Older LGBT People

While Ireland is now becoming much more inclusive of LGBT people, older LGBT people grew up in a time when being gay was criminalized and pathologised. Despite this, many older LGBT people developed huge resilience and strength of spirit. However, older LGBT people can face specific challenges and have certain fears as they age.

About Older LGBT People

In Ireland, older LGBT people grew up in a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and when sexual relationships between same-sex couples was considered a criminal act, immoral and sinful. Heterosexuality was seen as the only legitimate sexual orientation or gender identity and LGBT people were marginalised, rendered invisible and socially excluded. Indeed, a recent Irish study of older LGBT people documents the stigma, marginalisation and discrimination that they have faced in their lives and the social and emotional impacts this adversity had on their lives and continues to have for some, including:

  • Past rejection by family and friends resulting in isolation and loneliness
  • Loss and grief related to losing of contact with family/friends or loss of friends or partners through illness (including AIDS)
  • Substance misuse as a way of coping with psychological distress
  • Self-harm and suicidal ideation as a consequence of psychological distress related to the above 

Despite the very challenging and threatening start to their lives, most older LGBT are now comfortable with their LGBT identity and display a marked resilience to the stresses they experienced earlier in their lives. Research has shown that a number of factors helped older LGBT people with this adjustment:

  • Accepting one's LGBT identity and deciding to live one's own life
  • Accessing support from LGBT organisations
  • Accessing professional support when it's needed
  • Experiencing affirming relationships with family and friends
  • Developing and maintaining friendship with other LGBT people
  • Establishing a supportive and nurturing relationship

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