The LGBTQ+ community crosses not only cultures, race and religions but multi-generations as well. Generational differences include many things including politics and popular culture, making it challenging for those across the age lines to hear each other’s stories.
Time Marches On
Historically, older LGBTQ+ folks have had to fight to not be seemingly erased, not be pushed to the margins, ignored and forced to meet in secret. Not able to live their true selves but in the closet. Many people often had to maintain an outward appearance of heterosexuality so the back-in-the-day bad-mouthers did not have much to jabber about. Or get beat up or murdered over.
Opening the closet doors has been an arduous journey, somewhat dependent on where said closet doors were located. Some places were more accepting than others. The Stonewall Riots in June 1969 are one of the events held up by the older LGBTQ+ generation as a turning point to kicking open the closet doors. By June of 2016 in all 50 states same-sex marriage was legalized. The 2020 American Values Survey shows that 70% of Americans support same sex marriage.
How to Now?
Yet, something is not connecting. Wisdom is not being passed on. Some polls say that more than two out of five LGBTQ+ elders feel isolated and disconnected from the younger community. Sixty percent feel isolated with a lack of companionship. In 2020, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that LGBTQ+ youth are at a much greater risk for depression, suicide and substance abuse. Is this because of COVID-19 pandemic? Can the lessons learned during the HIV/AIDS epidemic be tools for learning how to cope with the current pandemic? Can the elders help the youth see how tools gained can be passed on?
Bridging the gap can be started by sharing stories. The elders know the backstories and history of the closet doors opening, and sometimes closing again. The young have vision, energy and a different perspective. A study done by Drs. Glenda Russell and Janis Bohan took a look at this generational communication phenomenon. The comprehensive research came up with a list of ideas to bridge the gap including youth panels, creating youth oriented initiatives to empower the younger LGBTQ+ and creating pathways to foster change. It does warn the elders not to exploit the younger generation’s vulnerability.
Another ongoing project led by sociology Professor Erin Fredricks of New Brunswick puts together LGBTQ+ elders to share their stories and for the youth to ask questions and share their experiences. The information will be used to build a mental health support program for LGBTQ+ youth.
Share your stories here during Pride Month and every month at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Burque area has a number of resources available for all ages including youth and family advocacy groups: check it all out at abqpride.com/resources/community/ .