Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Older sexual minorities-Medical care, Older sexual minorities-Services for, Coming out (Sexual orientation), Physician and patient, Social work with older sexual minorities, LGBT older adults, Coming out, Healthcare, Social service providers, Disclosure, Lesbian, Gay, Gay friendly Pioneer Valley, LGBT aging, Homophobia, Stigma, Discrimination, Resiliency in LGBT aging


This qualitative study explored LGBT older adults' individual decisions to disclose sexual orientation or gender identification when seeking services from health care and social service providers. Participants were recruited through local senior centers. Thirteen lesbian females and four gay males participated in qualitative interviews. All participants identified racially as white and resided in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts; ages ranged from 55 to 73 years old. Employment status varied: 35% were retired; 29% worked fulltime; 23% were disabled and 11% were semi-retired. Professions spanned business, educational, legal, media and medical fields. Thirty eight percent earned over $90,000; 12% over $70,000; 24% over $21,000 and 19% under $20,000 a year. Two participants were veterans. Seven participants were partnered, one widowed and six single. Sixty four percent owned homes and 36% rented. Religious and spiritual beliefs varied. All participants could identify at least one person as family or support. All participants reported disclosing their sexual orientation to their primary healthcare provider and to other providers when it impacted access to services. Participants used discretion when disclosing their sexual minority status based on relevancy, safety or openness of providers. They indicated that the Pioneer Valley was a relatively safe place to disclose to providers, but that disclosure still required judgment. Many supportive providers are found through word of mouth and participants sought different providers if they experienced homophobia. Recommendations to increase LGBT consumers' disclosure were that providers directly ask about sexual orientation and use inclusive language in forms and conversations.




iii, 63 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 51-54)