Gay senior lives less openly in care facility
Posted on June 22, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
The love of Victor Engandela’s life was a Czech immigrant, an older, square-jawed man, olive-skinned and Hollywood handsome with a shock of white hair and an unfailingly gentlemanly manner.
Joseph was his name. There are pictures of him pressed in a yellowed photo album buried on a shelf in Engandela’s room at an Evanston home for seniors.
“I was with him,” Engandela said, “until he took his final breath.”
He shares these photos, and stories of a rich life, with no one but the occasional visitor, spending most of his days isolated from his past, surrounded by contemporaries born in an age when homosexuality was taboo.
“I’m one of the few people here that’s out, and I feel the weight of that,” said Engandela, 85. “I don’t advertise it, but I feel people know I’m homosexually oriented. They like me, but they don’t like me as a homosexual. I feel shunned.”
Engandela realized he was gay when he was about 13. His parents were Sicilian immigrants, and he was raised Catholic, one of four siblings.
Rather than play with other kids, Engandela preferred sitting on the porch in his Chicago neighborhood watching the older Italian men talk and smoke cigars.
As he got older he began going to Bughouse Square, listening to poets and Marxists atop soapboxes on hot summer nights. That spot in Washington Square Park was also a covert meeting place for gays, and it was nearby, under the elevated train tracks, that he had his first homosexual experience.
“It was, really, quite beautiful,” he said. “But at that time it was a real no-no. I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.”
See Gay senior lives less openly in care facility
Gays and aging: Halsted center serves surging population of gay … Chicago Tribune
Gay Pride in Moscow: Report from a Chicago Activist
When asked, this gay soldier told
Africa: Gay and lesbian voices in African blogosphere