Jul. 1st, 2015

haggis: (Celtic)

I am also running a BiCon workshop about being a carer.

I was inspired to run the Carers workshop by the really good one that Ludy Roper ran last year. Being a carer can be hard work, physically and emotionally. We want to support the people we care for (which can be partners, friends, parents, children, neighbours) but there is rarely appropriate support for us. We may be disabled or experience poor health ourselves. We are directly and indirectly affected by disablism and discrimination against the people we care for but being a carer is different from being disabled. There are complex issues about speaking for/over disabled people or being viewed as 'virtuous' or 'heroic' (which implies the people we care for are a burden).

I am planning to run this workshop as a safe space for people to talk, listen and share experiences. If you have any thoughts or experiences on this subject that you would like to share, please contact me via FB, FB chat, Twitter, LJ or email. I will keep everything confidential unless given explicit permission to share it. If you are happy for me to share information, I can anonymise it if required. (Note this is a public post.)

I view being a carer as being an intersectional issue so there doesn't have to be a specific connection with sexual orientation or being bisexual to join in this conversation/workshop. However, we know there are high rates of disability and mental health problems in our communities, increasing numbers of older LGBT people who may not have family support as they age and professionals/support services may make assumptions about LGBT people and their relationships that affect both carers and the people they care for.

haggis: (Celtic)

I saw this article linked on Twitter, in response to Jeremy Hunt's call for people to be less 'atomised' and spend more time socialising with and supporting elderly relatives.


"Should we as a wider society debate how we view older people? Absolutely. Should we as a society be less ageist? Yes definitely. However, those are in some ways the easy questions; the real debate is Should we as a society spend more money on social care and support services to help older people stay independent and happy in their own homes till the end of their life irrespective of whether they have family support?"

These are issues that disproportionately affect LGBT people, as it is more likely that they have lost contact or been rejected by their families. But it affects everyone - 1 in 5 older people do not have regular contact with their families but social care systems are built on the assumption that everyone does.

On one hand, I think this article is a little unfair on Jeremy Hunt - increased social inclusion of elderly people needs effort by everyone.

But in practice "everyone should means that nobody actually does". This currently means that where there are carers available (friends, family, neighbours) - the work of caring is loaded onto those individuals until they collapse. Equally, there is potential for abuse from carers, which is exacerbated when the person receiving care is forced to be dependent on their carer AND where there is inadequate support for both the carer and the person receiving care. (Newsflash - the current support available is inadequate. )

haggis: (Celtic)
As you can tell by the last post, I am starting to work out my thoughts about carers and the caring relationship, especially how to care and ask for support as a carer in an ethical, non-oppressive way. I feel like I am on shaky ground – being a carer is hard but it is often easier than being disabled and it is easy and dangerous for carers to speak over the people they are caring for.

It occurs to me that there are parallels between being a carer and being a white person in a relationship with a person of colour or being a cis person in a relationship with a trans person.
• You may experience the oppression directly (disablism, racism, transphobia) but more frequently you experience it by association or witness it happening to the other person.
• Other people like you (white or cis or non-disabled) may include you in their disablism, racism and/or transphobia, assuming you agree.
• Mainstream society (in the West) is white, non-disabled and cis and has very low understanding of disablism, racism and transphobia. You are likely to need to educate yourself and then educate people around you.
• Support is desperately limited. Where support exists, it is generally focussed on the other person. Asking for support can feel like stealing resources from people who need it more.
• The support available can be disablist/racist/transphobic – for example when disabled people are treated as burdens, trans people are framed as deceiving/hurting their partners or inter-racial relationships are fetishised or tokenised.
• You are likely to have structural power in the relationship.
• You are likely to have internalised disablist, racist, transphobic ideas or beliefs and will mess up at some point.
• You have the opportunity to use power abusively. If you do, you can find people who will justify your behaviour.
• You are taken more seriously on the subject (of disablism, racism, transphobia) than the other person because of bullshit assumptions about objectivity.
• You can escape from the oppression more easily than the other person, for short periods or permanently by ending the relationship.
• You may find yourself permanently angry and horrified at how mainstream society equates ability with worth, enforces gender roles (sometimes violently) and works to maintain white privilege.
• Structural power is NOT the only issue and both sides of the relationship can be abusive (physically, emotionally, psychologically).
• Disablism, racism and/or transphobia make being abused by your partner or the person you provide care for even harder to talk about because of how neatly it fits disablist/racist/transphobic narratives.

I have written this as if these are simple binaries but they intersect and combine. Carers often have disabilities or need care themselves. Trans people and people of colour can be carers. Trans PoC exist. Other privileges and oppressions can affect what support you can access and how medical/social care providers treat you and the person you care for. I don’t want to overstate the parallels – these oppressions are different and work in different ways but I think I will look for good resources on inter-racial relationships and cis-trans relationships to see if there is any useful ideas there.

However, I think I have found a central theme – for someone who is not otherwise oppressed, these relationships force you to confront your own privilege and internalised -isms while discovering the oppression in mainstream society. (One of the key functions of privilege is to make your own privilege invisible to you). A key part of caring ethically and non-oppressively is learning to negotiate that within intensely personal relationships, with all the usual tides and undercurrents of love and jealousy and frustration you find there.


haggis: (Default)

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