They came of age during decades when transgender people were heavily stigmatized and pathologized. Some came out and made gender transitions during these years, while many others kept their identities hidden for decades and are now coming out and transitioning later in life. Many challenges facing transgender elders are common to the broader older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population, but some are different. With a growing older transgender population, there is an urgent need to understand the challenges that can threaten financial security, health and overall well-being.
Key Challenges Facing Transgender Older Adults
Today's aging services network provides a wide range of critical services for older adults, from meals and transportation to educational activities and legal help. Yet this network is currently ill-equipped to provide competent and nondiscriminatory services to transgender older adults, or to address their unique needs. Few aging providers offer cultural competence training or outreach specific to transgender communities. Many transgender older adults are not getting the support they need, and many are reluctant to seek services at all.
A lack of cultural and clinical competence regarding transgender people and their health needs, as well as bias and outright discrimination by providers, create serious barriers to quality care for transgender older adults. These barriers, together with financial barriers, mean that many transgender older adults often avoid or delay seeking care. In addition, medically necessary care related to gender transition is often arbitrarily excluded from public and private insurance. Inability to access this care can contribute to declining health, and these exclusions are often also used to deny coverage for preventive and other medical care transgender older adults need.
The confluence of widespread discrimination across the lifespan, weaker support networks, and barriers to quality care contribute to poor health outcomes for many transgender older people. Transgender people report higher rates of disability, general poor health, depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicidal ideation. Thus, many transgender elders enter their later years with severe health concerns yet without the social and community supports necessary to address them.
Additionally, transgender older adults face barriers in areas such as violence, employment and housing discrimination, privacy and documentation issues, a limited knowledge base, community support and engagement, and more. To learn more about these topics, read the report and executive summary of Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults, authored by SAGE and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Immediate policy priorities. In 2011 SAGE and the National Center for Transgender Equality launched a historic Transgender Aging Advocacy Initiative to outline the many policy and practice barriers facing transgender and gender non-conforming older adults, as well as some key solutions for addressing these barriers. To help inform and create this advocacy roadmap, we brought together a diverse committee of leading experts from around the country, which identified several immediate policy and practice priorities to improve the lives of transgender older adults. Meet the committee members and read the immediate policy priorities they generated.
To learn more about SAGE's national advocacy work on transgender aging, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.