Abstract: Generational and Social Forces in the Life Events and Experiences of Lesbian and Gay Midlife and Older Adults across the Iridescent Life Course (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Generational and Social Forces in the Life Events and Experiences of Lesbian and Gay Midlife and Older Adults across the Iridescent Life Course

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 14, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, PhD, Professor, University of Washington, WA
Charles Hoy-Ellis, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Utah, UT
Hyun-Jun Kim, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Hailey Jung, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Washington, WA
Charles A. Emlet, PhD, Professor, University of Washington, WA
Ian Johnson, LCSW, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Jayn Goldsen, Research Manager, University of Washington, WA
Background: Lesbian and gay midlife and older adults are a health disparate population associated with historic and ongoing social marginalization, yet researchers rarely include sociocultural and the historical context as social determinants of health. In this presentation we used the Health Equity Promotion Model and Iridescent Life Course Theory to examine how demographic characteristics, key life events and experiences (related to identity, kin relations, work, traumatic experiences, and community engagement) within historical and sociocultural contexts influence current health indicators (physical impairment, HIV/AIDS, depression, and quality of life). We also examined the interaction effects of gender by generation among three generations (Invisible, b. 1920-1934; Silenced, b. 1935-1949; Pride, b. 1950-1964) of lesbian and gay adults aged 50 and older.

Methods: We analyzed a subsample of lesbians (n = 838) and gay men (n = 1,241) from the 2014 wave of the national longitudinal Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, and Sexuality/Gender Study (NHAS). We recruited for the survey across the nation representing all U.S. census districts. We compared life events and experiences by generations through linear and logistic regressions to examine interaction terms of gender by generation. Participants mean age was 61.5 years; 20.5% were people of color; 2.8% identified as transgender/gender diverse/non-binary; 26.3% had a high school or less education; 33.2% had incomes ≤ 200% of the Federal Poverty Level; and 43.2% lived alone.

Results: The oldest group disclosed their identity on average at older ages and were more likely to be retired, served in the military, and survived the death of a partner or spouse. The youngest group was significantly more likely to have disclosed their identities at younger ages and experienced higher levels of victimization and discrimination compared to both the oldest and middle age groups, with important gender and generational interactions. The Invisible Generation had higher physical impairment than the Pride Generation. The Pride Generation had higher rates of HIV/AIDS, depressive symptomatology, and lower quality of life.

Implications: This study is among the first to analyze the key life events across health, kin, social, and intrapersonal indicators by differing generations of lesbians and gay men, and to do so by applying Iridescent Life Course Theory. The findings of this study illuminate the importance of considering age, generation, sexual identity, and gender in equity analyses to promote social justice. It is also critical to recognize the depth of contributions that sexual and gender diverse people, communities, and cultures have contributed to reshaping and recreating a more just society. Moving forward we have the opportunity to apply this framework to younger generations of LGBTQ people to see how the Iridescent Life Course unfolds as realities of intersectionality and queer identities take their place in the current context and for future generations.