Updated: Oct 14
By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.
Little is written about older Latinx LGBTQ+ persons in the U.S. These serious limitations and omissions foster a sense of invisibility about Latinx LGBTQ+ that in turn negatively impacts this community and their access to resources. While some were born in the U.S. and experienced the history of their time in the U.S. as Latinx and LGBTQ+, others migrated to the U.S. under various conditions of obtaining documentation or of being undocumented. They migrate to the U.S. for various reasons. Many were in situations that were life-threatening necessitating them to migrate and leave their country of origin. The cultural characteristics and acculturation that affect Latinx in general also apply to this group of Latinx LGBTQ+ elders with them being less likely to have social support and more likely to experience victimization and neglect for not only being Latinx but also being LGBTQ+. This facilitates conditions and symptoms of trauma affecting their ability to cope and manage the social injustices they face. Additionally, many of the challenges Latinx LGBTQ+ elderly face is like the general aging U.S. population in terms of health needs, affordable living conditions, and economic concerns. Many Latino LGBT seniors lose friends and support systems while having limited resources for obtaining support and managing the current COVID-19 pandemic, Monkey Pox (MPX) outbreak, and ongoing long-term HIV/AIDS epidemic. There are many factors affecting self-identification as LGBTQ+ that include comfortability among those who are older and who view such personal information as confidential and private.
The awareness of historical events by Latinx LGBTQ+ elders are triggers that shape preferred coping styles in addressing trauma. The majority of reported LGBTQ+ murders in the world occurs in Latin America (IACHR, 2015). According to Heartland Alliance (2012) over 90% of acts of violence are directed toward gay males. Hence, those who migrate to the U.S. seeking political asylum are in fact trying to stay alive and prevent from being murdered in their Latin American countries. Often, recent traumatic events toward Latinx LGBTQ+ force these seniors to recollect their own personal past traumas and experiences causing distress and great anxiety. Some recent examples of historical triggering events are the implementation of the federal immigration policies to mistreat Latin Americans who are seeking asylum in the U.S. Another example is the mass shooting that occurred on June 12, 2016, at the Pulse Club in Orlando Florida and considered the worst in U.S. history at that time. This mass shooting resulted in 49 being killed and 53 being wounded most of whom were Latinx LGBTQ+. For foreign born Latinxs many fled their countries in order not to be killed and persecuted in societies that overlook their rights and social justice for LGBTQ+ persons.
Despite changes in policy by the U.S. Surgeon General, INS officials continue to harass suspected LGBTQ+ persons at the border. Those conditions are traumatic and usually unaddressed when they arrive and settle in the U.S. For Latinx LGBTQ+ elders the sense of alienation due to ethnicity and age is very marked. Many find themselves alone and feeling isolated with many of their friends either have died or moved away. Many services for the elderly in general where one can find new friends, support, and participate in activities have little to no training on issues facing elderly LGBTQ+.
In the 2013 NHCOA report a focus group participant stated “I think there is a huge problem with older persons, aside from rejection. Nobody wants to get near or talk to a LGBT person, even if they are in the same place…There is a great deal of rejection of old persons. That is why those old men and women do not have support groups even among themselves” (NHCOA, 2013, p. 27). Another participant stated, “One of the great challenges that we have here is that you have the factor of being invisible in LA because not only you have ageism…and being old is not looked upon well, especially among men” (NHCOA, 2013, p. 27).
San Francisco is fortunate to have the only adult licensed day care center for LGBTQ+ seniors in the U.S. Openhouse and On Lok recently merged offering an array of services. On October 12 a social event is planned and entitled Music from Mariachi Nueva Generación at 75 Laguna Courtyard from 2 to 3 PM. With offices at 30th and Church Streets and at 75 Laguna in S.F. they offer many social services, activities, and transportation to their program. Meanwhile, AGUILAS welcomes all Latinx LGBTQ+ seniors to all their program offerings.
In Memorandum: Long time activist José Carlos Acencio better known as M Garza passed away on September 27, 2022, at 4:30PM. Many knew her as Mama Garza and head of the House of Garza in S.F. She was very active in the S.F. movement for LGBTQ+ rights and made herself available to raise funds through her entertainment talents. From Lima Peru, she worked at the Ballet Municipal de Lima, SFDPH, and Bridge HIV. She founded the House of Garza and frequently asserted for LGBTQ+ rights while being a proud member of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. She will be sorely missed. May she rest in peace.