According to Dr. Jane Traies, Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, England, the predominant narrative of what it is to be an older lesbian leaves a lot to be desired. It’s rife with stereotypes and untruths that don’t reflect how she sees herself or the women she knows. The same goes for Dr. Doreen Fumia, associate professor, Sociology and the Jack Layton chair at Ryerson University.
Drs. Traies and Fumia joined forces to deliver a much-needed alternate view of life in the older (80+ years old) lesbian, trans, and two-spirit communities in Canada and the United Kingdom. They spoke on November 7 to a full house at the Gathering Space in Gzowski College as part of the Aging & Society Seminar Series hosted by the Trent Centre for Aging & Society.
“This is a big part of what the Centre is here to do – shine a light on silent issues,” says Dr. Mark Skinner, director of the Trent Centre for Aging & Society. “The struggles older people face in terms of receiving the services they need to live their best lives, no matter their background, certainly fits that mandate and we were quite thrilled to host and promote the work of Drs. Traies and Fumia.”
Dr. Traies is leading an innovative new study into the real lives of older lesbians living in the United Kingdom. Many such women have never had their experiences chronicled as they remain closeted, even to their own families. In addition to studying the lives of older lesbians, Prof. Fumia also includes the experiences of trans, and two-spirit identified people in her research.
A common theme in the work of both scholars is identifying the unmet need that people in these communities have for living in safe, open spaces. Long-term care-homes, which are mostly geared toward heterosexual men and women, simply aren’t comfortable places for many older lesbians, trans, and two-spirit identified people. For too many, the worry is that they will be forced back into the closet in order to get along in these facilities.