Elder law practitioners should be aware of the special circumstances that may impact the lives of their LGBT2SQ clients as they age, as these circumstances will have a direct impact on how legal practitioners may want to advise their clients in planning for incapacity or death.
In order to understand how to serve this community, one should be familiar with the terminology used in this article.
“LGBT2SQ” is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, queer and other members of a sexual orientation and gender identity minority communty.
“Chosen Family” refers to a group of people that someone feels emotionally connected to and considers to be family regardless of biology. LGBT2SQ folk may have had to choose their family after being shunned by their biological family because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“In the Closet” means to conceal that one is not heterosexual.
HISTORY & CONTEXT
It is important to keep in mind that it was a criminal offense under sodomy and gross indecency laws to be LGBT2SQ in Canada until The Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1969. Sodomy between men was considered so dangerous it was punishable by deah until 1869. It took time and a great deal of lobbying to move from decriminalization towards legalization. Same-sex marriage was legallized federally by the Civil Marriage Act in Canada in 2005.
Even though LGBT2SQ individuals are much more accepted by society today than they were even 50 years ago, many in the community are still discriminated against and are often very wary of identifying themselves as LGBT2SQ to strangers.
This context is important for serving LGBT2SQ clients because older adults who experienced prejudice or injustice due to their sexual orientation or gender identity would not have seen societal change until much later into their adulthood. The history of discrimination against the LGBT2SQ community, including the trauma involved with the AIDS crisis, would be well engrained into the memory of these individuals. Many older adults in the LGBT2SQ demographic have chosen not to get married or are in relationships that cannot be classified as common law. This may leave the most important and trusted person in their life without crucial decision making power under the law. While much of the research in this area is derived from populations in the United States, the history of abuse and general trends within the population are comparable to a Canadian context.