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  • End-of-life conversations needed among LGBT older adults

    January 30th, 2015

    by Erin Seatter | @erinlynds

    End-of-life conversations are not happening early enough in LGBT communities, according to research looking at care services and preparedness for death among lesbians, gay men, and trans* people.  rainbow_flag_VCH

    Led by Brian de Vries and Gloria Gutman of Simon Fraser University, the study highlights that LGBT older adults are more likely to live alone, with no partner and no children, leaving them without typical forms of support as they age. They have well-founded fears of neglect and abuse from staff in health and social services. On top of the usual issues of aging, LGBT people face stigma related to their sexual and gender identities.

    At a community meeting held on January 28, the researchers presented the results of focus groups held in Vancouver. They found overlapping themes among lesbians, gay men, and trans* people, though sometimes the groups articulated them through specific experiences.

    All participant groups expressed concern about who would represent and care for them in the future. They weren’t sure who to ask and worried about burdening others. Some spoke about relying on family members or friends, while others said they didn’t have anyone. Trans* people spoke more about rejection.

    Class issues were apparent among lesbian and trans* participants. For lesbians, this was tied to poverty levels among women and the financial precarity that would ensue if a partner died. For trans* people, this related to access to gender-affirming surgeries.

    Participants shared stories about heteronormativity and abuse in health and social services. Although some organizations, such as Haro Park Centre and the Alzheimer Society of BC, indicated they were making an effort to respectfully and supportively recognize the identities of LGBT people, it’s clear that most services have a long way to go.

    Lawyer Vince Connors explained that advance care planning is one way for people to have some control. This can include appointing someone to make personal and medical care decisions for you through a representation agreement, as well as appointing someone to make financial decisions for you through a power of attorney. Drawing up a will is also important because it will make things easier for loved ones left behind. Connors emphasized that all of this needs to done beforehand, while you’re capable.

    The study seems to be meeting its goal of fostering end-of-life conversations among LGBT people. Bradford McIntyre, a participant who has been living with HIV for 30 years, said he hadn’t spent time thinking about aging, because he’d been trying to survive. Now, because of the study, he’s having end-of-life conversations with his husband.

    Another participant, Christine Waymark, said that LGBT people can use their outside position to make noise about what’s needed. The study has provided people with the opportunity to be active in their own lives, she said.



    Photo: Flickr (Creative Commons)

    Abortion Advance and Retreat

    January 23rd, 2015


    by Janet Madsen  |  @janet_madsen

    January 22 was the anniversary of Roe vs Wade; the American legal decision that ruled women should have the option to choose an abortion as part of reproductive health care services. line_MarcoMaru

    There are many in the States who have never accepted that 1973 ruling. Anti-abortion groups have and continue to do all they can to limit women’s access to sexual health services, including abortion options. They take their views to extreme measures- abortion care providers have been killed for their work in pursuit of the anti-choice cause.

    “Anti-choice activists have never hid the fact that they want Roe v. Wade overturned…. It’s hard to think of one of the many nightmare scenarios of what life would be like in a post-Roe world that isn’t already taking place somewhere in this country.” 

    What Would Change If ‘Roe’ Were Overturned?

    Letters to Justice Blackmun Offer Glimpse of Public’s Post-‘Roe’ Reactions gives a view into the conflicted feelings people have about abortion vs the important rights of women to steer their reproductive lives. People may be strongly pro-choice for women’s rights in general, but not in favour of abortion for themselves. A decision about an abortion is not necessarily pro-kid or anti-kid either- six in ten American women having abortions already have kids.

    Here in Canada our history of abortion is also littered with violence against abortion providers, criminal charges and jail stays for those determined to support women’s rights to reproductive choices. Abortion is legal and theoretically available, although in reality this isn’t always the case. Women living on Prince Edward Island must leave the province to get an abortion, and abortion care is often available only in larger urban areas, making it difficult for those who live in rural areas. Accessing care is especially hard for women with less money- true for lots of health issues.

    And we can’t assume abortion is a guarantee here, either. In 2012 a Conservative MP introduced a motion to examine when life begins. This type of move could lead to pitting the rights of a pregnant woman against those of a fetus she’s carrying. Thankfully, the motion was defeated. In a piece last year, authors Paul Saurette and Kelly Gordon suggest

    “A renewed [abortion] debate might not only serve to further solidify abortion rights… It might also be an opportunity to press politicians to finally reduce the remaining barriers to access across Canada.”

    When and if it arises, I hope it solidifies access and improves conditions. Women deserve it.  If you want read more on the politics of abortion, read this great interview with Katha Pollitt about her book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.


    Photo: MarcoMaru, MorgueFile