Shopping with a Nightdress

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Richard Farnos explores older lesbians and gay men's experience of crime and the police. [First Appeared in the Polari Newsletter Winter 2003.]

"I take my nightdress to Tesco," we were told recently "I stay at a friend's after doing my shopping. I wouldn't feel safe to walk home."

It's an imaginative and resourceful response by one older lesbian to her security concerns. Understandably, safety issues affect all older people; on top of this, many older lesbians and gay men feel particularly vulnerable to attack because of their sexuality.

Polari carried out a whistle stop consultation of older lesbians and gay men in order to help inform police priorities of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Older lesbians and gay men were not happy with the way older people's concerns were sometimes trivialised: "Sometimes the way 'fear of crime' is stressed makes us out to be stupid. We make considered judgements about our safety".

One example of the judgements made for which all older people are often mocked, is keeping money at home. "Do people realise how hard it is to get to the bank or post office? And how many older people do you see at cash machines?"

Concern was also expressed about the poor attitude of some police officers, which on occasions, ranged from outright hostility to a lack of awareness. Obviously better selection and more training were needed. People said that lesbian and gay victims, not only of clearly homophobic crime, but of "general" crime too, should be able to speak to a local Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officer if they wished to.

Older lesbian and gay men welcomed significant efforts of Police Authorities to have a better relationship with lesbian and gay communities.

Polari would be interested in your experiences, views and ideas on older lesbians gay men and bisexuals and crime and safety.

Contributed by PIPP Project Co-ordinator

[ This posting originally appeared on the Polari website, www.casweb.org/polari. ]