Jun 01, 2023

World-first podcast highlights families embracing their older LGBTIQ loved ones

Sisters Sally and Manika Conning have a stronger bond since Sally came out as transgender. [Source: Supplied]

A World-first podcast launched today, the first day of World Pride Month, that shares families’  stories of kindness and compassion towards older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) Australians who ‘come out’ or transition late. 

Specifically intended to focus on positive stories, There’s a Rainbow in My Family explores how families adapted to change to support their LGBTIQ loved ones to help build cultures of respect in families and to prevent family violence and elder abuse. It aims to help build a world where older LGBTIQ people can be their authentic selves and bring their families along with them.

The first episode is with sisters Sally and Manika Conning. In the episode, the sisters talk about the time when Sally made the decision to come out as transgender five years ago, just before her 65th birthday. In response to Sally’s ‘coming out’, Manika sent her sister a card that read “Happy Birthday Sal, I’m glad I’ve got a sister”. 

Those words resonate powerfully for Sally as they showed Manika had accepted Sally for who she is and that strengthened their sisterly bond. 

When asked what kindness in families means for older transgender or gender-diverse people, Sally said openness to their story, acceptance, empathy and celebration is key to ensuring they have a better life.

For the families of older people who begin identifying as LGBTIQ or come out later in life, it may come as a complete surprise or it may not be a surprise at all. Sometimes families are happy their loved one is happy but others may need time to adjust.

Podcast host, Project Coordinator and Celebrate Ageing advocacy group Founder and Director, Doctor Catherine Barrett, said family support is critical to ageing with pride.

“Some families go for half a century before a rainbow appears, or an older person comes out or transitions. Families may struggle to adapt and this can lead to restrictions on the older LGBTIQ person’s sexuality or gender expression by their family.” 

These sentiments are similar to those of advocates and experts who speak on the fear LGBTIQ-identifying older people can feel when going into aged care.

Andrew Rogers, Lead Educator at Val’s LGBTI Ageing & Aged Care spoke to HelloCare on the importance of putting a positive spin on the narrative in order to alleviate this fear.

“We often see headlines that older LGBTI people are terrified about going into aged care… That’s wrong on so many accounts because it actually makes people even more afraid and so they don’t access the services they need,” Mr Rogers said. 

“We need much more positive language and to change the narrative to say get help earlier, get the supports you need earlier, make sure that you remain connected to the community and that you remain active.”

Driven by a sector-wide lack of understanding that disrespecting older LGBTIQ people’s sexuality and gender are forms of elder abuse and family violence, Dr Barrett hopes the podcast is a step towards primary prevention.

She also hopes to see the podcast picked up by family violence, elder abuse and aged care services who need to understand the unique challenges older LGBTIQ people face and learn how to support them.

Watch the first episode of the There’s a Rainbow in My Family podcast here.

For more information, visit the Celebrate Ageing website.

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