Two weeks ago, SAGE asked you to tell Congress to oppose the so-called American Health Care Act. You spoke up - loudly and clearly. Thanks to you, and to thousands of other outraged Americans, we stopped this dangerous legislation in its tracks.
Two weeks ago, SAGE asked you to tell Congress to oppose the so-called American Health Care Act. You spoke up - loudly and clearly. Thanks to you, and to thousands of other outraged Americans, we stopped this dangerous legislation in its tracks.
It's highly unusual for me to send you two messages in two weeks asking you to stand up and advocate for LGBT elders. But these are highly unusual times. We must be prepared to step up to the plate as often as necessary, whether it's denouncing a plan that would rob millions of older Americans of health insurance, or fighting efforts to make LGBT elders invisible in federally-funded senior services.
Just how effective are those services at supporting LGBT elders? Apparently, the Trump Administration doesn't want to know the answer, or even want to acknowledge that LGBT elders exist. In fact, they're proposing to completely erase LGBT elders from the federal government's annual national survey about elder services.
Our community fought for years to get our elders included in this critically important survey, which helps the government decide how to spend billions of dollars on senior services. And now, with one wave of their wand, the new Administration wants to make our elders disappear from the survey, despite the fact that they have been subjected to discrimination their entire lives and still face discrimination today.
If there's one thing I know in my heart, it's that we must be a community that cares about our elders. We refuse to allow them to be cast aside. We refuse to be made invisible by the Trump Administration or anybody else.
Today, caring means fighting back. Fortunately, the law gives the American people the right to weigh in before the federal government takes a drastic step like erasing an entire community of elders. It's called a "public comment period." If you care about our LGBT elders, now is the time to act. Step up. Make your voices heard. Submit a comment. Say "NO" to the erasure of LGBT elders by the Trump Administration!
Tell Trump that we refuse to be invisible.
Michael Adams, CEO
We at SAGE have grave concerns about the potential repeal of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) and its replacement by the so-called American Health Care Act (AHCA). This dangerous legislation hurts those who can least afford it -- low and moderate income people in their 50s and 60s. The AHCA would eliminate most of the help currently provided to older people so they can afford health insurance and specifically lifts restrictions on charging older people more than what younger people pay.
The implications for LGBT elders are severe. LGBT older people are more likely than other older Americans to have serious health problems and more likely to be poor. That's especially true for older lesbians, transgender elders and LGBT elders of color. Simply put, the AHCA would endanger their health.
And that's not all. The AHCA also would weaken Medicare and put Medicaid (which many Americans need for long term care) at risk. The end result would be millions of older Americans -- including many LGBT elders -- with no health care at all. That's not what caring looks like.
At SAGE, we refuse to sit by silently in the face of this clear attack on older people, especially when so many of our LGBT elder pioneers would be so deeply hurt. We're a community that takes care of our own.
We must condemn and oppose the American Health Care Act. If you care about older members of our LGBT community, take a stand today. Click below to easily send a letter to your member of Congress.
The Diverse Elders Coalition has released a informative and incredibly helpful article outlining the Affordable Care Act repeal in the United States. We urge you to take a look and have many of your concerns settled. After reading, don't forget to check out The Diverse Elders Coalition and all their amazing work!
" With the confirmation of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), diverse elders may have more questions than ever about the future of the Affordable Care Act. The Diverse Elders Coalition will make protecting healthcare access a priority in the coming months, and as we learn more about the fate of the ACA, we will communicate that on our blogand social media.
In the meantime, here are some questions and answers about the Affordable Care Act and where things stand right now. If you have additional questions, please reach out to the health navigators at www.healthcare.gov or contact us.
Q: If I am enrolled in a Healthcare.gov insurance plan for 2017, can I count on that coverage?
A: Yes, your coverage will be valid through 2017. Your insurance plan through the Marketplace is a contract signed with an insurance company that cannot be repealed, and the terms of the contract are valid for the calendar year after you’ve paid your first premium.
Q: Will financial subsidies still be available for 2017 Marketplace coverage?
A: The advanced premium tax credits which are used to lower monthly premiums have already been set for the calendar year 2017. Should the law be repealed, any new tax regulations would potentially be set for calendar year 2018. Your financial subsidies for 2017 will not likely change.
Q: I get my coverage through my state’s website site instead of Healthcare.gov. Do any changes on the Federal level impact my state’s plan?
A: Yes. If you lose the federal subsidy, your health coverage may potentially no longer be affordable.
Q: I get Medicaid through the ACA. Will this coverage be affected?
A: Yes. Medicaid expansion – a key feature of the Affordable Care Act that brought Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans, many of them uninsured – is one component of the ACA that could be repealed. Individual states would stand to lose the federal funding they need to keep their Medicaid expansion.
Q: Can American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) continue to enroll in plans on the Marketplace?
A: Yes, AI/AN individuals who are members of federally-recognized tribes can continue to enroll in a Marketplace plan at any time of year. Visit https://www.healthcare.gov/american-indians-alaska-natives/coverage/for more information or to get started!
Q: How would an ACA repeal impact Medicare and prescription drug costs?
A: The ACA helped people with Medicare by closing the Medicare “donut hole” and providing free preventive services. According to Justice in Aging, a repeal of the ACA would mean that 9 million seniors and people with disabilities would face higher prescription drugs costs. It is so important that we speak up and ask our legislators to Protect Our Care!
Q: Nondiscrimination protections in healthcare are essential to diverse elders. What happens to those protections if the ACA is repealed?
A: The administration is leaning toward keeping those nondiscrimination protections in place, even if other parts of the ACA is repealed. But, for now, the law is still in place. If you experience discrimination while seeking care, you should contact the HHS Office of Civil Rights. You can even contact them anonymously.
Q: If changes are made to the ACA, how will I learn of them? Will there be assistance available to help me work through these changes?
A: If changes happen, HHS will be communicating them to consumers through their website and social media. We want you to know what is happening! If you have questions about Marketplace coverage, contact Healthcare.gov. If you have questions about Medicaid, call your state Medicaid office. Keep your eye on the HHS Twitter and Facebook pages.
The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), a Diverse Elders Coalition member, has a Helpline available to provide assistance with Medicare and Social Security in four languages. Learn more here.
And as always, stay tuned to the Diverse Elders Coalition blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages to stay up to date on changes that impact older adults of color, LGBT older adults, and American Indian/Alaska Native older adults! "
The federal government may not be standing behind transgender youth, but the elders of SAGE are heartened to know that Governor Cuomo is. In a statement today, Cuomo stated:
“As the federal government seeks to roll back the progress we have achieved toward equality, we in New York will never stop fighting to ensure the LBGTQ community and all Americans are afforded the equal protections guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution."
SAGE thanks Governor Cuomo for doing the right thing and protecting transgender students across New York State. SAGE and the entire LGBT community refuses to stand for the rollback of transgender students' rights and the rights of our community. We will push forward in the fight for equality!
In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), we are sharing this article from Jose Soto, NPR News. This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News and the NPR Shots blog and is a repost of our partner, the Diverse Elders Coalition. For more information about communities of color, aging, and HIV, check out the HIV and Aging page on the Diverse Elders Coalition's site.
African-American women are more likely to be infected with HIV than other women, and many don’t know it. So public health officials and advocates are trying to get the word out about PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a daily medication that helps prevent HIV infection.
“This is all about empowering women, especially black women, by giving them sexual health options and also embarking on a path of research,” says Linda Blout, president of Black Women’s Health Imperative, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. The organization is helping to launch the capital’s first citywide program to promote use of PrEP among women.
The medication, which is sold under the brand name Truvada, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 to prevent HIV infection. Research conducted in Africa, where HIV transmission in heterosexual couples is common, found that it is effective in preventing HIV infection when one partner is HIV positive. If the daily pill is taken consistently, it can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 92 percent.
In the U.S., the first priority was to get Truvada to men who have sex with men, who accounted for 83 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the drug isn’t just for men, says Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. African-American women represent the highest percentage of HIV infections among women, McCray says. “That is alarming, and we at the CDC are working to address the issue by spreading knowledge. But in order for us to do that, we also need to encourage African-American women to get tested.”
McCray says the CDC is planning in the upcoming months to produce campaigns targeted at black women that educate them on their risk and how PrEP can be used as a preventive measure.
Women in the nation’s capital face a higher risk because about 2 percent of residents are already infected with HIV, making exposure more likely. In addition, Blout says, social issues like incarceration and poverty tend to increase the risk of HIV within the black community.
In addition, Blout also says there is a lack of empowerment among black women to ask their partners to either get tested or wear a condom. McCray agrees. “Many women do not know the status of their partners and they are weary of asking them to get tested,” he says.
“A lot of the issue has to do with misinformation or simply not being informed at all,” says Nancy Mahon, executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, which is providing financial support for the effort. “When it comes to PrEP, many people still don’t even know it exists, especially heterosexuals. Many black women we’ve spoken to felt puzzled about why we were addressing how this drug is available to them. A component of the issue is that the drug is hard to obtain without a doctor.”
One of the challenges in getting women educated about PrEP is that primary care providers such as OB-GYNs often aren’t aware of it. That problem is compounded with low-income patients who don’t always get regular doctor visits and preventive care.
“The other problem here is that it generally takes five to 10 years for consumers to become socially acquainted with any drug,” McCray says. “That’s why we’re trying to push the information associated with PrEP to the communities in dire need of it.”
The push includes a D.C. Department of Health ad campaign that says: “#PrEPforher: Dominate your sex life.”
“Women simply don’t know the drug exists,” Blout said. “When they eventually do find out about it, they’re angry at their doctors for not telling them about it. It’s really about giving women the agency to protect their health.”
That includes information on using condoms or other methods to ensure safe sex, especially among married couples. “These are all factors that increase the exposure to HIV for black women,” Blout said.
According to Blout and Mahon, much of the program’s effort will concentrate on getting health care providers and public health clinics well-informed about the drug. Continuing education will be provided to health officials and providers in D.C. this year. “That’s the starting point,” Blout says.
The program was officially introduced on Dec. 1 by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser as part of her 90/90/90/50 plan for combating the HIV epidemic in the capital. The plan’s name entails having 90 percent of D.C. residents being aware of their status, 90 percent of D.C. residents who are diagnosed with HIV seeking treatment, another 90 percent who are already under treatment achieving viral load suppression and a 50 percent overall decrease in new HIV cases.
The program faces its biggest obstacle right as it rolls out, Blout says. “Stigma is our hardest hurdle.”
Mahon agrees. “This is a problem when it comes to PrEP and women, because it’s highly been stigmatized as a ‘gay drug’ or an easy way to promiscuity.” Outreach to women and health care providers will, she hopes, “get the open conversation going with a group of people who don’t even know they need to have this particular conversation.”
Starting mid-January, SAGE’s program staff is delighted to offer an innovative new program: Energy, Power & Joy in Somatic Meditation for Trans People. We had the opportunity to sit down with Diana Goetsch, the facilitator of this somatic meditation program, to learn more.
By Pat Lin
A life-long learner, teacher, writer, accomplished poet, Tai-chi and yoga practitioner, Diana Goetsch is also the facilitator of SAGE’s groundbreaking new meditation program for older trans people. Goetsch began meditation in 1982 as a university student and was immediately struck by its effects, even before she began to truly deepen her practice. “This practice gave me my life.” Exuding a soothing serenity, Goetsch sat with me to talk about practicing with community, trusting the body, older and younger trans folks, and the potential life-changing benefits of somatic meditation.
So what exactly is somatic meditation?
Basically we start to put people in touch with their bodies. At first, this thing called “I” gets in touch with this thing called “the body”. But eventually the difference between the two starts to disappear. And then the body is in touch with the body. And then trouble happens. It's the best trouble in the world. I think we call it Life, with a capital L.
Wow. How is it different from normal meditation?
Somatic meditation has more emphasis on relaxation and on trusting the body as a wisdom figure. Most meditation that I see places the emphasis on concentration. And it's mental – in the head. This can be helpful for some people. But in somatic meditation, the only transformation that happens is initiated below the neck, in the body. The body is taken as the teacher. And normally people don't listen to our bodies. We're extremely cruel to our bodies. We overfeed them. We underfeed them. We give them drugs. We get them drunk. We use our bodies for our entertainment. And trans people call their bodies wrong. They say, "I'm in the wrong body." Somatic meditation not only makes the body an ally- it does more. It hands over the car keys, frankly. I think that’s the biggest difference, with somatic meditation.
Is there a difference between practicing alone and in a group?
I think there is, but both are essential. The group practice is very helpful though, especially amongst trans folks, for that feeling of shared energy and understanding. And if you are new, the experience of guidance is a great benefit in helping to stay with the practice and experience its benefits. However, practicing alone helps us lock in and go further on the path. And I think some of the openings and insights that we gain alone are maybe the most profound. But I think we need both. A friend of mine calls it “communion and community”. The communion is that very personal, very unique and individual engagement with a practice. Community is that everyone is essential.
What do you think about the SAGE community?
I think visiting SAGE and visiting this hub of life is always a pleasure. It's very full of life, this place. What I see are deeply engaged people who are extremely savvy with geriatric issues. There's a lot of respect, a lot of dedication. It's only been a couple months, but I'm so impressed by what I see. Maybe more than anything, there's an energy and spirit about this building. When I see people having dinner together, it’s very different from the people my grandfather lived with at the end of his life, in a residence somewhere in Florida. Waiting to die, frankly. These people are not waiting to die. This is a very vibrant place, and I think they feel cared about. That's the sense I get anyway.
What do you think is the relationship between older and younger people?
The whole emphasis is on young people in America. It’s always been this way. And having been a close friend of my grandfather who lived to be 91, I watched him and other older folks in residences be shoved aside. To me these people were resources for younger people, and vice versa. Older folks derive tremendous amount of energy and validation by mixing with young people, especially kids. I'm beginning now to work with the young end of the spectrum and the older trans folks. Maybe there's a way to get them talking to each other because I think there's a lot of benefit.
Having worked with both, what things do you notice between the younger and the older generations of trans folks?
What I see among older trans folks that is different from younger trans folks is the result of decades of PTSD. Decades of trauma. Decades of battering. Hurting themselves, even their own thoughts and thought processes. There's a lot of canceling. A lot of self-hatred, a lot of trauma, a lot of shakiness. A lot of frozenness that I don't see in younger trans folks. Younger trans folks have a lot of trouble and I’ve worked with them. But one thing they're much more open to is their bodies and bodily pleasure. Getting with people, having lovers. Older trans folks are much more likely to shut that down. Not always. But they're much more likely to shut it down. They're just kind of happy to survive. And meditation might get us closer to joy.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to in teaching this class?
I think just the people who show up and what they bring to the table. The discoveries that they will bring to me and to the rest of us. One thing about somatic meditation is that there are guidelines that are thousands of years old. It's just put into American English in an available way. There are guidelines, familiar markers along the way, things I can see and help people with. But ultimately it is always an inner journey. And what people discover through their bodies with embodied practice, they bring back to me and everybody else. So I'm interested in whoever shows up and what they bring back. And they might make discoveries that I've never heard about, so I'm very excited.
Final Question: What was it like when you first started meditation?
It was a Zen practice. I was learning in college. Most of it was book instruction; it was not very deep teaching. But I think something took deeper root about ten years ago with my teacher Reggie. This practice basically gave me my life. And this practice put me on the path to coming out to myself, if you really want to know. 7 years of doing this and I basically realized, you know what, I'm trans. And I have to live in this way. It was meditation that gave me this. I had my coming out, so to speak, to myself, at a cabin alone for 12 days at 10,000 feet in Colorado doing this practice. How do you like that? It's true. Every word is true. Once you see it in the body, once you listen, once you surrender, and the body puts you on notice, you can't un-see it.
By Pat Lin
Home is a place where there should be no need to hide. Yet many LGBT older people struggle to find housing situations that are both affordable and accepting of residents' sexual orientations and gender identities. Amidst the critical need for accessible, compassionate and LGBT age-friendly homes, John C. Anderson Apartments (JCAA) in Philadelphia stands out as a model community. A diverse cast of LGBT pioneers calls this place home, thanks to the unflagging support of donors, funders, government officials, and residents themselves. That is why SAGE decided to honor John C. Anderson Apartments with the annual SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging at the 2017 Creating Change Conference.
On Sunday, Jan 22nd, SAGE CEO Michael Adams presented the SAGE Award to Elizabeth Coffee-Williams, retired transgender film star and resident of the JCAA. Onstage with them stood the community of players who made the LGBT-friendly housing complex a reality. Participants included those who conceived of, built and managed the project, (Mark Segal, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC, and Pennrose Management Inc); the donors, funders and government officials who provided support; the William Way LGBT Community Center, which provides programs and services; and the residents.
Many of the residents were outspoken activists who helped launch the gay rights movement. In their older years, they continue to channel their lively spirits into an active community that serves as a role model for the rest of the country. In an era where many of the hard-won rights our LGBT pioneers fought to secure are under attack, John C. Anderson Apartments offers a resounding example of how local community efforts and dedicated cross-collaborations can create safe spaces for LGBT elders to thrive.
It is often said that one of the greatest measures of a society is how it treats and remembers its elders. SAGE’s commitment to an equitable world where LGBT elders are valued and have boundless opportunities is inspired by this time-honored maxim. The inauguration of our country’s 45th President is a critical moment to reiterate this message.
Our values as a society must support and honor our elders both because their hard work and perseverance laid the foundation for all that we have today, and because we still very much need their wisdom and contributions. This is especially true for LGBT elders, whose courage in the face of danger and adversity paved the way for marked progress on LGBT equality in recent years. Our LGBT elder pioneers did not lead the movement birthed at Stonewall by being quiet and invisible. In the same vein, faced with dangerous threats on multiple fronts, LGBT elders and their advocate – SAGE – refuse to be silent and invisible now.
We must ensure that our older generations have the support they need to age safely and with dignity and respect. Like older Americans in general, most LGBT elders rely on Social Security in order to have enough to live on during their retirement, and rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health and long term care. Just like other older Americans, LGBT elders rely on community services funded by the federal Older Americans Act. They rely on federal support for senior housing. They rely on the progress the federal government has encouraged through training of aging service providers and the establishment of anti-discrimination protections. These programs and protections are even more essential for elders who are LGBT, people of color and members of other diverse elder communities – all of whom are especially vulnerable due to the accumulated effects of lifetimes of discrimination and marginalization.
While our elders need and deserve our support, we need them just as much. As we enter a threatening new era when our society’s fundamental values and commitments to each other are under attack, we need the wisdom and fortitude of our LGBT elders now more than ever. We will apply the lessons they learned through decades of hard work and struggle, using that knowledge to build a better future. We need their creativity, their spirit, their resilience.
In the days, months and years ahead, SAGE will stand firm with our LGBT elders for a policy agenda that makes older Americans a national priority, and that ensures that LGBT elders and elders from all diverse communities are at the center of that priority. We will do everything in our power to advocate for such an agenda. We will vigorously oppose any effort to roll back progress. We will relentlessly pursue our commitment to equity for diverse elder communities.
We at SAGE are inspired and fortified by the wisdom of our elders who have lived through decades of witch hunts, brutality, criminalization, stigma, AIDS and so much more. Our elders remind us that through all of these unspeakably difficult challenges, we stood firm, spoke out, and pushed forward.
Count on SAGE and our many supporters to continue that great tradition by standing with LGBT elders and honoring their unique voices and wisdom. This week you can find SAGE making sure LGBT elders’ voices are heard at the Women’s March in our nation’s capital, leading an elder activism institute at the national LGBT Creating Change conference in Philadelphia, and gearing up for a new initiative – SAGETable – that will connect LGBT people of every age all across the country.
Please, join us! Let’s be proud to be measured by how we treat and remember our elders.
LGBT elders needing emotional support are invited to call the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline. SAGE established the hotline to make sure that LGBT elders have support no matter where they live. Provided in partnership with the GLBT National Help Center, calls are being taken at 888-234-SAGE (7243) on Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturdays.