A groundbreaking time

Just got off the phone with a woman we’ll call Dina. She told me she and her partner of 30 years are looking at the real possibility of being homeless. Both she and her partner have worked all these years but never made enough to save for retirement. Both worked caring for those in shelters and hospices but, now that they are in need of the very care they provided, where do they turn? Has society left them behind? And, as a lesbian couple, who would accept them?

Help is on the way. Philadelphia will see something special and historic this Monday at noon that could be the answer for Dina and countless other LGBT seniors. We will break ground on the nation’s largest capital LGBT-friendly affordable senior apartment building. The $20-million project is the only one of its kind in history to be built entirely with public funds and tax credits. Zero dollars have come out of the community.

There are several columns that, when you sit down to write them, you know it will be emotional putting pen to paper. For me, those are usually about family, friends or our community’s history; this column somehow fits into each of those areas.

How much do you know about our elder community? Chances are, very little and, therefore, we as a community have not had their interests and needs on our agenda. That needs to change since it is the responsibility of any community to care for those in need. We know much about youth and bullying issues, much about our LGBT people in military uniform, much about those of you who wish to marry and have families. What do we know about our elders?

The year 1969, as the Stonewall Riots changed history, is often used as a defining point in our struggle for equality. Well, most of those who were young in those days are now pushing retirement age, and many have reached the 62-65-year-old threshold.

Last week, while at Bucknell University, I asked the LGBT members of the group to whom I was speaking, How many of you are out to members of your family and friends? Almost all proudly put their arms in the air. In 1969, about only 1 percent of our community would have put their arms in the air.

That is why we now celebrate our pioneers: They were brave enough to be out and represent us in a time where there were consequences for those who were, as we’d say, in your face. One of the consequences is they, for the most part, did not have steady or well-paying jobs. Another is that many of their families in those days could or would not accept them and their fight for equality and, therefore, they don’t have the same family support as other seniors might have. So, now that they are seniors with little or no money, where are they to live?

We begin to answer that question this Monday.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected].

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