It’s hard to live in a small town as a lesbian. As an extreme looking lesbian working with conservative senior citizens full-time in a small town, it can be an even bigger trial. At least according to the stereotypes—and let’s face it, at first anyone would think this.
Let’s get to know Lili and her unusual daily life, which disproves the above stereotypes.
“In my daily life I’ve openly embraced my lesbianism. Of course I don’t start a conversation with this; moreover, I don’t bring it up until people ask. Maybe this is the secret to why I haven’t been affected by open negative discrimination throughout my life. I try to get people to accept me primarily with my personality.
If we look at things according to public belief I suffer from many disadvantages. To start, my appearance isn’t average, plus, I’m a lesbian and then there’s the field I work in. The icing on top of the cake is that I live in a border town of about 7000 people.
People are usually amazed if I tell them what my work is. It’s difficult to imagine that a blue-haired girl with tattoos, ear gauges, and piercings, who’s also a lesbian, could work with the elderly.
The truth is that, for a long time, I also couldn’t imagine how this was going to work, but really this is what I wanted to do. I was a top student, but to this day I remember how scared I was of my first training. Then, I realized that it was going well for me; the staff loved me and the residents too. Among the staff, it was pretty clear that I’m gay, and some residents also knew. But there were also some residents who addressed me as a boy during one-on-one sessions, which didn’t surprise me.
I’m now 24 years old. I’ve got 4.5 years of professional experience behind me: 2 years in specialist care—within the framework of school practice—, 1.5 years of in home help, and one year at the seniors’ club, where I still work.
During my years of practice, my sexual orientation didn’t come to the forefront, more so my appearance, after all it’s not an everyday phenomenon to see a person with such extreme style working in a nursing home. I didn’t have any disadvantages from this, maybe just a little more work related to the relationships with clients. There were some who were really interested and they would even color in my black and white tattoos, but there were also others with whom it took several weeks to find common ground. During in-home help, a strong bond forms between the client and the helper. This was very difficult because I did not want to bring into the picture that I’m gay, but several times the question came up whether I have a husband or children.
In most cases, I didn’t tell the truth, which wasn’t a good feeling. I had to consider how to make peace with my own conscience, whether to be honest causing an 80+ year elderly lady a few sleepless nights or to lie and to sort it out on my own. Several times I found myself in tough situations when I was paired up with a deeply religious client who would preach to me daily.
In a year and a half I met a lot of clients. Out of those, there was one who I told because the client saw me with my then partner and asked. (Of course, there was a kind neighbor as well who after my first visit immediately ran over to see what was up with me.) With this client a strong bond developed between us and up to this day it fills me with warmth when I think about it. If I had to fill in for any of my colleagues, then I would usually go out and the first question right away was “So, do you have a girlfriend?”—it’s a strange feeling to hear this from the mouth of an 80+ year-old grandma.
After I moved to the seniors’ club, the situation was completely different. Many members know that I’m gay, but we never talk about it. In this context of primary care people look at me in a completely different way. Here they see the young, cheerful girl in me, not my sexual orientation or how I look. They need my clownish character and they like when I joke with them. Often, they say how happy they are that I bring color to their lives. This is a great feeling and I’m happy that I have such work where I don’t only give love, but also get it.
Moreover, nothing proves the openness of my workplace better than my manager, who kindly asked about my life, if I have a girlfriend, etc. when I mentioned the publication of the article.
If I get negative remarks or I get degrading comments, it’s more often from outsiders than from the elderly. It seems absurd that an elderly person who we assume is really conservative or deeply religious is able to handle my lesbianism, while a much younger person who grew up in a different environment is less accepting. There was even one case where I received some truly ugly remarks from a relative while the client was so attached to me that they didn’t even want another caregiver.
There were clients who had a difficult time accepting it, but never had one with whom we couldn’t find common ground. There were, however, countless outsiders who still are not on good terms with me just because I’m not like them. Perhaps it was karma that once a relative of such a person ended up among my clients; needless to say, their opinion also changed quickly.
I learned how to treat those people for whom lesbianism is a taboo (moreover, I’m aware that even in their childhood—even now in some families—gayness came with being disowned.)
I’ll never understand hate, but I am able to accept opinions that are different from my own if they are expressed with respect. Since I started to put up content on TikTok (@hjdll ) and Instagram (hjdll), I realized how hurtful strangers can be. Change however, is possible. I know an old gentleman who used to spit at the TV when seeing same-sex couples kissing, but since meeting me he confronts people who use the word “faggot”. If 86 year old Feri can change, then it’s not impossible for younger, intelligent people either.”
(The cover photo shows Lili and her grandmother.)
Translated by Amy Soto