After Living Life As Out And Proud Gay Folks, Why Should Anybody Be Asked To Go Back In The Closet?

It's reaching a point where gay and lesbian folks who have been exactly who they are for decades are reaching retirement age ... and yet, there are some retirement homes where they are not welcome. To have to face that in your golden years is not something anybody needs. The Gay and Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons is aiming to change that.

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We're all born carefree. We live life through life's challenges, and hope one day to get to a point when we can age with dignity. All seniors deserve a place to retire in peace and acceptance. Why not our seniors?

I said, "I did not attend San Diego Pride as a member the city council, but as a member the gay community." I just told that very simple story and everybody already knew my life. The next day in the paper, "Ron Oden comes out as openly gay," and I said, "Well, that was pretty smooth." [laughs]

I have been very fortunate. I've worked in entertainment. In entertainment, lesbians, gays, I mean everyone is a very excepted. It's a very open community, but not so much so in other places. I have friends that were closeted virtually all of their work-life.

I was a barber for many years. Men would say, "Nancy, what do two women do in bed?" I said, "Am I asking you what you do with your wife? I'm not going discuss with you my bedroom habits. You know what I mean? Are you crazy?"

So we met. We met at a bar a couple nights later and dated. A few months later, we moved in and we've been together for 33 years.

33 long years. [laughs]

Yeah, well, you don't have to add it to that.

So many of us now, more than ever, who are, I hate the word coming out again, it sounds like you're jumping out of a cake. I call it self-discovery, but, you know, there are so many people out there just search crying need of connection, of contact, of, a community, and so few opportunities for it, even now.

I'm Veronica St. Claire.

I'm Mary Thorndal. I'm the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons. We also call it GLARP.

I wanted a small event. I had said to Mary, "I want to get married in the city hall in Beverly Hills, and then we'll go out to lunch afterewards." And Mary said, "I think we should invite our friends."

We had gotten a lot of brochures, and a lot of stuff in the mail. There were big ads in the newspapers about this place opening. We had watched it being built and couldn't imagine what it was going to be. So we were having lunch across the street one day and decided to drive over and see what it was and what it was became quite clear very early on that was a nursing home. It just had that look and feel to it.

So we talked to the guy. We said, "Well, look, we're gay. How would that be received by the people who are here?" He said, "Well, you know, they're a different generation."

Ron and Larry came to me to discuss a retirement center. And I thought there was need at that time. I was much younger, we were all much younger then and I was, you know, quite a bit quite a distance from thinking about retirement. I was closer than I thought. [laughs]

The idea of going into a nursing home or a place that doesn't accept you is really abhorrent, especially in this day and age when so many of us are accepted as we are. So going back in the closet isn't an option and that's all the more reason why this is the time for this.

And so I have never, never thought, "I'm going to put on a dress to please these people." I am what I am. I am who I am, and that's how it's going to be.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
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This clip is made by the Gay and Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons (GLARP). Thumbnail image via Thinkstock.

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Brandon Weber

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