Published: June 20, 2023
Pride Month at Kendal at Oberlin began in early June with the life plan community receiving a national designation for being welcoming and equitable toward LGBTQ+ residents, visitors and employees and continues throughout the month with workshops, discussions, movies and celebrations, both on and off campus. But the monthlong celebration has a somber thread running through it, say Jesse Carlock and Ann Francis, co-chairs of Kendal’s LGBTQ+ & Allies Interest Group.
“We’re very concerned about the bills in Ohio targeting LGBTQ+ people; the attacks are the worst that they’ve ever been,” Jesse says.
Adds Ann, “We are concerned for the safety of openly LGBTQ+ people. The more these laws come to pass, the more harm will come to us, young and old.”
For instance, House Bill 68, Ohio’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors, is currently moving through the legislature. According to Equality Ohio, legislation such as HB 68 often falsely labels gender-affirming care as “experimental” when in fact, the care is supported by all major medical associations.
“This is not experimental data or medicine – the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has existed since 1979, and affirming care has existed as early as 1919,” Equality Ohio explains.
The national outlook for LGBTQ+ rights is also troubling, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which this month officially declared a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ people in the United States, “following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year.”
Advocacy and Education at Kendal
On Thursday, June 22, Kendal resident Kerry Glaus will lead a discussion entitled “Gender and Sexual Identities in the 21st Century.” Billed as a crash course in gender and sexual identities, the presentation will cover such terms as nonbinary, gender queer, transitioning and incel and why some people prefer they/them as pronouns.
The 4 p.m. presentation is open to residents, staff and their guests and will be followed by dinner table conversations among Kendal residents and staff.
The following day, June 23, Kendal is partnering with LGBTQ+ Lorain County to offer a Safe Zone Workshop, where people can learn how to support loved ones who are LGBTQ+, be a strong ally in the fight for gender equality, and ask difficult questions in a supportive environment.
The 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. workshop, held in the Education Center, is open to the public.
On Saturday, June 24, Kendal residents and staff will be at Oberlin’s Tappan Square for the Pride Festival, hosted by LGBTQ+ Lorain County. Kendal’s “water station” table will include members of its LGBTQ+ & Allies Interest Group and staff from the Marketing Department. The festival, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., will include drag king and queen performances, music, dancing, games, food trucks and free HIV/AIDS testing by the Lorain County Health Department.
Kendal’s collaboration with LGBTQ+ Lorain County is one of several local organizations Kendal has reached out to as part of this year’s Pride Month theme “Supporting Community Pride.” Others include Oberlin College, Colors Plus Youth Center and Cleveland Pride, which was celebrated June 3.
The national designation that kicked off Kendal’s Pride Month was the “LGBTQ+ Long-Term Care Equality High Performer” from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and SAGE’s Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI).
The LEI is the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey of residential long-term care and senior housing communities on policies and practices dedicated to the equitable treatment and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ residents, visitors and employees. This year, 200 senior housing communities across 34 states participated in the LEI. Kendal at Oberlin is the only senior housing provider in Lorain County to be recognized in the LEI program.
Though there is reason for LGBTQ+ rights advocates locally and nationally to be somber, there is also cause for celebration.
“We have to hang together and celebrate who we are and not be daunted by these attacks,” Jesse says. Adding Ann, “If we disappear, they’ve won.”
Kendal Resident Stories: Ann and Nancy
Several LGBTQ+ residents have called Kendal at Oberlin home over the years. Hear why they chose our community and what makes them feel not only safe but also valued.
“The absolute number one thing is the people, the residents and the staff.”
Ann Francis and her partner Nancy Lombardi made several visits to Kendal. “We were drawn to continuing care retirement places because both Nancy and I don't have any children. And we knew that as we were aging that it would be helpful to have support services. And when we visited we were more and more convinced that this was a very active community that staff and residents work together,” Ann said, to make sure it would be a good fit for them as a gay couple and as Quakers.
Other attractions included Kendal’s physical layout. The dining rooms, care center and other public spaces are centrally located, cottages are easy to access by covered walkways and a one-mile walking path is ideal for walking and biking.
“We liked the fact that as we age and we need more services, one of us could go to the care center and the other could stay in the cottage, and we would not be miles apart where we had to get a car and go visit each other. We're right there,” Nancy said.
They also liked Kendal’s geographic location, within walking distance of Oberlin College and a 45-minute drive to downtown Cleveland, and the changing seasons.
Since moving to Kendal in 2015 the couple has gotten involved in activities both on and off campus. Ann was president of the residents association, and Nancy was chair of the Resale Shop.
‘We're not just interested in parties and stuff like that, but we're really interested in supporting the trajectory of aging for LGBTQ+ people. So this town is hopping with community activities and I'm right now, I'm really involved in getting out the vote,” Ann said.
Kendal Resident Story: Meet Tom
“A campus location for a retirement community – what could be better.”
Tom Konkoly’s job at Ohio’s Baldwin Wallace College in alumni engagement and gift planning took him into many CCRCs over the years.
“There was nothing like Kendal,” he said, listing some of the things that make Kendal special – the community’s 100 acres certified as an arboretum, residents of all abilities living and eating together, physical therapy and other health care services available on campus, and more.
After Tom’s partner died in 2015, he visited friends living at Kendal and decided to consider moving to the community. He liked its location in a college town, plus its proximity to Baldwin Wallace. Living at Kendal would give him access to an indoor pool and other fitness services at both the retirement community and Oberlin College, plus three libraries – Kendal’s, Oberlin College’s and the city of Oberlin’s.
Since moving to Kendal in 2018, he has taken classes at Oberlin College and Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA), served on a couple of resident committees and learned line dancing.
“Resident interests are so diverse that meal conversations are always a joy,” Tom said.
Are you making plans for your future? Kendal at Oberlin offers an active lifestyle with opportunities for lifelong learning, art and culture.
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.
About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.