In Australia, there is a considerable size of older people. In 2017, about 1 out of 7 are aged 65 and up. From this population, how many Australians are members of LTBTQ?
LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (or queer).
As per the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), there is very little data about the older Australian members of LGBTQ. In the 2016 census, there are an estimated 23, 700 male same-sex couples and 23,000 female same-sex couples.
How many are the older LGBTQ members in Australia?
From this, data shows around 2% of all people aged under 25 were in same-sex couples. This proportion decreased with age down to less than 1% in people aged 65 and above.
Data showed that the total number of same-sex couples living together has increased by 83% between 2006 and 2016. The number of same-sex couples aged 65 and up is even projected to increase in the future. It is projected that there may be a greater willingness to now say their gender identity with the reduced stigma associated with homosexuality.
Is Australia LGBTQ-friendly?
Today, Australia is seen as one of the more LGBTQ-friendly countries. Australia has been regarded as LGBTQ-friendly. Australia has already legalized same-sex marriage since December 2017. Gay Pride events are also huge in Australia. There are also a lot of gay bars and LGBTQ-friendly businesses.
Australia even has The Sex Discrimination Act 1984. This law makes it unlawful to discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status against the law. But of course, there are religious exemptions.
Where are the older LGBTQ Australians?
Despite this seemingly open country, the older members of the LGBTQ are not often as visible as their younger counterparts. Where are they? Are they not proud of their sexuality?
The reason for this is that these older LGBTQ Australians have lived through a long period of social and cultural transition. Unlike now, the younger LGBTQ are more open with their sexuality and their relationships.
Many older Australians have experienced social stigma. They have experienced discrimination, rejection, and social isolation. It was not an easy path for them compared to the younger generations.
Even if the rights of LGBTQ have significantly increased in the last 50 years, accessing certain services for the LGBTQ remains hard for these people.
Are the older LGBTQ Australians experiencing anxiety?
Many LGBTQ Australians live a happy life. But research says that there is still a number that experiences anxiety as a result of the social stigma, prejudice, and discrimination they have experienced at some points in their lives.
The older LGBTQ experienced a lot of hardships in their lives. There were points in their lives that it was even illegal to reveal their identities.
With the fact that these LGBTQ Australians have lived through discrimination in their lives, some older members find it hard to disclose their identity. To avoid possible discrimination, many of them choose to hide their identity and sexual preferences. They hide who they really are.
Also, about 34 percent hide their gender identity just to access certain services they need. This then can be a source of anxiety for them.
Hence, even as they aged, it was difficult for some of them to really ‘come out’
Are they supported in their old age?
Though there are families who are supportive of the LGBTQ, not all are as lucky. Sometimes the biological family is not supportive. Not all can accept the situation.
Older LGBTQ members have found other support through the other members who offer love and care to them.
However, with aging, it is not as easy to provide the utmost support in terms of physical, emotional, psychological, and financial needs. With the lack of support, some older LGBTQ experience a phase of isolation and loneliness.
Some homes or facilities offer a place for older Australians. But these are not all exclusively for LGBTQ members. Also, since care is coming from the staff or from strangers that do not really know them by heart, it can be extremely difficult.
Thus, some older LGBTQ members choose to go back to the ‘closet’ also in their old age, just to belong, to avoid discrimination, and be accepted by those around them.
How can the older LGBTQ members be supported in their old age?
Despite several actions of the government to make the country friendlier to the older LGBTQ members, there are still ways to further help them.
The communities can help these older LGBTQ members. One way is through visibility and inclusivity with the use of symbols, words, and images.
Another way is using language and pronouns like ‘they’ or ‘them’, instead of ‘him’ or ‘her’.
Staff and other members of the community should also be educated on the needs of LTBGQ, especially the older ones. Teaching the caregivers on being more sensitive and being more sympathetic can also help. The processes in nursing homes can also be reviewed in such a way that it can be more ‘inclusive’. Some already are and should be considered for the emotional support they can provide.
Continuous dialogue and consultation with LGBTQ members to foster better harmony and acceptance amongst all the members can also be done.
For so many decades, the needs of the older LGBTQ members were not given much attention to. Now, in this time, it is hoped that Australians can offer better support and help, most especially to the older LGBTQ members.