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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 19:45 GMT
Opening doors for the 'grey and gay'
A gay couple
Older gay couples are now fighting to bring discrimination to an end
A conference looking at ways of tackling discrimination against older lesbians and gays is to be held in Berkshire.

More than 100 delegates are expected to attend the "Opening Doors in Berkshire" event in Reading on Wednesday.

Jenny Ward, of the Berkshire Older Lesbian and Gay Forum, told BBC News Online why the conference - believed to be the first of its kind in the UK - is so important.

How are older lesbians and gay men discriminated against?

Take your pick - no employment protection; no rights to inherit property or to tenancy on the death of a same sex life partner; no automatic access to the retirement pension that the deceased partner may have contributed to all their working life.

We are beginning to see a new generation of older and politically active gays and lesbians who are demanding that their life partners, sexual identity and cultural norms be acknowledged and valued
Jenny Ward
It's particularly distressing to be overlooked as "next-of-kin" in relation to one's life partner, to have few rights to hospital visiting and to be unable to register her or his death (only a "close" relative can do this).

Around 100 delegates are expected to attend our conference, many of them professionals working in health, social services and housing.

The conference is particularly timely, given the recent repeal of Section 28, the media furore about gay bishops and the government's on-going consultation exercise on the issue of civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

Ageing non-heterosexuals are suddenly no longer invisible.

'Working together'

By 2020 one third of the population will be aged over 50 years and we will see the biggest ever proportion of older people living far longer and requiring a range of health and care services to meet their needs.

Around 10% of these will be ageing gays and lesbians.

Interestingly, for the first time ever, we are beginning to see a new generation of older and politically active gays and lesbians who are demanding that their life partners, sexual identity and cultural norms be acknowledged and valued by the services they come into contact with.

But there is still much to do.

Those of us who are "grey and gay" here in the UK are beginning to work together to improve access, information and opportunities for older lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Older non-heterosexuals are beginning to be a force to be reckoned with, although we readily accept the need to coordinate our efforts through some sort of national umbrella group.

The partnership project between Berkshire Age Concern and Berkshire Older Lesbian and Gay Forum is succeeding locally in getting these issues heard and is, undoubtedly, of national significance in tackling the discrimination still so prevalent in the lives of older gays and lesbians.



SEE ALSO:
'My life as a gay Ugandan Christian'
27 Oct 03  |  Manchester
Gay choir takes on lesbians
27 Oct 03  |  Berkshire


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