A NEW Victorian project will document the abuse and discrimination faced by LGBTI elders and help them to seek support.

Research has shown that LGBTI people aged over 65 can experience discrimination on the basis of their sexual or gender diverse identity, often by members of their own family.

In these cases, few access regulatory bodies or complaint services for information or help.

The Tango Project will run for 12 months and will involve elders sharing their experiences with project coordinator and director of Alice’s Garage Dr Catherine Barrett, who has previously interviewed more than 200 LGBTI elders through her research.

“They’ve grown up in an era where no-one’s had their back,” she said.

“And while some elders are capable and don’t need our help, we do need to affirm that they’re being recognised.

“The ones that really need our help though are those that don’t have self-determination, and potentially have family members riding over them.”

In one case researched by Barrett, a lesbian woman’s kids from a previous heterosexual marriage didn’t approve when she came out much later in life and found a same-sex partner.

When she got dementia, they told her doctor that she wasn’t and had never been in a same-sex relationship.

Ro Allen

Gender and sexuality commissioner Ro Allen with fellow commissioners gearing up for a Victorian Senior’s Week event. Image supplied.

In another case, a trans woman’s kids didn’t approve of her gender identity when she transitioned at 40, and after getting dementia they told her if she went to an aged care facility as a woman she’d never see them again.

“Older LGBTI people have a different sense of self because they haven’t been exposed to celebratory and affirming discourses,” Barrett said.

“So to be facing discrimination at a time in their lives where they have disabilities, they don’t have the same degree of determination.

“It’s a really challenging point in their lives and it’s when they need family members more than ever.”

Tango Project patron and Victoria’s gender and sexuality commissioner Ro Allen hopes that the data from the project will be used by a number of commissioners to better understand the discrimination faced by LGBTI elders.

“It’s so important to support out elders because they’ve been through hell and back, and they’re completely invisible,” Allen said.

“But now we’ve got the health services commissioner, the mental health services commissioner, Victoria’s human rights commissioner, all sending the message to LGBTI elders that we’ve got their back.

“We’re setting the benchmark for Australia and other states for looking after our elders.”

Allen added that through the project LGBTI elders will hopefully become more aware of their rights and reach out to the appropriate commissioner in government.

“I hope we can work in supporting them, particularly with end-of-life planning, to make sure they don’t get abused at all,” Allen said.

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