Gerontologist Jay White has found that growing older takes on a significantly different meaning for LGBTQ folks. He’d like to learn more. Can you help?
The universal truth: Everyone gets older and everyone ages. Aging may be a natural part of the human existence, but that does not mean people are happy about it. Often, aging is seen as a daunting task. The thought of retiring, finding proper housing, building new relationships — all of these thoughts can bring about stress.
As diverse as the population is, so is the aging process for citizens from different walks of life. Each layer of identity can play a crucial role in determining how one views, understands, and handles getting older.
Gerontologist Jay White, who specializes in the spiritual, social, physical and cultural aspects of positive aging, began working on his study of LGBTQ elderly and how their older years differ, if at all, from others.
A work still in progress, White plans to document the lives of the LGBTQ elderly and to archive their aging processes.
He’s faced some setbacks. In his studies, White has found that it’s difficult to find people willing to open up about their worries and concerns regarding getting older.
“For some, it is like coming out all over again,” White said. “No one likes to think of themselves as getting older.”
From just a few interviews, however, White has found astonishing common ground between the LGBTQ community and everyone else. Everyone shares the same fears.
According to White, LGBTQ people have built a strong scaffolding in life as they have endured a lifetime of assaults against their identity. Dealing with homophobia is nothing new to many LGBTQ people; however, the concept of growing old is inevitable.
“There are a lot of stereotypes regarding older people,” White said. “But the older we get, the more unique we become.”
In order to be better equipped on this inevitable journey, White believes people should begin thinking about these issues at an earlier time. By having conversations early on, people will have a better understanding of how they’ll grow older.
White is continuing his search for LGBTQ persons willing to speak about their own aging process, and encourages anyone who wishes to share their story to email him at [email protected] or give him a call at (804) 986-3338.
Photo: GayRVA archives