Creating Canada’s first educational materials on LGBT elder abuse

Author: Jennifer Marchbank 

Creating Canada’s first educational materials on LGBT elder abuse – an intergenerational art for social change project, presented by Jen Marchbank, dept of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University, Canada

As someone who teaches about violence and resistance, I was delighted to present on the above project at the Queering Family Violence workshop series. We began this project in 2015 focusing on what my colleague Dr Claire Robson calls ARTivism – that is the use of art to create social change. The project was led by Dr Gloria Gutman from our Gerontology Research Centre and Claire and I were co-investigators. It also involved two LGBTQ2SIA+ activist groups in a unique inter-generational project that brought together queer youth – Youth 4 A Change – with queer senior citizen creative writers QUIRK-e (queer imaging and writing collective of elders). My wife, Sylvia Traphan, and I run Y4AC and at the time Dr Robson was the artistic lead for QUIRKes – we are all from SFU. The project involved our creative collaborator Dr Kelsey Blair. The youth involved were, at the time, 16-22 years old and the QUIRK-es involved were in their 70s and 80s. The creative team met in a Surrey, BC youth centre each week eventually having to expand to weekend meetings whist researching, creating, filming and editing.

Our first finding was that there was no Canadian data on elder abuse as experienced by LGBTQ2SIA+ folks. So, I researched and found relevant materials from the UK, USA, Australia that we used to inform our team. In the end this project created a set of 3 videos and 5 posters (in English, Punjabi and Mandarin) and fact sheets designed to raise awareness and address elder abuse in the LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & plus) community. These were premiered in 6 Town Hall meetings held in 6 British Columbian cities and beyond. Dr Gutman hosted the Town Halls which each had one youth and one elder member of the creative team in attendance. Note that the acronym used by the project is LGBT – we dropped the Q in recognition of the fact that it makes some elders uncomfortable as they had queer thrown at them in harmful ways.

As I said in my presentation, we know that LGBT seniors face particular vulnerabilities as they may not have family or have been ostracised from family members; may face the burden of internalised homophobia and transphobia inflicted on them in their youth and are especially vulnerable to threats of blackmail. 

The youth and seniors wrote, acted, directed, edited and produced materials to foster social change aimed at ensuring those working with elders are educated on the issue, thus promoting healthy ageing and well-being. Little did we realise at the beginning of the process that these materials were Canada’s first educational materials on this issue. The materials are still available free from SFU Gerontology website.

You can read more about interpersonal violence and LGBTQ2SIA+ folks in this free e-book published in June2020.

Gurm, B., Salgado, G., Marchbank, J., & Early, S. D. (2020). Making Sense of a Global Pandemic: Relationship Violence & Working Together Towards a Violence Free Society. Kwantlen Polytechnic University: Surrey, BC. Ebook ISBN 978-1-989864-14-2 or Print ISBN 978-1-989864-13-5. 

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