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Gay and Lesbian Aging

Myths And Realities

Many myths abound about gay and lesbian elders. Older gay men are stereotyped as isolated and lonely, increasingly effeminate, and prone to pedophilia. Older lesbians are stereotyped as emotionally cold, lonely, frustrated, and overly masculine. Although a small number of older gays and lesbians fit these descriptions, the vast majority do not. Due to more relaxed gender roles of gays and lesbians, older gays and lesbians may be better equipped to deal with gender role changes (men becoming less masculine and women becoming less feminine) that commonly accompany normal aging.

Most older gay men and lesbians appear to be reasonably well adjusted and integrated into social networks composed primarily of age peers. Commitment to one's sexual orientation and integration Lesbian couple Lois Farnham (left) and Holly Puterbaugh (shown here at the Vermont Supreme Court in November 1998) were one of three gay or lesbian couples that successfully challenged Vermont's marriage law, which made same-sex unions illegal. Their lawsuit led to the passage of legislation that let gays and lesbians apply for civil union status, which was as legally binding as a marriage certificate. (AP photo by Toby Talbot.) into the gay community are predictors of good psychological adjustment for gay men. Older lesbians generally expect to grow old gracefully, while remaining interested in life and involved in the social world. Positive adjustment to aging among older gays and lesbians can be attributed to a life course of experience in dealing with problems associated with stigma and society's negative attitude toward homosexuality.

In terms of social support, older gays and lesbians draw more support from friends, and older heterosexuals draw more support from family. Homosexuals often use fictive kin, substituting friends for traditional family relationships. These confidant relationships can help to resolve fears associated with aging. Homosexuals also have extensive family ties and long term committed relationships among older gays and lesbians appear to be more common than previously assumed.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2Gay and Lesbian Aging - Myths And Realities, Gender Differences, Major Issues With Aging, Cultural And Subcultural Variation, Historical Variation - Organizations