June 20, 2016

The Longest Day: An LGBT Older Adult and Caregiver Perspective for Living with Alzheimer ’s Disease

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Peggy Killian, VP Communications, Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter and the author, Sherrill Wayland

Annually the Alzheimer’s Association hosts Longest Day events on the summer solstice to raise awareness and understanding of the challenging journey faced by people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter, marked this Longest Day with a sunrise to sunset ride on the MetroLink train, interviewing people living with the disease, their caregivers, advocates and other professionals to raise awareness and understanding.

I woke up at 4 a.m. to make my way to the train station for a 5:30 a.m. Longest Day Ride and Interview to discuss supporting LGBT older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. As I walked through my still darkened house, I was met with silence as my wife and our dogs continued to sleep in the early morning hours. This quiet, darkness made me reflect on what can often be a lonely journey for LGBT older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Who is there to hear their stories and support their journey?

The reflections from my early morning stayed with me during the hour long ride as we discussed how to best support LGBT older adults living with this disease. Following is a recap of the topics discussed and some steps that aging network providers can take to improve the supports for LGBT older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers:

The Importance of Advance Planning – We often discuss the need for financial and legal planning. Planning becomes even more critical when someone receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease that will most likely progress to a point where the person is reliant on others to make decisions and provide care. Regardless of a person’s marital status, documents such as durable powers of attorney for finances and health, living wills, and wills assist the aging network in knowing what their wishes are and who should be the person making decisions on their behalf. As advocates and aging network providers, we can help ensure that the planning documents are in place early in the support process.

Telling Our Life Stories – As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it is often the long term memories that stay intact and shared by the person living with the disease. Creating a welcoming space for LGBT older adults to share their life experiences, loves, losses, fears, and significant relationships, including families of choice (close friends not related by blood or marriage), partner or spouse is critical in providing the best possible care and support. All too often, LGBT older adults do not seek supportive care from health and social services due to fear of and experiences with stigma and discrimination. By working to create welcoming spaces that honor a person’s life history, we can help people to share what is most important to them and may become an integral part of their future support and journey with this disease.

This life history can also be important during times of disaster and trauma, such as the recent mass shooting and deaths of 49 LGBT and allied community members in Orlando, FL. LGBT older adults have experienced a lifetime of stigma, discrimination, and many may have experienced violence such as that experienced during the Stonewall Riots and other events in their lives. Knowing their life story as an LGBT person will help aging network provide the support and understanding during a time of grief, crisis, or trauma.

It is also important to recognize that LGBT older adults and caregivers may first need to develop trust with your organization. LGBT older adults and caregivers may then feel comfortable and safe to share their stories. If at first a person doesn’t feel comfortable sharing, give them space, time and reassurance that your organization is a welcoming space.

Respecting Relationships – LGBT older adults often express feeling that their significant relationships and families of choice are not recognized or respected in the same way as a non-LGBT person’s significant other, family or spouse. Giving the same recognition and honor to LGBT older adult’s relationships and caregivers is important to help ensure that the support systems are in place to best meet the needs of an LGBT person living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

For organizations offering caregiving and grief support, it is essential that facilitators and volunteers can assist in creating the welcoming space where all relationships are respected and honored within the group setting.

Offering LGBT Cultural Competency Training – The Alzheimer’s Association has been a strong partner with SAGE over the years.  Several Alzheimer's Association Chapters have participated in SAGE's LGBT Cultural Competency training. They are among some of the first SAGECare Credentialed Organizations. Providing LGBT Older Adult Cultural Competency training is an essential step to supporting staff and volunteers in working with LGBT older adults and their caregivers. It also sends a large signal to the LGBT community that your organization is welcoming to LGBT older adults and caregivers.

As my interview ended and I walked from the platform back to my car, it struck me, “While I can get off this Longest Day Ride, the ride for LGBT older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, is one that repeats itself day after day.”  Through continued education and awareness, we can create an aging network that values and supports the journey of LGBT older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Take time today, to visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and the vast array of resources available on Alzheimer's/Dementia, caregiving, legal and financial planning, and best practices for serving LGBT older adults.

Sherrill Wayland is the Manager of National Projects at SAGE.

June 15, 2016

LGBT Vigil Interfaith: Join Us, Lend Your Voice, Prayers

Last night, Suley Cruz, SAGE Center Harlem’s Site Manager, spoke at an InterFaith Prayer Vigil hosted by Integrity Harlem (LGBT Ministry) at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. Read her powerful words below.

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It’s hard to come up with the proper words to fully convey the hurt we all feel at this moment. It’s difficult to grasp that one individual could exact such violence on people simply out enjoying their lives.

I take comfort in knowing that I work for SAGE, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. I take comfort in seeing the faces of our SAGE participants, seasoned Heroes of Pride, our elders who remain unafraid to live their best lives and walk in their truth, who have seen and overcome so much yet remind us there is still work to be done.
I take comfort in gatherings like this Inter-faith vigil tonight, where we embrace our differences and come together to continue the work of combating hatred and discrimination.

I take comfort in seeing the outpouring of love across the nation from varying communities. Reminding us that we are a diverse nation but we are all human. If one community is hurting we are ALL hurting.

We must remember that these actions were of one individual. We must not feed into the rhetoric that seeks to divide us. Our strength is in our unity and continued commitment to fight against injustice and bigotry.

We owe it to our brother’s and sister’s lost in Orlando, we owe it to the future generations, and we owe it our elders who have brought us this far.

-Suley Cruz, Site Manager, SAGE Center Harlem

June 14, 2016

Building Intergenerational LGBTQ AAPI Communities

This post originally appeared on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog on May 25, 2016. Read the original post here.

By Vega Subramaniam

I find myself attending LGBTQ Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) events with less and less frequency over time. At one point, queer AAPI community events made up most of my calendar; now, hardly at all. Part of it is that other activities and responsibilities occupy my time, including family responsibilities. Part of it is that my tastes have changed – I am now much happier spending an evening with a few friends at home rather than going out. And speaking of going out: part of it is my lifestyle has changed. I was recently invited to an event that started at 10:00 p.m.! I mean, who does that?! Oh, right, I did, once upon a time.

And to be frank, part of it is that being the oldest person in the room over and over again takes a toll. I recently went on a search for my AAPI lesbian/bi/trans elders, and I (re)discovered how few of us there are, who are out and over 50. And over 60? Forget it. Like, count-on-two-hands few. Hardly what you could call critical mass.

At the same time, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people who are young, queer, and AAPI yearn for a connection to their elders and their histories, to know that others came before them and they’re not alone, and to learn from our experiences. Current leaders of LGBTQ AAPI groups are reassured to learn that the challenges and schisms they face now are the same ones we faced years and decades ago. OK, maybe reassured and also supremely frustrated.

So then I wonder where my compadres are. Well, they’re probably spending a quiet evening at home, or taking care of household and family responsibilities. Maybe sleeping. And circling back to those challenges and schisms I mentioned, probably as weary of the scene as I get sometimes.

There are inevitable constraints on what kinds of spaces naturally lend themselves to multigenerational participation (event start times, for example!). Our respective interests, frustrations, preoccupations are quite different from each other’s. Our cultural cues sometimes feel worlds apart.

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And as with any intergenerational space, opportunities to misunderstand and be misunderstood abound. We each feel that we know better, that we’re right, that the other should listen and learn from us. We each feel the pain and invisibility of ageism.

That said, it’s pretty clear that there’s a desire, on all sides, to have multigenerational spaces. We all light up when we spend quality time with people of different generations. There’s no question that multigenerational spaces support all of us – I’d even go so far as to say we need them for our survival as an LGBTQ AAPI community.

The International Longevity Centre-UK’s “Intergenerational Projects for the LGBT Community” toolkit outlines the many benefits of such spaces:

  • Provide a space where young people can talk to older people about common experiences (such as coming out).
  • Provide role models for younger LGBT people by meeting older people who are comfortable and confident in their identity and who are simultaneously successful in their working lives and personal relationships.
  • Provide a space where any negative generational perceptions can be challenged. Some younger participants in the projects reported that they held negative views of older LGBT people before the projects began. From the perspective of older LGBT people, the projects allow older LGBT people to learn about the diversity of sexual and gender identities that exist among younger LGBT people.
  • Help prevent and overcome a relatively high degree of loneliness and social isolation among older and younger LGBT people, by bringing them together.
  • Provide an alternative forum for debate and support for younger and older LGBT people to discuss their common needs as service users and the discrimination or barriers they may face in accessing services.
  • Provide a space where older people can interact socially with younger people and improve the confidence of older people in communicating with younger people, which may be of particular value given that service providers are likely to be of a younger generation.
  • Provide a useful way of bringing different identities across the LGBT spectrum together, where historically projects may have worked with one group in isolation.
  • Allow younger LGBT people to learn about LGBT history directly from older people, which can lead to a greater appreciation of the liberties currently often taken for granted, and also highlight the challenges that remain.
  • Provide a method for strengthening the visibility of the LGBT community in wider societal terms. Bringing older and younger people together to work on a community project can highlight the diversity, but also the cohesiveness of the LGBT community, to the wider community.
  • Help participants understand, construct, and share their experiences of identifying as LGBT.

We’re seeing more intentional work to create intergenerational spaces, in projects ranging from LGBTQ Allyship’s Conversations Across Generationsto UC San Diego’s Intergenerational Dialogue.

While it’s heartening to see more groups and communities working to build those spaces (and even a toolkit specifically for this!), few are geared toward the AAPI community. The API Equality-Northern California’s Dragon Fruit Project, an intergenerational oral history project, offers a wonderful place to share our stories, house our legacies, and learn from one another. We’ve also seen other efforts at local levels to offer multigenerational gatherings and learning opportunities.

 

I’d also promote intergenerational co-mentorship programs, ones that foster what Suzanne Pharr calls “the fundamental belief that we are all people of worth. Its methods are asking questions and listening intently and respectfully for the answers. Where it leads us is toward the sometimes illusive dream of equality and justice – which can contain all our best ideas without requiring an age i.d.” We all can use some retooling of our toolkits, like learning to ask questions and listen intently about how concepts of race and gender have changed over the years and how those changes affect our experiences as people who are L, G, B, T, and /or Q.

Ultimately, my hope is that as we do approach a critical mass of out LGBTQ AAPI seniors, we increasingly build intentional intergenerational spaces, until they’re so organically embedded that we no longer have to work at it or even think about it.

Watch and share the recent video of SAGE’s Transgenerational Theater Project, where trans people of all ages come together and create.

June 13, 2016

Supporting LGBT Older Adults During Grief and Loss Following Orlando Attack

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By Sherrill Wayland, MSW

As an LGBT community, we reflect on the tragic loss of life experienced at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Vigils are now being held in communities large and small, providing the LGBT community, families and friends a safe space to grieve and remember. Yet, we know many LGBT older adults are isolated and often lack the support systems that they can turn to in times of need. As a community, now is especially important time to step up to support LGBT older adults during this difficult time.

SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is asking all older adult service organizations to simply reach out and offer support.  In the coming days, take time to make a visit or a personal phone call to an LGBT older adult you support and let them know you are here to listen.. The tragic murders at the LGBT nightclub may bring about a sense of trauma and anxiety for LGBT older adults who know all too well the realities of violence and discrimination due to homophobia and transphobia. As a service provider, you may provide the only safe space an LGBT older adult can turn to for support..

If you’re not sure what say, simply tell them, "I am reaching out today to let you know that I am here to listen and support you if you need to talk."

Here are additional organizations that can assist in linking LGBT older adults to community services during this time of grieving and healing:

  • The Center – LGBT Center in Orlando offering A Crisis Hotline at 407-227-1446 and grief counseling in the coming weeks
  • We Stand With Orlando – for a listing of events, vigils and resources
  • SAGENet – for SAGE Affiliate Chapters with local resources
  • National Resource Center on LGBT Aging – for educational resources and links for LGBT welcoming services
  • CenterLink – for list of Community Centers across the Country, many will be providing grief support and counseling
  • GLBT National Hotline – providing free and confidential peer-peer support and resources
  • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs – coalition of programs that document and advocate for victims of anti-LGBT and anti-HIV/AIDS violence/harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct and other forms of victimization

Sherrill Wayland is the Manager of National Projects at SAGE.

#WeAreOrlando: Together We Are Stronger than Bigotry and Hate

Michael AdamsDear Friends,

I know that all of us have been struggling today to grapple with our outrage and our grief over the senseless and vicious attack on LGBT people and our friends at Pulse in Orlando. To know that an LGBT club was targeted for the latest and worst mass shooting in this gun-infested country is horrible beyond words.

To suspect that some will use this tragedy to advance their own agenda of hatred and bigotry is also cause for deep concern. It reminds us of the responsibility that we – as communities of people who are committed to justice and equity for all – have to one another.

At SAGE, our hearts go out to all who have suffered, and will suffer, as a result of the tragedy in Orlando. We stand strong with every community and every person who is committed to building a society that is far more just, equitable and safe than the one in which we currently live.

Our elders remind us that the attack on Pulse is only the latest, and the worst, attack on LGBT clubs. Prior attacks targeted, to name just a few, the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, where 32 lives were lost to arson in 1973; the Otherwise Lounge, a lesbian club in Atlanta that was bombed in 1997; the Backstreet Café in Roanoke, which was sprayed with gunfire in 2000, and Neighbors in Seattle, which was set ablaze in 2013.

These and many other acts of senseless violence have been perpetrated against our communities by attackers from many different backgrounds and traditions. Their only common denominator was hatred and bigotry. It is that hatred and bigotry – in any form and targeted against any community –  against which we once again stand strong.

In grief and struggle,

Michael Signature

Michael Adams


There is a 7 PM vigil tonight, Monday, June 13, at the Stonewall Inn in NYC.  Details are available on the SAGE Facebook page for those who would like to attend. Information on similar events being organized in communities all across the country can be found here. If you are attending or know of a vigil taking place in your local community, please share in the comments.

In light of the Orlando tragedy, SAGE and the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) released a joint statement that illustrates how all groups dedicated to peace and justice must come together against bigotry and violence: "Many constituents of SAGE are Latino and many constituents of NHCOA are LGBT. Our diversity is a source of strength, and must not be used to create division."

June 9, 2016

Celebrating LGBT Heroes of Pride

It’s the first full week of Pride Month 2016 and the LGBT community is off to an exciting start. On May 31st, President Obama proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month, calling upon the country to "eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people." SAGE is grateful for this special recognition of a longtime tradition that's brought the LGBT community together.

During Pride Month with celebrations nationwide, the LGBT community and its allies remember the historic Stonewall Riots that happened in New York City in 1969. This year is particularly special, as we mark the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell marriage decision.

Join SAGE as we recognize the Heroes of Pride — LGBT trailblazers who have fought long and hard to make a better life for all of us — and reaffirm our love for friends, family and each other. If you’re in the New York area, please join us for these upcoming Pride events, and visit our SAGENet Affiliate websites to find out how you can celebrate in a city near you.

Brooklyn Pride: Saturday, June 11
Harlem Pride: Saturday, June 25
Manhattan Pride: Sunday, June 26
Bronx Pride: Saturday, July 16

If you missed our booth at Queens Pride on June 5, here's a photo of SAGE staff spreading the love:

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Visit our Pride 2016! photo album on Facebook

Other important tributes in June:

On Saturday, June 4, to kick off the summer season, SAGE held its 24th Annual Celebration in the Pines, honoring Eric Sawyer, Linda Gottlieb, Marc Cote & Jay Henry. See photos on Facebook.

On Sunday, June 5, for HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, we paid tribute on social to LGBT elders living with HIV. Today more than half of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. are over the age of 50. While HIV has become more like managing a chronic disease, many long-term survivors are facing new crises that affect their physical, mental and financial well-being. Follow the conversation and show your support on social media with #‎LongTermSurvivors.

On Friday, June 10, the Chicago-based National Board Members of SAGE will host its annual SAGE & Friends reception, where SAGE will honor U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, for his advocacy on behalf of LGBT rights and his support of issues impacting older individuals. SAGE will also recognize Phyllis Johnson and Torlene "Toi" Williams for their pioneering Affinity Community Services' Trailblazers, and for their grassroots advocacy on behalf of LGBT older adults in Chicago.

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'Legends' gather for the exhibition reception at Leslie-Lohman.

Also this month, SAGE is celebrating our LGBT elders of color with a series of powerful yet understated photographs of unsung Black LGBTQ 'legends,' now on display through August 12 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. Read more and see images from the project here.

In the words of President Obama:

This journey, led by forward-thinking individuals who have set their sights on reaching for a brighter tomorrow, has never been easy or smooth.  The fight for dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is reflected in the tireless dedication of advocates and allies who strive to forge a more inclusive society.  They have spurred sweeping progress by changing hearts and minds and by demanding equal treatment -- under our laws, from our courts, and in our politics.  This month, we recognize all they have done to bring us to this point, and we recommit to bending the arc of our Nation toward justice.

Stay tuned this month for Pride 2016 updates and follow the SAGE blog as we celebrate LGBT Heroes Of Pride in June and beyond. Follow and share on social with hash tag #HeroesOfPride.

 

June 3, 2016

SAGE CEO Michael Adams Receives Burton Grebin Award for Innovation


Michael AdamsToday, SAGE CEO Michael Adams received The Burton Grebin, MD Award for Innovation from the Continuing Care Leadership Coalition (CCLC), for his personal commitment to the important issue of LGBT long term care.

The Burton Grebin, MD Award for Innovation was established in 2010 following the passing of Dr. Burton Grebin, a leader and innovator in pediatric long term care. In his honor, CCLC established this aware to be given to an individual who has been innovative in the field of long term care, and who embodies the dedication that Grebin brought to the long term care field.

SAGE is committed to innovative solutions to help LGBT elders age successfully. In May, SAGE launched SAGECare, its new cultural competence training program for care providers nationwide. Through SAGECare, providers across the country are trained to offer cutting-edge senior care to LGBT clients.

With its comprehensive set of educational offerings and credentials, SAGECare has established a new set of benchmarks in LGBT elder care, and has trained 11,477 providers to date. For more information, visit sageusa.care.

From the award ceremony:

"We are proud as members of CCLC to care for some of the most vulnerable and diverse populations in New York and the nation. We recognize Mr. Adams today as we continue to work to improve as skilled and culturally competent providers of care for all who see long term care from our organizations."

 

May 31, 2016

Connecting Across Generations

By Timothy Wroten

Jay Kallio gained nationwide visibility in 2012 when he shared his story 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.

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Photo Credit: Rosa Goldensohn/DNAinfo.com

Timothy Wroten: 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?

Jay Kallio: 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 pub•lic housing, which entails a lot of delayed re•pairs 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.

TW: How did Ella and other young activists you met through Queer Exchange help you get what you needed?

JK: 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 be•came 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.

TW: 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.

JK: 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 gener•ation 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.

TW: 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?

JK: 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.

TW: How can young people join in this fight?

JK: 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.

Read about Jay Kallio and other LGBT trailblazers in the Fall 2015 issue of SAGEMatters. May is Older Americans Month. Connect on social media with #OAM16.

May 25, 2016

Pushing the Envelope of Progress

By Chris Delatorre

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From left: Barbara Satin (National LGBTQ Task Force), Sandy Warshaw, Dr. Imani Woody (Mary's House), and Michael Adams (SAGE).

As the first anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges approaches, it’s a good time to recap a few developments that show continued progress since last June. In 2015, Jim Obergefell received the inaugural LGBT Pioneer Award for his courage and persistence, which inspired the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality, forever changing the landscape of LGBT social politics.

In an interview with SAGE last year, Obergefell said, "Our country still hasn’t lived up to the promise of equality that’s part of our shared American identity," adding that he would work toward passage of the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations and other areas. The bill has since attracted significant Congressional support, including that of two main 2016 presidential candidates.

Of course, bills and resolutions are one way to sort social progress; as the old proverb begins, "give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day." If you teach a man to fish, however, you feed him for a lifetime — which basically translates to expanding leadership positions to include LGBT people, which helps to provide sustainable long term support for the community.

Consider LGBT servicemen and women. The nation has come a long way since "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" was repealed five years ago. On May 17 in what's been applauded as a historic step for the military, the U.S. Senate confirmed Eric Fanning as Army secretary, making him "the first openly gay person to lead a military service."

The transgender community is making strides as well. The U.S. military is now considering a policy that would allow transgender troops to serve openly, and despite recent setbacks in North Carolina and other states with discriminatory bills like HB2, transgender advocates led by Reverend Debra J. Hopkins and others, continue to push forward. Hopkins’ efforts have gained the support of allies like U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch who was described earlier this month as "the world's most powerful advocate for trans rights."

Also recently, President Obama appointed Barbara Satin to his Advisory Council on Faith-based Neighborhood Partnerships. Satin, who attended the White House Conference on Aging as a SAGE delegate last year, is the first transgender woman to serve on the advisory council.

In a blog for the National LGBTQ Task Force, Satin wrote, "As a trans woman activist and an old person (I turned 81 two days after the conference), I felt a special responsibility to give the reality of trans aging – our issues and needs – a high profile."

This is progress.

Chris Delatorre is the Senior Digital Content Manager at SAGE. Learn more about SAGE’s federal advocacy at sageusa.org/federal. May is Older Americans Month. Connect on social media with #OAM16 and join SAGE's #TalkB4UWalk campaign.

May 20, 2016

Giving Voice and Visibility to Everyday LGBT Older People

United_States_Capitol_-_west_frontThe recent reauthorization of the Older Americans Act left out LGBT older Americans.

On Thursday the Washington, D.C. Steering Committee of SAGE hosted its annual SAGE & Friends event, giving constituents an opportunity to engage individual and corporate donors, community partners, policy advocates and other SAGE supporters, in order to learn firsthand about the work SAGE is advancing on a national level and in the D.C. area.

With the recent reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), there is plenty to talk about in the nation’s capitol. While President Obama’s signature preserves a critical safety net for older Americans, LGBT-inclusive amendments in the House and Senate were overlooked. This means there is still work to be done on this front, and SAGE is committed to seeing that these provisions make it into the next iteration of the OAA.

As part of SAGE’s response to the reauthorization, CEO Michael Adams said that SAGE "will continue to draw attention to the unique needs of LGBT older adults and advocate aggressively so that all relevant federal laws and programs address their needs and enable them to age with the dignity and respect that they deserve."

As the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, the OAA aims to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. If this piece of legislation indeed places emphasis on more vulnerable elders who face multiple barriers and health challenges related to aging, then why overlook the needs of the LGBT community?

The LGBT population in the U.S. is growing and gaining visibility. Gallup numbers from 2015 estimate the national average of LGBT residents to be 3.6 percent, and by 2030 the number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people older than 65 will double to about 3 million people. The impact of these statistics becomes greater when we consider the human stories behind them.

Just days after the OAA reauthorization was signed, former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford (D-Pennsylvania) announced plans to marry a man in what CBS News calls a “moving” editorial for the New York Times. Wofford, 90, said, "I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for second time to have found happiness." Despite an apparent disregard of our nation’s growing LGBT older population, Wofford is an example of how LGBT elders are both present and prominent, even at the seat of government.

IMG_5690George Takei at SAGE & Friends in LA: "I'm grateful for what you've done."

The former senator isn’t the only prominent LGBT elder to come out at an older age. At SAGE & Friends LA in April, social media powerhouse and LGBT icon George Takei shared on what it meant for him to support the community from inside the closet for so long, before finally coming out in his 70s. Now approaching 80, the actor of Star Trek fame is bringing special attention to LGBT older people who have paved the way. "To those of you who have been in the trenches since '69 when Stonewall happened, we have a great profound gratitude to you but also I feel that we have a debt," Takei said. "I'm grateful to all of you for what you've done."

Learn more about SAGE’s federal advocacy at sageusa.org/federal. May is Older Americans Month. Connect on social media with #OAM16 and follow the SAGE blog for inspiring stories of our LGBT elders.