Photo credit: Chriss Mann

Research, Faculty, Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies

Jen Marchbank brings awareness to Two Spirit, lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (2SLGBTQ+) elder abuse

February 21, 2023
By Casey McCarthy

Jen Marchbank, a professor in Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS), is leading research to end violence against Two Spirit, lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (2SLGBTQ+) seniors. The project, which will synthesize research from the past decade on the little understood issue of 2SLGBTQ+ elder abuse, is funded by a federal research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) through the knowledge synthesis on gender-based violence research initiative.

According to Marchbank, stigma and fear have overshadowed the issue and silenced victims. “Queer elders are often more isolated and have internalized fear as a result of being brought up at a time when their sexuality was illegal and they had to hide who they were,” explains Marchbank. “The current research tells us that queer elders are less likely than their heterosexual and cis-gender counterparts to have children. If they do, they are less likely to have ongoing relationships with their children. For these reasons, queer elders are more vulnerable to abuse than their heterosexual and cis-gender counterparts, and may fear retribution if they are abused in care settings.”

Since 2015, Marchbank has been one of the few academics investigating violence against 2SLGBTQ+ seniors. “When our team began working together, we realized that nobody was talking to queer elders about interpersonal violence,” explains Marchbank. “We are working as researchers and activists to share their voices and advocate for change.” In addition to Marchbank, the project’s collaborators include SFU researchers Claire Robson, an adjunct faculty member with GSWS, and Gloria Gutman, a professor emerita with the Department of Gerontology, as well as K.J. Reed, an assessment and data librarian at Vancouver Island University, and Balbir Gurm, nursing faculty at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and founder of the Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships (NEVR).

The project will create a roadmap to guide future research to end violence against 2SLGBTQ+ elders. “By looking at the research findings and recommendations from the past decade, we can create a snapshot of what knowledge already exists, what we don’t know yet, and where we need to go next,” says Marchbank. “This is great opportunity to address and prevent elder abuse. Our project will help inform WAGE on the issue, so they can direct funding for future research that will help improve safety for our elders.”