Same sex couples are now happily part of our social norm despite it being less than 20 years since partners were offered a legal framework for recognising their commitment to each other. As attitudes evolve and young people are raised with LGBT+ issues as an integral part of societal conversation, we look at the changes and how the older gay community are dealing with advancing years.
Embraced across the UK, Pride month is a celebration and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and other non-heterosexual members of the community. Usually taking place in June, Pride events are now so popular they span across summer and into autumn. Since civil partnerships were legalised in 2005 and same sex marriage in 2014, the political, social and legal landscape of gay life has changed beyond recognition.
The Office of National Statistics most recent survey (2020) shows 3.1 per cent of the UK population over 16 identify as LGBT+ which is a sharp rise from 2.7 per cent in 2019 and almost double from 2014. This emerging trend has been attributed to the younger age group (16 to 24) where there is little to no stigma attached to openly embracing their sexuality. So where does this leave the older community?
Later Life Confidence
Many will have grown up before displays of non-heterosexuality was considered the norm, so even if they were comfortable with their sexuality, they could have found themselves socially isolated within their chosen community. However, the increasing normalising of LGBT+ has resulted in some high-profile examples of ‘coming out’ much later in life; for example, boxing promoter Frank Maloney is now known as Kellie, while former Olympic Athlete and star of the Kardashians, Bruce Jenner, transitioned to become Caitlyn. Both are high-profile examples of older people finding the self-confidence to openly express their identity in a time where acceptance is far greater than it once was.
Pink Pound – Myth or Reality?
LGBT+ spending power has been heralded as the ‘Pink Pound,’ which hints at a greater disposable income here than among heterosexual consumers. Same sex couples have traditionally been most likely to fall into the DINK category; ‘dual income, no kids’, which means they potentially have disposable funds to spend on themselves. Not having children also brings a need for self-sufficiency as relying on children/grandchildren to help out in later years is not going to be an option. Therefore planning for retirement and any long-term health and mobility issues has always been crucial for same sex partners.
Recently however, this DINK status is changing as new figures show one in six adoptions are now undertaken by LGBT+ couples and they are fast approaching having the same economic status as heterosexual families.
Older LGBT+ couples are also less likely to be in a civil partnership or marriage so need to be especially diligent about pensions and money. According to ONS figures from 2020, fewer than one in five (19 per cent) same sex couples entered into a civil partnership aged 65 and over as opposed to 29 per cent of opposite sex partnerships. It is a similar picture with wedding data. Most marriages were younger same sex couples (30-35 age group) with 3,010 in 2020 but only 1,005 in the 50-54 bracket. Like all partnerships that have not been recognised in law, partners may not be entitled to rights others who have legalised their partnership might enjoy.
When ageing, financial and welfare considerations are important to get right. Even the most long-standing partnerships will not automatically be legally recognised when it comes to inheritance or next-of-kin priority, should one partner fall ill or die. Irrespective of sexuality life can become more complex as we grow older. But complexities over health and finances can disproportionately affect the LGBT community, particularly if their long-established relationships are not legally established. If you have chosen not to marry or enter into a civil partnership, make sure you have sufficient protection to ensure your wishes will be taken into account when the time comes.
The Dating Game
Dating or merely contemplating a new relationship when not in the first flushes of youth can be daunting. With today’s proliferation of dating and hook up sites, this is now even more of a minefield. A new hit Netflix comedy series, Uncoupled, deals with a long-term partnership break-up and how to navigate gay life and dating. That this show is such a hit is testament to just how many people the scenario resonates with; especially the pit-falls of online-dating.
While many seniors are comfortable online, for those who struggle with the digital world, Age UK runs social groups across some areas of the UK to help older LGBT+ not only connect with others in person but also demonstrates how to traverse the new technology era, including online dating.
Furthermore, being internet-confident gives access to some of the best deals not always available in the shops as well as real-time information and news. So, if this sounds like you, it might be worth further investigation. Visit https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/relationships-family/lgbt/lgbt-groups/
Some things do not change and the keen eye for creative style and visual flair is still very much associated with LGBT+ people, regardless of their age. LGBT+ creators touch many aspects of our lives, influencing not only the arts but politics, literature, science and education. The indomitable Edward Enninful, Editor of Vogue UK, is a prime example of creativity, positivity and power through honesty whilst being happy to talk about his vulnerability due to problems with his sight and the ongoing prejudices he continues to experience. Aged 50, he recently married his long-term partner and continues to drive the agenda for change within the fashion world
This ability to push forward, despite often facing discrimination is a powerful and admirable asset and the increased visibility and positive LGBT+ influence across all areas of life is to be applauded.