2 posts categorized "Disabilities"

November 18, 2013

The Unmeasured LGBT Life

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post.

1robertI spent the summer of 2012 homebound, recovering alone in my 400-square-foot studio apartment in Brooklyn. A serious accident on Memorial Day led to ankle surgery, 12 weeks on crutches and the final stretch of August re-learning to walk. When you live alone and are relatively immobile, the days are epic, and the psyche churns with questions: Would I fully regain my ability to walk? Had I amassed the proper support network of friends at this stage in my adult life? And if I remained in New York City, a city fraught with opportunities yet rife with inequality, how should I plan for my aging as a queer person?

It was fitting, then, that I began working that summer on policy guidance to compel the New York State Department of Health to include LGBT-specific questions in its statewide patient assessment system for specific Medicaid-funded providers—a policy win announced this week. As I interviewed researchers and health leaders from around the country to grasp the implications, and as I schooled myself on the state of LGBT data collection, I found myself growing lonelier by the week. I couldn’t help picturing my later years at the mercy of providers and researchers who are indifferent, or even hostile, to my queer life.

I work daily on the politics that underlie these issues, and I’ve arrived at this proposition: as we age, each of us will reach a moment where we’ll need to ask for support in dealing with the frailty incurred through aging. But if we’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), the type of institutional support we receive at that point will rely largely on the questions that have already been asked about us. If we’re denied these data to craft relevant health interventions, we will perish off-screen in droves, measured only by the shallowest of statistics. 

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July 26, 2013

The Personal is Political: Eleanor’s Story

In honor of the 23rd Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, SAGE is pleased to share Eleanor Smith's story. Eleanor is the founder of Concrete Change, a disability rights organization in Decatur, GA. This is an excerpt of a speech she gave at SAGE’s LGBT Elder Institute, held in Atlanta, on January 24, 2013. Visit SAGE Story to listen to her full presentation.
 

Eleanor
Eleanor Smith
(image from Measure up the North
At my one of my first disability rights actions, in Washington DC about 30 years ago, as I was marching along in my wheelchair with a few hundred  others, a fellow marcher pulled up beside me in his power wheelchair and said, “Are you one of those old time dykes?”  I laughed and answered affirmatively. He could probably tell by the flannel shirt.  Later I got to know Eric better, and I learned from him that he was a female to male trans person. What a lot of guts he was showing back then in the 1980s to be a severely mobility-impaired person who also changed his gender. Back then Eric and I were young people with disabilities. Now we’re old people with disabilities. Today I’m going to talk about the intersection of aging and disability and the wisdom of older gays and people with disabilities working more closely together.

 

I have noticed how old people and their organizations and younger disabled people and their organizations often work quite separately from each other, and are unaware of each others’ work.  This is the case even though many of the same issues affect both groups.

We have been taught over the years to realize that all oppressions operate in similar ways. Ageism and ableism are even more closely intertwined that most oppressions. For instance, both older people and disabled people are often devalued because our bodies or minds deviate from the norm by being—or perceived as being—weaker and less functional.   And the physical attributes of both old people and people with disabilities of all ages are considered by many to be ugly, or grotesque. So we all need to be liberated to see old or disabled bodies as beautiful in their own way.

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