Letters from Queer Elders:

Transmitting Intergenerational Wisdom in LGBTQ+ Communities

Abstract: Intergenerational relationships have been established as a critical locus of psychosocial development, meeting needs of identity development for youth, generativity for elders, and connection and belonging for both. However, intergenerational relationships are both rare in the LGBTQ+ community and sorely needed as a buffer to the discrimination and harm that those within the community experience from systemic and structural oppression. Focusing on sexual identity, and employing a letter writing paradigm, we investigated the content of wisdom that LGB elders have to share with youth. In a descriptive, exploratory, mixed-methods, and pre-registered study, 94 adults ranging in age 50 to 79 years (M = 55.98; SD = 6.30) wrote letters to a fictional youth, Sam, as well as completed surveys of psychosocial development and well-being. Letters were content coded for themes, as well as for emotional tone and subjective perspective. The most common themes of wisdom shared included knowing and celebrating oneself, negotiating an oppressive society, and finding one’s community. Those who wrote more emotionally positive letters scored higher on measures of wisdom and generativity, and lower on embitterment. Results are discussed in terms of the importance of cultivating opportunities for wisdom-sharing within LGBTQ+ communities to promote flourishing across the lifespan.

Click on the citation to read the article:

McLean, K. C., Moriarty, N., Starling, K., & Weststrate, N. M. (2024). Letters from Queer Elders: Transmitting Intergenerational Wisdom in LGBTQ+ Communities. Journal of Homosexuality, 1-26.