Today I was privileged to speak to Congressional staffers and aging advocates about the challenges facing transgender older adults. In conjunction with the National LGBT Aging Roundtable, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force presented a briefing this morning at which I shared the podium with Laurie Young of the Task Force, Hope Barrett of Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Clinic, and SAGE’s John Johnson.
Like transgender people of all ages, trans older adults face social stigma and discrimination in the workplace and when seeking housing, health care and social services, and suffer serious health disparities. In the NCTE/NGLTF National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 30% of adults over 60 reported having lost a job because they were transgender. Trans older adults are also more likely to live on their own, tend to have fewer social supports, and are vulnerable to elder abuse. They face systemic inequities, such as the frequent exclusion of medically necessary care under Medicare, and use of gender markers on Medicare cards that out people when they seek basic care.
One problem that we focused on in the briefing is discrimination in long-term care. Whether in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other community- or home-based care services, trans people frequently encounter discrimination by the very people providing them essential and often intimate care. In a recent survey of LGBT long-term care recipients, providers and caregivers, conducted by the National Senior Citizens Law Center along with NCTE and others, we heard stories of trans people being referred to by the wrong name and pronouns, of staff mocking trans residents’ bodies, of trans people being outed to other residents or staff, and even of staff refusing to perform basic care for trans people, or barring them for social activities and from dining with other residents. Federal and state laws exist to prohibit this kind of ill treatment of any older person, but oversight and enforcement are weak. Long-term care providers and other aging service providers (along with all health-care providers) are badly in need of training and education on working with transgender people.
NCTE looks forward to working with the National LGBT Aging Roundtable and with Congress and federal agencies to address these disparities and ensure that transgender older adults receive the care and services they need without discrimination.