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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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LGBT Older Adults

Although largely invisible until very recently, LGBT older adults make up a significant (and growing) share of both the overall LGBT population and the larger 65+ population. While confronted with the same challenges that face all people as they age, LGBT elders also face an array of unique barriers and inequalities that can stand in the way of a healthy and rewarding later life.

What unique barriers do LGBT elders face? One is the effect of social stigma, past and present. This stigma has disrupted the lives of LGBT older adults, making it harder for them to earn a living, save for retirement, be fully accepted in their communities and families, and access needed services. LGBT older adults are more likely to be single, childless and estranged from their biological families, and are therefore are more likely to rely on friends and community members as their chosen family. However, official policies and laws often do not recognize these non-traditional caregivers. Last but not least is the barrier created by unequal treatment under laws, programs and services designed to provide a safety net for older Americans; all too often, the safety net doesn’t provide equal protections for LGBT older adults.

These and other barriers make it harder for LGBT elders to achieve three key elements of successful aging: financial security, good health and healthcare, and social support and community engagement. MAP explores the lives of LGBT older adults, the added challenges they face, and what can be done to improve their lives.

Related Resources

Video

AARP's Inside E Street: Gay and Grey

October 2010 - Michael Adams, executive director of Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE), talks with Sheilah Kast, host of AARP’s Inside E Street, about an array of challenges facing older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults.

Report

Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults: Issue Briefs

September 2010 - This series of briefs digs deeper into key topics addressed in the full report. The 13 briefs cover the challenges facing LGBT elders in areas from health disparities to pensions, while offering recommendations for policy actions to improve LGBT elders’ lives.

Snapshot

Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults: Snapshot Report

March 2010 - This snapshot, 10-page summary of Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults provides key findings from the full report and an overview of its recommendations for eliminating—or at least reducing—inequities and improving the lives, and life chances, of LGBT elders.

Report

Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults (Large Print Version)

March 2010 - This report examines the unique challenges facing LGBT adults as they age. It shows how social stigma and inequitable policies and laws make it hard for LGBT elders to achieve financial security, good health, healthcare, social support and community engagement.

Report

Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults

March 2010 - This report examines the unique challenges facing LGBT adults as they age. It shows how social stigma and inequitable policies and laws make it hard for LGBT elders to achieve financial security, good health, healthcare, social support and community engagement.

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