June 25, 2015

Heroes of Pride: Sally Ann Hay

Every summer, LGBT people across the country step out during Pride season to honor who we are, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and re-energize ourselves for the battles ahead. Yet in the midst of all the revelry and marching, older people are often overlooked. This summer, SAGE is celebrating some lesser-known “Heroes of Pride” on our blog. 

 

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/15062518/5ac6ae50-c9f9-4de1-bbc0-1847b8cce3de.png
<em>Sally Ann Hay</em>

Today we’re talking with Sally Ann Hay, a 65-year-old cisgender lesbian woman from Lincoln, Rhode Island, about her history with activism, her involvement with SAGE, and about a notable relative in her family tree.

So glad to talk with you, Sally! Could you share some of your personal story with us? Who do you consider to be your family members?

I’m married to my partner Dee Bird, and I would say my primary family is my family of choice blended with my family of origin (which includes some amazing step-relatives.) I have a brother and two sisters who are aware and accepting. One sister has early onset Alzheimer’s and I’m managing her care, which is somewhat of a challenge because she lives in Arizona. My brother and another sister are devout Christians which initially had me a little worried, but they are both very accepting.

Tell me a little bit about your working life.

I’m a retired psychiatric social worker. I worked in an agency and then in a private practice for the last ten years of my career. I worked with a large number of LGBT people.

What led you to the work in the LGBT community that you’ve done?

I came out at 27 in 1977 and had been very involved in the feminist movement, the antiwar and civil rights movements--and those continue to be very important to me. As for the LGBT movement, I backed into it. When I first moved to Rhode Island I went looking for a lesbian community so I got involved with Options, RI’s LGBT news magazine. The punchline is that at that time, the Options collective was mostly gay men, not many lesbians! But it was great entrée to community. From that, I was involved in helping create Equity Action, a philanthropic fund dedicated to LGBTQ issues. That activity led to me putting on an LGBT elder healthcare seminar, and that led to SAGE!

And then there was my uncle, Harry Hay, who started the Mattachine Society…

Wow, really? That’s amazing!

Yes! I didn’t know Harry when I was growing up—but that was because he was a communist, not because he was gay. As I got to know him in the last years of his life, one of the ideas he championed that really hit home with me was we are a sexual minority and it’s important not to fall prey to the temptation to assimilate. So that’s been my motivation for the last ten years—we are a wonderful people, we aren’t like everybody else. Marriage equality doesn’t solve it.

How did you find out about him being this incredible early leader in the movement?

I was probably in my late 20’s or early 30’s--around 1980. I was in therapy and my therapist said “you must be pleased about the book about your uncle.” And I said “what book?” She was horrified that I didn’t know about the biography that was just coming out [The Trouble with Harry Hay].

When I was able to get a copy, I read in the preface that he was a communist and I thought—oh that’s why my father was so against him! And then reading the book…I wish for everyone that they have a famous relative. It’s just a trip to read your family history! I thought “Wow, this makes so much sense.”

How did you connect with him finally?

I wrote an article about lesbian and gay social workers in the late 80’s. He read it and sent a message to my sister and said “please let your sister know I know she’s a sister.” I wrote a scathing letter [to him] saying “my coming out story is mine and by the way my father doesn’t know and if he’s going to find out, it’ll be from me.” The possibility of his sharing my orientation horrified me. One of his claims to fame is “my safety is dependent on your silence” so he knew the importance of that.

He once said “I’m the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the gay rights movement” and at the time I thought “you arrogant S.O.B.!”  I came to appreciate while at times he was an arrogant S.O.B. and that was what it took to be the phenomenal leader and activist that he was.

I came to really appreciate a personal relationship with him in the last 6 years of his life. For both of us, it was important to have family that was both family of choice and biological. It was really special. Neither of us ever expected to have that.

So tell me more about your involvement with SAGE.

I began to get involved because it was an important issue. But as I aged into the cohort, I realized “Oh this is about me!”

When I first got involved, my partner wondered “Why we should care: we all get older.”  I said, “Just imagine we have need for home health care and someone comes to the house and they’re not ok with LGBT.” That kind of crystallized it.

Those of us in this age group have lived for so long under the radar that we can’t even realize what we don’t expect for ourselves! I’m trying to convey to LGBT older adults that we have a right to demand that we have appropriate healthcare and services available to us.

When we show [the film] “GenSilent”, the thing that amazes me is watching LGBT people make the connection of “Oh my God, who’s gonna take care of me?”  We’re resilient, but there’s an ending where it could get ugly.

Your colleague Cathy Cranston said that “Sally is the glue that held SAGE Rhode Island together over the last dozen years.” What’s the magic formula for that glue?

I’m good at making relationships and putting ideas into practice. Some great connections have grown  out of my attending the Lt. Governor’s Long Term Care Coordination Council over the last several years. In the beginning, my primary contribution was standing up, saying who I was and what group I represented – being sure to articulate what the “GLBT” in SAGE represented.  I’m so ‘normal’ looking, I think there was a certain shock value.  Over time, relationships developed (especially with the previous Lt. Governor), our network grew and the importance of recognizing LGBT olders began to gain traction.  Perseverance.

With age comes wisdom and I’m now backing out of being as involved as I have been —I remembered  that I retired for a reason!

Sounds like you’ve earned a retirement!

Well thank you! I love that proverb, “If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go with friends.”  I don’t feel I’ve done this alone. 

--Posted by Kira Garcia

June 23, 2015

Training Housing Providers in LGBT Cultural Competency

15710716766_5332422e92_oWe are excited to announce that there are a few spots available in our special housing webinar with Enterprise Community Partners on Thursday, June 25 from 2-3:30 PM EST. This webinar will provide an interactive introduction to the culture, needs, and concerns of LGBT older adults, including why this elder population often is deterred from accessing needed services and supports. Anyone interested in learning about LGBT cultural competency with regards to housing needs is invited to join in and it's FREE! Register today!

Ask yourself a few questions. Where would you be without safe, secure housing? What if you couldn’t truly be yourself at home, fearing judgement or even abuse? How would you feel in the face of impending eviction? Many LGBT older people are faced with these questions every day and this webinar will attempt to shed light on their circumstances and what housing providers can do to help.  For more information, check out our national initiative to address the LGBT older adult housing crisis.

Training Housing Providers in LGBT Cultural Competency
June 25, 2015, 2:00 p.m. EST
Register Here
An interactive introduction to the culture, needs, and concerns of LGBT older adults, including why this elder population often is deterred from accessing needed services and supports.

June 22, 2015

"I'm Worthy of Any Job I Want"

SAGEWorks employment boot camps are two weeks long, a time commitment some people have trouble making because they don’t completely understand what they are signing up for.

Problem solved. Here are three employment boot camp graduates who quickly explain exactly what you can expect and what they got out of the boot camps.

Delyn starts dropping truth bombs right away: “I don’t like change but I’ve had to deal with change because I’m getting older, I wanted a job … I didn’t have a job.” Preach!

David was totally planning to bail on boot camp, you can see it in his twinkling eyes: “Well, you’re not exactly sure you’re really going to do two weeks.”

As for Sharon likening the loss of a job to a death of a loved one, we are going to chalk that up to her training in the dramatic arts.

All three videos can be found on SAGE USA’s YouTube channel.

-- Jeff Stein, Communications Consultant, SAGEWorks

June 19, 2015

SAGE in the Pines!

On June 6, 2015, Dr. Ed Schulhafer hosted the 23rd Annual SAGE Fire Island Pines Celebration. The celebration marks the beginning of Pride Month in New York and was sponsored by Ketel One Vodka. SAGE honored DJ Lina, Walter & Karen Boss and Ward Auerbach for their commitment to the Fire Island Pines community and LGBT older adults. The event hosted over 225 people and all proceeds raised went to SAGE! Thanks to our many supporters for attending -- we can't wait until next year!

June 17, 2015

A New Partnership for SAGE Metro St. Louis

The right partners make us stronger--and SAGE Metro St. Louis has found a terrific one in PROMO Fund (the 501(c)3 Missouri Equality Organization). After a year and half of strategic planning, these two organizations are set to merge on July 1, 2015, creating a stronger, more capable organization to provide SAGE’s core programs of information and referral, advocacy, and community education to the entire state of Missouri.

Though the July 1 merger will mark an important change, SAGE and PROMO Fund have already been working as partners for years. In collaborating over the past 4 years on the LGBT Health Policy and Training Project, we've recognized our common goal of improving the quality of life of LGBT Missourians across the life span.

PROMO Fund's Executive Director AJ Bockelman described the power of the merger, saying "By combing the forces of PROMO Fund and SAGE, we can better utilize our resources and continue meeting the needs of the community on a broader basis."

AJ-and-Sherrill-(2)
AJ Bockelman of Promo Fund, Supreme Court Plaintiff Jim Obergefell, and Sherrill Wayland of SAGE Metro St. Louis

That broader work will include establishing a model of community outreach and education that helps ensure access to quality and inclusive LGBT services for all Missourians--wherever they live. SAGE's healthy aging framework offers a great foundation for this task. 

It's also exciting to note that this merger marks the first time a SAGE affiliate has merged with a statewide organization. As Michael Adams, SAGE's Executive Director, described it, “At the heart of the SAGE vision is maximizing the positive impact we can have on behalf of LGBT older adults. By joining forces, SAGE Metro St. Louis and PROMO Fund will ensure that they have the greatest possible impact for LGBT older people across the State of Missouri.”

We're excited that with this new partnership comes new opportunities across the state to establish and grow the SAGE aging service referral network, as well as our social support and community education programs. PROMO Fund will also continue to grow its LGBT Health and Public Policy program to promote LGBT inclusive policies and training to organizations across the state.

We live in exciting times for LGBT equality. But the fight for equality is far from over. By joining forces with PROMO Fund we strengthen our voices for LGBT equality.  This new partnership makes us stronger, more impactful, and more able to create lasting change. It's the start of a terrific new chapter. 

-- Posted by Sherrill Wayland, Deputy Director, SAGE of Promo Fund

 

June 15, 2015

The easiest questions are the hardest, when you’re not prepared

 

1mtm2
Hey Mary! Minneapolis worked for her, not for me.

The easiest questions are the hardest, when you’re not prepared.

 

When I was looking for work recently, I was thrilled to secure an interview with an organization I really respected. Dream job type stuff: Great brand, helping the world, and loads of free tickets to shows and events.

To prepare, I created a quantitative analysis of past projects, perfected my story of my proudest career moments and memorized all the obstacles I have faced plus the solutions. However, I was not prepared for the first interview question: “Tell me what we do and how?”

Of course I knew what they did but I had not practiced it in my mind so I could articulate it perfectly. My first thought was to say, “What do you do? Well, I don’t have to tell YOU that! Am I right?”

My actual answer was factually correct and fine but, had I been prepared, I could have done it in a way that showed my storytelling skills and connected their mission with my experience. Very bad, especially for someone who wanted to be their communications expert. Spoiler alert: I did not get the job.

I was so intent on selling myself, I neglected to study the organization more closely. Interviewers don’t want to know about you, they want to know about you as it relates to helping them achieve goals.

At another job interview a few weeks earlier, an easy question that threw me through a loop was, “Tell me what we expect to be accomplished by the person we eventually hire?”

You’d think I’d know about the job I was going for but it was quite a complex communications job working for several business lines and functions in a mega-conglomerate. Every person involved with the hiring wrote down all their wishes and dreams or what I call, all the things they no longer want to do. In my mind, the answer was simple, “It would be shorter if I just list the things you don’t expect.”

No excuses! I could have taken their ridiculous wish list and focused on the areas that jumped out as priorities and how those align with my skills. I don’t remember what I said exactly but I was no longer interested in the position at that point. It was February and they flew me out to where the job would be based, the corporate offices in an old drafty building in an industrial complex thirty miles south of Minneapolis. I asked myself, “Can I live here?” and answered quickly, “Live here? Girl, I don’t even want to die here!”

What I learned is this: study just as much about the company and the position as you study your successes. Then connect those three things and you will be able to show exactly how and where you will bring value. Or, you might learn the job or the company is not a great fit. Most importantly, I learned not to go to Minneapolis in February.

-- Jeff Stein, Communications Consultant, SAGEWorks
The thoughts and opinions above are those of the writer and not Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

June 11, 2015

Heroes of Pride: Alec Clayton

Every summer, LGBT people across the country step out during Pride season to honor who we are, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and re-energize ourselves for the battles ahead. Yet in the midst of all the revelry and marching, older people are often overlooked. This summer, SAGE is celebrating some lesser-known “Heroes of Pride” on our blog. 

AlecClayton-2014-05-01 While today’s hero, 72-year-old bisexual Alec Clayton, makes his home in Olympia, Washington, his accent reveals his southern roots. Born in Mississippi, Alec has deep experience as a community leader in the South as well as the Pacific Northwest—two very different regions that he feels connected to. Though Alec’s voice is gentle and his spirit is generous, he’s also a formidable advocate for social justice. 

Thanks for talking with me, Alec! Can you fill us in a bit on your personal story first?

I grew up in the Deep South and was closeted most of my life—in Mississippi in the 50’s and 60’s it wasn’t ok to be gay. In fact, I don’t think I came out to myself until I was in my late 20’s. My wife and I moved to Olympia Washington in 1988, and I work as a novelist and a freelance writer.

What drew you to LGBT activism?

The reason I got involved in LGBT issues is that 20 years ago last month our 17 year-old-son committed suicide after a gay bashing. He and his friends were attacked—three boys hit and kicked him. Not long after that another of his friends was also attacked for the same reason. At the time, he felt that was all he had to look forward to for the rest of his life, despite the fact that his family loved and supported him.

I’m so sorry for your loss. I wonder whether or not the pain eases over time, after a loss like that.

In a way it does. Because of that, we got involved in different LGBT organizations, and have built a new family that way.

Were you out to your son?

Yes I was. When he came out to my wife and said “mom I’m bisexual” she said “well so is your dad!”

That must have been reassuring for him to hear.

Yeah, it was. I hadn’t told him yet because it just hadn’t come up.

I think that’s so beautiful that you turned this tragedy into something so positive. That really takes courage!

We’re told that, yes. And my wife has written a story [about our son] which you can read online at gabiclayton.com.

What was the thought that motivated your activism after your son’s death?

It was about a month between his assault and his suicide. Right around that time Anna Schlecht, co-founder of SAGE Olympia, also a founder of Unity in the Community, pulled together an anti-hate rally at a local park. Our son and my wife and I spoke at the rally. And when I stepped down off the stage the president of the local PFLAG chapter asked me to speak at the father’s day meeting. So we went to the meeting, which wasn’t until after Bill died—when I agreed to speak it was before that happened—and we felt so welcome and supported there. I was president of the local chapter for 10 years, and we’re still active.

Right after it happened, my wife also wrote a story telling Bill’s story, and as a result of that we got invited to speak on television. We still do a lot [of public speaking on the subject].

What kinds of questions do kids ask you when you speak in schools?

The most common thing is, “How things have changed? Has it gotten better?”—which is a very complicated thing. The answer is usually yes and no. In many ways things have gotten better, DADT has been abolished, and [we have] gay marriage and anti-hate crime legislation. But there’s also been a lot of backlash and the reactionary forces have redoubled.

Do you feel encouraged by the current political climate?

I think so, yes. I say that with reservations because some of the more reactionary conservative forces have become so outspoken. I think they make a lot of noise, but they are a very small and vanishing group on its last legs.

What is the change you would love to see with regard to LGBT equality in your lifetime?

I’d like to see general acceptance and celebration of difference. Laws changing is good but the hearts and minds need to change. It’s happening; we see it in the younger people.

What about the older generation? What’s been your experience working with SAGE?

I see a lot of fear and confusion and loneliness. SAGE passed out surveys recently and when we were asked what we needed most, and they said social connections and activities.

It sounds like you have good community.

Yes! Olympia is a great community

Do you have family in Mississippi still? Have you been back recently?

About a year ago we went back for a reunion, which was my first time there in 17 years. It was enjoyable! It seemed like people there had come a long way in acceptance of LGBT people and of changes in the racial climate. Of course, that’s just within my relatives and friends.

That must have been comforting. You’re living in such a different community now!

Yes, it was intentional. It was such a repressive climate, in Mississippi. We lived there after we got married for 11 years and published an alternative paper and were active in progressive causes but we were in a small minority. But there was a lot of support too! Because all the progressive or liberal people tended to support each other. Now living in Olympia we feel like the whole town is in a larger bubble. But we have our share of problems here too. Just recently a cop shot two black men.

Were there demonstrations after the shooting?

Yes, there were a lot of spontaneous demonstrations. And the leadership of Unity in the Community, which I mentioned before, has been helpful. We had meetings to help calm the waters because there were some spontaneous actions both on the left and right and there’s potential for conflict.

Coming back to SAGE—how did you initially get involved? What’s new for SAGE Olympia?

I was part of the original founding group that met informally to plan, about 4 years ago. I’ve been on advisory committees and in unofficial leadership ever since. The main things we do right now are social activities including bingo, pool, a dance for elderly lesbians. We work in conjunction with a similar organization in Tacoma which isn’t too far away. In the past we’ve done film nights in conjunction with the local theater and we also do some diversity awareness trainings with different local groups, providers of healthcare, etc.

What motivates you to continue doing this work with the community?

Probably the thing that motivates me the most are my friends and my wife—the camaraderie from other people that are activists in the community. The work that we do is also our social life!

Sounds like a recipe for success!

Yes! It keeps me alive and it keeps me vibrant. 

-- Posted by Kira Garcia 

June 8, 2015

How Do We Take Care of Our Own?

As SAGE’s Director of Legacy Planning, I shape our efforts around planned giving. Generally speaking, these are contributions made as part of a larger individual strategy like drawing up a will, selling a business, or reducing taxes (ergo, a “planned gift”). While SAGE has been part of people’s legacies for more than 30 years, we’ve only just begun to fully educate our supporters about this type of planning.

1.5881284730-7996987b21-o

As a longtime estate planning attorney with a focus on the LGBT community , I’ve had lots of exposure to planned giving . But acting as a professional advisor on the outskirts of the development effort is not the same thing as being in the trenches. To help get me up to speed when I took this job, I sought out some information and resources.

One approach comes from a professor from Texas Tech University. Dr. Russell James has a unique background, having both a doctorate in neuro-anatomy and experience as a planned giving professional. He put the two together in studies of planned giving decisions and the areas of the brain activated by different conversations, looking to identify those which were the most promising. Simply put, James considers how our brains work in relation to philanthropic giving.

His book Inside the Mind of the Bequest Donor, suggests that planned gifts are inspired by a desire to make a meaningful impact—something that will “live beyond an individual’s death.” This in turn “requires a community. And it is the values of this community that provide the underlying framework that defines meaningfulness.”

This was music to my still untrained ears. If there’s anything we’ve got, it’s community. And we know that our community values its members, that we take care of our own. That was proven over and over again in our journey from Stonewall through AIDS to marriage equality.

And it was proven again just last week. We were notified of a gift made in memory of a SAGE program participant, with thanks “for all you did to make my brother’s life more enjoyable.” Another wrote of partner, “I know that Frank would have been grateful for the tremendous support I’ve gotten from SAGE since he passed away. So it makes sense that when we’re both gone, we can say thanks to SAGE with this gift.”

Legacy, as we regularly point out in our Successful Aging initiative, is no more than “how we live and what we give.” By their lives they’ve lived, our SAGE age clients and many of our supporters helped create the legacy of a strong community. With their gifts to SAGE, they’re also making a difference in the lives of their fellow travelers.

--Posted by Jerry Chasen, Director of Legacy Planning, SAGE

June 5, 2015

Pride! Work can suck it out of you…or fill you with it!

LH
Not every boss will be as nice!

Flashback to springtime, 2009: I’m standing in a conference room in downtown Chicago, stupid from Vicodin while my boss hurls wadded up paper at my head, over and over again. That was a huge "how did I get here?" moment. I mean, I knew I arrived at O’Hare that afternoon on Delta after an early morning root canal in New York and I was participating in a team building exercise designed to turn my boss into a human (her 360 degree review was so negative it was renamed the 666 degree review).

There are plenty of bad bosses out there (and there’s no guarantee the next one won’t be worse) so I stuck it out for eight years. Everybody else was great, lots of fun, really smart, and completely supportive and nurturing of LGBT employees. It’s a shame that everybody else was not my boss. Even my bad boss  (I don’t want to use her real name so I’ll just call her The Worst), The Worst, was an ardent LGBT ally. As a side note, however, The Worst was decidedly not a supporter of working women with children. “They think they deserve more time off than people without children!”

The point is, I was not proud of myself, my work or my company because everything was so tainted by The Worst. It was not enough that the organization was extremely progressive in terms of LGBT policies. I left.

That’s when I began my search for pride of work and pride of self. I drove around the USA for the better part of 2013, blogging, camping, hitting every gay bar in all 48-contiguous states. I was proud of what I was doing but I was essentially accelerating the process of becoming homeless, since no one was paying me to be a nomad with a WordPress site.

The obvious solution for finding an income-generating workplace that could fill me with pride was a car dealership. A little background: I’m a car fanatic. The dealer network is owned by a man who is both gay and Jewish, who supports many wonderful charities, so I thought his progressive ideas would trickle down to the rest of the staff.

Wrong. I heard plenty of cheap Jew jokes, within earshot of an enormous poster of a golden retriever hopping out of a Subaru Hybrid with his two mommies. I didn’t think an environmentally conscious inter-racial lesbian couple would appreciate this hate talk any more than I did. This time I didn’t wait eight years to leave.

The good news is, great work environments that will fill you with pride do exist. I’ve recently found such a place. I’m proud to work for SAGE because they’re serving the LGBT community, but mostly I’m proud to work for SAGE because everyone I have encountered has been professional, kind and supportive. Of course I was suspicious of being treated with respect at first but you do get used to it!

So where can you find a workplace to be proud of? The answer is: anywhere you are treated with dignity and as a valued human being, at all times, in all circumstances. You shouldn’t allow people to mistreat you because they also do things that are not horrible. Pride must extend beyond June--we each deserve it all year long, in all facets of our lives.

-- Jeff Stein, communications consultant, SAGEWorks

The thoughts and opinions above are those of the writer and not Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

June 4, 2015

Heroes of Pride: Katherine Palmer

Every summer, LGBT people across the country step out during Pride season to honor who we are, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and re-energize ourselves for the battles ahead. Yet in the midst of all the revelry and marching, older people are often overlooked. This summer, SAGE is celebrating some lesser-known “Heroes of Pride” on our blog. 

The wide-open landscape of the southwest is home to today's hero, Katherine Palmer, a determined, energetic 73-year-old trans woman. As an LGBT activist for over 15 years, Katherine wastes no time. She's served as Board President of the Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Co-President of GenderPAC and Board President of PFLAG in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico--among many other roles. She has also lobbied for LGBT rights at both the national and state level. Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, Katherine is primarily responsible for bringing SAGE to Albuquerque, and currently serves as its Program Manager. 

KatherineThanks for talking with me, Katherine! Can you start us off with a bit of your personal story?

Well, I transitioned at age 58, in 1998.  I knew [I was trans] when I was young, hid it, and was later divorced because of it. When I retired from my career at IBM, I planned to work with Native Americans, but I decided to work with trans people instead.

Why did you decide to switch gears?

Well there was never really a term ‘transgender’ until about 1998, so I thought was only one in world. Then I went to the Gender Identity Center [GIC] and realized I wasn’t! So I got involved in that and jumped in full speed.

I wanted to reinforce that this wasn’t something to be ashamed of. I said "there’s nothing wrong with me, if you have a problem that’s your problem'. I got involved with the GIC and realized we were a minority that needed our voices heard. So I said ‘ok let’s go do it!’ I went to Washington DC and lobbied congress for ENDA.

You must’ve been so proud to do that!

Yes! I began to realize this was a national thing and I jumped in. I’m a strong believer in coalitions, I said, we can’t do this alone, we have to do this with others. I have also been very involved with PFLAG, which is wonderful because you have parents, family, friends and trans people, lesbians and gay men all in the same room!

What's so powerful about coalition building?

The thing that frustrates me within the LGBT community is that it's so localized.  I thought 'can’t we all work together?' and then I found SAGE and I said 'oooh! Here we go!'

Because everyone gets old! Aging is universal. 

Yes!

How did you start a SAGE chapter?

I contacted SAGE national and put together a committee. Our biggest problem is that we don’t have a physical space. So we went to Albuquerque Senior Services, and said ‘we’d like to have an LGBT presence here’ and they said ‘sure’. Albuquerque is unique. We passed a non-discrimination law in '03. We came within one vote of same sex marriage about 5 years before we got it nationally. 

So is your message or your goal primarily about tolerance, or something more?

No, it’s something more. My goal with PFLAG and SAGE is to get to a point where we don’t need it, because we’re treated like everyone else. I go to a statewide aging conference every year on behalf of SAGE, and I’m trans and I’m not "stealth”, but no one gives me any hassles, I’m just Katherine. 

It sounds your experience since coming out has been pretty positive.

Yes!

So you’re working on behalf of others who haven’t had it so easy is that right?

Yes, I see other people being abused or discriminated against and I just can't take that. I’m a firm believer that people are afraid of what they don’t understand. You teach, they learn, and the problem goes away. I'm not intimidated by them. My partner says, 'you go into the grocery store for a can of peas and these people are looking at you and you’re oblivious!' I have to remember sometimes that I’m trans.

What’s coming up for SAGE Albuquerque?

We have a golf tournament coming up in September. We’ve never done one out here, it’s a fundraiser for SAGE; we'll be offering prizes and awards. And then the aging conference is coming up this year, our topic will be LGBT older people and providers working together. We’re still growing and trying to find the LGBT seniors with strong support from the entire LGBTQ community.

So working with providers could really help you boost participation.

Yes! New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country but we’re less than two million people in total, and half are in Albuquerque. Some people drive 30 miles to get to us. It’s not a very large group but it’s dedicated. Over the last 3 months, and our monthly meetings have all been new people—so something’s happening, the word’s getting out!

--Posted by Kira Garcia