‘I had to pretend I was something I wasn’t’

“I had to separate myself. I had to pretend I was someone I wasn’t (Wheeler, 2016, para. 2).” Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow heard those words from a friend who was dying of cancer, who was discussing her fear of talking openly about her sexuality with her hospice worker.

That isn’t an isolated incident. In a study from the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, 22% of those surveyed felt that they could be open about their sexual identities with health care staff. Almost 90% predicted that staff members would discriminate based on their sexual or gender identities, and 43% reported instances of mistreatment (Wheeler, 2016, para. 6).

That reality has prompted Rabbi Paasche-Orlow to create a series of programs to help long-term care residents and staff members learn to coexist.

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Read this story for more on Rabbi Paasche-Orlow’s methods and the issues facing LGBTQ+ adults in care facilities.

The Unique Challenges LGBT Elders Face.


Wheeler, D. (2016, August 25). LGBT seniors are being pushed back into the closet. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/lgbt-seniors/497324

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.

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