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Same Sex Couples Later in Life University at Albany, SUNY Gero Innovations Grant
Substance Abuse in Later Life PEARLS Project 2009 Masters Advanced Curriculum Center for Mental Health and Aging School of Social Welfare University at Albany
On Feb 12, 2004, by order of Mayor Gavin, the city of San Francisco began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples including Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin --together 51 years and founders of the modern lesbian movement.
Why did Del and Phyllis have to wait 50 years? Del and Phyllis were chosen to be the FIRST couple to marry in part to honor their union and their work for LGBT civil rights, but also because of the message it sends to America. This couple has been together 50 years; are they not already married? Del and Phyllis’ marriage represents the coming together of two social issues: the aging of Americans, and the maturation of the LGBT community.
Defining Terms LGBTQQI –HUGE community of people. Stereotypical assumptions render many people invisible as LGBT people, including people of color, people of religious faith, those who are poor, those living with disabilities, parents, and of course, the elderly. Communities overlap (i. e. , poor black elderly, aging parents of young children). Transgender health care is not taught in medical or clinical programs, putting gender variant people at high risk.
LGBT AGING Research on elderly does not include LGBT people; research on LGBT rarely include older population. Stigma on aging; stigma of being LGBT. Approximately one to three million Americans over 65 are LGBT. As the aging population increases, so does the need to serve LGBT elders. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. Roughly four million of these will be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Problems associated with aging for gay adults All Elderly LGBT Elderly Isolation; Being out (doctor etc. ); Loss of friends; Less likely to have children? ; Finances; Changes in body and physical ability; Medical issues, dealing with the system; Estate, inheritance planning; Relationship to gay community; Housing; Aging may be especially stressful for gay men; Relationships; Heterosexism. Fear of institutionalization.
For example: § LGBT seniors may not have extended family, are less likely to have children than heterosexual seniors. Children are from heterosexual unions and may not even know about their orientation, or identify the partner as a “parent. ” § Some research indicates lesbians are more likely than heterosexual women to smoke, be overweight, or abuse alcohol. Lower lifetime rates of pregnancy may also affect lesbians’ long-term health. § Disease prevention strategies often ignore older gay and lesbian people, and HIV/AIDS drug trials don’t include older participants. § Lack of trained professionals to address housing and medical issues for transgender and transsexual elders.
BARRIERS “I feel different from younger gays. They live in a different world then we did. ” “I feel judged by the ‘queer movement. ’ In my day, you had to hide and be secretive. ” “I have a great fear of being wiped out by biological family, even though my partner and I have legal documents. I fear that my family could just back a truck up to the house and empty it. And that scares me to death. ”
The Family Life of LGBT People According to a number of studies approximately 40 -60% of gay men and 4580% of lesbians are in a committed relationship at any given time. 40% of the sample had been married to a person of the opposite sex, for about 14 years. Some 40% of the women had children, as did 24% of the men. In 96% of all counties nationwide, at least one same-sex couple is raising children.
Victims and Targets § LGBT people who are elderly, grew up in far more repressive and homophobic times -homosexuality was viewed as criminal, sinful, and sick. § They have internalized this homophobia – they do not seem themselves as deserving rights. § If OUT they often have a history of being fired from jobs, thrown out of their apartments, kicked out of the military, targeted by police harassment disowned by their families, and have been victims of bias-related violence – those who are gender-variant in any way are more often targeted and abused.
Closeted population In order to survive, they have hidden their identities and relationships. They fear authority and have exaggerated their need for safety. Often, they do not use the labels lesbian or gay to define themselves. "We identify simply as two women living together in a primary relationship, " said one 75 -year-old who had been partnered for 41 years. This is not just being closeted, it is not having words to name oneself. This is a population that is NOT fighting for domestic partnership or having their lover covered on their insurance; this is a population (generally speaking) that cannot even conceive of these as possibilities.
Families of Choice Due to the generations in which they grew up, and/or came out, many older LGBT’s were seen as outcasts, and were pushed aside by family and friends Seek out those that will be supportive/nonjudgemental “families of choice” “…two-thirds of a sample of middle-aged and older gay men and lesbians held that they had a family of choice. ” (de. Vries, 2004) “How will gay, lesbian, and bisexual families age together? What happened in the families of gay men, lesbian, and bisexuals where there was an exile from kinship? How do aging lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals deal with those exiles as they age? Are there reengagements with formerly estranged families of origin? ” (Boxer, 1997)
Vulnerable population Elder abuse; Domestic Violence; Lack of skills fighting for their rights; Isolated from LGBT community; Don’t see themselves as “family”; Transgender issues: closeted, marriage complications
A Brief History of Time By Steven F. Dansky For Barry Alan Safran The love that dare not speak its name Of course, for you, my beloved, Barry, but honestly when feminists conceived the maxim: the personal is political during the second wave last century, I’ve lived my life duty-bound to that maxim. This experiment endures despite living in stigma-impregnated space and refused recognition. Our union is socially imperative: an affirmation of those who loved and suffered, were imprisoned, or died for same-sex love. We are guardians of history, of other unions, of ours, some open, other hidden, some punished, some escaped the fire. Perfect, unconditional, and inseparable in life. Most holy. Most pure. Amen.
RESOURCES Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network-LGAIN An American Society on Aging Constituent Group http: //www. asaging. org/networks/index. cfm? c g=LAIN National Gay and Lesbian Task Force “Outing Age” http: //www. thetaskforce. org/issues/aging Sage Action in Gay Environment-SAGE http: //www. sageusa. org/index. cfm Transgendered Aging Network http: //www. forge-forward. org/tan/
Arlene Istar Lev, MSW, LCSWR, CASAC Founder and Clinical Director of Choices Counseling and Consulting in Albany, New York, since 1986 Adjunct Professor at the State University New York at Albany, School of Social Welfare and Empire College Author, Transgender Emergence and The Complete Lesbian and Gay Parenting Book Editorial Board of the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, The Journal of Lesbian Studies, and The International Journal of Transgenderism Advisory Board of the Sex Orientation and Gender Institute (Center on Halsted, Chicago)