June is Pride Month which for many means rainbows, parades, and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. The modern LGBTQ+ rights movement of today looks a lot different than it did at its genesis during the Stonewall Riots in New York City in the 1960s. Advocates and allies alike have made tremendous progress throughout the movement, securing increasing public support as well as advancing protections under the law like marriage equality.
Despite this progress, some senior members of the LGBTQ+ community face unique challenges younger individuals are not aware of. For example, some older adults were raised in a time when identifying as LGBTQ+ was characterized as mental illness and may have buried their true identities out of self-preservation, remaining in the closet today. Others may have lived their life openly but now fear the loss of their LGBTQ+ autonomy as they grow older. Regardless of the challenges they face, all seniors deserve dignity and respect. Let this Pride month be an opportunity for our community to rally together to support senior members of the LGBTQ+ community and work together to support them at all steps of their journey.
Tips for Supporting LGBTQ+ Seniors
- Use Inclusive Language – The words we use are extremely important, especially when it comes to connecting with LGBTQ+ seniors. Chances are many senior members of the community have faced a good deal of discrimination throughout their lives but by using inclusive language we can make LGBTQ+ seniors feel comfortable. The key is to not make any assumptions about a person or their experience, including their family or personal life. For example, instead of assuming someone has a husband or wife ask if they are in a relationship or are partnered.
- Help Them Connect with Local LGBTQ+ Organizations– The LGBTQ+ senior may be very active in their community, but others may not be aware of all the LGBTQ-affirming spaces and organizations that exist in their area. Consider doing some research to find a local organization or center that offers senior-focused programming. From there, you can explore how your loved on can get involved or you can work together to start your own program.
- Seek Out LGBTQ+ Content – Representation truly matters so find ways to make sure your senior LGBTQ+ loved one has access to content and resources that speak to their experience. If they live in a Senior Living community, suggest an LGBTQ+ book club or movie night, or donate books on LGBTQ+ topics to the community’s library.
- Encourage Intergenerational Activities – Many younger members of the LGBTQ+ community may take for granted the privileges they have today and older members of the LGBTQ+ community may not know all the different facets of the expanding community. Either way, there is an opportunity for inter-generational learning to take place. Whether it is inviting older community members to High School LGBTQ+ groups or hosting an LGBTQ+ Prom at your Senior Living community, there are ways to create meaningful connections between all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
More Ways to Get Involved during Pride Month
While marching in a parade or participating in a protest are important, there are other opportunities to consider as well:
Host an LGBTQ+ Book Club or Reading Group: Another great way to brush up on your LGBT+ knowledge is through a book club or reading group. There are countless pieces of literature about and/or by LGBT+ people but it can be hard to choose. Here is a list of 23 books from LGBT+ authors, 20 Queer Authors from History and 9 LGBTQ Writers You Should Read.
Host an Event Featuring Products from LGBTQ+ Owned Businesses: Supporting a small LGBT+ owned business is a great way to celebrate Pride. Consider hosting a happy hour, afternoon snack or dessert bar featuring items from a local LGBT+ owned business. To find one, try searching online or using a tool like Intentionalist which allows you to filter businesses in your area by different categories or associations including LGBTQ-owned.
Learn how to support elders in the LGBTQ+ community: Estimates are that 3 million people aged 55 and older identify as a member of this community. From jobs to housing and health care, most have faced a lifetime of discrimination. Organizations like AARP, SAGE, and the Diverse Elders Coalition strive to support LGBTQ+ seniors who are struggling. Visit these organizations online to learn how you can help.
Volunteer or Collect Donations for an LGBTQ+ Charity: Our residents are incredible volunteers so for Pride they may enjoy supporting an LGBT+ charity. There are hundreds of options from advocacy organizations to faith-affiliated groups and even those that cater to LGBT homeless, healthcare and youth. Find your local organization or chapter and see how you can help out.