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A Queer Kind of Care: Some Preliminary Notes and Observations

Cronin, A and King, A (2010) A Queer Kind of Care: Some Preliminary Notes and Observations In: LGBT Issues: Looking Beyond Categories. Policy and Practice in Health and Social Care Series, 10 (6). Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh/London, UK, pp. 69-81. ISBN 1906716056

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This chapter, drawing on empirical research, examines the experiences of giving and receiving care among older lesbian, gay and bisexual (hereafter LGB) adults. Traditionally, researchers and policy makers tended to assume that all older people experienced later life in a similar way. This can be characterised as the „normal model of ageing‟. However, there has been a growing awareness that this is not the case and that individual and social diversity, for example gender, economic status and ethnicity, may result in older people experiencing later life in very different ways. While this awareness is to be welcomed, little attention has been paid to sexual diversity in later life. Although older LGB adults will have much in common with older heterosexual adults, the way in which sexuality is organised in society means that this group may experience later life differently from their heterosexual counterparts. Existing research documents both the disadvantages faced by older LGB adults, while simultaneously dispelling the myth of a lonely old age due to familial and societal rejection. For example, Robinson (1998) indicates that the health care needs of older LGB adults are framed in accordance with stereotypical representations and understandings of their sexuality, while MetLife (2006) and Kurdeck (2005) suggest that care giving and receiving amongst the older LGB population differs from the general population in relation to both gender and care practices. Research which highlights the care needs and practices amongst older LGB adults is to be welcomed; nevertheless we want to explore some of the difficulties and problems that may arise when the identities of care giver and care receiver are applied to older LGB adults. In order to do this we will be using the concept of heteronormativity, which can help us to think about the relationship between sexuality and society. Many people consider their sexuality to be a private matter, however we only need to think about the laws, rules, norms and values that surround sexuality in society to realise that, far from being a private matter, sexuality is socially organised and regulated. One way of understanding this is through the concept of heteronormativity, which refers to the organisation of society around the belief that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality, and the consequent belief that it is only right that society is organised for the benefit of the majority heterosexual population. In this sense heterosexuality is regarded as the dominant mode for conducting intimate relationships, which in turn is linked to traditional cultural beliefs about the way women and men should behave. For example, the belief that men are naturally sexually active, while women are naturally sexually passive. The concept of heteronormativity, referring as it does to the privileging of certain dominant forms of heterosexuality, goes beyond the perhaps more familiar terms of homophobia and heterosexism. The focus is upon inequality and the disadvantages faced by those who are not heterosexual, whilst also allowing us to consider how these conditions might affect people who are heterosexual. One of the key arguments in this chapter is that both health and social care policy and practice is often underpinned, albeit unwittingly, by heteronormative attitudes and behaviours. We begin by outlining why there is a need for both policy makers and health and social care practitioners to pay more attention to the interaction between gender, sexuality and ageing. Following this we focus on existing literature in this area, paying particular attention to the issues of formal and informal care giving and receiving amongst older LGB adults. This provides the basis for our critical analysis of the heteronormative assumptions underpinning care and the identity categories on which it is based. We illustrate these with reference to a case study of the caring experiences of two gay men. In conclusion we provide some practical suggestions for the way in which both policy makers and service providers can begin to pay greater attention to the experiences of this cohort of older adults. However, we must recognise that people use categories such as LGB for positive as well as negative effects. Indeed, we are not dismissing them or their importance in the struggle for recognition. We do nonetheless think that a thorough consideration of what they encompass is necessary.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Date : 1 January 2010
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an electronic version of a chapter published as Cronin A, King A (2010). A Queer Kind of Care: Some Preliminary Notes and Observations. In LGBT Issues: Looking Beyond Categories. Editors: Jones R, Ward R. 10: 69-81. Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh/London, UK Available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 10 Jul 2013 14:54
Last Modified : 23 Sep 2013 20:08

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