This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. We are an aging population, and yet how well does our society handle the needs of an aging LGBTQIA+ community?
There is a severe case of under-reporting of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, so we need to bear this in mind when we read reports claiming that 8.3 percent of “LGBT elders” have been “neglected or abused by a caretaker due to their sexual orientation or gender identity”. I am pretty sure the number is much higher than that.
As pointed out in an article by Sage USA (an advocacy service for LGBT elders):
“LGBT older people have lived through decades of stigma and discrimination by their peers, families, and society’s systems of care. For much of their lives — and still for some people, especially trans folks — LGBT people could be fired, involuntarily hospitalized, arrested and prosecuted, and worse by the very societal systems designed to protect people. Because of that, LGBT people carry a tremendous amount of fear and concern about mistreatment.”
The article was released last year, and it reported a lawsuit by Marsha Wetzel against a senior housing facility. Wetzel claimed the facility failed to keep her safe from discrimination:
"After losing her partner of 30 years to colon cancer — which followed being shunned by her adult son, being evicted from her home, and getting shut out of the family by her late partner’s relatives. “No one would drive me to her funeral.”
Experiencing discrimination is a form of trauma, and so is concealment of a person’s sexual or gender identity. There are studies that claim that concealment can produce symptoms similar to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): hypervigilance, a distorted sense of blame, a diminished interest in activities, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and self-destructive behavior. If you couple this with the other demands of ageing (physical health, isolation, financial issues), you are bound to see a significant impact on a person’s mental health.
As we look back over the last 50 years of achievements by the LGBTQIA+ community, we need to also look forward, and anticipate how we are going to meet the unique needs of an ageing LGBTQIA+ population.