(Brian Heaphy 2007)
By Alexandra Lawton and Natalie Lumb
Some studies argue that older lesbians and
gay men can find ageing less problematic
than heterosexual people
…however on the other hand research has
also pointed out that some lesbians and gay
men risk being particularly lonely and
isolated in old age.
Sexuality can be seen as a social construction
due to the values that have been historically
embedded in the societies we live in.
Ginn and Arber (1995: 1–3) note that ageing
and gender have not until recently been
integrated in sociological thought and their
combined influence has been largely ignored.
They also argue that there are significant
benefits to be gained from placing sexuality at
the centre of our sociological analyses.
The fact sexuality is often seen as a private
matter can be an issue for research however.
Many lesbians in later life are likely to be
disadvantaged by gendered processes in the
Dunne (1997) has argued that economic
independence is a key factor of many non-
heterosexual women’s lives.
Some older non-heterosexual women believe
their sexuality has led them to traditionally
‘masculine’ areas of work, which are generally
paid better than traditional ‘feminised’ jobs.
Number studies researched implications that
non-heterosexuality has on gendered patterns of
unpaid domestic work:
- Generally on younger women/men
- Suggest tendency for non-heterosexual
households to adopt co-independent stance in
terms of financial and material resources.
- Also tendency to actively negotiate roles in
relation to domestic tasks.
- This has led some to characterise same-sex
households as ‘egalitarian’ and ‘ungendered’
Giddens (1992) has argued that heterosexual
couple and marriage relationships are
becoming similar to same-sex relationships in
that both partners meet as ‘equals’.
- Related to women’s increasing ‘equality’ in the
- Consequence: heterosexual men and women
more equally resourced later in life and have
more equal marriage and domestic
- Caution: several studies show women continue
to perform the bulk of domestic, emotional
and caring work.
Research suggests older gay men are more
likely to live alone.
Women more likely to have stronger social
Men and women ‘do’ relationships with
family and personal communities
- Women highly value emotional and
- Men adopt more independent stance.
Diverse possibilities exist for how non-
heterosexual women and men experience and
Ageing in a non-heterosexual context can,
for example, sometimes mean that
individuals are less aware of the ageing
Theorists of lesbian and gay life have
conceptualised sexual communities as
radical social and political developments
- Argue these communities played crucial role
in opening up social, cultural, political and
individual possibilities, and in generating
resources/ social capital.
- As such these communities are viewed as
self-made forms of socialising and support.
It is older gay men who are most likely to tell
stories of the implications of age for a sense
of ‘exclusion’ from the scenes and groups
that they perceive to make up sexual
communities (Heaphy et al., 2004).
Whether the consequences of youth-
orientated communities and scenes or overt
ageism, many men shared a belief that their
ageing bodies mark them as unwelcome in
gay identified places.
On the one hand, non-heterosexual
experience illuminates possibilities that
exist for reconfiguring given meanings and
practices as they relate to gendered living
On the other hand, non-heterosexual
experience also indicates the resilience of
hegemonic meanings and institutionalised
practices as they relate to gender and
Non-heterosexual experience further
illuminates the uneven implications of
social change for agency in relation to