Religiosity and spirituality, as they pertain to the process of aging, have both been the focus of many studies on the lives of mainstream non-minority older persons. Likewise, religious practices and spiritual pursuits have been found very beneficial in helping this population achieve a healthy later life. But, few studies have looked at gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender/transsexual persons (LGBT) and their spiritual lives. This is especially true for the latter.
I am grateful to have been asked to serve as guest editor for our collection of blog posts on transgender elders. Since 1987 when I developed a class on GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) issues for social workers and counselors at the School of Social Work at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., I have tried to sensitize students to the needs of this population.
Those who work in the aging services sector see the multiplicity of people’s lives and know it is unwise to think everyone is generally alike. This fallacy, however, pervades our social construction of sexuality and gender, and has been the dominant discourse for many years. Appreciating the reality of gay, lesbian and bisexual elders is emerging, so its inclusion in research and care provider training remains a somewhat novel area. Including transgender elders in conversations about providing long-term care and services often remains an afterthought.
On March 11, 2014, Helen Bonser, founding parent of PFLAG Spokane and long-time supporter of transgender individuals, spoke with Michelle Burdick following a PFLAG meeting in Spokane, Wash. Burdick relates common issues in aging as a transgender individual: a lack of needed service providers; her comfort level with being transgender; stereotyping by medical personnel; and retirement issues. Here are Michelle’s comments in her own words:
Editor’s note: Rose shared these thoughts on April 18, 2014, in a two-hour interview. Then she highlighted what she felt were the most salient points in a written document submitted several days later.
Rose feels she has many female traits: little body hair, no chest hair, a small head.
She identifies experiencing her first “female feelings” at 6 years of age: she wanted to wear girl’s clothes; she wanted to play with girls; she did not care for sports.
Chanda is a graduate of ASA’s New Ventures in Leadership program and is the Executive Director of American Senior Assistance Programs, Inc. in Huntsville, Ala.
In this series profiling ASA leadership program alumni, ASA AgeBlog asked Chanda a few questions about her interests, goals and the roles that mentorship has played in her career development.
Here's what she said:
Every May we celebrate Older Americans Month in order to recognize the contributions and achievements of older Americans. The observance also affords the nation an opportunity to take action on important issues that impact the health and safety of elders. This year, the theme of OAM is Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow, in order to bring attention to the importance of safety and injury prevention.
Transgender elders experience discrimination and social exclusion, yet also exhibit incredible resilience. Discrimination can cause transgender people to delay seeking healthcare, and often transgender elders have to instruct providers on how to provide culturally competent care. But there are steps providers can take to improve their ability to provide affirming and nondiscriminatory care.