Imagined futures and communitiesOlder lesbian & gay people’s narratives on health & aged care Mark Hughes School of Social Work University of New South Wales firstname.lastname@example.org
Focus of the project • Sexual identity in health & aged care • Exploratory qualitative research: Blue Mts • 14 participants: 9 men, 5 women (58-72) • Unstructured interviews • Personal identities • Past experiences with health/aged care • Hopes & expectations for future care • Thematic & narrative analysis • Past, habitual & hypothetical narratives
PAST & HABITUAL EXPERIENCESIdentity expression • Community identity • Sexual behaviour • Relationship status • Closeted identity • Rejected identity
PAST & HABITUAL EXPERIENCESImagined communities • Anderson (1983): nations as imagined communities • Mainstream Australian community • Gay and lesbian communities I’ve never been devoted to gay culture, as such. … I haven’t really gone to gay films, or gay games or any of the things. I’ve really had a very basic, sort of materialistic view of it: it’s just that it’s an opportunity for exciting encounters, which is not the case now. … I’m not a very loyal contributor to the so-called gay sub-culture at all (Stephen).
PAST & HABITUAL EXPERIENCESLesbian & gay organisations • Sydney-based organisations Most of the groups in Sydney cater for young people. … They cater for young people, they don’t cater for elderly people. When you pass 30, you’re ready for the rubbish tip mate. That’s it. You’re gone. You’ve had your day. No way. Goodbye. Truly, they’re not interested in old gays. They’re not at all. (William) • Local organisations
PAST & HABITUAL EXPERIENCESLocal community • Some reports of discrimination & lack of sensitivity I was seeing a psychiatrist, usual women trouble, a few years ago. And he’s a straight man. And I, and I guess I ended up feeling that I was not taken seriously. … As if it wasn’t a very serious problem at all that I was having. … I was in severe depression. It wasn’t a funny time at all. But I had that feeling that because it was a lesbian relationship that it was not as important. (Shirley) • Varying perceptions re: acceptance You can see people are more tolerant of it. The family over the road there, they’ve got three boys, one’s 20, one’s 15 and one’s about 9. And the father said to the woman next door, ‘I won’t let my sons go anywhere near that house, a poofter lives in that house’. … That’s going back another 4 years ago. But now the boys just talk to me. … Like once upon a time I used to stop and they’d almost run off into the bush. But now they’re more tolerant and the mother speaks to me, which she never did. (Arnold)
PAST & HABITUAL EXPERIENCESFriendship networks • Valuing support of gay & lesbian friends And I think having now got a lot of older gay friends. …. Oh, I’ve learnt a lot from them. You can still be very sexually active, which I thought, you know, when you reached 65 it was all gonna finish, which it doesn’t. … I really enjoy their company. And I listen to my [80-year old gay] doctor a lot who’s become a good friend. He’s a man full of wisdom, being a doctor, and he’s had an incredible life. (Arnold) • Gaining support from other friends We get more support from our neighbours now. Not the same sort of relationship [as with our gay friends], but you could probably rely on them for some things. … When I want to get something done around here he’ll [the neighbour] will come around and give me a hand. But if I asked some gay people to come over and give me a hand, well forget it. They wouldn’t even bother turning up. (Sid)
IMAGINED FUTURES & COMMUNITIESLesbian & gay-friendly services • Not assuming people are heterosexual & challenging discrimination • Enabling identity expression If somehow they could ask me or give me the choice of saying that my partner is [another woman], rather than me having to raise the issue. Because me having to raise the issue puts responsibility on me, and also it’s on my mind. I have to wait for the opportunity. I have to see whether it’s relevant or not. I have to make all these judgements about, about my behaviour and what I say and what I do, knowing that that may change the way these people are going to react to me. ... The most important thing is that I’m acknowledged as a lesbian. That it’s a part of my identity. (Rosemary)
IMAGINED FUTURES & COMMUNITIESGay & lesbian-specific services • Aged care services provided by lesbian & gay organisations • Lesbian & gay staff in health & community care • Lesbian & gay-specific residential facilities Before Jack died, that was my partner for 8 years, he and I talked about opening up a gay nursing home. And again the topic of conversation last week was gay nursing homes. Now, the more I mix with elderly gays, the more I’m hearing about gay nursing homes, strictly for gays. In fact, I’d like to see it. It’ll probably be one bitchy old centre, but that’s what they’re asking [for]. (Arnold) Even worse than hostility, [would be] where you were the only gay couple perhaps in a village of heterosexuals and were treated sort of like the resident clown. (Stephen) I would really like to be with people I like to be with. (Reg)
IMAGINED FUTURES & COMMUNITIESFriend-based care networks • Value of alternative care arrangements This place is big enough to take a few of my friends and me. We’ve discussed maybe having it run by my children or by a professional and you know, having our own little place. … My friends are everything to me. I mean people are what I’m about and to have the people I like and love and sort of laugh with, I mean, it’d be the best way. (Dorothy)
IMAGINED FUTURES & COMMUNITIESBenefits for aged care providers See, there’s word of mouth. So if older gays and lesbians know that they are being dealt with sensitively, you can be sure that that gets voiced around. And other people will be more likely to come and use that service. Which is good for the service providers because they still have to prove to government that they’re relevant, so long as they’re supplying x number of bums on the seats or filling beds or whatever, x number of meals and that sort of thing. So the more they encourage it, the better off they are. If people won’t go near their service because they feel they’re going to be discriminated against, you know, it’s not just that gays who lose out, it’s the service that loses out. (James)
References Anderson, B. (1983), Imagined Communities, Verso, London. Heaphy, B., Yip, AKT. & Thompson, D. (2004) Ageing in a non-heterosexual context, Ageing and Society, 24, 881-902. Hughes, M. (2003) Talking about sexual identity with older men, Australian Social Work, 56(3), 258-66. Hughes, M. (2004) Privacy, sexual identity and aged care, Australian Journal of Social Issues, 39(4), 381-92. Hughes, M. (2006) Queer ageing. Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, 2(2), 54-59. Hughes, M. (in press) Older lesbians and gays accessing health and aged care services. Australian Social Work, accepted for publication. Labov, W. (ed.) (1972) Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular,University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Waite, H. (1995) Lesbians leaping out of the intergenerational contract: issues of aging in Australia. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 3(3), 109-27. Woolwine, D. (2000) Community in gay male experience and moral discourse, Journal of Homosexuality, 38(4), 5-37.