Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

General Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Zach Owens

Second Advisor

Abby Hickcox

Third Advisor

Richard Rogers

Fourth Advisor

Liane Pedersen-Gallegos

Abstract

People that experience the “intersectionality” of multiple forms of oppression feel the collective results of these discriminations in distinct ways. One perfect example of this is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) elders: LGBTQ elders experience ageism differently than other elders and trans/homophobia in ways distinct from younger LGBTQ people.

The literature by and for end-of-life chaplains have not explored the experiences of LGBTQ elders. This gap in knowledge is particularly precarious given the large population of LGBTQ Baby Boomers entering and soon to enter into elder-oriented care like end-of-life (EOL) care. In order to better understand the complex relationship between EOL chaplains and LGBTQ elders (Baby Boomers and older), in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with seven EOL chaplains and fifteen LGBTQ elders in the Colorado Front Range area. The resulting data gives EOL chaplains info to help them “see” spiritually as LGBTQ elders see.

Interviews with LGBTQ elders revealed important LGBTQ elder-specific life experiences, how LGBTQ elders view spiritually and religion, how several LGBTQ elders viewed addiction as an important component of their spiritual journey, and the connection for LGBTQ elders between gender/sexuality and spirituality. While Christianity may have labeled LGBTQ individuals “sinners” throughout their life, LGBTQ individuals in this sample were quite spiritual. LGBTQ elders found their spirituality in places dominant society and Christianity do not often look: in the feminine, in their sexuality, in recovering from addiction, in supporting their LGBTQ siblings through difficult times, and in living out their authentic lives as LGBTQ individuals. These stories hold important lessons for both EOL and society in general.

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