Dismantling the Silence: LGBTQ Aging Emerging From the Margins

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Historical, environmental, and cultural contexts intersect with aging, sexuality, and gender across communities and generations. My scholarship investigates health and well-being over the life course across marginalized communities, including LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) midlife and older adults, native communities experiencing cardiovascular risk, and families in China living with HIV, in order to balance the realities of unique lives in contemporary society. By probing the intersection of age, sexuality, and gender, my analysis is informed by both personal and professional experiences. With the death of my partner occurring at a time of profound invisibility and silence before HIV/AIDS, I found my life out of sync, experiencing a loss without a name. My life was thrust into a paradox: My relationship was defined by a world that refused to recognize it. This essay provides an opportunity for me to weave together how such critical turning points in my own life helped shape my approach to gerontology and how gerontology has informed my work and life. Reflecting on this journey, I illustrate the ways in which historical, structural, environmental, psychosocial, and biological factors affect equity, and the health-promoting and adverse pathways to health and well-being across marginalized communities. Although gerontology as a discipline has historically silenced the lives of marginalized older adults, it has much to learn from these communities. The growing and increasingly diverse older adult population provides us with unique opportunities to better understand both cultural variations and shared experiences in aging over the life course.

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