Portrayals of LGBTQ Older Adults in Canadian Newspapers and Popular Magazines

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:10
Oral Presentation
Laura HURD CLARKE, The University of British Columbia, Canada
Suzanne NG, School of Kinesiology, The University of British Columbia, Canada
Bytheway (2011) has argued that media portrayals of later life “create expectations of what it is to be a person of a particular age” (p. 80) and how aging and older adults are seen and culturally (de)valued. While a wealth of literature has explored how heterosexual older adults are portrayed in the media, little attention has been given to the representation of LGBTQ aging. In this paper, we examine how LGBTQ older adults are portrayed in Canadian newspapers and popular magazines. We report on our thematic analysis of 81 stories collected over a one year period from three national Canadian newspapers (The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and Metro Canada), the top one or two most widely read newspapers from each province, and the five most popular and widely read Canadian magazines that include and/or cater to the mature market (Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Maclean’s, Reader’s Digest, and Zoomer). Our analysis of the stories revealed three key findings: a) “struggle and resilience” – living through a history of exclusion and discrimination over the life course; b) “back into the closet” – LGBTQ older adults as an invisible, marginalized, and under-served population in health care and social policy; and c) “nothing to hide” – LGBTQ celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner who are challenging social norms and forging new ways of growing older. Drawing on queer theory, we discuss our findings in relation to theorizing and research pertaining to ageism (the devaluation of later life and the concomitant discrimination against those who are old), heterosexism (the stigmatization, denial, and/or denigration of nonheterosexuality), and femininity and masculinity norms and ideals. Thus, we consider how print media reproduce, reinforce, and sometimes disrupt socially constructed norms pertaining to age, sexuality, and gender, which collectively exclude older LGBTQ adults and heighten their cultural invisibility and vulnerability.