Loud and Clear: Making LGBT Voices Heard in the Conversation on Aging

 In: Articles

As is the case in so many of our cultural conversations, LGBT perspectives have long been missing from the way we think and talk about aging. In preparation for this year’s White House Conference on Aging (a national event that takes place every ten years), SAGE has gathered the thoughts and stories from more than 150 people on the experience of LGBT aging.

These stories are powerful, personal evidence of strength, resilience, and optimism. We’re proud to be bringing them to light as part of a critical conversation on what it means to age in America today.

There are strong common threads through these diverse statements. One of these is the experience of economic inequality. Many older people who spent their working lives in political climates that allowed employers to discriminate against or even fire employees based on their LGBT identities.

Some of these statements are universal:

“After working all ones life, one should not have to live in poverty, choosing between paying the utility bill or groceries, or live in fear of losing your home because you can’t keep up with the cost of living.” — Rachel Desilets

Others pointedly reference the distinct experience of LGBT aging:

“As I age, who will I turn to when I do really need help if my friends are as old as or older than me and need help themselves…? The biological family model won’t work for me. I will have to create something else.” — Karen Raforth, Ph.D.

Our respondents reflected joy at the recent strides made toward equality, but also reminded us that

Better financial equality is only a recent reality to many LGBTA community members. There is just a lot of catching up to do … if it can be done.