Older gay and lesbian Canadians face discrimination in long-term care facilities
For 85-year-old Alf Roberts, Canada's largest gay pride festival is a chance to celebrate an identity he only felt comfortable sharing in his old age.
“At last, after all these years I don't have to be careful when people ask me if I'm gay,” Roberts said. “I just say yes, I am.”
Roberts came out when he was 80, shortly after moving into Fudger House, a long-term care facility for seniors in Toronto.
“I was a church organist for years and a music teacher, and you are very careful in those positions,” he said. “You don't want everybody to know.”
For most of his life, Roberts would remain vague about his identity, responding “I am who I am,” when people asked him if he was gay.
Then, relief came when he realized that Fudger House touted a gay-positive environment.
Bill Ryan, a social worker and professor at McGill University, said it's rare to be openly gay in a seniors home.
Ryan, who has conducted research on the elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for more than a decade, said stigma persists because residents in seniors homes lived in an era when homosexuality was considered a criminal act or mental illness.