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The Challenges Stacked Against Aging LGBT Americans

A lifetime of discrimination puts this generation at higher risk for social isolation, health problems, and economic insecurity. What can be done?  
Precarious housing situations and decades of constrained earnings hurt LGBT couples in their later years.
Precarious housing situations and decades of constrained earnings hurt LGBT couples in their later years.Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Marsha Wetzel moved into a suburban Chicago low-income senior living facility in 2014 after her partner of 30 years died. Wetzel began to suffer abuse when she disclosed to fellow residents that her partner had been a woman. Some residents used homophobic slurs, and others physically assaulted or spat on her. When staff did nothing to help despite her pleas for assistance, Wetzel sued the facility for failing to protect her from harassment, discrimination, and violence.

“I feel invisible, like I’m a ghost, but I’m a human being and I’m scared,” Wetzel told Lambda Legal, the organization that filed the lawsuit on her behalf. “There are places I won’t go [in the facility] because I’m afraid of being called names or getting hit. I’m tired, this is not what I imagined my ‘golden years’ to be.”