June 26, 2010; Source: Mercury News | Having spent their lives keeping their true sexual orientation a secret, for some elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults it is extremely difficult to come “out” in their senior years. Fearing they’ll be scorned by friends or disowned by their families, they continue to live closeted lives.
To help ease the challenges and isolation these individuals face, as well as complications brought on by aging, a San Mateo nonprofit caters exclusively to LGBT adults who are 55 and older. Family Service Agency, which offers free counseling services, is a much-needed helping hand for those with nowhere else to turn.
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A case in point is a San Mateo woman who has lived her entire life keeping silent about the fact she is gay. When she retired, she developed health problems and had only her same-sex partner to care for her. “Basically they were so fearful of being out, they didn’t develop a lot of close friends,” said Ellyn Bloomfield of Family Service Agency. “Now that she has health problems, she could use the companionship outside of her primary relationship, it’s a lot to burden your partner with.”
In addition to counseling, FSA provides the opportunity to meet other older LGBT adults and a safe place to meet. While the numbers served so far are small, the agency is making efforts to get the word out that it is there to help, especially for those who don’t know where else to turn. “These are brave and courageous people, [but] they’ve been so wounded by being considered sick or sinners,” said Bloomfield. “So they’ve remained in the closet and that has created a world of isolation.”—Bruce Trachtenberg