3 - Identities and Intersectionality


The main purpose of the block is to learn about diversity and heterogeneity of people who identify themselves as LGBT+. First, we address the terminology in order to get familiarised with the language that has developed (and is still evolving) by the LGBT+ community. Secondly, the purpose of the block is to learn about the concept of intersectionality as it is important to understand the diverse life's stories and the interplay of people's identities and what that means when trying to provide good care for older LGBT+ people. In this second part, the user of the block will become familiar with the theoretical backgrounds of intersectionality and how to address it in the classroom.

When addressing LGBT+ older people (or older people in general), we must keep in mind we are discussing a very diverse group of people to which we cannot, in a general way, attribute any common features. In fact, homogenisation of any population can be problematic as it reduces the diversity of identities and life experiences to one apparent commonality, may it be old age, gender identity or sexual orientation. Even identifying as an older person is very subjective, since most people see older people as those who are retired, but the age of retirement has been increasing as well as life expectancy and years a person spends in retirement.

In order to understand the complex nature of discrimination and invisibility of LGBT+ older people, this topic should be approached by applying an intersectional perspective. Otherwise, there's a risk of addressing just the needs of average, middle class, culturally dominant, non-disabled, gender-conforming older people. We must keep in mind that discrimination does not happen only at the crossroads of age, sexual orientation and gender identity, but also in various other circumstances such as poverty, homelessness, ethnicity, religious beliefs, citizenship, migration, disability, mental health, drug and alcohol addiction etc. All of these circumstances and identities may intersect and interplay in a life of an LGBT+ older citizen and reinforce barriers to opportunity and discrimination.

It is important not to perceive this combination of circumstances and identities as something you can add up or multiply, but something that variates and changes through an individual's course of life.

A person-centred care would need to include an open, ready to learn and explore kind of approach to understanding an individual's life story and experience. The staff providing care needs to be sensitive when working with people and understanding their unique backgrounds. In a globalised world we daily come across different cultures, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities and ethnicities, which leads us to provide services in which an individual can feel welcome and respected, especially if he/she/they feel the need to share their life stories with service providers. Sensitivity and openness to diversity should be established on the level of each and every professional as well as on the level of the organisation of services.

The block addresses the topics of identities and intersectionality by using theoretical background for teachers to get more familiar with the topics and practical assignments to use with students in the classroom.