The LGBTQ+ community not only crosses cultures, races and religions, but also several generations. Generational differences include many things, including politics and popular culture, making it difficult for people of all ages to hear each other’s stories.
Historically, older LGBTQ+ people have had to fight not to be seemingly erased, not to be pushed to the margins, ignored, and forced to meet in secret. Unable to live their true selves but in the closet. Many people often had to maintain an outward appearance of heterosexuality, so the bad talkers of the time had little to say. Or be beaten or murdered.
Opening the closet doors has been an arduous journey, somewhat dependent on the location of said closet doors. Some places were more accepting than others. The Stonewall Riots in June 1969 is one of the events organized by the older LGBTQ+ generation as a turning point to open the closet doors. In June 2016, in all 50 states, same-sex marriage was legalized. The 2020 American Values Survey shows that 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage.
Yet something is not connecting. Wisdom is not transmitted. Some polls indicate that more than two in five LGBTQ+ seniors feel isolated and disconnected from the younger community. Sixty percent feel isolated with a lack of companionship. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that LGBTQ+ youth are at much higher risk for depression, suicide, and substance abuse. Is it because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Can the lessons learned during the HIV/AIDS epidemic be tools for learning to face the current pandemic? Can elders help young people see how acquired tools can be passed on?
Bridging the gap can start with sharing stories. The ancients know the stories and history of cupboard doors that sometimes open and close. Young people have a different vision, energy and perspective. A study by Drs. Glenda Russell and Janis Bohan have looked into this phenomenon of generational communication. The extensive research resulted in a list of ideas to bridge the gap, including youth panels, creating youth-focused initiatives to empower LGBTQ+ youth, and creating pathways to drive change. He warns elders not to exploit the vulnerability of the younger generation.
Another ongoing project led by sociology professor Erin Fredricks from New Brunswick brings together LGBTQ+ seniors to share their stories and for young people to ask questions and share their experiences. The information will be used to create a mental health support program for LGBTQ+ youth.
Share your stories here during Pride Month and monthly at [email protected]
The Burque area has a number of resources available for all ages, including youth and family advocacy groups: check it all out at abqpride.com/resources/community/.