In a powerful column published Friday, out lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker wrote that for many LGBT seniors, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage comes too late.
Parker, writing with Ann J. Robison (right), executive director of Houston’s Montrose Center, notes that many LGBT people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s — the “Invisible Generation”— are still suffering under the weight of a lifetime of discrimination. LGBT seniors are two times more likely to age alone and four times less likely to have assistance from their families, according to Parker and Robison.
From the column in The Houston Chronicle:
For many LGBT Texans who cared for and nurtured their life partner in the final years of their life, marriage equality will be too late. They never had the benefit of access to their partner’s Social Security benefits or employer-sponsored pension. They faced the stunning realization that not only did they lose the love of their life; they will eventually lose the home they shared that life in, too, because of financial inequality and equal access. Many LGBT seniors have already been displaced from their homes, unable to maintain their previous standard of living on one income alone or with advanced care needs that no longer allow them to live independently.
Parker and Robison add that those who enter senior housing or assisted living often remain closeted out of fear, and that few such facilities properly train their staff on LGBT issues. As a result, those who do come out often face discrimination and even abuse from staff and residents. According to the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, 43 percent of LGBT seniors in long-term care reported mistreatment and only one in four felt it was safe coming out.
From the Chronicle:
With approximately 10,000 Americans reaching retirement age every single day, it is critical that we take steps to ensure that all seniors – who were among the first generations to defy cultural norms of discrimination and inequality – can enjoy their retirement years in the communities that they helped to define and make better places to live. We owe this especially to our LGBT seniors, those that have already suffered a lifetime of marginalization and discrimination. As we are on the brink of achieving many gains, we recognize the sacrifices made by our LGBT seniors. There remains much more work to be done on their behalf as we continue the work towards full equality.
Houston is currently working to build an $18 million housing facility for low-income LGBT seniors. However, the project is facing resistance from nearby residents — some of which is fueled by homophobia.
Watch a report on the project from KHOU-TV below.