I was recently at a meeting at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, held by representatives of Toronto’s Long Term Care Homes and Services. Frankly, the whole thing seemed like quite a farce — hold for the polite applause after the speech — and I was stunned to hear how all nursing homes were going to be LGBT-friendly and that we wouldn’t notice losing the queer-friendly, neighbourhood Fudger House, because really, why would it matter?
Because that’s our space.
What did it matter when we lost the Wellesley Hospital? We were dispersed to hospitals within walking distance (for those fit enough). If they close Fudger House, the ones they’re touting as queer-friendly now are on Kipling Avenue or Dawes Road. Nothing against Kipling Acres or True Davidson, but they are hardly a stone’s throw from Church Street and not close enough for residents or friends who might like to visit.
When you’re 20, you don’t think about it. But when you’re 50? The grey-haired and recently retired are definitely thinking about it! Long-term care is the place between “independent living” and the grave. It’s where they feed you, do your laundry, help you dress, provide medical care and, with luck, entertain you. Do you want to live in an institution where everyone is straight and you’re invisible?
Recently, I found myself caring for a 75-year-old trans woman who landed in hospital with a massive heart attack. Guess what? The first thing the cardiologist did was take her off of estrogen — cold turkey. The doctor thought it was a shockingly high dose. I tried to intervene but was dismissed and told that I’m not family.
Tell a queer who’s lived through the AIDS crisis she’s not family and you get a warrior’s response. I am reminded that we have gay marriage but don’t have gay family.
My friend was stuck in hospital for six months. With no power of medical or legal attorney, she became a ward of the state. She lost everything she owned but some pictures and books. She is now the lone queer in a straight nursing home.
I wish she landed at Fudger House. It’s a place I went over 10 years ago when looking for a home for my parents. The building is old. They have wardrooms, meaning four people to a room, which are being phased out by new legislation changing wardrooms to hold only two people. So it must be re-designed. But 10 years ago, signs of queer visibility hung on the walls. I felt represented. Queer residents and staff were visible in the city-run home that better adheres to anti-discrimination policies.
The city owns 10 long-term care homes that require renovation. They plan to reduce that to eight, and Fudger House will be eliminated. But I can’t help but notice the large plot of land on Sherbourne Street that the city could sell to a condo developer. Residents will be displaced — unless we fight. Start by calling your councillor.
If 10 percent of the population are known queers, why can’t our community be given the same consideration as ethnic and religious communities? We could be surrounded by other queers who help change our diapers and feed us Spam!
I haven’t even mentioned the needs of queers living long term with HIV who will need special care.
Imagine five or 10 years of living in a very straight nursing home, somewhat incapacitated, where your friends are not considered relevant and given no respect. Regardless of your age, you should have someone designated as legal power for medical decisions, should you be incapable of making them yourself. Accidents can happen; so can illness. If you need help, there’s a legal clinic at The 519 and documents online.
The city is planning on eliminating the Village nursing home, the one in the gaybourhood that is city-run and queer-friendly. It could also be rebuilt to modern standards with the same wonderful caretakers and volunteers caring for queers now. But that won’t happen without action.
It’s like Bette Davis said: “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”