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4 posts from July 2014

July 23, 2014

President Obama Signs Executive Order on LGBT Job Discrimination


SAGE was privileged to be in the room with President Obama on July 21, 2014, when, with the stroke of a pen, he put in place protections that will help countless of LGBT older adults.  In the executive order he signed, he ensured that transgender federal workers would join their lesbian, gay, and bisexual brothers and sisters in being protected against job discrimination based on their gender identity.   He also ensured that LGBT employees of federal contractors will be protected against discrimination.  Many LGBT older adults, after facing a life of discrimination and lower earnings, continue to work, to maintain their economic security.  As a result, it is welcome news that this generation, who fought to get out of the closet, will be able to bring their full selves to work, at more workplaces, without fear of discrimination.

--Posted by Aaron Tax

July 17, 2014

Advocating for Change: Notes from SAGE Portland

Today's post comes to us from Glen Ulmer, a longtime volunteer at our SAGENet affiliate in Portland, Oregon. Learn more about SAGENet and find the affiliate nearest you online here

I’ve been involved at SAGE Metro Portland (SMP) since its prior incarnation as a local group called “Gay & Grey”—a title that was pretty descriptive of the organization's members, the population it serves, and of me. I was retiring from my career in tax law and I was excited to become involved in an organization focused on improving the lives of LGBT elders.

I’ve volunteered  in a few different roles over the years, as a fundraiser, friendly visitor, and committee member. However, I really didn't feel that I had found my calling until I was asked to serve on the Advocacy committee. With my background in law and accounting, I really loved the opportunity to help identify relevant issues and advocate on behalf of local LGBT elders. 

Celebrating Pride in Portland


SMP is a program of Friendly House, which is a neighborhood center serving all ages, cradle to grave, located in Northwest Portland. As I’ve learned from Mya Chamberlin, the Friendly House Director of Community Services, SMP takes a three pronged approach to advocacy:

1) Advocating for individuals who are confronting a specific challenge or injustice though our case management services, friendly visiting, and calls to action. A great example of this is helping a transgender participant raise funds for a gender affirming surgery that Medicare won’t cover. 

2) Shedding light on the experiences of LGBT older adults by creating opportunities to share their stories. Visibility for LGBT older adult issues in mainstream settings and/or youth focused LGBT settings helps build community and understanding.

3) Affecting change in rules, laws, policies or practices that negatively impact LGBT older adults. SMP staff and volunteers have had the opportunity to participate in national, state and local dialogs including the National LGBT Housing Summit and Aging In Place discussions.  

Our work in all of these areas has been reinforced through our affiliation with SAGE. Not long after I joined the Advocacy Committee, Lauren Fontanarosa, SAGE Metro Portland's Coordinator, was contacted by Aaron Tax, the Director of Federal Government Relations for SAGE. Aaron is based in Washington, D.C. and wanted to let us know that an Oregon Congresswoman, Representative Suzanne Bonamici, made a statement at a hearing in support of LGBT older adults and made it her goal to include them as a "group of greatest social need" in the Older Americans Act ("OAA") reauthorization. 

Aaron asked us to have some constituents call her Portland and Washington, DC offices and express our thanks.  He also asked us to mention that it is important that the law require the collection of data about the participation of LGBT individuals in the activities carried out by the OAA and the effectiveness of these activities in reaching LGBT older adults.  Finally Aaron also asked us to mention that we would like Representative Bonamici to recommend permanently establishing the LGBT Center on Aging, which is housed at SAGE in New York.    Lauren immediately rallied the troops and calls were made to Representative Bonamici's offices locally and in Washington, D.C. We were also pleased to discover that SAGE Metro Portland is actually located within Bonamici’s district! It was just the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

On February 28th, Aaron called again--Representative Bonamici had introduced her bill, and it contained all the priorities that Aaron suggested.  We rallied our people once again and called her offices to express our appreciation, and ask how we could offer help. After some discussion, we realized that the stories of our participants could be a powerful resource, so we arranged an afternoon of conversation between Representative Bonamici and a group of participants—a terrific opportunity for Bonamici, and the media, to hear SAGE stories firsthand and to reinforce how the OAA provides vital support to all of us as we age. 

I’ve continued to work with Representative Bonamici on this issue, and I think we've established a great relationship with our Congresswoman and with her staff.   It’s deeply is rewarding to have a Representative who listens, cares and gets engaged.

This is just one remarkable story from my time working with SAGE Metro Portland.  I feel sure that I'm making a valuable contribution to our community, and I can hardly wait for the next opportunity!  In fact I'm working on one now.  But more about that later.... 

-- Posted by Glen Ulmer


July 8, 2014

Celebrating SAGE Pride Coast to Coast

SAGE celebrated Manhattan Pride on Sunday June 29 (check out photos online here), and the festivities will continue in New York City with Staten Island PrideFest on Saturday July 12 and Bronx Pride on Saturday July 19! Across the country, SAGENet affiliates participated in many other celebrations, from Portland, Oregon to Raleigh, North Carolina. 

We've collected some of the best photos from SAGE Pride celebrations coast to coast. View selections below, and see the complete series online here!

Gathering in Chicago, Illinois

Celebrating in the Hudson Valley, New York


Cheering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

-- Posted by Kira Garcia


July 1, 2014

"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.

Aaron Tax and Robert Espinoza of SAGE, Edwin Walker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging, and Andrew Wallace and Jeremy Helton of StoryCorps at the White House.


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