Sadiq Khan challenges allies to listen to LGBT+ elders: ‘The best history is living history’
Sadiq Khan is clear that LGBT+ people in London should not be “tolerated”, they should be “respected, celebrated and embraced”.
On Monday (20 September), the mayor of London cut the rainbow ribbon at the UK’s first-ever LGBT+ retirement community, Tonic@Bankhouse in Lambeth.
Tonic Housing, a community-led not for profit organisation, has been on a long journey to get to this point. Established in 2014, it set out to tackle issues of loneliness and isolation among LGBT+ elders.
The 19-property retirement community was opened after Tonic secured a £5.7 million loan from the mayor of London. The first five residents have already secured their place at Tonic@Bankhouse, but Khan that he hopes the LGBT+ affirming retirement community will be the “first of many” in the UK.
He said: “I’ve always said quite clearly since I’ve been mayor that in London, you should be free to love who you want to love, and free to be who you want to be.
“And this first-ever LGBT+ retirement home is sending a message, not just to those people who move in here but to others, that in London, you can be free to be who you want to be and free to love who you want to love… I’m hoping this will be the first of many other retirement communities where people from this community who contribute so much to our city have somewhere live.”
Here in London you are free to be here you want to be and love who you want to love.
With support from my Community Housing Fund, the UK's first LGBTQ+ retirement community @tonichousing is now open!
An emotional moment and a major milestone for LGBTQ+ housing and our city. 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/mL8EkU3Rjq
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) September 21, 2021
Sadiq Khan believes preserving the histories of LGBT+ elders is vital
Ahead of the project’s official ribbon-cutting Geoff Pine, who sits on Tonic Housing’s board of directors, told a story highlighting why a place like Tonic@Bankhouse is so vital for LGBT+ elders.
Pine described how his partner of 35 years became disabled in the final years of his life due to a congenital heart condition.
“We had support from a local care service, as I was still working full-time,” he said.
“After a few weeks of this care, he suddenly became unusually depressed. And I finally got him to tell me the reason.”
Tearfully, Pine continued: “Apparently, when the person arrived in the morning to wash him etc, they would go down on their knees, and at the foot of his bed, pray for his condemned soul because he was gay.”
Sadiq Khan told PinkNews: “The story from Geoff was heartbreaking. But I know there are many other stories similar to that that have been untold.
“That’s why it’s so important to provide a home and a community, where people can be themselves.”
Part of this mission is understanding the histories and lived experiences of LGBT+ elders.
Khan said: “I was speaking to one of the new residents, and she was talking about setting up a history club, and she was talking about preserving some of these stories.
“Because often the best history is living history. People telling their own stories, their anecdotes, and their lived experiences.
“I think those of us who seek to be allies of this community need to understand the challenges that they face, as a minority.”