A Gay-Straight Alliance has been launched in New Westminster, British Columbia, with a common purpose to protect the graying LGBT and heterosexual community.
The idea of 'coming out of the closet' which became a common culture phenomena in the last 40 years is often reversed when LGBT seniors need to seek out care from the greater community. Living in place, or entering retirement residences, bring back the old fears of being mistreated for sexual orientation.
LGBT seniors have complained of hired caregivers trying to force them to renounce their perceived illness. Also, life in retirement residences breeds fear that tight-knit populations will be incapable of understanding gays.
The British Columbia Gay-Straight Alliance was influenced by a poignant film, Gen Silent, a documentary about seniors going back into the closet to avoid discrimination. With Vancouver's large gay population, the Alliance found a natural setting. But, the bond grew when the straight population came on board.
Alexandra Henriques, a community developer, told Xtra!, "They didn't want it just for LGBT, there were many allies. There were many straight seniors seeing the need and wanting to be involved."
Century House, a seniors centre run by New Westminster’s department of Parks, Culture and Recreation, was the site of the get-together. Co-founder Vance McFadyen told Xtra! “What we wanted to have was an alliance so that people are integrated and come to learn about each other and accept each other and find out about one another and maybe open minds a bit and make new friends."
Heather Whiteford, project manager of Family Services of Greater Vancouver and a straight ally said, “I think this is an opportunity for us to see that we can't get complacent." She added: "The community of New Westminster -- both LGBT and allies -- are coming together."