As I think about November being Family Caregiver month, I'm reminded about my own family caregiver journey and what started my work in support of LGBT older adult advocacy. In October of 2005, my mother-in-law came to live in St. Louis, MO with me and my wife. Over the next three years we would experience the joys and challenges of caregiving. During this time our mother’s health began to steadily decline from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart and kidney failure. Her bedroom became a makeshift hospital room as we brought in home health nurses and eventually hospice.
Sherrill and her wife and family surround her mother-in-law.
Our greatest concern as we brought services into our home was ensuring that the organizations who worked with her were LGBT friendly. We feared that a homophobic nurse might enter our house, recognize her caregivers were lesbian, and cause harm to our mother. But how would we know if the providers were safe and welcoming? There were no LGBT friendly older adult agencies in St. Louis at the time or referral networks we could call. Luckily for us, the first home health agency we hired immediately recognized that we were a loving couple caring for our mother and treated us, and most importantly our mother, with the dignity and respect she deserved.
It was through this journey of family caregiving that my wife and I realized, if we have this concern then other LGBT caregivers are also facing these same fears and concerns. This journey led us to start a SAGENet affiliate–SAGE of PROMO Fund (formerly SAGE Metro St. Louis)–to help ensure that LGBT older adults and caregivers had a place to call for support.
As the new SAGE Manager of National Projects, I invite you to visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging website and our Caregiver Resource page. Here you will find a number of resources that will help navigate the family caregiver journey. You will also find listings by state of local and national resource organizations that may be of assistance to you as you provide care and support to a loved one.
Caregiving is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences that you may encounter. We hope the resources we have provided are helpful and that you know you are not alone in this journey. During the month of November and every month, we honor and celebrate YOU, our family caregivers!
Today is international Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a time when people all over the world unite in support of our transgender community and honor the memory of those murdered because of anti-transgender prejudice. If you're in NYC and wish to join SAGE, our SAGE Center Midtown will be hosting a vigil starting at 6:45 PM this evening. We are located at 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, New York, NY (between 27 and 28th Streets). That said, the following serves a reminder that not everyone may want to take part in TDOR events. Originally featured on FORGE's website as part of their #30DaysofAction, you can read the original here.
This weekend many communities will be holding TDOR and/or Trans March of Resilience events. TDOR is hard for many people. While some are comforted and feel supported by gathering together to mourn those who had their lives taken by anti-transgender violence, others feel more painful emotions. For many, being reminded of this severity of violence can stimulate intense fear and sometimes a sense of hopelessness. Many avoid attending TDOR events altogether.
There is NOTHING wrong with you or others if you cannot or do not want to attend TDOR events (or read or hear about them, either).
Think about the trans people you know: are any not planning on attending a TDOR? Does anyone express distress or avoid discussing TDORs altogether? If so, consider creating an alternative.
Create a distraction: organize an outing to an upbeat movie, host a card party, or take a friend shopping (don’t forget secondhand stores if money is limited!). You don’t lose your “trans card” for taking care of yourself and/or your friends.
Offer a listening ear. Sometimes what feels most healing is getting long-buried feelings out in the open. This can happen anywhere, at any time, but you can also offer it to the community: put on social media that you will be at X coffeehouse at X time if anyone wants to drop by and talk or just sit together.
Encourage people to engage in self-care. This year, in particular, the trans community has been in almost constant mourning for our dead. Sometimes the way we can best honor our dead is by valuing our own lives, which includes self-care when we need it.
In recognition of Transgender Awareness Week, SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging will be highlighting one resource a day until Friday, November 20th which is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Today's resource is actually a first-person account from Cici Kyttten, on what it's like to age as a male to female trans person.
As a maturing M2F trans person who is maturing much too rapidly for my own taste, I find myself facing a whole new set of personal issues that I hadn’t considered before. Superficial issues like physical appearance and body image come immediately to mind. These are the same kinds of issues that aging women have faced for generations.
And those issues are important. Most of us take great pride in our appearance. After all, we’ve spent a lifetime obsessing over it. At first hiding our femme sides, then cultivating them, and then finetuning them as we progressed. So when we see the fruits of all that effort slipping away, it hurts.
The whole aging process can be especially discouraging to those who came into this world later in life. We missed all the young years. The fun years. The skinny years! Consequently, many of us have been fighting the impacts of aging since we started dressing.
But sagging bodies and laugh lines may be the least of our problems.There are a whole host of other issues -- including health concerns, health care, retirement, personal finances, and living accommodations -- that all aging individuals face but become more complicated because we are trans.
I recently had a rather frank conversation with my doctor about the negative impact that wearing high heels might have on my arthritic knees. Obviously, this is not a conversation my doctor would normally expect to have with a 50-something American male. But, for me, it was instructive. It was a conversation that needed to happen. Unfortunately, at this point in our society, most trans people aren’t comfortable admitting their trans nature to their doctor or other health professionals. And that lack of communication can hinder proper health care -- particularly in matters much more critical than arthritis.
Unemployment and underemployment are rampant in the trans community. This can have a devastating impact on our ability to plan for the future and save for retirement. Even those who have planned appropriately may find themselves changing career paths as they transition or become more out about their trans nature. Changing careers -- and quite often reducing one’s income in the process -- can have a detrimental effect on benefits and investment strategies.
Aging can be even more complex for those who have transitioned to living full time. One must be mindful of -- and prepared to face -- challenges related to identity issues, particularly with regard to end-of-life documents, Medicare, access to health care, monitoring of medications associated with transition, and fair housing practices.
But probably the most daunting aspect of aging for most trans people is the prospect of growing old alone. Perhaps we’ve alienated or been ostracized by loved ones by coming out. Perhaps we’ve lost touch with loved ones due to feelings of shame or embarrassment. Or maybe we’ve simply chosen to live single and free of family responsibilities -- and therefore now find ourselves aging with no blood relatives in our lives.
Regardless of the reason, many of us are growing old alone. A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of SAGE, indicates that LGBT individuals are more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to live alone and experience diminishing support networks. One in three LGBT elders is concerned about “being lonely and growing old alone.”
And I’m one of them.
I have a great network of friends. Over the years they’ve provided me with the support and confidence I’ve needed to lead a fairly open, productive and fulfilling trans life. But friends are not traditionally the people we turn to take care of us as we age. Blood connections and marital bonds take precedence. Sometimes for legal reasons. Sometimes for personal reasons.
Fortunately, there is cause for hope. Just as LGBT support services increased around the country as the LGBT communities emerged from their respective closets, services for LGBT elders are now increasing as those communities mature.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s first “Senior Prom” - for LGBT couples over 50 years of age. And Stonewall Gardens opened an assisted-living property offering resort-style accommodations, a full-time licensed nurse, and a 24-hour professional care staff -- the first complex of its kind in the Palm Springs, CA area. Hopefully, trans-specific programs, events, and institutions will follow these LGBT models.
Growing old is something we all must face. And the trans population faces very real and distinct challenges. But as more of us come out and advocate for equal services, we now have a better chance to grow old gracefully -- with better access to housing, health care, and emotional support.
Cici Kyttten is one of the most prolific writers today in relation to transgender (M2F) lifestyle topics. She lives on the West Coast (USA), and spends her time between LA and Las Vegas. She has a dedicated following of avid fans on her Blog . Cici’s Articles are meant to inspire and inform those who are new to the community as well create provocative dialogue with seasoned Trans Girls. Cici wrote this article on behalf of Suddenly Fem, an exclusive fashion line designing career-wear to club wear for the transgender M2F and crossdressing community. They have been innovating fashions and accessories for over 20 years and in 2013, created a community outreach program in which they help to serve the trans community with information, donations and financial support.
In recognition of Transgender Awareness Week, SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging will be highlighting one resource a day until Friday, November 20th which is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).
Despite Caitlyn Jenner (66) coming forward this year with a gorgeous Vanity Fair cover and the Amazon Prime show Transparent receiving numerous accolades, including an Emmy for its cisgender lead Jeffrey Tambor, aging poses unique challenges for transgender older adults. They came of age during decades when transgender people were heavily stigmatized and pathologized. Some came out and made gender transitions during these years, while many others kept their identities hidden for decades and are now coming out and transitioning later in life. Many challenges facing transgender elders are common to the broader older lesbian, gay and bisexual population, but some are different. With a growing older transgender population, there is an urgent need to understand the challenges that can threaten financial security, health and overall well-being.
For a quick rundown of the report, SAGE and NCTE discovered that a lack of cultural and clinical competence regarding transgender people and their health needs, as well as bias and outright discrimination by providers, created serious barriers to quality care for transgender older adults. These barriers, together with financial barriers, mean that many transgender older adults often avoid or delay seeking care. In addition, medically necessary care related to gender transition is often arbitrarily excluded from public and private insurance, despite the Affordable Care Act (ACA) suggesting otherwise. Inability to access this care can contribute to declining health, and these exclusions are often also used to deny coverage for preventive and other medical care transgender older adults need.
The confluence of widespread discrimination across the lifespan, weaker support networks, and barriers to quality care contribute to poor health outcomes for many transgender older people. Transgender people report higher rates of disability, general poor health, depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicidal ideation. Thus, many transgender elders enter their later years with severe health concerns yet without the social and community supports necessary to address them.
In addition, even though today's aging services network provides a wide range of critical services for older adults, this network is currently ill-equipped to provide competent and nondiscriminatory services to transgender older adults, or to address their unique needs. Few aging providers offer cultural competence training or outreach specific to transgender communities. Many transgender older adults are not getting the support they need, and many are reluctant to seek services at all.
SAGE and other organizations are working on creating policies as well as some key solutions for addressing these barriers. To help inform and create this advocacy roadmap, SAGE brought together a diverse committee of leading experts from around the country, which identified several immediate policy and practice priorities to improve the lives of transgender older adults. In the meantime, you can learn more about transgender aging and supports via the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.
In recognition of Transgender Awareness Week, SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging will be highlighting one resource a day until Friday, November 20th which is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR honors the memory of those murdered because of anti-transgender prejudice and is observed in late November in recognition of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester. Rita was a highly visible member of the transgender community in Boston, where she worked locally on education around transgender issues. On Saturday, Nov 28, Rita was murdered in her apartment. TDOR was started as a vigil in her honor and has since become an international event for communities to come together and remember those who have been murdered because of hate.
Nicole Kushner, Alpenglow Photography, on assignment for Out Front Colorado
On this Veteran's Day, SAGE would like to say "thank you" to all of our LGBT vets who served and are still serving in the military. In case you missed it, SAGEVets was recently launched to serve LGBT veterans over the age of 50 who reside in New York State. In partnership with Veterans Justice/LGBT Projects of Legal Services NYC, this program helps SAGE constituents who are military service veterans improve their access to VA benefits and their overallhealth and wellness. In addition to general assistance, SAGEVets will provide guidance to veterans hurt by decades of discriminatory military’ discharge policies.
Latina Vega, who became the SAGEVets Program Coordinator this summer, is a U.S. Air Force veteranwho served during the Gulf War. “When I worked in the veterans’ health clinic, I saw that navigating military and state benefits posed a challenge for older veterans. That’s even worse for LGBT elders. Despite the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, our community still has stigma and history to overcome—most obviously by correcting past discharge statuses. It’s an honor to serve those who have served us,” said Vega.
Are you an LGBT veteran living in New York State, or do you know one who may need assistance? Call SAGEVets: 212-741-2247 x138. Don't forget, we have a number of resources on our site, as well as our sister-site, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, for our LGBT veterans.
In honor of LGBT Elders Day, SAGE is highlighting Jay Kallio's powerful story of working with young activists and battling cancer. Jay gained nationwide visibility in 2012 when he spoke out about navigating the healthcare system as a transgender man living with breast cancer. Now in the midst of a new battle, Jay talks about how a younger community of activists has connected him to newfound strength and courage. This Q&A was originally featured in SAGEMatters, SAGE's magazine. Read the full issue here.
Jay Kallio (Photo Credit: Rosa Goldensohn/DNAinfo.com)
Earlier this year, you were diagnosed with a new condition: terminal lung cancer. Many of us would have given up. Where were you at this point?
Most terminal cancer patients go through a process called “purging” where they start giving away their possessions. I found myself doing the same thing through the “Queer Exchange” Facebook group. When folks came to pick up my castaways, I brought them downstairs because I was ashamed of my apartment’s terrible condition. I live in public housing, which entails a lot of delayed repairs and maintenance. I didn’t have money to do repairs myself like I used to. One of the people, Ella Grasch, was concerned and questioned me in detail about the apartment. I described how the bathroom ceiling was going to fall, that lights were out, fixtures had short-circuited, and that the plumbing was backed up—numerous problems.
How did Ella and other young activists you met through Queer Exchange help you get what you needed?
Despite being trained in activism, I was too sick to advocate for my own needs. They got to work and generated networks, resources, and money. Ella knew a wonderful woman named Brianne Huntsman who set up a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe. She works in social media marketing, so she had the skills to do it right. They raised money to repair my apartment and also to pay for some healthcare costs not covered by Medicare. People started to send in money, $10, $50, $100, $500…it was an enormous help.
I couldn’t manage navigating the bureaucracy of my housing authority, either. I was overwhelmed by the bare minimum I needed to do to survive. Several young people became involved: social workers, someone who works in the mayor’s office, and others. They started making phone calls for me, knowing whom to call and how to get things done. My plumbing problems were soon taken care of. Slowly, many things improved.
You said that meeting younger activists from around the country through Queer Exchange and GoFundMe fueled you to generate yet another bout of activist energy. Tell us about the campaign they helped you fight against your insurance company.
My insurance company refused to cover an experimental cancer treatment—immunotherapy—because it cost too much. It was my only hope for remission. A number of younger activists got involved with my own organizing efforts. First, they joined me at this summer’s Pride March. It was amazing to see the older generation of “ACT-UPers” pushing me in a wheelchair, alongside younger LGBT and health care advocates. Taking the money raised, we planned a rally in front of the insurance company. We videotaped it so we could do an online campaign. We used so many different campaign tactics including street theater, online petitions, and a Twitter war against the insurance HMO. We contacted politicians’ offices, which also added pressure.
As we started the rally, one of the executives of the insurance company came to us and said, “Have you talked to your doctor yet this morning?” My doctor had already been e-mailed with an approval for my immunotherapy treatment. They had done a 180 on a life-saving treatment that had previously been denied. It’s because younger activists got involved and gave me a big shot in the arm that I can fight for myself again.
Simone Kolysh and Jay Kallio march with the National LGBT Cancer Network.
In spite of this battle and other health concerns, your rebel heart still beats strong. How have you helped SAGE and other communities fight for better care and equity?
I have worked with SAGE a lot on LGBT cultural competency and healthcare. I am writing chapters for a guidebook to help healthcare professionals better understand the needs of LGBT cancer patients. I have also presented at a few conferences to advance palliative care funding. I’m getting an awful lot done that will not only help LGBT cancer patients, but also Medicaid recipients and cancer patients across the board.
How can young people join in this fight?
After meeting so many young LGBT activists this year, I’ve said, “If you liked doing this with me, why don’t you consider volunteering with SAGE? We need your help. Beyond pushing us in the wheelchair at the next march, we need you to work with us on advocacy!” The fight goes beyond about being gay. It’s about supporting anyone who may be gay and vulnerable, which includes those who are also young, old, of color, or poor. We need cross-generational community and support for years to come. With our mutual vulnerability, we also share strengths to remedy that vulnerability. Activism works. Get involved.
A difficult question, but one that SAGE is determined to answer with our many resources and programs--including our innovative "Successful Aging" program. A quick check-in with Jerry Chasen, Director of Legacy Planning at SAGE and head of the program, shares the necessity of planning and being aware of our aging future. We asked Jerry a few questions before the TV premiere of “Gen Silent,” a powerful documentary that follows six LGBT elders as they navigate the hardships facing LGBT older adults. The film premieres Monday, November 9, at 9pm ET on Logo. Watch the trailer here and learn more below.
Jerry Chasen shares Successful Aging lessons with participants in Chicago, IL
Many LGBT older people will never participate in SAGE programs, or avail themselves of SAGE services, even as they get to what we affectionately call “SAGE age.” But that’s okay. SAGE has lots to offer every LGBT person as they get older.
There are some fundamental ways that aging will change for everyone in the coming decades. The LGBT community of course will experience the same issues that all older Americans face. But there are also ways that this generation of LGBT older people will face challenges beyond those experienced by older people generally. We’re more likely
to be isolated, less likely to have an intergenerational network of support, and we don’t have confidence that programs and institutions that address aging generally will welcome or serve us.
Successful Aging provides a context for us to discuss these issues proactively and positively. A good deal of the aging experience is determined by choices we make. Through the program’s five themes—Reflection, Momentum, Wellness, Preparation, and Legacy— we focus on those choices. Successful Aging raises both awareness of the issues and the options, and provides support going forward.
What has SAGE hoped to accomplish with Successful Aging?
There are various components of the Successful Aging program—live presentations, emails, website “lessons,” social media sharing. We spent time last year tweaking the various aspects, including doing a “test run” for key SAGE supporters and other audiences. We’ve now got a good tool box of materials to engage our audience.
We recognize that talking about aging in some respects makes people think about their own mortality, so starting that discussion is itself often a challenge.
Nonetheless, quoting Ben Franklin “failing to plan is planning to fail,” and it’s as true of aging as anything else.
What’s on the horizon for Successful Aging?
We’ll continue to build on what we’ve been doing. People are very receptive and interested in our program— interested enough to have asked for more. We’ve organized various presentations, and have also presented our program at the invitation of corporate ERGs, other non-profits, and private advisors. For example a financial planner who attended a presentation arranged for us to present before a group of her clients. This is a great way to support SAGE and the Successful Aging initiative.
What our participants have to say is critical. At the end of the day, aging is an individual experience. We invite feedback and input from attendees, and so we’re able to learn from one another. If people let us know what they’re interested in, we support them by sending information to them on that subject.
In January, we’re going to launch a series of Activities, one per month, which will encourage and facilitate deeper exploration of various things that will support aging. That will be combined with some online discussion and sharing, beginning to develop some of the connections and community that will really help make this program effective.
Your position at SAGE is “Director of Legacy Planning.” How does Successful Aging connect with that?
I’m a 64 year old man. I look at where we as a community have journeyed and I’m immensely proud. To have come from Stonewall, through the horror of the AIDS epidemic, to marriage equality has been quite a trip—and leaves quite a legacy.
But none of us are done. I look ahead at what I call the “next chapter” for me personally, for my community, and for SAGE’s work. The way we navigate these years will be the capstone on that legacy, and I’m doing what I can to help SAGE make that happen.
Yesterday at the Persad Center, SAGE, Equality PA and the Center for American Progress released a new series of videos telling the stories of how the lack of discrimination protections in Pennsylvania affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their families in Pennsylvania.
Multiple polls show that more than 80% of Pennsylvanians agree that all people, including gay and transgender people, should be protected from discrimination at work, in housing, and in business and government services. Despite this fact, a majority of Pennsylvanians are unaware that these protections don’t exist at the state or federal level.
The new videos will be used as part of a statewide campaign to educate Pennsylvanians about the PA Fairness Act, which would update the state’s laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity in current discrimination protections.
“People all over the state of Pennsylvania are shocked to learn that there are no basic discrimination protections for gay or transgender people in the workplace, housing, or business or government services at the state or federal level. That’s why we are working with our partners SAGE and Center for American Progress to educate the people of Pennsylvania and encourage them to take action,” said, Levana Layendecker, Deputy Director of Equality PA.
Michael Adams, Chief Executive Officer of SAGE, explained, “A growing body of research --and SAGE's experience nationwide -- decisively demonstrates how difficult it is for LGBT older people to find appropriate housing. For example, a national study last year documented that an astonishing 44% of LGBT older people applying for ‘senior housing’ face discrimination just because of who they are.”
The videos are available online and are being viewed in a series of watch parties around Pennsylvania where hundreds of attendees will view the videos and write letters to their state legislators. If you would like to take part or interested in learning more, please contact Levana Layendecker at email@example.com.
On Monday, October 19, 2015, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders) held its 20th Anniversary Awards & Gala at Gotham Hall in New York. The event raised over $750,000–a SAGE record–and served to recognize SAGE’s achievements throughout the country, as well as honoring five leaders committed to improving life among diverse LGBT aging populations. The honorees included Jim Obergefell, who will be presented with the LGBT Pioneer Award by SAGE board member emerita Edie Windsor. This was Mr. Obergefell’s first award from a national organization.
The 20th Anniversary SAGE Awards & Gala also introduced the Jack Watters Corporate Advocate Award, honoring Stephen Simcock of JPMorgan Chase for his leadership on LGBT senior housing. Assemblymember Deborah Glick—the first openly gay member elected to the New York State legislature—received the Paula Ettelbrick Community Service Award. SAGE also acknowledged Ted Snowdon & Duffy Violante for their continuous support of LGBT community programs, and the Macquarie Group for its commitment to SAGE Center Harlem and SAGE’s national programs.
Gabriella Pizzolo, child-star of Fun Home—Broadway’s first-ever musical with a lesbian protagonist and winner of five 2015 Tony Awards—rounded out the evening with a special performance of “Ring of Keys.