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A Historical Perspective of Today’s LGBTQIA+ Senior

Brightview Pride DEIA

For all older adults, aging is a new chapter of life that presents new adventures and challenges. For LGBTQIA+ seniors, aging presents unique adventures and challenges that heterosexual, cisgender individuals may not understand.

Visit this glossary for definitions of sexual and gender identity terms used in this article.

Today’s LGBTQIA+ seniors grew up during a tumultuous period of history where their identities and stories went from being harshly punished to equally celebrated and stigmatized. Historically, homosexuality and queerness were considered mental illnesses. Not only was LGBTQIA+ status not protected under the law, but until 1962, same-sex activity was a federal crime in every state in the U.S. Individuals could also lose their job or be committed to a psychiatric facility to “cure” them of this disorder.

In the 60s and 70s, the social changes gripping the nation also affected the LGBTQIA+ community. In 1969, police raided a gay bar in New York City, the Stonewall Inn. Patrons fought back for days in a demonstration for LGBTQIA+ rights, and today, the Stonewall Riots are widely regarded as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the U.S.

LGBTQIA+ seniors also experienced a terrifying time in the 80s as the HIV/AIDS epidemic raged, and the gay community, in particular, was hit hard by illness and death. The stigma of this disease affected the medical treatment and public health policy for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

More recently, the country has been quite divided over allyship for LGBTQIA+ individuals. In 2015, same-sex marriage was federally legalized. Some faith communities are more welcoming of LGBTQIA+ individuals, and LGBTQIA-friendly social services and programs are more common. However, discrimination and hostility toward the LGBTQIA+ community remain in some parts of the country. Job loss, housing discrimination, and adoption discrimination are all common injustices LGBTQIA+ individuals still encounter in many parts of the U.S. Hundreds of bills targeting trans people, particularly trans youth, have been introduced over the past few years.

Given this brief overview, senior LGBTQIA+ individuals may face unique challenges as they age and their health changes. LGBTQIA+ seniors may not have the strong social support network that heterosexual or cisgender seniors do, so our next article will focus on supporting seniors who live in nontraditional families.

At Brightview Senior Living, our goal is for all residents, associates, and visitors to our communities to feel welcome and free to be their authentic selves.

Brightview Senior Living builds, owns, and operates award-winning vibrant senior living communities in eight states along the East Coast: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. We offer senior Independent LivingAssisted LivingEnhanced Care, and Wellspring Village, a specialized neighborhood for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Schedule a personal visit to experience our communities firsthand.


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