Families of choice
Older LGBTQ+ adults grew up at a time when the nuclear family was a life goal, and it looked pretty much the same across the board: husband, wife, and their two-plus children.
Re-imaging that norm to include members of the LGBTQ+ population simply didn’t happen. Gay marriage was, until very recently, illegal. Same-sex couples were largely forbidden to adopt. Transgender individuals faced legal and social barriers to marriage and parenting as well. Starting a family had always been a straight line, and the LGBTQ+ community needed a little more curve.
As a result of the rules and laws protecting the traditional family structure, older LGBTQ++ adults are three to four times less likely to be parents than their straight counterparts. They are twice as likely to be single and living alone. And they may have been ostracized from their biological families in the process of coming out at a time when being gay wasn’t widely accepted.
To compensate, many have formed strong “families of choice,” which can include friends, relatives, community service providers or even religious communities.
While that can be life-saving, it also presents complex issues to navigate — from legal requirements to conflicting demands. Read this article to explore the role of “chosen families” in caring for older LGBTQ+ adults.
Learn more about the challenges to finding care for LGBTQ+ seniors in this article from PBS News Hour.
Eskenazi, L., (2015, June 11). How to find care for LGBT seniors. PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/lgbt-older-adults-emerging-community