Don Allison remembers rocks raining down around him as he marched in Vancouver’s first Pride Parade in 1978, as the police stood idly by. He remembers the thoughts of suicide that grew from the shame of “being different.” He remembers losing over 100 friends to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, and the stigma that attached to those who died.
Gay rights in Canada have come a long way, and Don Allison and seniors like him should be enjoying the benefits of those decades of path-breaking struggle. But instead, many LGBTQ seniors fear that they may once again need to hide their sexual orientation as they age into residential care:
“I am terrified that after 50 years of being out, when I move into care I will have to go back into the closet to protect myself,” Allison shares.
Allison is the keynote speaker at the 10th annual International Day Against Homophobia Breakfast on Friday, May 16, 2014. The breakfast raises funds for QMUNITY’s programs and services, and each year highlights a key issue facing the LGBTQ community; this year’s topic is Gay & Grey, a conversation over breakfast about what it means to be LGBTQ, out, and aging.
“QMUNITY has spent two years surveying the landscape of LGBTQ seniors in BC, with a grant from the Vancouver Foundation” says Dara Parker, QMUNITY executive director. “We’ll be previewing our results at the breakfast: our most shocking finding is that 77% of LGBTQ seniors we surveyed have already suffered or fear discrimination in care.”
The event will feature the province’s inaugural Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, in her first major public address since assuming office in March. Kim Crosby, Toronto activist and co-founder of The People Project, will be speaking on the power of intergenerational connection in LGBTQ communities.
The 2014 International Day Against Homophobia Breakfast takes place Friday, May 16 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (900 West Georgia St) from 7am-10am. Tickets are available online.