Bury Pride … Is This The Future of LGBT+ Elders Care? … Loren Cameron


Bury Pride

Last Saturday, 29 April, Bury Pride was back – bigger and better than ever! The event took place at the Elizabethan Suite at Bury Town Hall with lots of stalls and indoor entertainment. There was also the Walking Rainbow Parade and an outdoor stage with multiple acts and drag queens. The occasion was a joyous celebration to unite people through diversity and equality.

More than twenty members of Out In The City attended including David and Patrick who line-danced on stage as part of the Prairie Dogs and Derek and Gary who performed as Wolf – the oldest boy band.

We had a fantastic time including an excellent coffee and cake in Tina’s Tea Room within Bury Art Gallery.

More photos can be seen here.

Long-term care home unveils ‘Rainbow Wing’ for LGBT+ residents in Toronto

Barry Van Buskirk, a resident at the Rekai Centre said the opening of the ‘Rainbow Wing’ is very ‘comforting.’ (Talia Ricci / CBC)

In June 2022 a long-term care home operator unveiled a ‘Rainbow Wing’ at one of its facilities to address the need for a dedicated space for LGBT+ seniors.

Rekai Centres opened the 25-bed wing with residents, staff and community members gathered to celebrate the opening.

Barbara Michalik

Barbara Michalik, executive director, said she believes the space is the first in North America dedicated to the LGBT+ senior community.

“We have family members who may not feel comfortable coming into a long-term care home because of their gender or their preference in life, and it’s very important that we foster that and foster our staff who are from the community,” Michalik said.

“We can’t just slap a sticker on a door. We can’t just do one education during the month of June for pride. It’s continuous. It’s a feeling of culture when you come into that home [and] safety. It’s really constant reinforcement of welcoming.”

A new ‘Rainbow Wing’ was unveiled at the Rekai Centre on Saturday 18 June 2022. (Submitted by The Rekai Centres)

Currently. The Rekai Centres, have more than 20 per cent of residents who identify as LGBT+ at two of their long-term care homes.

‘Seniors often looked over’ during pride celebrations

Barry Van Buskirk, a resident, said he was thrilled to be there not only for the opening of the wing, but to also be able to participate in Pride.

“I think it’s very exciting. It’s very comforting and very loving,” Van Buskirk said.

“Seniors are often looked over because they’re considered too old to participate. I’ve been in many, many Pride parades because I just love people [and] I want to spread that love.”

Sue Graham-Nutter, CEO of the Rekai Centres, said the new wing has been a long time in the making.

“The launch of the Rainbow Wing is the result of over a decade of work with the LGBT+ community,” said Graham-Nutter.

“What makes us most proud and emotional are the hugs and the tears that flow from our residents, and families saying simply ‘I belong, and I am accepted here. Thank you.’  Everyone needs a home where they are safe and loved.”

They should not have to go back into the closet

Sherwin Modeste, executive director of Pride Toronto, said he hopes to see more of these types of spaces in the future.

“Seniors are part of society, they have contributed, they have paid taxes and they should be able to enjoy their lives,” Modeste said. “They should not have to go back into the closet at their retirement age.”

Toronto Mayor, John Tory, attended the event to celebrate the opening of the wing. He said the wing will allow people to be themselves.

“We benefit from people being able to be their authentic selves,” Tory said.

Staff to provide ‘culturally competent’ care

In 2018, the Rekai Centres commissioned a market research firm to solicit community input through surveys and focus groups. The research gathered by the firm was a key factor in the opening of the dedicated wing.

A survey was conducted that year that targeted people 50 and over who identify as LGBT+. The survey found that 94 per cent of respondents indicated that they were in favour of opening the space.

Projections show that there are more than 65,000 people in Toronto who identify as being part of the LGBT+ community over the age of 65. That number is expected to grow as the population ages.

The focus groups highlighted the need for culturally sensitive staff who are allies or members of the community. They also stressed a need for the revision of the admission process to break down systematic barriers that persist in health care.

Rekai Centres says the new wing will have staff who are “culturally competent” in providing care for residents, programming that meets the needs of residents and a gender sexuality alliance that will provide a platform for residents, families, staff and community partners.

Dozens of residents, staff and community members attended the unveiling, including Toronto Mayor John Tory and Marci Ien, MP for Toronto Centre and Canada’s minister of women and gender equality and youth. (Talia Ricci / CBC)

Michalik said staff need to be well trained to ensure that residents feel safe within the home. “There’s a sense of culture that the residents from the community need and feel, especially when they’re suffering from dementia. There is an extra level of education that our staff need,” she said.

Loren Cameron, 63, Dies; His Camera Brought Transgender Men to Light

Mr Cameron’s groundbreaking portraits of himself and others, collected in his book, “Body Alchemy,” inspired a generation of transgender people.

A self-portrait of Loren Cameron, whose photos portrayed transgender people, including himself, as they had never been seen before. Credit: Loren Cameron / Cleis Press

Loren Cameron was in his early 30s when he bought his first suit, walking nervously into a haberdashery for short men. Size was a delicate subject for him. He was 5-foot-3 and wanted so much to be bigger, equating masculinity with heft – which is why he was also a dedicated body builder.

The salesman sized him up “as a regular working-class Joe,” as Mr Cameron put it, who was entering unfamiliar territory, and set out to teach him the rituals of fine dressing. He fitted Mr Cameron into a double-breasted Italian-made suit, taught him the difference between a half and a full Windsor tie knot and showed him four variations on folding a pocket square.

He even offered dating advice: Never give a woman a rose on a first date. Offer carnations instead.

Mr Cameron took a self-portrait in that snappy suit, handsome, bearded and brandishing a bunch of carnations, creating one of many tender and lovely photographs of transgender men like himself that he collected in “Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits,” published in 1996.

“I felt at least two inches taller when I walked out of there,” Mr Cameron wrote of his suit-shopping adventure, “and it wasn’t because of the elevator shoes.”

Mr Cameron, a photographer and activist whose depictions of transgender people – and documentation of his own experience – inspired a generation, died on 18 November 2022 at his home in Berkeley, California. He was 63.

The cause was suicide, his sister Susan Tarleton said, adding that he had suffered from congestive heart failure. He had been isolated from friends and family for many years, and his death was not widely reported at the time.

When “Body Alchemy” appeared, it was a revelation. At the time it was groundbreaking, even radical, to photograph transgender people as regular folk, rather than as exotics or freaks or medical specimens, and rarer still for the lensman to be transgender.

Images of transgender women were more familiar than those of transgender men, and they were often famous figures, like Christine Jorgensen, the American actress whose transition surgery in the 1950s was front-page news, and Jan Morris, the British journalist and travel writer who wrote of her own transition in her 1974 memoir, “Conundrum.”

Over the decades, fine artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Diane Arbus “have all trained their lenses on the transgendered figure,” Kate Bornstein, the gender theorist and author, wrote in The Bay Area Reporter in reviewing “Body Alchemy” upon its release. “Never have the transgendered seriously photographed their own. Not until Loren Cameron, that is.”

Mr Cameron found work as a massage therapist, a physical trainer and a stocker in pet stores. His work ethic was inspired by his father, who taught him to honour manual labour. Credit: Loren Cameron / Cleis Press

In “Body Alchemy”, for perhaps the first time, transgender men could see representations of themselves outside of the pages of medical texts.

There was Jeffrey, a Jewish man who had yearned to have a bar mitzvah, affirming his heritage, and was able to do so. Mr Cameron photographed him in a prayer shawl and yarmulke.

Brynne, a rangy surfer, was shown in the back of his van pulling on his wet suit, short board at the ready. Stephan, a police sergeant honoured for his valour who transitioned while on the job, was framed against his squad car.

There were nudes, too, the most potent of which was a photo of Mr Cameron in a classic bodybuilder pose, back arched, muscles rippling, his body emblazoned with flame-shaped tattoos, injecting his buttock with a syringe of testosterone.

Mr Cameron wrote eloquently and honestly of the challenges of therapies like his biweekly testosterone shot, which played havoc with his mood, escalating his temper and often making him emotionally distant from his partner, Kayt, a lesbian.

He framed a pair of portraits of himself with the typical responses his body often provoked, rendered in a bold typeface: “You’re so exotic! May I take your photograph?” “You must be some kind of freak.” “You don’t belong here.”

Despite such bigotry and stigma, Patricia Holt wrote in her review for The San Francisco Examiner in 1997, Mr Cameron’s observations reflect “a kind of innocence and awe of the body.” She called the book a “poignant yet matter-of-fact study” of transgender people that was both “sensitive and insightful.”

Mr Cameron’s work was exhibited all over the country, in galleries and universities like Cornell, where he donated his papers in the early 2000s, when he was in his early 40s. Among his papers is his high school yearbook, showing a young woman as class president. “I was cute, huh?” Mr Cameron wrote in the margin before he sent it to Cornell.

“He wasn’t invested in hiding that he had been a woman,” said Brenda Marston, curator of Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection. “He put his whole body and soul out there.”

Mr Cameron was sensitive about his size – he stood 5 foot 3 – equating heft with masculinity, which is why he was such a dedicated body builder.

Loren Rex Cameron was born on 13 March 1959, in Pasadena, California. His mother, Barbara (Chambers) Cameron, was an office manager at Sears. After her death in 1968, he moved to Dover, Arkansas, to live with his father, Robert, a nuclear engineer and nuclear plant manager.

Robert Cameron had a farm and raised horses, and Loren worked alongside him, building fences and taking care of the horses. He was daring and adventurous as a teenager, as he wrote in “Body Alchemy,” drag racing and rafting swollen rivers. He dressed in overalls and work boots and learned to swear like a trucker.

He was deeply uncomfortable in his female body, and at age 12 he wrote away for information on sex changes. When a friend suggested he might be a lesbian, he thought, “Why not?” But classmates began to treat him as an outcast, and he quit school and ran away from home, travelling the country by bus. He found work picking fruit and cleaning construction sites.

He ran a truck-stop fuel station and joined a youth conservation-corps crew, where he met a group of lesbians who suggested he might find a like-minded community in San Francisco.

He lived as a lesbian for nine years before addressing his discomfort with his gender. He was 26 and had recently quit smoking pot and cigarettes. “For the first time in my life, I wasn’t numb,” he wrote.

As he began to transition, he took snapshots of the process, sending them to family and friends so they could get used to his new body and also see how happy he was. “What was initially a crude documentation of my personal journey became an impassioned mission,” he wrote. He took a basic photography class, bought a simple Pentax K1000 and began photographing other transgender people and learning their stories.

“I wanted the world to see us,” he wrote, “I mean, really see us.”

Mr Cameron often said his aesthetic was influenced by the photography books his parents had at home, work by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange that made vivid the stories his father had told of growing up poor during the Depression. His work ethic was inspired by his father, who taught him to mend fences and bale hay – to honour manual labour. “The last time I saw him, he told me that I had a lot of guts to move to California with only a duffel bag and a hundred bucks in my pocket,” Mr Cameron wrote. “I think if he could see me now, he would be proud to call me his son.”

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