- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
- Published: 28 May 2021
June is recognized as International Pride Month marking the anniversary of the riot at the Stonewall Inn, in New York City, which led to a global movement for LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Agender) rights and annual Pride marches to build community, increase visibility, and advocate for equal rights. When it comes to civil rights we are thankful to those who have come before us to challenge the societal norms of the day and expand protections to those excluded or marginalized.
For LGBTQIA+ people, the simple act of coming out of the closet meant (and can still mean) losing one’s family, job, status in society, or even their life. The social isolation of being outside the norm fostered a deep sense of community and support. LGBTQIA+ people relied on one another and helped each other to thrive in adverse conditions. For those who did, the brave act of coming out publicly paved the way for many others to be proud of who they are, and who they love, and come out as well.
Despite the fact that LGBTQIA+ people can marry legally, and the many advances in equal rights over the years, as LGBTQIA+ individuals age, challenges arise with healthcare, housing, and long-term care due to lack of training and understanding of their needs.
This past year is not the first time that LGBTQIA+ elders have faced a pandemic and had to adapt. The AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) crisis was a global pandemic that was not recognized as such due to the populations being affected initially. The actions that LGBTQIA+ activists took to raise awareness led to a push for developments in HIV treatment, and access, and ultimately a worldwide reduction in deaths from AIDS.
The lessons and experience of the past helped many LGBTQIA+ elders adapt once again. LifePath’s Rainbow Elders group quickly made the shift to virtual gatherings in March of 2020, and took an intergenerational approach to help participating older adults become more technically savvy. As Massachusetts progresses towards reopening, the group is considering a hybrid model in order to continue to include older adults who are homebound, or otherwise cannot attend live events. Click here to learn more about Rainbow Elders events.
Despite the fact that LGBTQIA+ people can marry legally, and the many advances in equal rights over the years, as LGBTQIA+ individuals age, challenges arise with healthcare, housing, and long-term care due to lack of training and understanding of their needs. To begin to address this, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, in 2018, signed into law “An Act Relative to LGBTQIA+ Awareness Training for Aging Services Providers.” The first-in-the-nation law will require that all state funded or licensed providers of services complete training in how to provide meaningful care to LGBTQIA+ individuals and ensure that they can access services. Training is underway but there is still a long way to go in this area to recognize unique needs and provide relevant care with dignity and respect.
Beginning in June, LifePath’s Healthy Living program is launching a 7 week course “Living Well as LGBTQIA+ Older Adults with Long-Term Health Conditions.” This free, remote workshop will be led by two LGBTQIA+ leaders, who are also challenged by chronic conditions, and will be held Tuesdays, June 22–August 3, 1–3:30 p.m.
Over the past year one thing we have all learned is that we are all in this together, despite our differences. If you are LGBTQIA+ or know someone who is, please take inspiration from the easing of the pandemic restrictions to reach out and support one another, whether there is a pandemic or not. We will all benefit from a supportive community.