We all change; our bodies change, our health, our looks, our view towards life, our friends and family. What happens when this becomes a problem in the eyes of society? How can we be more supportive of people from our community once they get older?
When we go through life, as LGBTQI people, we struggle to make a good living for our families, our friends and us. We face barriers in healthcare, in education, with our workplace community- we do our best to overcome them and thrive.
When we talk about senior LGBTQI people we must first realise that in a lot of their cases we talk about people with life situations that differ in many ways of what a young person goes through today in most societies.
Finding out you were LGBTQI when you were young during communism or war, poverty, growing up in traditional patriarchal families or having to work on the fields to support yourself and your family definitely created a totally different approach to one’s identity.
International organisations such as ILGA Europe have started recently to tackle this issue and raise awareness about these realities, with a focus on health.
The health system and the LGBTQI community are not very good friends since inequality still exists, but we are slowly improving this relationship. Activists are working hard to make sure we can all, no matter our age, sexual orientation or gender identity, enjoy these services without fear of being discriminated.
But on a more grassroots level, what can each of us do?
Talk to elderly LGBTQI people from your community.
They have an enormous history behind, including that of your local community. This histories need to be known, shared and appreciated.
Many LGBTQI people lived through harsh times when they were your age so we have tons of things to learn from them. And most probably they also want to be up to date with how has the community changed, what are the most important struggles. So why not share?
Offer your help!
Getting older is not easy. Your body does all these tricks on you, and sometimes fails to help you in all the ways you need. This is why a had of help for daily errands will definitely be appreciated. Or offering to cook a meal once a week for them- it also gives you the chance to have one hour of intergenerational gossip about recent events in the queer community.
However, please keep in mind that, the fact that a person is older, doesn’t necessary mean they need your help- so ask before assuming anything about their life.
Visit them regularly.
If LGBTQI elder people are alone or just with their partner, in their houses, they might enjoy a cup of tea with somebody so they can share what they have been up to, what is it that they struggle with, what great things happened etc. We all like to know we have not been forgotten!
If people are living in a care facility then visits are sometimes the thing that keeps them connected to the rest of the world.
Many elderly queers are not out to their families, to their new friends in the care facility or to the staff.
Imagine that after a life of struggling with your identity, the harsh reality of being discriminated and marginalised, self acceptance and being proud to be you, now you need to get into the closet again!
That’s definitely not cool! And until all care facilities and hospitals are inclusive, we can be the ones that, by visiting, can provide a much-needed space for self-expression as a queer person.
Include them in the events you make.
If you are an activist, community organiser or event planner that works for/with the queer community don’t forget to include elderly people in your events. Sometimes all they need is a space to come and meet other elderly people, support each other, enjoy themselves and have fun.
Other times, they would like to get to be more connected to the wider community, share some wisdom words and learn from the youngsters. Make sure all your events are accessible, as some people have disabilities. You can always learn more about what would make your events inclusive, directly from them.
We can only learn from each other’s experiences and wisdom, so let’s value our elders and don’t forget their huge contributions to the way LGBTQI rights have advanced through the years!
And remember, we all age, so why not start building this caring culture from now so we can all benefit from it?