in the early 19th century 1 in every 8 executions was for sodomy or ‘unnatural misdemeanour’s’ Then in 1988 Section 28 was introduced which stated that a local authority shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” . It was not until 1992 that the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses.
When you think that a lot of the people we are supporting on the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project grew up in this environment, it reminds us how important it is to be sensitive to their wishes and to make sure that people are given the chance to talk about their identity and sexuality if they choose to.
At the end of the morning session we watched a lovely video showing the personal stories of several people who have used the services of Opening Doors London (ODL) who provide information and support services with and for older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (OLGBT) people in the UK. Have a look on http://openingdoorslondon.org.uk/ – it says it all.
Naomi Karslake, Volunteer Coordinator, Oxfordshire Advocacy