A new study launched today examines the challenges faced by the older gay community in Ireland.

Visible Lives, the first major study of its kind, was commissioned by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network to examine what effect LGBT people over 55 across the country felt their sexuality had on their lives.

The report’s key findings were that:

– Most older LGBT people surveyed went through the whole of their adolescence and their early adulthood without disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity to anyone and without any contact with other LGBT people.

– 35% still feel that friends will reject them if they tell them they about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

– 28% are not out to any of their neighbours.

– One in ten are not out to any of their close family.

– 26% are not out to any of their healthcare providers because of fear of negative reaction.

The study also found that a quarter of respondents had been married at one time, a third were parents and 31% “felt lonelier” as they aged.

Ireland’s Minister of State for Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD said: “This report offers unique insights into the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and shows the negative consequences of living through a period where a fundamental aspect of their identity – to be themselves and to live openly and securely with the person they love – was stigmatised.”

Kieran Rose, Chair of GLEN, said: “The participants’ stories are a powerful reminder of the importance of the legislative and social progress of the last twenty years, and the profound impact this has had on their lives and on LGBT people more generally.

“This progress, especially the status and strong protections and supports arising from civil partnership and the government’s commitment to enact gender recognition legislation, are strong platforms from which the recommendations made in this report can be implemented.”

Data was collected from around 180 people aged between 55 and 80 years across Ireland.