Remembering My Hat

6th July 2015

iages conference: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:07

More liveblog notes from a conference. See here for first part and disclaimers.

Plenary 2

Mark Hughes, Southern Cross Uni, Australia

Health and wellbeing of lesbians and gay men in later life: Exploring commonalities and differences

Snapshot of quantitative evidence on LGBT ageing

Quant research is important part of evidence-based practice discourse which informs service development.

Issues of invisibility of older people in general large-scale studies of sexuality (age limit 59 [like old NATSAL, but no longer, hooray])

How can quant evidence make sense of LGBT experiences and intersecting inequalities?

Looking at 8 large general health surveys with significant no.s LGBT age 50+ in sample (i.e. thousands). Mostly from US, couple from Australia, one Israeli (but no.s smaller – 209 L&Gs aged 55+)

+ their Outrageous Ageing study – 50+ LGBTI ppl across New South Wales

Small no.s of BTI respondents, so only talking about L&G. 134 L, 137 gay men make up sample

Mental health worse than general population, and older (65+) better than younger (as in general population).

Gay men seem to have better access to health services than lesbians, more likely to be out to GP. Maybe due to history of accessing sexual health services? May be an advantage in later life.

Still don’t know much about LGBTI ppl in their 80s and older [although it’s also that it’s really hard to recruit people in the 4th age to research studies, whatever their age]

Similarities between lesbians and gay men, doesn’t mean the causal factors were the same.

Gay men more likely to live alone than lesbians in later life.

Large-scale studies seem to be more likely to ask about sexuality than used to be. Studies of non-response rates suggest non-response to be twice as high for income as for sexuality!

Reached bi people best through general studies, rather than through connections to LGBT communities/organisations.

Publications available in powerpoint version

Session 2: Queer Kinship


(cc) the great 8

[Me: ‘Queer’ and ‘traditional’ families in bisexual people’s imagined and experienced later life]

Yiu-Tung Suen, Hong Kong

What’s gay about being single? A qualitative study of the lived experiences of older single gay men

Single people live in a couple culture. Sociologists find a single-by-choice narrative in order to resist pressures of couple culture.

25 single gay men 50+, aged 52-73, half undergrad educated.

Could access alternative discourses decentring the conjugal couple. Gay liberation as about sleeping around as much as possible. Monogamous quasi-marriage as selling-out. Freedom for sexual exploration as positive aspect of singleness.

Several had fuck buddies but didn’t want to be in a couple relationship with that person – choice discourse.

Others talked about no choice because in 1970s would have been ‘kiss of death’. Homophobia causing singleness [potentially a no fault explanation]. Stigma of being seen accessing gay scene.

All experienced social pressure to be in a couple. But all the talk about fuck buddies really doesn’t fit stereotype of lonely older gay men.

Sue Westwood, Surrey

Constructing care networks in succession law (England and Wales): An analysis of older lesbians’ and gay men’s Will-writing

Drawing theoretically on intersectionality and care ethics, especially in how it is under-prioritised in law. Intestacy laws privilege biological family and couple relationships.

Families of choice literature summary – our friends are our families. Wants to complicate and disrupt this story.

Pahl and Spencer 2004 other more useful theorisations of kindship – friendship focused v family focused & given relationships v. chosen relationships etc.

In England you can leave your money to whoever you like [unlike France]. So we can make our kin, not just reflect it (Finch and Mason 2000, p. 162)

Very little on L&G wills. Except Daniel Monk’s on contested Wills + EM Forster’s will – recommended. Found older L&G people more likely to leave money to biological family if they accepted their sexuality.

Focus on wills wasn’t hers, came out in data as a way people talked about care and kinship. 15 ppl talked about wills, all single ppl, mostly gay men.

Mostly privileging children and blood relations, despite estrangement and past homophobia from them. But also some doing what they thought was morally right to exes and step-mother (in return for her care to his father)

Will-writing not always constituting kinship. Sometimes wills are acts of caring and sometimes they are completely distinct.

Audience: Living giving as a way to get round sensitivities of Wills – looks fair on paper between your children, but actually you give more in life to the one (often daughter) who supports you.

Session 3: Temporal (dis)locations


(cc) H Dragon

Kinneret Lahad and Haim Hazan, Tel Aviv

The return of the old spinster: Social death in late singlehood

Terrifying old maids still widely available stereotype. Why is it so long-lasting? Why do single women become seen as old younger than coupled ones? 20s and 30s = old if single. [not sure this is the case in the UK. 40s maybe. Although maybe it does – Bridget Jones’ fear is this]. Crazy cat woman. If change gender, a single man keen on cats would be very desirable!

Jill Willkens, South Bank

All change please

35 Lesbians and bisexual women aged 57-73, 22 fr northern England, 13 from southern Enlgland, all white, born 1940 – 1956.

Project was going to be about role of support groups for L&B women, but ended up being much wider ranging.

Many felt culturally out of place. Many had been first of their family to go on to university, felt out of place class-wise for rest of life. Sense of difference around sexuality added to this for many. Living through rapid social change also made them feel out of place.

Using Bordieu’s idea of cleft habitus – sense of self torn by dislocations.

Didn’t use participants’ own definitions of class because, drawing on McDermott’s 2010 framework, this can be very misleading. 70% of her sample were born working class but university or college educated – upward mobility, usually portrayed as a good thing, but not necessarily because creates disjunctures. Emotional pull of old class loyalties. Refusal of apparent current middle-class lifestyle.

Many reported knowing they were lesbian for 20 or 30 years before they came out – another dislocation.

So support groups really important because they are the one place they feel in place – safe space [although at what cost to the excluded groups? Depends on the group’s boundaries, of course].

Elham Amini, Durham

Insider or outsider? Issues of power and habitus during life history interviews with menopausal Iranian women

Menopause an important issue for women, esp with ageing populations.

Accessed participants through Koran classes – attended every day for 4 months.

This presentation about power relations within the interview, how it was created and shifted and how Bordieu’s ‘Capital’ helps this.

Both Elham and participants were women and Iranian, brought up in a culture where respect for elders is important (e.g. standing up when older person enters the room).


  • older, religious, some of them educated, some not.


  • younger, secular, educated, educated in the West

Some participants needed reassuring about relevance of their experience because educated. But another challenged her research because she’s too Western.

Elham is trained as a midwife – this is really important source of social capital. Studying in west is negative capital. Religious friends who introduced them is another source of capital.

The field was their religious class – class happened mostly in people’s homes. So their field. One’s husband sat in, she seemed to be using the interview to tell her husband how much she wanted to go back to work.

Changed her own dress to match interviewees.

Complaints balanced with ‘it’s not so bad’.

Takes requests from other members of group to be interviewed as sign that she wasn’t abusing them.

Was both insider and outsider during every interview.


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