Nowadays much of the public controversy over the rights of LGBTQ Canadians is focused on schoolchildren. In Alberta, the NDP government and United Conservative Party opposition clash regularly over gay-straight alliance clubs in schools. In Ontario, the new Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford is in tepid water already over its move to scrap the province’s gay-positive sex-ed curriculum. Protests have erupted, with some teachers vowing to keep using the curriculum. The problem with the intense media focus on the rights of LGBTQ kids, however, is that it risks obscuring the challenges faced by LGBTQ seniors.
Gay conservative activist Fred Litwin, no spring chicken himself, noticed the CBC tried to correct this imbalance in a recent story about gay seniors and their fear of bullying and discrimination in long-term care facilities. Although the story was rather thin on evidence that it actually occurs, it got Litwin thinking: how might the Ford government handle this problem? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime Litwin has imagined the following helpful bureaucratic briefing note that might land on the desk of Health Minister Christine Elliot.
To: Christine Elliot, Minister of Health
From: [name redacted], ADM, Long-Term Care facilities
Re: Issues for LGBTQ seniors
Here a number of important issues that your government must act on as soon as possible.
1. The rights of LGBTQ Seniors are at risk in Ontario long-term care facilities. One way to ensure that LGBTQ seniors are treated with respect is to start gay-straight alliances at all our long-term care facilities. Among the policy questions this raises are: do seniors need consent from their children to join? We recommend against this as it could involve “outing” seniors to the children.
2. The current application form for long-term care facilities contains only fifteen genders. We have heard complaints that we need to be more inclusive and that we should expand our list. The Trans sub-committee has been asked to develop recommendations, including how often we need to update our forms to accommodate new genders.
3. There was a recent commotion at the long-term care facility in Scarborough [name redacted] when it was discovered that the CIS-Males had assembled in a TV lounge and turned off CBC programming to watch a football game. Noise was reported by residents on lower floors and staff found an empty pizza box the next morning. We recommend keeping remotes under lock and key and developing a list of acceptable programming.
4. Further to point #3, it has been suggested all CIS-Males receive some sort of medical treatment. Perhaps we could use a drug like valium. To find a solution we recommend a special session of the Therapeutic Healing & Homeopathy task force of the Holistic Health committee.
5. Concern was raised at the Trigger Warning workshop last month that we weren’t addressing the power imbalance between men and women during mealtime. There have been reports of males asking females if they would like a “Kokanee Grope”. We can no longer ignore this important issue and consent cards may be needed to help residents cope with this problem. We’ll also have to adjust our safe space guidelines, so the sexism & ableism sub-committee of the wellness committee will need to schedule some additional meetings.
6. One of the new long-term care facilities in Hamilton is moving ahead with construction without consulting the new floor-plan suggestions from the Trans Workspace Consultative Panel. They recommended separate floors for non-transgender males, and non-transgender females, and that all the gender fluid residents should be separated from those who are questioning or unsure. The panel did not address demigender and adrogyne seniors but we are recommending they be put on the neutrois and pan-gender floor. All new long-term care facilities must have an additional eight floors to accommodate twelve of the specified genders in the Ontario ‘Gender 2030’ master plan.
7. One resident complained at the [redacted] facility that zir pronoun card was not changed after ze changed zir gender. Trans advocates are calling for an Ontario-wide commitment that all pronoun identifiers will be updated on resident’s doors within 48 hours of changing their gender. We think it may be possible to commit to 24 hours, but will need to consult the Pronoun Fitness Council.
8. This week, during an inspection at the [redacted] long-term care facility, twenty boxes of plastic straws were discovered. As per last month’s memo on the global tortoise nostril crisis, the deadline for discarding of ALL plastic straws was last week. Each facility will do an immediate inspection and report back before 5:00 PM on Friday that the facility is certified plastic-straw-free. We expect residents will love the new all-metal straws, although an increase in denture repair costs is also expected.
9. Posters are going out to every facility declaring the seven new mandatory values attestations required in order to be eligible for federal funding: Cishetero-patriarchy exists, white supremacy exists, ableism exists, racism exists, colonialism never ended, capitalism is bad. They will be prominently placed at entranceways and residents will be invited to put them up in their rooms. The first facility to put up fifty posters will win three sessions of gender-segregated group aromatherapy.
10. We have a new service for seniors with vaginas (regardless whether they identify as male or female): once a month, we are offering a bus service to the Gwyneth Paltrow spa for herbal yoni steaming. The word we hear most often from people who receive the treatment is empowerment.
11. The children of some residents are complaining that we don’t have enough gluten-free food. So we are starting a new workshop on eco-friendly food in a long-term care environment that is mandatory for all staff. Our first vegan long-term care facility will open next month in the Annex in Toronto. Cost savings on meat and energy are expected to be substantial. However, your government’s decision to cancel Ontario’s cap-and-trade program means we won’t be getting anticipated carbon credits.
12. The buses to Toronto Pride from several facilities were problematic this year. The lesbians of colour didn’t want to sit with the white-privileged Trans people and they started throwing quinoa at each other. The only solution is to have separate buses, or perhaps double-decker buses – trans seniors on the bottom and lesbians on top. Accommodating straight men (especially police and military veterans) who wish to go the parade remains a low priority.