As the wise buddha once said "life is difficult". And for most of us, LGBTQ or not, it is.
But as Dan Savage was the first to say...it gets better!It does, as my life is a perfect example of what resilience can produce!
As LGBTQ's we do face added, specific, chronic types of stress and anxieties our heteosexual peers and loved ones don't. It's known in the social science literature, for example, that LGBTQ's have unique health disparities that tend to show up in our lives due to the chronic, pervasive homophobia and hetero-sexism we face from others, from social institutions, from laws and from own selves due to internalizing all of that social negativity.But I want to tell you that, no matter what, we ARE survivors and we've lived relevant, purposeful lives, all of us. We didn't 'choose' this lot, so don't let others tell us to not be who we are in the world, so we can avoid the dangers.For example, we've known for years that lesbians have higher incidences of certain health problems such as breast cancer, depression and anxiety, obesity, suicide and smoking.
These problems are called 'health disparities', defined as: 'a higher burden of illness, injury, disability, or mortality experienced by one group relative to another. A “health care disparity” typically refers to differences between groups in health insurance coverage, access to and use of care, and quality of care.' (source: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation).Why do LGBTQ's face disparities in health care?
If you hear from some misinformed group or person that it's the result of 'being lesbian' or 'living a sinful lifestyle', realize that we bear these crosses due to living in a culture
that gives us grief. We are not
at fault. The heterosexism of doctors and other providers in the health care system for example, leads many of us to be less hopeful that we can get the care we need, so we don't go and get that care. In fact, I have known so many lesbians, who, over the years, don't go to doctors at all because of their fears of answering questions that might 'out' them. Or from other fear due to gender disparities in care (yes, they exist too). This is just one issue, there are others.For many of us the grief started right at home.
Take my life story, for example. I found myself on my own at 18 due to family rejection. It was the late 1970's and knowledge about issues of sexual orientation were way different than they are now. But this then, is when my real stress started, being out on my own without a living wage
. I would venture to also say that this stress has never stopped.
Our bodies aren't meant to endure such high levels of chronic stress.As I began to establish myself in the adult world
, I embarked on my first love relationship. We cared about each other a great deal and we were such good friends too. Very compatible. However, we weren't meant to last. Yes, we were young, and our breakup was for more than one reason, but I know lots of pressure from her family to be straight was pivotal.
As I grieved being left by her, I learned by living it that being a 'lesbian divorcee' is an isolating experience. This was in the late 1980's and again, friends and family were for the most part, absent and not supportive. Of course it wasn't all their 'fault', I was too ashamed to share much with them about the experience. But they didn't ask, like they may have had I divorced a man.At that point I embarked on carving out my career and my single life.
Living in a 'small big town' like Baltimore in the 1990's and 2000's meant a visible gay community was still confined to bars, gay pride, the gay bookstore, etc. Luckily, I found organizations through my work - which became centered on serving the lesbian community - that were aligned with what my career purpose was. However, as a small business owner serving a minority population it was incredibly tough, because I didn't live in a major city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York or even, Washington D.C. I know exactly what living in a 'fly over' state or red state/rural area must feel like, both from living in Maryland and from 10 years in a rural area of Florida.I also discovered how difficult it was to find a healthy relationship with another woman.
Again, it's not because we're gay, it's because for one there are so few of us. And we're not out on the street carrying neon signs announcing we're here and we're queer! I ran into one too many women with addictions to drugs and alcohol. I even crushed on someone who was eventually murdered during those 'crack' cocaine years (the same years of the OJ Simpson murder trial).
Eventually I met someone special through friends. She was a bit older and more established financially. This relationship ended up lasting almost twice the amount of time my first one did (15 years). This relationship was about 'contrast' as it's called:
when I finally made the decision to end this relationship, I discovered I'd learned more than I ever thought I could about myself. That relationship was a treasured gift in many ways. I as they say, finally individuated
as a young woman.
Other than dating, I've remained single ever since. I've become as I say involved in many other of the loves of my life
. Building and/or maintaining closer relationships with my parents, a sister, nieces and a friend or two. I've taken up animal rescue and owned several dogs. I've embarked on another business, started a very successful pickleball club and this year, am committed to competing in tournaments.I have come to believe romance is such a small 'slice' of what love on earth is.
In fact, I was more emotionally 'crazy' in those years I was dealing with love relationships than in the calmer years since I've become all about living as a happy single. I think that nature or god or whoever, made romantic love and sexual feelings a fleeting thing that conspires us to get together to continue the human species. After that, all
relationships are work. And most I've found aren't
willing enough to do what love takes. Many of our parents, for example, have been together 50, 60 or more years, and no doubt some of that was because there was a social prohibition against divorce.
Today, I would agree that the pendulum has swung too far to the other side. Today it's often only feelings that keep us together. Or, better said: the pursuit of finding someone 'perfectly' matched to us, at least as much as that is possible. This concept, called 'fit' is incredibly important and you would think society would pay more attention to it, given the costs (mentally, socially, financially, child-rearing-wise, etc.) of so many of us needing help to do love better.
As for me, it's okay, it's all good. I may find a relationship again one day. I do know now what to look for and I would hope I 'walk my talk' when I am in a relationship again. But even if I don't find love again, I'm at peace with my life as it is. I am very grateful I can say that as many suffer various forms of codependency and separation anxiety issues that keep them stuck in unsatisfying and even abusive relationships as a hedge against being alone.
There ARE downsides to living alone in today's world. Housing and health care are skyrocketing. As a self employed person, there are challenges being an employee doesn't have. I can no longer due to my energy and health issues, do the 9 to 5 and deal with the boredom of working in public and private companies (they are all stultifying bureaucracies I've found) and the increasingly worse traffic, for example.
After my first experience being so creative running my coaching and matchmaking firm, I find now I need a constant challenge. I know too that this is stressful, even if a good stress/addiction! Helping others is
the greatest high on earth, at least for me.
Living single is financially difficult for many of us. I never had children because the world was not hospitable to gay parents when I was of prime childbearing age. Never having had the self love enough to stand up and decide consciously if I wanted children or not. I just always assumed that I couldn't do that.
And now that I am a lesbian senior, at almost 60, I am beginning to experience what those who came before me feel about being an LGBTQ senior. But it's never too late to do better. Life IS better for all of us as compared to what it was just 10 years ago.So take back your health. And your life. Or maximize the good.
Heterosexism, homophobia, ageism and other structural issues aren't going to totally go away in our retirement years. But we aren't helpless to deal with the challenges.
Let's meet them. Like we have at other times in our lives. You can meet them in your planning for the 'retirement of your dreams'.
Waste not (time), want not. Let's get problem solving. I can help...
Let's talk about it. Schedule an appointment with me
at your convenience for a free consult.RELATED ARTICLES:Will LGBT Retirees End Up Back In The Closet?How to Be Fiscally Fabulous the Gay Way