How Ageing Impacts the Lgbtqa Community

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Trans Bodies Trans Selves

The history of the transgender community is carried down by its elders, a section of the LGBTQA+ community that is often overlooked when considering the broad scope of issues both in the past and present. “Those of us who are current trans elders came of age during a time when there were fewer options available for self-identity than there are today,” Erickson-Schroth stated, “We may not have learned about the concept of transsexuality until later in life, and when we did, may not have known where to turn for resources. The terms transgender and genderqueer did not exist when we were growing up,” (p. 476).

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During the decades in which our older generations were growing up, society was not as accepting as it is now, which is not saying much. Age is a concept not often addressed with as much attention as other aspects of individuals within the transgender community.

A quote in Erickson-Schroth’s (2014) publication stated the following:

I am sixty, but… I am coming late to the party…. I envy the younger trans people, and the more accepting generation that surrounds them. They do not know how lucky they are. When I was growing up no one had ever even heard of such things and crossdressers were thrown in jail. What a great thing the Internet has done for people like us! Younger people may have the chance to transition in their teens or twenties, but for those of us who are elders, that may not have been an option. Some of us did transition at a young age. Others of us knew that we wanted to transition but could not do so given our circumstances. Many of us came to understand our transgender identity in midlife or may be doing so now. It can be a very different experience to transition during our thirties or forties and live much of our lives as ourselves than to transition in our seventies. Later life transitions allow our decisions around the transition process to be made with the insights of maturity and lived experience. However, those of us who transition later in life often feel a degree (p. 476).

The presence of ageism, just like any other form of discrimination leads to the systematic disregard for the concerns of the elderly, and in this case, the elderly within the LGBTQA+ community. One of the quotes that resonated most with me from chapter twenty-one, was from an individual who was upset that their younger, transgender counterparts viewed them as old and closed-minded, when in reality they have had their entire lives thus far to consider the complex and ever changing identities associated with gender and sexuality.

Akin to most other things we have covered in this text, it is shown that almost all issues that cisgender individuals face are only amplified in the transgender community, ranging anywhere from reproductive health to domestic abuse to finances to legal issues.

Although I have mentioned the idea of intersectionality in previous papers, as well as earlier in this one, I have yet to define it in regards to this prompt. Defined as the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. All of these issues are interconnected, from discrimination in the workplace to challenges that members of the transgender community face in retirement and in accessing healthcare. A corrupt system that does not treat all members equal has lead to discontinuity in the quality of life of transgender individuals, especially the elderly and aging, as addressed in this chapter.

Before reading this chapter, of course I was aware of the many struggles that members of the transgender; however, with every chapter of Trans Bodies Trans Selves that I have read, I have become more and more enlightened to the microaggressions, discrimination, and everyday challenges that transgender members of my community face.

This chapter forced me to acknowledge the ridiculous amount of privilege that I face as a white, straight-passing, cisgender woman. I will never face discrimination because the gender on my birth certificate does not align with how I appear, nor will I face the amount of workplace discrimination that elderly transgender individuals face. In order to fully address what I have read and be the most-informed and respectful ally that I can be, I must make it known that as a young person, the ageism I have faced thus far in my life is the opposite of what this chapter focused on. Rather than being regarded as potentially being senile or closed-minded due to my gray age, the age-based discrimination I have encountered in my life up until this point has mainly been belittling or dismissal due to assumptions that I am immature, foolish, or ignorant to the ways of the word.

In order to combat ageism, I believe that it is important to be proud of growing older, to watch my language, and to promote intergenerational life. It is crucial that I embrace the constant changes in my life and age in order to foster safe spaces for other members of the LGBTQA+ community to embrace their respective journeys. As for watching my language, this concept is more for the future as phrases such as “when we were in our prime” and “back in our day” are not only exclusive to younger individuals, but also degrading to people of my own age, as it is still my day and I would still be in my prime. There are absolutely phrases in our vocabularies that promote subtle discrimination; phrases that reference aging in a negative light are more than common in our media, which often correlates aging to deterioration, decay, and degeneration. On the other hand, referring to millennials as entitled and other related terms has the same effect: negative. When it comes to promoting intergenerational life, I aim to focus on celebrating the different stages of life, from respecting the experiences that my wise, sage parents have, as well as the whimsical desires of my younger siblings; these attitudes are important to combatting ageism in the LGBTQA+ community as well, especially when recognizing everyone’s different backgrounds and narratives.

As I am not elderly, nor transgender, I feel that my voice can only be used to empower others in this case, and my privilege as a platform to bolster those to whom I am a committed ally. What will I do? I intend to continue my education in the realm of LGBTQA+ issues, especially those that affect my transgender brothers and sisters, as I know the least about their narratives. My opinion and experiences do not necessarily belong in the concept about ageism that transgender individuals encounter.

I have learned a great range of topics in regards to the transgender experience, from the struggles that immigrants face, to racism, ableism, sexuality, and ageism. I am coming to terms with my privilege as a cisgender, able-bodied woman and recognizing that more than anything, it is important that I continue the conversations about topics I have discussed in this class in more informal situations, from combatting microaggressions at the family dinner table, to supporting my transgender brothers and sisters through using inclusive language, respectful behavior, and advocacy from a standpoint of privilege.

I intend to learn, educate, and advocate, not only about ageism, but on the behalf of all of my LGBTQA+ brothers and sisters.

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