One of the major 21st century challenges for tolerance is balancing the rights of those with faith-based objections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans (LGBT+) lives with the rights of LGBT+ people themselves (1) (2). This is most evident in the recent Birmingham faith-based protests about LGBT+ education in schools and the ‘Gay Cake’ case, where Christian bakers refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it.
With an ageing population and associated growing demands for care, there is increasing reliance on faith-based care organisations (3) and religious care-workers to provide that care. Some may have faith-based objections to doing so. How they experience delivering care to LGBT+ older people, and how LGBT+ older people experience that care is not yet well understood. Indeed such uncomfortable conversations tend to be avoided. (4)
What is already known, however, is that many LGBT+ older people, when anticipating future care needs, are anxious about receiving care from those religious care workers who do not regard LGBT+ people in a favourable light. (5) (6) (7)
There have been some suggestions from recent UK research that staff working in older age care homes who feel uncomfortable working with older LGBT+ people are more likely to have strict religious beliefs which inform their discomfort. (8) (9) This is not to say all people of faith have difficulty working with LGBT+ people. Far from it. And, of course, many older LGBT people are people of faith themselves. (10) Nevertheless, religion can be a site of tension for some, (11) and how that tension is navigated in older age care contexts is not yet well-understood.
I am now conducting a small-scale scoping research project to try and understand what the key issues are, with a view to developing a larger-scale research grant application, possibly with colleagues in Australia, Canada and the US, these issues also having been raised in their respective countries. (12) (13) (14)
- One survey is for care providers (care workers, managers, and professionals working with older people in health and social care).
- The other survey is for older LGBT+ people (aged 60+), their friends/family, and advocates/people working for organisations advocating for older LGBT+ people.
Updates and, eventually, the project’s findings and reports will be posted on the project website. However, if you would like to know more, please email me at: email@example.com. Sue Westwood, York Law School, University of York.
- Eskridge Jr, W. N., & Wilson, R. F. (Eds.). (2018). Religious Freedom, LGBT Rights, and the Prospects for Common Ground. Cambridge University Press.
- Young, P. D., Shipley, H., & Trothen, T. J. (Eds.). (2015). Religion and sexuality: Diversity and the limits of tolerance. UBC Press.
- E.g. Methodist Homes, Order of St John Care Trust, etc.
- Carr, S., & Pezzella, A. (2017). Sickness, ‘sin’ and discrimination: Examining a challenge for UK mental health nursing practice with lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 24(7), 553-560.
- Westwood, S. (2015). ‘We see it as being heterosexualised, being put into a care home’: Gender, sexuality and housing/care preferences among older LGB individuals in the UK. Health & social care in the community, 24(6). DOI: 10.1111/hsc.12265
- Hunter, C., Bishop, J-A, and Westwood, S. (2016) The complexity of trans*/gender identities: Implications for dementia care. In S, Westwood and E. Price (eds) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* Individuals Living with Dementia: Concepts, practice and rights. Routledge.
- Almack, K. (2018). ‘I didn’t come out to go back in the closet’: Ageing and end-of-life care for older LGBT people. In King, A., Almack, K., Suen, Y-T, Westwood, S. (eds) Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People: Minding the Knowledge Gaps,158-171. Abingdon: Routledge.
- Hafford‐Letchfield, T., Simpson, P., Willis, P. B., & Almack, K. (2018). Developing inclusive residential care for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people: An evaluation of the Care Home Challenge action research project. Health & social care in the community, 26(2), e312-e320, p.e316
- Simpson, P., Almack, K., & Walthery, P. (2018). ‘We treat them all the same’: the attitudes, knowledge and practices of staff concerning old/er lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans residents in care homes. Ageing & Society, 38(5), 869-899.
- Westwood, S. (2017). Religion, sexuality, and (in) equality in the lives of older lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the United Kingdom. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging, 29(1), 47-69.
- Westwood, S., & Knocker, S. (2016). 11 One-day training courses on LGBT* awareness–are they the answer?. In S, Westwood and E. Price (eds) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* Individuals Living with Dementia: Concepts, practice and rights. Routledge.
- Riseman, N. (2018) Religious freedom and the rights of LGBTI people: Lessons of recent history.
- Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., Hoy-Ellis, C. P., Goldsen, J., Emlet, C. A., & Hooyman, N. R. (2014). Creating a vision for the future: Key competencies and strategies for culturally competent practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults in the health and human services. Journal of gerontological social work, 57(2-4), 80-107.
- Furlotte, C., Gladstone, J. W., Cosby, R. F., & Fitzgerald, K. A. (2016). “Could we hold hands?” Older lesbian and gay couples’ perceptions of long-term care homes and home care. Canadian Journal on Aging/La Revue canadienne du vieillissement, 35(4), 432-446.