Older LGBT+ people fear going ‘back in the closet’ in retirement
Schemes in Manchester and London are providing tailored healthcare for older LGBT+ people – but charities say it isn’t enough.
LGBT+ people fear they will be forced “back in the closet” in their older years, due to a lack of care available in their retirement.
Currently there is no retirement provision specifically for LGBT+ people in the UK and people in the community say it’s something they badly need.
Tony Openshaw, 66, is the chairman of Out In The City, a social group for Manchester’s LGBT+ over 50s. He has faced prejudice in his past and fears confronting it again in the future.
“I was evicted from a house when I was in my early 20s because I was gay,” he said.
“The landlord took me to court and his solicitor said: ‘This is a homosexual’ and the judge said: ‘That’s outrageous. He should leave’. I was given seven days to leave.”
Mr Openshaw said experiences like this meant he would feel more comfortable if LGBT+ retirement provision existed. “We’d like to retire and still be ourselves and not have to go back into the closet,” he added.
It’s 52 years since The Stonewall Uprising
The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous demonstrations in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of 28 June 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City.
Riot Act – Wednesday, 21 July 2021 – 7.30pm
Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Fairbottom St, Oldham OL1 3SW
Riot Act is a solo verbatim show, created entirely, word for word, out of interviews with three key-players in the history of the LGBT+ rights movement; Michael Anthony Nozzi; a survivor of the Stonewall Riots, Lavina Co-op; an alternative ‘70s drag artist, and Paul Burston; ‘90s London AIDS activist.
This critically acclaimed audience favourite is a breathtaking, rip-roaring, whiteknuckle ride through six decades of LGBT+ history, taking the audience right up to the present day.
Provocative, tender, truthful, funny, political and personal, these are stories of gayness, sexuality, activism, addiction, family, childhood, love, sex, drag, community, togetherness, conflict, identity, youth, ageing, loss, fierce queens and a Hollywood diva.
Riot Act is a celebration of LGBT+ activism across the decades, pulling no punches, hilarious and inspiring … it’s a riot.
All tickets must be bought in advance; you will not be able to purchase tickets on the door. You can book for all shows online here. The Box Office phone line is open on Mondays and Wednesdays, 10.00am – 4.00pm (excluding bank holidays). For phone sales only, call 0161 624 2829.
Sir Ian McKellen: ‘What does old mean? Quite honestly I feel about 12’
“Oh, birthdays,” Sir Ian McKellen growls, on the occasion of his 82nd (25 May). “At my age I don’t do birthdays.” The wider world has not yet been informed, however, and cheerful cards have come in stacks to McKellen’s London townhouse. Messages chime in on his computer and two landline phones ring on his desk, one after the other. “But, darling,” McKellen says, answering a call and interrupting a well-wisher mid flow, “I’m trying to avoid it all this year. Actors don’t need this special attention. We get cards and presents on first nights. Everyone makes a fuss of us. Birthdays are wonderful things for people who don’t get treated as special all year round.”
Sir Ian McKellen is perhaps the best we’ve got, that ideal embodiment of Tolkien’s Gandalf across six Hollywood movies, a landmark Richard III on stage and screen, Magneto, a critically acclaimed Macbeth, Sherlock, Edward II, Rasputin and later this year he will play Hamlet, for the second time in his career. He has also played seven of Shakespeare’s kings on stage, also Romeo, Iago, Claudio, Coriolanus, Faustus, Napoleon, Inspector Hound, Captain Hook and Widow Twankey.
“When I was young I was always playing old parts,” McKellen says. “And, of course, I was having to imagine it. Because what does ‘old’ mean? I had no idea! Now that I’m old I do know. And I also know what it’s like to be young. Because as you get older, inside, you’re ageless. Inside? Quite honestly? I feel about 12.”
Why is it that actors can go on and on into their 80s and even 90s when artists in other disciplines tend to fade away earlier? “It’s the nature of the job that allows us to carry on, I think, rather than the nature of the people we are. Don’t forget, actors are only the conduit, not the source. So we’re not – as a writer would be, as a composer, as a painter – having to re-imagine the world around us or within us. We are presented with the material. And then we just have to bring it to life. Some actors retire, but usually because they can’t learn the lines any more. That hasn’t been the case for me. Fortunately. At the moment.”
When McKellen was a little boy, he fell in love with a summer-holiday friend called Wendy. They wrote each other letters for a time. They were about 10. And that was it, the last heterosexual relationship of his life. By the time McKellen was a teenager he knew he was gay. His mother died of breast cancer around then and he never had a chance to speak to her about it. Perhaps in Greater Manchester in the 1950s (McKellen was raised in Burnley, Wigan and Bolton) there wasn’t much that could be said. He never told his father either. The fact that both his beloved parents died without knowing this one essential fact about him remains a great regret.
Having to hide his sexuality, however, turned out to be a total boon for the career. Being gay in those days necessitated a talent for disguise. And McKellen found in acting a profession that rewarded this talent. He appeared in plays as an undergraduate at Cambridge – correctly sensing that this was where he would get to meet the colleges’ other gays – and later as a graduate he got a job in regional theatre in Coventry.
He knew people who were arrested, “simply for having sex”; but McKellen admits that for large chunks of his youth he more or less ignored the discriminatory laws at play in Britain. As a closeted gay man in stable relationships, he felt he could afford to. “I didn’t feel particularly disadvantaged by the very harsh laws that prevailed up till then. The laws were absolutely cruel, but I didn’t take them personally. And I only began to think about it, and realise what the situation was, when the Thatcher government decided to introduce the first bit of anti-gay legislation for nigh-on 100 years. That I took personally.” To make a political point, he came out. He was in his late 40s and well established by now as an actor on stage and screen.
McKellen actually found he thrived as an openly gay actor. He was the arch villain Magneto in the first of several X-Men movies in 2000. Between 2001 and 2014 he was the arch goodie Gandalf in six of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations. After decades of being buttoned up about his private life, he started to write an honest personal blog from the set of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand in the early 2000s. He has since maintained the habit of public diarising, sometimes publishing snatches of memoir on McKellen.com, his website.
The Hope Speech
Ian McKellen reads Harvey Milk’s Hope Speech, first delivered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, encouraging people to celebrate their differences and offering hope for the future.
At a time of political turmoil, unprecedented world events and an increasingly divided society, what does inspiring leadership sound like?