Community News

GEMS advisor steps down

Besi Besemar June 16, 2013

Peter Otto
Peter Otto

Peter Otto, the advisor and fundraiser to the Gay Elderly Men’s Society (GEMS) has resigned. During his 16 years at the helm of GEMS the organisation has considerably increased its profile and the profile of older people in the city.

GEMS are a social group. They aim to reduce isolation and to help support and take care of mature gay men in Brighton and Hove. They hold regular social events and organise trips to the theatre and local tourist attractions. The group is an important mechanism for older gay men to maintain their friendship networks.

The former Older Lesbian & Gay Men’s Forum was created in 1997 with the help of Age Concern under the guidance of their Director, Dorothy Engmann. In 2002 the men and women decided to go their separate ways and GEMS was born.

Over the years GEMS has had representatives on Brighton & Hove Council committees, has been a member of the International Lesbian & Gay Association (ILGA), the European Gay Elderly Forum with the EU in Bruxelles and for the last five years Peter Otto has been a guest lecturer at the Solomon Institution in Tunbridge Wells on the subject of Life Experience of Older Gay Men.

In 2011, GEMS were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Services to the Community and received a special Golden Handbag Recognition Award at the Golden Handbag Show in the same year.

Since 2008 Peter has organised the annual Aids Memorial Concert under the patronage of GEMS and with the support of Brighton & Hove Council.

The Mayor of Brighton & Hove is a patron of GEMS and the members of GEMS enjoy an annual reception at the Mayor’s Parlour. The Mayor also attends their annual Candlelight Dinner before Christmas.

In his resignation email,  Peter, wrote:

“After 16 years at the helm of GEMS, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Mayor of Brighton & Hove, the Council of Brighton & Hove and all the official organisations and friends who helped and supported me to turn GEMS into the successful social group it is today. GEMS has been my baby, but the baby has grow and developed opinions I cannot agree with, so its time to let it go. I wish all members of GEMS the very best for the future.”

Cllr Geoffrey Bowden
Cllr Geoffrey Bowden

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, a prospective trustee at GEMS, said:

“Peter has worked tirelessly to highlight the isolation that many gay men can encounter in their old age. GEMS has provided a lifeline for many, who grew up in an era when the closet door was kept firmly shut.

“Peter’s energy and good humour will be sorely missed. He will certainly be a very hard act to follow.”

GEMS meets the last Friday of every month at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Brighton from 7pm-10pm. Membership is free and the organisation survives from donations and grant applications.

Stephen Grainger remains as the Social Events Co-ordinator.

To contact GEMS, EMAIL: