Lexie Matheson: “It’s Very Easy to Forget That There Are Actually Queers Over Forty”

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Matheson talks to express about the challenges facing older LGBT Kiwis and says she’s, “not the sort of person who knows her place.”

Lexie Matheson ONZM says she wants to highlight the challenges older LGBT people face saying the Government and a number of community organisations have neglected the group.

The Senior New Zealander of the year long list nominee says she feels like that “older LGBTQI people are often left to simply get on with it” when it comes to the level of  support in place.

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Matheson made waves within the community last month when she took to her Facebook page to point out the Government’s LGBT mental health package supporting young people showed a lack of targeted support for older LGBT Kiwis.

Explaining the comments, Matheson says “in my post I was advocating for an acknowledgment that such resources would be valuable across our entire community in addition to that which is currently available.”

“I’m thrilled, but not surprised, that the government has produced a package supporting our rangatahi particularly in areas around mental health. It’s also true, though, that older LGBTQI people are often left to simply get on with it.” Matheson said.

“We LGBTQI oldies experience all the challenges that other older people face in any ageing community, but we have our own unique challenges as well.”

Matheson says there is still a long way to go in fixing a number of issues which are unique to older LGBT Kiwis, particularly for those who are transgender.

“In my community things have improved but coming out still frequently happens later in life. It’s a challenge for us and it’s one that we get little support for. It’s often a brutal world for the new transitioner, a world of unexpected dangers, unwelcome conflicts and concerns around personal safety to add to the well-canvassed issues gender diverse people face around housing, stigma, health care, access to education, homelessness, and violence.”

The Order of New Zealander recipient says her highlighting of these issues is not to take away from the Government’s package, which she supports. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled our rangatahi will gain additional support. It’s seriously needed. What would please me more, though, would be targeted funding made available to assist older LGBTQI people with our unique health issues.”

“It’s well documented that late-in-life housing for queer couples in conventional retirement homes is a challenge. It’s even worse for solo individuals. There is still a stigma for those of us who are out in our communities and, if I am in any way insightful, it’s getting worse. I’d like to hope my post was a clarion call to those in positions who can help and that support will be forthcoming but I’m fearful that this message is not being heard.”

Matheson says the lack of recognition and support for older LGBT Kiwis comes also from community organisations, including Auckland Pride. “I think older people are generally marginalised in our society and that LGBTQI community leaders and organisations are no different. I don’t think this is intentional but unless there is a voice at the table it’s very easy to forget that there are actually queers over forty.”

“I do have serious concerns about how Pride views ageing, about the anxieties we feel as older people when we see ourselves excluded from the party and, indeed, ignored.” Matheson says.

“To be honest I don’t know how to invade the Pride agenda because it’s not the easiest organisation to communicate with. When the schism occurred a couple of years ago a huge divide was created that has yet to be bridged. I know, having been involved for many years in the creating of queer events, that the people who were damaged, and remain hurt, by that experience, number in the hundreds. I’m sad that there is no acknowledgement of a pre-2019 Pride whakapapa because if we forget where we come from, anything we create in the future will be built on shifting sand. I feel the hurt of those who were damaged at that time – I am one – and I regret that nothing has been done to repair that damage.”

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