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Being gay and getting old means a horrible, lonely, frail life…

Being gay and getting old means a horrible, lonely, frail life…

…Well, it actually doesn’t have to but there’s a pair of studies that are making their rounds lately.  Here’s the latest so let’s dismiss that one quickly.

Members of California’s aging lesbian, gay and bisexual population are more likely to suffer from certain chronic conditions, even as they wrestle with the challenges of living alone in far higher numbers than the heterosexual population, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Half of all gay and bisexual adult men in California between the ages of 50 and 70 are living alone, compared with 13.4 percent of heterosexual men in the same age group. And although older California lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to live with a partner or a family member than their male counterparts, more than one in four live alone, compared with one in five heterosexual women.

A lack of immediate family support may impact aging LGB adults’ ability to confront statistically higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, poor mental health, physical disability and self-assessed fair or poor health, compared with demographically similar aging heterosexual adults.

The study, which draws upon three cycles of data from the biennial California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), underscores the importance of considering these unique needs and chronic health conditions in providing health care and social services to the estimated 170,000 self-identified aging LGB adults in California — a population that will double in size over the next 20 years.

On the surface, my title for this article is exactly the picture they’re painting:  If you’re LGBT and older, you’re going to live alone and according to them you can look forward to a statistical probability of diabetes, hypertension, poor mental health,  and physical disability.  Gee, almost makes that tag line of “live fast, die young and make a good looking corpse” words we all should have heeded right?

Wrong.

Here’s why I’m so quick to dismiss their study in total:  see the magic sentence in the last paragraph, “The study, which draws upon three cycles of data…”.  Yeah, those three cycles are 2003, 2005, and 2007.  You have to really look thru their report in order to find out that little nugget (it’s toward the bottom few pages and in really fine print on the others).  Data that’s eight, six and four years old respectively, is functionally irrelevant.  Period.  Add to that, I’m the sort of skeptic that is immediately going to question why it took as long as eight years to summarize the responses of 1000+ adults. I know beginning math students that can tabulate that in a week.

There’s too many questions in that study for me to flat out accept it on it’s face, especially since it’s purpose on every physical health point is to compare the gay community to heterosexuals. The short “conclusion” is exactly the title of this piece.  If you’re gay and getting old, you’re in a heap of trouble.  Add to that, they also published the same day as this study.

At a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals—often referred to under the umbrella acronym LGBT—are becoming more visible in society and more socially acknowledged, clinicians and researchers are faced with incomplete information about their health status. While LGBT populations often are combined as a single entity for research and advocacy purposes, each is a distinct population group with its own specific health needs. Furthermore, the experiences of LGBT individuals are not uniform and are shaped by factors of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographical location, and age, any of which can have an effect on health-related concerns and needs. Researchers still have a great deal to learn and face a number of challenges in understanding the health needs of LGBT populations.

To help assess the state of the science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the IOM to evaluate current knowledge of the health status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations; to identify research gaps and opportunities; and to outline a research agenda to help NIH focus its research in this area. The IOM finds that to advance understanding of the health needs of all LGBT individuals, researchers need more data about the demographics of these populations, improved methods for collecting and analyzing data, and an increased participation of sexual and gender minorities in research. Building a more solid evidence base for LGBT health concerns will not only benefit LGBT individuals, but also add to the repository of health information we have that pertains to all people.

The short answer on their study is this:  LGBT people have a unique set of health needs, we’re not really sure what they are in total, and this needs to be studied.  (On a side note, the CHIS study gave the transgender community the shaft and didn’t even include them in their research.  NIH at least tried to look at a broader spectrum.

Blogs are already quick to pick up on the CHIS study and are quick to point out their conclusions as gospel, while offering their own advice.

The problem is a complicated one with several time sensitive and social variables. First, our older LGBT citizens have had to deal with a far more negative and pervasively discriminatory society. Secondly, our gay culture needs to learn how to honor and embrace our elders and thirdly, we lost a core generation of gay men who succumbed to HIV who might have been instrumental in making the older generation’s transition to their golden years easier. Our community needs to remember we all participate in the aging process and honor and support our elderly.

Ok, first off the author for that site is predominately responsible for their military and DADT articles/admonishments, so I wouldn’t be so quick to recirculate a study that needs to be fully examined rather than accepted just because it’s had a nice job done of it in Publisher.  As a site that seems to exist solely for the purpose of slapping DC around on LGBT political issues, they of all people should know that you don’t accept something on it’s face just because it’s in print.  “Citizen Journalists” rarely get that idea down.  But, considering their first attempt to publish a health study consisted of “here’s the study, and here’s a comment on it” with no attempt to write a single word of their own, I should have gotten the idea.  They don’t care or are ill equipped to deal with LGBT related health reporting.

Second, while he tries to make the point about gays embracing the elder community he doesn’t quite hit the mark.  By and large, the senior community – both gay and straight – is far too disposable to the younger generation.  On just the gay side of that coin, the gay senior community is largely invisible because nobody knows where they are.  With a gay culture that’s driven on using clubs as a meeting place, seniors get driven away by default.  They don’t have a spot to fit in and that IS our fault.  When we say it’s ok for our own community to judge people based on age, looks or some totally unacceptable physical ideal then we own that mess.  It’s on our side of the street and the broom and dustpan is in the corner.  We’re oh-so-willing to subset ourselves into old, fat, muscles and hair and this is just fine, thanks.

I call bullshit. It’s time to sweep up our own mess and stop blaming straight society on this one when we don’t handle it any better ourselves.  When we’re done predetermining a persons worth based on the crap all of us are guilty of, maybe seniors won’t be so quick to go into hiding in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

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Being gay and getting old means a horrible, lonely, frail life..., 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
  • http://twitter.com/marcinhosavant Marcinho Savant

    Excellent analysis and marching order! Thank you!

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    • Anonymous

      Thank you, I appreciate that. Now if only I could snap my fingers and make it happen, right??

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  • bill

    You are correct!it is so the same here in Australia! The young ones want so much the Married thing when they dont even think of what they will be like when they get to Fifty or more they just look at the here and now not even taking thought of others.Especially when they involve Children!It not just about themselves then!(consider and Think!)

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  • Gary

    I am a gay mature man and desperately alone
    as my civil partner who is twenty years junior than I with a Masters degree is
    in China. The intolerance towards gay men is increased tenfold toward the
    mature gay, and it is alas the gay community that shun us the most. No
    organisation supports us either. Mature Gay people are vulnerable and alone, at
    risk from hate crime and anti social behaviour in society. Yet where is the
    likes of Stonewall that only ever appear to support if anyone, the Gay Youth.
    Such is the loneliness that I have contemplated suicide, and will most probably
    end my life that way soon. Let’s face it death is a release from living as a
    pariah, alone, in danger and terribly ignored!

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    • Anonymous

      Gary:  Suicide is not the solution.

      I completely understand where you’re at mentally, as I was full-on ready to do myself in years ago when Richard was killed.  I was in my 40’s, and sadly that’s way past my expiration date in terms of the gay community.  Younger guys looked at me like the Hunchback of Notre Dam and my social interactions – and lack thereof – only made things worse.

      I’ll shorten the story by saying that a strange set of circumstances kept me from going ahead with my plans.  The pain passed, the loneliness subsided, and slowly life changed for the better.

      Do I have a magic solution for you?  No, and I won’t insult your intelligence in saying that I do.  Just know that you’re not the only gay man who’s thought this and felt that suicide was the only way to fix things.

      I’m hoping you reach out to someone in person for a shoulder to lean on, and in addition to that you’re absolutely welcome to contact me either on here or at daniel at sayencrowolf dot net.    I always respond.

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    • Sarcasmrus

      The hurt you feel now is a temporary hurt. I can’t begin to imagine your pain and your despair but I can tell you this. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Your family and friends would certainly be devastated. I encourage you to seek out a doctor and therapist and weigh options for therapy and possible anti-depressants. If you do this, within a month you will start to feel the fog lift. I have been where you are in terms of contemplating suicide. I am grateful that I didn’t go through with it because of where I am in my life now. Depression may not go away forever but it will get better. Please, please reach out to someone.

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    • Ace

      Gary, please know that suicide is never the solution, and death never fixes anything. I have been in a similar place where I thought the pain was too much, but I am happy I didn’t go through with it. I know I cant know your circumstances intimately enough to know exactly what you are feeling, but I do know that life is worth living and fighting for. You are not alone, and there are plenty of optons for reaching out to others for help. I sincerely hope you seek help and realize that this is not where your story ends.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Grey/100001308117491 Michael Grey

    I was more optimistic in my 40’s and less so in my 50’s my partner left me for a younger man and all of my family is deceased. I am sucessful but not financially secure. I have cerebal palsey and a deformed spine. I could hide it in my 20’s when I was in good shape but no one wants to date someone who is 55 with a noticable limp.

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    • sayencrowolf

      Michael:

      I agree with you to a point.  Since the dawn of this century (and probably further beyond) gay society seems hinged on a few tennets:

      *Good looks = great guy
      *Great build = great guy
      *Big cock = great guy in bed.
      *Young = great guy

      Anything less than that and you’re fighting for scraps at the dumpster with the rest of the mutts.

      I call bullshit.  98% of gay men have average looks, average builds, average cocks and our 20’s are hell and gone.

      I’ve railed on this point well before I started writing publicly.  As we get older our dating circle becomes much smaller and it becomes harder and harder to find someone that’s going to love you for you – not the superficial bullshit that’s continually floating on there.  My partner is blind, and some motherfucker actually dumped him because he’d never be able to tell him what beautiful eyes he had.  Can you believe that horseshit?  When I was heavy and fighting back from my stroke, I had gay men looking at me like I was yesterday night’s leftovers – scorn, distate and “oh, you poor thing.  Hobble along now, will you?

      Sometimes, gay men are our own worst enemies.  We’ll whine about what straight society does to us, then turnaround and do it to ourselves.

      I think that if someone started a gay “dating site” for plain ol’ average guys they’d make a fucking fortune.  Average guys only, and the first profile that says “muscles, young, HIV negative and big cock only” gets banned for good.

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  • http://twitter.com/LyndonEvansFOTR Lyndon Evans

    Let me tell ya’ll something … put away the boxes of tissues.

    We all get old .. that’s life. It’s how you make the most (or least) of life and that my friends is up to you.

    On September 17th I’ll turn 59 and I’m lucky to be here.

    After a car accident and a heart attack in 2011 I’m very lucky to still be alive and kicking.

    At some point in my life I’ll relocate to Arizona where I have an extended family of cousins.

    True enough not everyone is lucky enough to have family and friends to fall back on.

    While you can’t make family, you can make friends.

    Get involved with groups, pink or straight .. it doesn’t matter .. just get out there.

    For those so hung up on having a life partner, well there’s not much I can say as I’m long over it.

    It’s up to you to make your life what it is.

    I’ll be living on meager means and probably will still be working at least part-time to get by as long as I can.

    But family aside and even if I had none, if I had to settle with sitting home reading good books, watching baseball on TV and going out on Wednesday nights playing bingo with the old farts .. would I be happy ?

    You betcha !

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    • http://sayencrowolf.net Sayen CroWolf

      Lyndon: As much as I love you, don’t even go there with the tissues comment. Read any one of my dozen posts on this subject: I don’t bemoan my getting older I celebrate it. After surviving a massive stroke, alcoholism, drug addiction, the death of a spouse and being massively overweight I can match you bullet for bullet on the ones I dodged.

      There’s a clear difference between “Oh, woe is me I’m soooooo old…” and “I’m getting older and it’s going to take some adjusting bigtime”. I can also tell from personal experience that those in the gay community with any sort of physical impairment are tossed to the back of the bus immediately.

      There ARE problems with being older, and they ARE sumountable, but there is absolutely no instruction book on how to do so, and more often than not there sure as fuck aren’t any support systems to do it in. Will I or any of the posters on this piece survive getting older? Hell to the yes! Is it easy? Not always.

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  • Thom

    I agree with the AmericaBlog guy on all three points: dealing with more negative and discriminatory society; respecting the aging (I feel so invisible today in ANY gay venue) and the loss from AIDS is catastrophic but those of us still around ought not be mere castoffs in the increasingly desexualized are of Gay Incorporated.

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  • Scott

    Death would be kinder for me then living with the eternal loneliness and isolation I feel . I curse the the fact i was not born straight

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    • sayencrowolf

      Scott. Where are you located?

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