Lesbian, bisexual and transgender female elders: A fact sheet from the Task Force

March 08, 2007

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications


In observation of Women’s History Month

Lesbian, bisexual and transgender female elders:
A fact sheet from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“I am in my 70s and I see other gay women in my neighborhood who I grew up with and who have no Social Security benefits and I see how they have to live and it scares me.”
— Ira J., Harlem, N.Y.

“There are more than 21 million women over 65 in the United States and up to 1 million are lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender. We are women, we are elders, we are here and we are among America’s most vulnerable — it is high time for social scientists and policymakers to take notice.”
— Amber Hollibaugh, Senior Strategist, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Download fact sheet here

WASHINGTON, March 8 — Today, marking Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is releasing a fact sheet with a focus on lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) female elders.

Women in the United States have struggled for basic rights in the areas of voting, employment, marriage, reproductive health and sexual freedom throughout the last century. Though many victories have been won, women, especially elders, continue to be underrepresented in social and scientific research and in government policy. Additionally, when researchers and politicians consider the lives of women, they frequently leave out lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. LBT female elders, a minority within a minority, are often rendered virtually invisible.

Data for the LBT elder fact sheet are drawn from available published studies concentrating on LBT female elders, including National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute reports from the past three years as well as Out and aging: The MetLife study of lesbian and gay baby boomers, published in November 2006 by the MetLife Mature Market Institute in conjunction with the Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network of the American Society of Aging and Zogby International.

  • Out and aging includes a detailed survey of 1,000 self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals ages 40 through 61 regarding their attitudes on aging.
  • Caregiving among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers (Task Force Policy Institute, 2004) includes data collected from a survey of 341 older LGBT adults in New York City concerning aging and health care issues.
  • Black same-sex households in the United States: A report from the 2000 Census (Task Force Policy Institute, 2005)
  • Hispanic and Latino same-sex households in Florida: A report from the 2000 Census (Task Force Policy Institute, 2005)
  • Gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military: Estimates from Census 2000 (Gary Gates, Urban Institute, 2006) provides information about lesbians and bisexual women in the military.

Critical findings from the studies include the following:

  • 26 percent of lesbians report that their greatest concern about aging is discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Only 35 percent of LBT female elders are out to their health care providers.
  • 70 percent of LBT female elders report that the strain of taking care of their family of origin has placed limits on their social lives and required them to take time off from work.
  • Nearly one in 10 coupled lesbians ages 63 to 67 served in the military in Korea, as compared to fewer than one in 100 other women.

For fact sheets about LBT women of color of various ages, see the Task Force’s 2005 report Lesbians are women too:


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.