LGBTQ+ Elders Face Decades of Discrimination. Republicans Don’t Care


June is Pride Month, which provides the opportunity for the world’s LGBTQ+ communities to come together and celebrate the freedom to be themselves. However, we cannot ignore the hardships and profound disparities they continue to face.

Due to a lifetime of discrimination, many in the LGBTQ+ community age without adequate community support systems and face substantial employment barriers. As they get older, this elevates into increased poverty levels, terrible health care and living conditions, and overall lower quality of life.

And many Senate Republicans seem perfectly happy to let the suffering of these individuals  continue.

Today, one-third of LGBT+ elders live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, while more than half struggle with mental health challenges because of lifetimes of discrimination. LGBTQ+ older people are twice as likely to live alone and twice as likely to be single, leading to an increase in social isolation.

Access to equitable health and eldercare contributes to additional barriers for LGBTQ+ elders, as they frequently receive inferior and neglectful health care, or have been denied health care altogether. More than half of LGBTQ+ elders receive care from their partner and a quarter (24 percent) receive care from a friend.

These disparities become more substantial for racially and ethnically diverse LGBTQ+ elders.  For example, the unemployment rate of African-American LGBTQ+ people is nearly double that of the general population. Meanwhile, 28 percent of Latinx transgender people and 34 percent of Black transgender people live in poverty.

COVID-19 has only made conditions worse. LGBTQ+ elders were at the epicenter of the pandemic, revealing the deadly consequences of not addressing the steep equity deficit in elder communities.

Sadly, the support needed to mitigate these profound disparities remains grossly inadequate as this growing community of elders — which will reach nearly seven million by 2030 — continues to face homelessness, poverty, and an increase in hate crimes.

Without immediate action, one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations will be once again excluded and forever impacted.

These wrongs must be righted now.

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan would allocate $400 billion to support eldercare and services, and the Diverse Elders Coalition (diverseelders.org) — a leading national advocacy group of six organizations that represent the interests and concerns of racially and ethnically diverse older adults, as well as LGBTQ+ older people — is seeking $450 million over eight years to support a series of initiatives grounded in the specific realities and needs of diverse older adult communities.

With this funding, older people in underserved communities who have been facing these longstanding inequities could get the care and support they need and deserve. This would include food security, cultural competency training to help bridge the gap between care providers and elders in the LGBTQ+ community, cyber education to decrease the digital divide, virtual programming to assist with social isolation, and more.

Yet many in the GOP, the majority of whose voting base is 50 and older, per a recent Pew Research Center Report (pewresearch.org), is untroubled by the continued disparities among LGBTQ+ elders. As negotiations continue, Senate Republicans are calling for a dramatically scaled back infrastructure package that would remove funding toward eldercare.

Compromising is part of legislating. But leaving our elders — especially from diverse communities — on the cutting room floor would be outrageous and unacceptable. This would only further compound the profound disparities that diverse elders continue to face due to a lifetime of discrimination and further exacerbate the life-threatening challenges facing LGBTQ+ elders today.

Too many Republicans want to dismiss the challenges facing the older adult community. But failing to meet their needs — especially for older adults from diverse and LGBT+ communities — would be profoundly inhumane. The Biden administration must take a meaningful step toward building equity for elders by refusing Republican wishes to remove eldercare from the Infrastructure Plan.

LGBTQ+ elders have survived have a lifetime of discrimination. While they are resilient, they need our support more than ever before. We cannot and will not leave them behind.

Michael Adams is CEO of SAGE, which advocates for LGBTQ+ elders.

This article was originally published in The Advocate on June 21, 2021.

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