"Generations of Pride" at the White House
On Friday, June 27, SAGE, StoryCorps and the White House co-hosted "Generations of Pride," an event held at the White House to honor the lives of LGBT older people and young people. SAGE’s Senior Director of Public Policy and Communications, Robert Espinoza, delivered the closing remarks at the event to commemorate the occasion.
On behalf of our board of directors, our staff and millions of LGBT older people around the country, SAGE would like to express our tremendous gratitude to the White House, StoryCorps and our esteemed panelists for this remarkable event this afternoon. In particular, we would like to acknowledge Gautam Raghavan at the White House; Administrator Kathy Greenlee, Edwin Walker and his colleagues at the Administration for Community Living; Robin Sparkman, Andrew Wallace and Jeremy Helton at StoryCorps; and to SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations, Aaron Tax. We are also grateful for the leadership and the work of countless others who made today possible.
The stories we heard today are stories that have traveled decades; they span cities, town and states; they migrate continents, countries and cultures; they embody both the challenges and the resilience of LGBT people to survive, despite the odds. Harvey Milk once said, “Hope is never silent,” and these stories embody what it means to challenge the silence that so often aims to restrain us, and to engender the hope that could ultimately liberate us.
This afternoon we've heard stories that chronicle some of this country’s most historic cultural and political moments. We invoked the thousands of lesbian, gay, and bisexual troops who were discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the previous ban on open service, as well as the resilience of people who outlasted those discriminatory regimes. And we acknowledge there is still work to be done to allow our trans brothers and sisters to serve openly. In the room, we felt the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which ravaged and galvanized a generation; we heard about the conflicted role of the Church and of a hard-earned faith for LGBT people; we heard about the high rates of homelessness and the experiences in the foster care system and with bullying among LGBT young people; we felt what it means to age as LGBT with smaller support systems and in a long-term care system too biased for our own comfort; and we heard what it means to live as transgender and gender non-conforming.
In many ways, we’re still convincing a world to make sense of all of our realities -- that we deserve fairness, a quality of life, and unique supports. We know what it means to survive the prejudice, the abuse, the violence and the unrelenting road ahead. These stories can emerge from personal, raw and persistent conversations with our own families, as we heard in today's clips. LGBT people, our allies and "possibility models," to quote Laverne Cox, have consistently tapped their courage to create communities based on our values and to imagine solutions that transform our tinier worlds in unprecedented ways.
President Obama’s leadership and his administration should be commended for the remarkable progress they have made on various fronts related to LGBT rights. We know that the root of all great stories is a turning point where what transpired before is re-imagined into all that follows. The LGBT movement is that story about progress -- the before and the after -- it’s still evolving, for sure, but perhaps it's so multi-faceted, it requires every color in the rainbow to impart its meaning.
And this event speaks to all that remains to be done -- to protect our relationships, including our spouses, partners, children and families of choice; to erase violence and discrimination in our daily lives, in the workplace and everywhere under the law; to improve our health, our housing and our economic security; to honor the complexities of our sexualities, our gender identities and expressions; to pursue racial and economic justice, repairing the racism within our communities and the external structures of racism that have been embedded in American life; and to remove the age-related and disability-related biases and barriers that can target us as older people, people with disabilities and youth.
In every town and city, in every state, at the federal level and worldwide – we have so much to build upon. Our story unfolds -- and it's panoramic.
On a final note, SAGE is proud to be partnering with StoryCorps on StoryCorps OutLoud to gather the stories nationwide of LGBT people. You can hear these stories on Friday mornings on NPR and visit storycorps.org to listen and record your own stories. And you can visit sageusa.org to learn more about the lives of LGBT older people who paved the way for the rights we’re witnessing today, as well as SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging at lgbtagingcenter.org for a clearinghouse of LGBT elder resources.
Thank you for your attention, your commitment to a better world, and for taking the time to honor LGBT history and the generations of pride who blessed us today.
-- Posted by Kira Garcia