Shows a man wearing a rainbow quarter-zip jumper with a rainbow watch, drinking a coffee.

Over-50s LGBTQ+ charity to close permanently

Opening Doors, the only charity for LGBTQ+ over-50s in England, has been forced to permanently close from February 29, due to ongoing financial challenges.

The date marks the end of the 19th LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK, which celebrates the abolition of Section 28 in 2003.

The charity has urged everyone to advocate for the older generations.

A spokesperson for the charity said:: “Closing during LGBTQ+ History Month reminds us of the resilience and courage within our community.

“We are actively seeking alternative support networks for our members.”

82% of Opening Doors’ members said they felt more connected to the LGBTQ+ community due to their involvement with the aid organization, according to a Members Survey of 2019.

One partnership which is continuing the legacy for advocating for older queer members is Age UK.

Carol Horne, Wellbeing Services Manager of Age UK Richmond, spoke of her experience with the partnering charity.

She undertook a training course which emphasised the unique needs of older queer people.

She said: “A lot of people who are now in their 70s or 80s, when they were young being gay was a crime or a literal mental illness.”

Horne mentioned working with individuals through Age UK who would reference their life partner as their lodger, out of fear or embarrassment.

A British Social Attitudes survey suggests that public attitudes towards same-sex relationships in 1987 were tumultuous, with 64% agreeing that same-sex sexual relations were always wrong.

Horne spoke of the need for accessible and safe spaces for the older queer generation, referencing an 80-year-old woman who once came in looking to meet other local lesbian women.

She told Horne at the time: “Everything I look up is nightclubbing.

“I want to talk to other people who get it.”

Rainbow Cafe, Credit: Age UK Richmond

This led to the October inaugural meeting of the Rainbow Café, an inclusive space for older gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer people at the Eel Pie Pub, 9-11 Church Street, Twickenham, TW1 3NJ.

17 people joined the initial group, and Horne addressed the opening of the café.

She said: “There’s not, as far as I know, anything like this in our borough.

“I did kind of buckle my seat belt and put on my armour thinking we might get some mean comments.

“Not a single complaint, lots of people saying yes I’d like to come.”

She also emphasised the importance of having a space where people do not have to explain themselves or address awkward heteronormative questions about their presumed husband or wife.

Harry Cannon, 78, who regularly attends the meetings, spoke of how he looks forward every month to the welcoming space, from the lovely people to the generosity of the Eel Pie Pub.

He said: “It puts one in touch with an LGBT life around us which for me has been so lacking for a long time.

“Great therapy as is the meeting itself and hats off too to Wellbeing Services for hosting it.

All in all, nothing but positive other than it is only once a month.”

The monthly drop-in meetup welcomes all who would like to join, with an Age UK staff member present to welcome newcomers.

Richmond Council have advertised the event with the next session on March 27 at 11:30.

For more information, please contact Carol Horne on 0208 744 1965 or email [email protected].

Featured Image Credit: Age UK Richmond

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