“…What does the future hold for DeLarverie? Cannistraci told me that she is currently in the process of petitioning for legal guardianship of DeLarverie and hopes to move her into a brighter, more modern nursing home with a larger staff and activities for the residents – and one where a friend of DeLarverie’s already resides. “She was a protector of the community, and [her situation] is heartbreaking,” she said.
In the New York Timesarticle about DeLarverie, Cannistraci voiced her frustrations at the gay community’s apathy regarding DeLarverie’s plight.
“I feel like the gay community could have really rallied, but they didn’t,” said Lisa Cannistraci, a longtime friend of Ms. DeLarverie’s who is the owner of the lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson, where Ms. DeLarverie worked as a bouncer.
“The young gays and lesbians today have never heard of her,” Ms. Cannistraci said, “and most of our activists are young. They’re in their 20s and early 30s. The community that’s familiar with her is dwindling.”
DeLarverie’s situation is, unfortunately, not unique, and it highlights some of the issues faced by LGBT seniors. It is unclear whether DeLarverie has no surviving family members or whether she has surviving family members but simply lost touch with them over the years. Many LGBT elders become isolated from their families, either because of family disapproval or because they moved away from their families to a big city with a large LGBT population, thereby becoming out of sight and out of mind. If they do end up in a retirement home or nursing home, there is also the issue of whether other residents will have a problem with their sexual orientation. Furthermore, in many states, same sex partners cannot be legally bound, and if there is no next of kin, one can end up being a ward of the state. If the Rosa Parks of the gay community can end up in a nursing home among strangers like other forgotten elderly men and women, it is certainly a wake up call.
As it was time for Farrell and me to leave, DeLarverie offered to escort us to the door, and struggled a bit to stand. We protested. “No, no, we’re fine!” She was having none of that, as she steadied herself and made a beeline for the door. Old age and a spill earlier in the week would not get in the way of good manners and chivalry. Farrell took her right hand, and I took the left, and we all walked towards the door together. She kissed us both on the cheek and bid us farewell. “Take care, babies,” she said.”
I cried while reading most of this article. People like her are the reason every gay person needs to come out of the closet. If she could do it back then, we can all certainly do it today. It’s so sad that someone so important to LGBT history has been nearly forgotten—being open and honest is least we can do for people like her.