Christine Fruhauf, a human development and family studies associate professor, co-edited “The Lives of LGBT Older Adults: Understanding Challenges and Resiliencies.” The book, published in August 2014, discusses the issues faced by older LGBT men and women.
“It provides an overview of the research that’s been collected the past 20 years that’s related to older individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and their family relationships,” Fruhauf said. “And, it provides suggestions for social service providers working with older adults who identify as LGBT. Finally, some aspects also provide a bit of a research agenda — what we need to do in the future.”
Frahauf and her co-editor Nancy Orel, a professor and director of the gerontology program at Bowling Green State University, compiled research from a variety of professors studying adults. Frahauf said that they hope the research variety will provide an in-depth perspective of LGBT adults.
“It’s not just about the negative, or maybe the less desirable, aspects of older adults being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” Fruhauf said. “It’s also about their resilience and strength. We wanted to present research that moves us in a different direction.”
Matthew Houser, a junior studying criminology, said he does not find LGBT adults to be a frequent topic of discussion.
“I think it’s more common to talk about younger people than older,” Houser said. “Parents usually address this issue with their kids when they’re in school, so they’re talking about classmates and people their age. This is when people develop, so they aren’t really thinking about the older generation.”
Justin Lee, a freshman political science major, said that adults face different challenges than their younger peers when they come out.
“Obviously they both have struggles,” Lee said. “But peer opinion is going to be pretty different. People our age are more used to talking about LGBT issues. We’re more comfortable.”
Fruhauf is pleased with the attention her book has received from CSU and her colleagues. She credits Jerry Bigner, a deceased CSU faculty member, with the idea to research this topic when she began working at CSU in 2003. Bigner studied the lives of gay parents while at CSU and started the Journal of GLBT Family Studies.
“He was really a leader in this topic and in our department,” Fruhauf said. “I want to honor him.”
Frahauf hopes to incorporate the research from her book into the classroom, allowing students to become more aware of the issues that they face. She wants this topic to be addressed at a deeper level.
“[LGBT adults] have strengths,” Frahauf said. “They have positive aspects about them that are worth exploring. They are contributing members of society. They should be valued as such, just as anyone else would, regardless of our sexual orientation.”
Collegian Diversity Beat Reporter Hannah Ditzenberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @h_ditzenberger.