About a dozen Kendal at Oberlin residents have come together to celebrate and educate the Kendal community about the contributions and concerns of older LGBT men and women. The interest group is named “25 & Proud” to reflect the community’s 25th anniversary this year that includes a history of inclusiveness for residents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
“We have come to an open and welcoming community that is safe and where we can be ourselves,” Ardith Hayes says.
“And we want to make sure Kendal continues to be welcoming, so that 10 years from now as new staff, residents, and board members come the culture continues,” adds Ann Francis, president of the Kendal at Oberlin Residents Association who is heading up the group.
Concerns range from the type of care LGBT residents may receive in the Stephens Care Center if they are unable to advocate for themselves to making sure Kendal language, spoken and written, is inclusive.
For instance, when Ann and her partner, Nancy Lombardi, moved to Kendal in 2015, the wording on some of the application forms assumed a couple applying for admission was heterosexual. After they pointed out the non-welcoming language, Kendal changed the words “male’ and “female” to “applicant” and “co-applicant.”
A Week of Celebration and Education
The group’s first project is organizing a weeklong celebration in June, LGBT Pride Month. The June 23-30 events will be held in the Heiser Auditorium and are open to the public.
- A film entitled “The Way He Looks” will be shown on Saturday, June 23 at 7:15. The film tells the love story between two adolescent boys in Brazil, one of whom is blind.
- The “Gen Silent” film will be shown on Tuesday, June 26 at 4 p.m., followed by a Q&A. The film examines some of the difficulties older LGBT adults face as they age and move into long-term care communities.
- A panel discussion will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 28. Several LGBT residents will share their personal stories, experiences at Kendal and concerns about aging.
- The week will conclude with the film “Cloudburst” on Saturday, June 30 at 7:15 p.m. The film explores the love of two women who flee a nursing home and head to Canada to get married.
Celebrating Same-Sex Marriages
Ruth Ann Clark, who married Ardith Hayes in a California church in 2008, wrote about their wedding in “Eureka!,” Kendal’s literary journal, in 2012, a year after the couple moved to Kendal.
“Our wedding day was a day when love won, when fear was cast out, when old love became new and was deepened. I had not anticipated that I would stand taller after this day, nor did I know the depth of self-respect I would experience that came with the word ‘married.’ Being married has been a more meaningful experience than any dream of mine had ever been. The reality of our love for each other has carried us through 31 years now. It has endured cross-country moves, some away from children, some toward children, new jobs, retirement and now here to Kendal. We are grateful for the warm welcome we are receiving here.”
On June 26, 2015, Ruth Ann and Ardith joined with other Kendal married couples to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision supporting same-sex marriages nationwide. Residents Robert Taylor and Ted Nowick had an extra-special reason to be joyful that day – it was their 40th anniversary together.
During the panel discussion Robert, who along with other members of “25 & Proud” has added a rainbow to his nametag, will share his story about moving to Kendal in 2003 with Ted. He views this first celebration as “beginning the conversation. We need more panels and more movies because there will always be new people at Kendal, residents, and staff.”
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In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.