The differences between L, G, B, T & Q

Not all LGBTQ+ adults are created equal. Aging is a unique experience for all of us, and while members of the LGBTQ+ community are often taken as a whole, the issues that impact those who identify as lesbian or gay are often much different than those who identify as bisexual or transgender. As University of Washington professor Charles Emlet explains in the article “Social, Economic, and Health Disparities Among LGBT Older Adults,” those issues span from health problems to health behaviors to financial security to resilience.

For instance, lesbian and bisexual women were found to be more likely to be obese than their straight counterparts. But gay and straight men are at a lower risk for obesity. Those who identify as bisexual are nearly twice as likely to live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level than individuals who are straight, while almost half of those who identify as transgender have household incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. (Emlet, 2016, p.3)

There is also the matter of stigma and discrimination, which can vary widely along the spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities but also based on age, race, ethnicity and HIV status, according to the article.

The good news? The picture for older LGBTQ+ adults isn’t entirely bleak. No matter where they fall on the spectrum of identities, nearly 90% of the members of this population report feeling good about belonging to their communities. (Emlet, 2016, p.7)

Dr. Emlet explains, “While expressed social stigma associated with sexual orientation can have significant effects on quality and length of life (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2014), there is consistent data regarding the protective influence of social support in these communities. The Caring and Aging with Pride study found that social support and increased social network size were associated with lower odds of depressive symptomatology, disability, and poorer general health (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2012) (Emlet, 2016, p.4)."

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Read the article below to dig deeper into the different challenges facing various members of the aging LGBTQ+ community, as well as the role of social support for contributing to resilience.

Social, Economic, and Health Disparities Among LGBT Older Adults.


Emlet, C. A. (2016, Summer). Social, economic, and health disparities among LGBT older adults. Generations, 40(2), 16-22.

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.

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