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Gay and Lesbian Aging

Historical Variation

The experiences of today's older gays and lesbians must be understood within the historical context in which they came of age. Today's older gays grew up in a time of severe homophobia and with a lack of positive role models. Being gay or lesbian put individuals at risk of arrest or institutionalization. Therefore, older gay or lesbian individuals and couples often did not develop a conscious personal identity as gay or lesbian and often do not use that terminology to describe themselves.

Riots following police raids at New York City's Stonewall Inn on June 27, 1969, led to the development of the Gay Liberation Front and the gay rights movement that forced the non-gay society to address homosexuality. Today's younger gays and lesbians tend to encourage coming out or coming out of the closet. There are a number of different levels and ways that a person comes out, but the process follows a continuum from self-acceptance to general disclosure. Older gays and lesbians have generally been reluctant to embrace this process, especially after a lifetime of successfully hiding their homosexuality. Gays and lesbians who have grown older following the gay rights movement have existed in a social climate that tends to be somewhat more tolerant of homosexuality (other than the period following the emergence of AIDS, when gays were targeted as the cause).

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