Twice Hidden: Older Gay and Lesbian Couples, Friends, and Intimacy

By Blando, John A. | Generations, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Twice Hidden: Older Gay and Lesbian Couples, Friends, and Intimacy


Blando, John A., Generations


Are there elderly lesbians and gay men?1 If we look at contemporary imagery of gay men and lesbians, we are most likely to see images of younger adults (see, e.g., the recent Showtime television series, Queer as Folk); this view parallels the general marginalization of older adults in U.S. culture. Older adult gay men and lesbians may be said to constitute the most invisible of an already invisible minority.

Of course there are elderly lesbians and gay men. Some estimates put the number of gay and lesbian older Americans from i million to 2.8 million (Cahill, South, and Spade, 2000). However, little is known about this group relative to what is known about other groups of older adults. In large part, this lack of knowledge is due to some of the inherent difficulties faced in studying lesbians and gay men in general, including problems of definition, differences in selfidentification as gay or lesbian among this cohort of elders in particular, and, historically, a lack of institutional support for research on this population.

Making research and understanding even more difficult has been the social devaluation of lesbian and gay citizens and especially lesbian and gay relationships by government and religious institutions (see, e.g., the Defense of Marriage Act and similar state legislation as well as many churches' punctilious stances on gay marriage that favor heterosexual intimacy over gay and lesbian intimacy). Additionally, the research that has been conducted has been biased in favor of gay urban centers like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, with gay men and lesbians who are "out," middle class, and predominantly European American (Quam, 1993).

Expressions of intimacy among older gay men and lesbians counter the negative image of these older adults as alone and lonely. In the few such studies available, there is evidence that a sizable proportion of lesbians and gay men are in long-term relationships (see, e.g., Bell and Weinberg, 1978; McWhirter and Mattison, 1984) or live alone but are not lonely.

Cahill, South, and Spade (2000), for example, indicate that although gay men and lesbians may be more likely to live alone and without a life partner than their heterosexual counterparts, they may have stronger nonfamilial social networks than do heterosexuals. According to these authors, "[n]ew forms of relationship in old age can include living independently but continuing close, intimate relationships with one partner or several. Nurturing friendships, not just a long-term relationship with a partner, seem to provide a major source of life satisfaction."

Isay (1986) speculated about the dynamics underlying successful gay male relationships. He posited that for some same-gender couples, similarity (i.e., a higher degree of compatibility and mutual understanding) is an enhancing factor, especially early on in a relationship. For others, complementarity contributes to successful relationships in that it "allows for the tension of sexual desire and also the emotional space for the couple to grow in" Other factors that contribute to long-term intimacy include emotional fidelity (more so than sexual fidelity), sexual flexibility, and psychological-sexual attitude flexibility (i.e., greater flexibility in attitudes about sex roles).

Kehoe (1988) speculated about the dynamics underlying successful lesbian relationships. She posited that freedom from gender role stereotyping in relationships contributes to a more equitable distribution of power and responsibilities. "[Lesbians] want companionship and affection, together with enduring tenderness and concern.' In addition to intimacy within couplehood, lesbians may rely even more on their circle of friends and family than do gay men (Cahill, South, and Spade, 2000).

These characterizations of relationships for older lesbians and gay men have, at least on the surface, much in common with successful relationships for heterosexual women and men; successful relationships in varying forms are constructed on bases of similarity and complementarity and nonstereotyped behaviors.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Twice Hidden: Older Gay and Lesbian Couples, Friends, and Intimacy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.