Human Rights, LGBT, News

LGBT Seniors Struggle with Visibility, Ageism, and Homophobia

LGBT seniors are often forced back into the closet when they need medical services or enter senior housing.

LGBT seniors are often forced back into the closet when they need medical services or enter senior housing. Photo: Sage USA | Facebook.

 

The traditional view, even inside the community, is of LGBT matters as youth matters. Gay parents in commercials are the parents of young children, not of young adults. Gay storylines in movies are coming-of-age stories, and most gay characters in those stories die young and tragically.

But queer youths grow up. And always have been growing up.

Today’s LGBT seniors grew up in exactly the world we are still fighting to improve. They grew up in a time when people called them faggots and perverts without any voices to speak in their favor. They may have grown up in a city or a state where homosexuality was illegal. They may have been fired or even committed for holding hands with the wrong person.

Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Elders (SAGE) are the largest organization committed to supporting and increasing the quality of the lives of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender seniors. Their mission addresses insure that are important to the LGBT community.

The population of LGBT seniors is increasing every year. However, this community is often ignored and even faces hostility from within their community. LGBT seniors are often confronted with a terrible choice. As they retire and live on limited income, they are often required to head back into the closet to live in communities that are not affirming of their identity.

A study by UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and the Law reports that 3.8 percent of the U.S. population identify as bisexual, gay, or lesbian. Their research estimates that there are at least 1.5 million lesbian, gay, and bisexual people 65 and over in the U.S and that figure will double by 2030. However, measuring the number of LGBT people is difficult, given the undercounting caused by factors such as stigma, underreporting and methodological barriers, such as inconsistent question formats.

And now, even as gay rights progress a good step at a time, they face losing their agency. Elderly same-sex couples may have trouble finding assisted living together. Nursing homes are not well rated for respecting gay rights. Trans people in particular still meet with medical discrimination. As insurance companies are beginning finally to cover gender confirmation surgery, doctors use age to deny it.

And perhaps the worst of it—LGBT seniors are less likely to have family support. A lifetime of battling homophobia and hate means many are alone as they face their sunset years, making it more important than ever that the queer community enfolds them.

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