Introducing the Friends of Dorothy

Craig explains why he decided to set up the Friends of Dorothy, an LGBT social group aimed at older people, who meet regularly in Leeds.

Duration 03:49


You can find out more about the group and its activities on the Friends of Dorothy Facebook page.


Yeah, we started something that, it was an idea around… I remember somebody explaining to me what Friends of Dorothy meant. And I thought what a great idea, it's a code word for people that are not 'out'. You know the people that wouldn't ordinarily run up and down in a Pride parade, nothing wrong with running up and down a Pride parade of course! And somebody came to us and said 'Oh, we run a lunch club in Beeston and we've got a couple of gay blokes that come to that'. So I said 'Oh that's great, okay so I wonder how they feel being involved with a lot of straight people from that district and that community and I wonder if they feel as though they can talk about the subjects that they are probably interested in. I thought that I suspect not and I suspect that for that kind of age group obviously, it's still a little bit not the norm to be gay or LGBT.

So, along with that comes older people, older straight people, who often think it's okay like they might use, not necessarily derogatory terms, but terms that they think it's okay to talk about things that I might feel uncomfortable with nowadays. I'm thinking 'I wonder what, I wonder what it will be like when I'm 80 and what would I want when I'm 80, and what do I want as being 50?' And I'm thinking, wouldn't it be nice if we had a community centre that was filled with people that we could reminisce and we could talk about the same things without feeling as though we might be offending somebody or people might not understand us as we keep having to 'come out' every day.

So we just decided to start up a gathering of a group of people that was based around over-50s, which is officially 'older' people, but also intergenerational stuff. And it went from there really, and it coincided with me being a – because I'm a trustee of Leeds Community Foundation which is a group of 10 people, and we give out money that people very kindly donate to us, and we give out money basically. We also manage lots of other funds around the UK. We only gave 1% of our funds to LGBT causes, so I'm their LGBT representative in terms of finding out why we only gave out 1% of our funds to LGBT organisations. And we found out very easily that it's because they don't ask for it! And the access to that, and also we did a mapping report and we found out, and this is all in support of setting up Friends of Dorothy, and we found out after the mapping report that we commissioned through Leeds City Council and Leeds Community Foundation that we were finding that, when people are older and they go into nursing care, or older and they need support, they either have to 'come out' all over again, because you do, and you find that even as adults now when we go to a new hairdresser or a dentist, unless we're very obviously LGBT, we find that at some point we have to come out again.

And it's particularly that the older you get the more uncomfortable that is. And so instead of 'coming out', what we've found with lots of them was that they were going back in the closet because it was easier. And that meant that they didn't want their more flamboyant friends coming to visit them in the nursing home either. So they were not only losing their identity, their voice, but also what was left of their friendship networks. So we thought this needs to change; so this is a step in the right direction, Friends of Dorothy – it's a step in the direction of having something because older LGBT people are not just older people, they're special, they're different. They've got different needs, they have different communication styles, they're very different to just older people.