“My Dad was gay but he was anything but a cliché,” explained Peggy Sanders, managing attorney at Sanders Law Group. Peggy’s father, Jack Dorothy, was a valued employee of the U.S. Department of Defense, and owned a home in New Jersey. He had been married to Peggy’s mother, Eva, for 13 years. He was a good provider and deeply loved his family. One of the proudest moments of his life was when he saw Peggy graduate from law school in Boston, and later pass the Bar in Hawaii. But there came a time when he could no longer deny his true self.
June is Pride Month, and this June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an event that started the Gay Rights Movement. The Stonewall Inn, a seedy and crowded bar in Greenwich Village, was a refuge for gay men, lesbians and transgender people. Jack visited there a few times before the riots. The Inn was owned by the Mafia, and even though the owners greased the palms of those in power, police kept raiding the place, harassing and beating up the clientele. On June 28, 1968, the patrons got fed up and about 400 of them took to the streets. For the first time, gay men, lesbians and transgender people saw the value in uniting for a common cause.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, homosexuality was regarded by psychiatry as a mental disorder. It was also regarded as a moral failing, a sin, a perversion and a crime. Until Stonewall and the Gay Rights Movement, living as a gay person was difficult and dangerous.
Today Jack, had he lived, and other members of the Stonewall generation would be in their 70s or 80s. This is the generation that moved from Stonewall to Marriage Equality. Even though laws have changed for the better and homosexuality is no longer regarded as a mental disease, these survivors still face marginalization, discrimination and isolation. Many feel that as they age, they are being forced back into the closet. They are deeply worried about who will care for them, and whether they will be treated with dignity and respect. Fortunately, a few dedicated organizations are working to counteract these problems and to create a welcoming environment for the aging LGBTQ community.
NW LGBT Senior Care Providers Network and Generations Aging with Pride (GenPride) in Seattle are such organizations. They work without much fanfare to provide advocacy, and to encourage the best possible living arrangements for seniors in the LGBT community. One major accomplishment is the creation of LGBT Cultural Competency Training for Healthcare Providers.
Thanks to their work, many senior living organizations — such Aegis, Merrill Gardens, Aljoya, Mirabella, Mountlake Terrace Plaza and Quail Park — now offer targeted and supportive programs such as this to residents and staff. Since 2011, the NW LGBT Senior Care Providers Network has marched in Seattle’s Pride Parade and will be there this year with a float commemorating Stonewall. And Peggy will be there, marching for Jack.
Please feel free to contact our office at 425-640-8686 with questions on Elder Law, Estate Planning or questions on Family Law. We also offer referrals to partners that care about the health and wellbeing of all seniors.
Learn more at sanderslawgroupnw.com.
— Sanders Law Group