Red Deer’s Alyx Thomas speaks at the Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre’s Aging LGBTQ+ discussion on Tuesday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

The challenges of being an aging LGBTQ+ community member

Red Deer’s Alyx Thomas knows only too well the difficulties of gaining acceptable health care.

As a member of the transgender community, the 45-year-old Thomas faced his share of challenges when he began his transition to become a man just a few years ago.

Some doctors he saw during this transition would send him to a different doctor because his situation was too “complicated,” and some doctors and nurses wouldn’t call him by his name “Alyx” and only by the name he had as a woman.

“Everybody is a human being – we bleed the same colour and go to the same hospitals,” he said.

Accessing health care was one of many talking points during the Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre’s Pride Week discussion on problems the aging LGBTQ+ community face on Tuesday afternoon.

Being able to discuss the challenges he’s been through, whether it was getting personal care or dealing with hate crimes, to a crowd of about 40 people was a great experience, he said.

LGBTQ+ members have been discriminated against for a number of year, said another speaker from Tuesday’s event Michael Phair, who is involved with a group researching the challenges aging LGTBQ+ members face.

In 2014, a survey done by 55 and older LGBTQ+ community members in Edmonton showed some in the community felt isolated and a fear for ill health when aging, Phair said.

“What we’ve learned from the work we’re doing in Edmonton applies across the province, so this was a nice opportunity to come speak here,” he said.

Having Phair, Thomas and Red Deer’s Serge Gingras speak at the event made Golden Circle executive director Monica Morrison proud, she said. The whole event was to get people talking about the challenges aging LGBTQ+ members face, she added.

“We need to ensure the programs and services and social opportunities are inviting to everyone in the community,” she said.

There are service providers who don’t know how to deal with LGBTQ+ members, especially transgender people, so having this day to discuss the challenges people face was important, Morrison said.

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