Over the past decade, SAGE's Harlem contingent has grown from a small group of dedicated community members to an energetic, engaged community of dozens of older adults with a full-time gathering space for case management, classes, discussion groups and socializing. On a typical Friday night, SAGE Harlem participants can be found discussing politics, reminiscing, watching movies or playing games.
To mark the occasion, nearly 200 Harlem community members, SAGE staffers, volunteers, and local leaders gathered to celebrate with food, conversation and good company. For more images of the event, visit the SAGE Flickr page here.
Harlem Program Manager Chris Jones addressed the crowd.
This expansion wouldn't have been possible without the help of SAGE's Harlem Investors Circle, which raised an extraordinary $100,000 in just one year--an impressive feat that will make a huge impact! SAGE applauds their visionary support of our programs, services, and facilities in Harlem. These supporters serve as champions for the LGBT elders of color that we serve.
In Fall 2013, SAGE launched a visionary strategic plan to guide its work over the next three years on behalf of LGBT older people. Among several top priority mandates, such as growing SAGE’s national impact and expanding best practices in aging services, we committed ourselves to a new campaign to decisively strengthen SAGE’s diversity and inclusion efforts. As aptly described in our strategic blueprint, “SAGE will integrate diversity and inclusion strategies into all of our internal and external functions. We’ll also develop culturally competent service models that target more vulnerable elders, and we’ll share this learning with our peers in the aging and LGBT field.”
This summer, we wrote and in-depth article in SAGEMatters about the importance of this mandate, as well as how SAGE has historically worked to address exclusion and create community for all LGBT older people.
Additionally, in early June SAGE's board of directors enacted a diversity statement that's meant to solidify and guide SAGE's work on diversity and inclusion. The statement reads:
“SAGE believes that we have a responsibility to make the principles of diversity and inclusion a centerpiece of our purpose, our people and our work. Such principles will:
Allow us to continually grow our relevance to SAGE’s stakeholders in a diverse world;
Utilize the contributions of diverse individuals to strengthen all aspects of SAGE’s work, as the country’s leader on LGBT aging;
Provide us with a larger pool of shared understanding, thus enabling us to make better decisions; and
Increase our ability to recognize our biases, and thus reducing the likelihood that we will be influenced by those biases.
SAGE is committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion in providing services to our constituencies; in creating our Board; in hiring, training and advancing our staff and volunteers: and in all that we do.
SAGE will ensure that our commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion is realized by:
Incorporating the principles of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of SAGE, including its Board, staff, programs, and initiatives,
Holding ourselves accountable to our principles of diversity and inclusion by establishing and monitoring measurable outcomes, and
Sharing our commitment to diversity and inclusion so that our actions create greater understanding of the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion, and in doing so, demonstrate SAGE’s commitment as a role model for the LGBT and aging communities, and beyond.”
A webinar is a presentation and discussion that takes place over the internet. Participants can interact with the presenter through polls, Q&A, and video or audio connections. Webinars are a great way to reach people working in remote or rural communities, as well people with jobs or hours that make it difficult to attend in-person trainings.
Why are we focusing on LGBT older adults of color and transgender older adults?
First, we want to draw attention to the fact that while the LGBT population is just as diverse as the non-LGBT population, the needs of LGBT older adults of color are often under addressed by both LGBT and aging network organizations. The webinar begins with video interviews to help participants understand the experience of LBGT older adults of color. Next, we learn about pioneering LGBT people of color in order to question our own prejudices and misconceptions around race and ethnicity. Finally, we discuss ways to create organizations that welcome and include LGBT older adults of color.
Second, many people may know or work with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, but have much less experience working with transgender older adults. Transgender Aging: What Service Providers Need (and Don't Need!) to Know introduces participants to the basics of the transgender experience, with a focus on how to provide respectful and affirming care for transgender older adults. Some of the topics include what it means to transition, how to ask about transgender status in an appropriate and respectful way, and a set of best practices for working with transgender older adults.
These two webinars join our highly successful Introduction to LGBT Aging. Launched in January 2014, Introduction of LGBT Aging has already reached service providers in 12 states. It is our hope that these easily accessible and highly engaging online presentations will continue to educate people across the country.
For more information, or to schedule a live webinar, please contact Tim R. Johnston, Manager of Education and Training at 212-741-2247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recognition of National Minority Health Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to the health disparities and health issues affecting diverse older adults during April. The following post was written by Karen Blacher of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) and originally featured on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog.
In the spirit of raising awareness, here are 10 important things you should know about health disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elders including some helpful resources from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA):
The BMI scale, which is regularly used to determine overweight and obesity, is different for Asian Americans. For Asian Americans a BMI over 24 is the cutoff for overweight, and 27 for obesity; compared to 25 and 30 respectively for the general population.
There are health disparities within the AAPI elder population, and some AAPI sub-groups are more at risk for certain diseases and illnesses than others. For example, Japanese and Filipino women havetwice as high a risk of getting breast cancer as Korean and Chinese women.
NAPCA has resources to help address some of these health disparities among AAPI elders.
Our toll-free Asian language Helpline, which operates in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Korean, provides information and assistance on Medicare, Social Security, and other senior benefit programs.
The NAPCA Healthy Aging Resource Center is a searchable database of health information, materials, and resources in 15 Asian languages. These resources have been culled from health centers, community organizations, universities, health departments, etc.
Karen Blacher is a Research Associate for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA). Karen conducts research on programs, policies, and numerous indicators impacting AAPI older adults and drafts reports and data briefs addressing the needs and conditions of the AAPI elderly population. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.
Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Follow Robert on Twitter.
Latino elders who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) face additional challenges as they age, compounded by barriers rooted in their racial and ethnic identities, as well as LGBT stigma and discrimination. Yet the attention and infrastructure to ameliorate these conditions is generally lacking. That's the overarching conclusion reached by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) in a first-ever national needs assessment examining the social, economic and political realities of a growing, though multiply marginalized, population.
NCHOA’s report speaks to a timely moment. Demographics project a significant increase in Latino people and older people over the next few decades, trends rooted largely in immigration and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, respectively. For example, the U.S. Census estimates that the number of Latino people age 60 and older will sky-rocket from 4.3 million in 2010 to 22.6 million in 2050. And as societal attitudes and policy changes have made it easier for some segments of the LGBT population to "come out" and live openly, LGBT older people have become increasingly visible in both the aging and long-term care system, as well as society at large.
Yet NHCOA's new report—released in partnership with the national LGBT aging advocacy non-profit, SAGE—contends that this wave has left behind a more marginalized population: LGBT Latino elders. Based on a year's worth of expert interviews, a literature review (that tellingly emphasizes the general dearth in research on LGBT Latino people) and focus groups in four major metropolitan cities with high concentrations of Latinos and LGBT people, NHCOA paints a portrait of Latino LGBT elders aging in communities that aren't accepting of their full identities. LGBT Latinos also report both fearing and encountering biased care providers without the skills or resources to support their unique needs.
Drawing largely from published research, the report describes how many LGBT Latinos enter their later years already facing significant disparities related to physical and mental health, and to health care access and prevention. What are the major drivers of these inequities? According to the report, LGBT Latino elders face financial challenges rooted in lifetimes of discrimination in the workplace and in public benefit programs such as Medicaid and Social Security; lower educational statuses; housing instability; and reduced savings associated with a higher concentration in jobs with low-wage incomes and meager health insurance. It's not simply that LGBT Latino people are in poorer physical and economic health than their peers; it's that they have been systematically impoverished their entire lives by the same policies and institutions meant to protect them—and the effects become visceral in later life.
Perhaps the report's most profound insights are found in the testimonies of LGBT Latino elders interviewed for the report. One respondent describes the overbearing power of religious leaders in destabilizing multicultural LGBT communities: "The ones who kick you out are those who run the church. But those who are rejected believe it’s God who is throwing them out.” Another respondent describes how rejection often comes most painfully from other LGBT people: "Even in our LGBT community when there is someone who says, 'Yes, I am bisexual,' people say, 'Ay no, you are crazy or confused.' I think that there is much discrimination within our community, but as long as you don’t say who you are, things are fine.” Or perhaps the broad societal disregard of older people is the most painful renunciation, as told by one respondent: "We are persons who, because of who we are, people are not interested in."
The report's respondents also exhibit an acute analytical sense, rife with possibilities. One respondent adeptly summarizes the problem as "a lack of information and knowledge about where services are located. There is also a difficulty speaking about one’s own health, as well as a language barrier. This community is not used to speaking about its health, body or sexuality.” And another respondent offers a concise call-to-action to the aging field: "The challenge is to train in our native language the communities or the centers that, in one form or another, are going to provide those services.” The report's recommendations generally abide by this advice. It encourages policies that better fund and deliver supports to all older people (which Latino people and LGBT people disproportionately access), as well as targeted supports for LGBT Latino elders. And it firmly states that the aging field should invest in more multi-lingual, LGBT-friendly outreach, training and services for LGBT Latino older people.
One of the report's more incisive recommendations is to deepen the research on marginalized older people to better craft interventions that will become even more pressing in the ensuing decades, as people of color become the U.S. majority and sexual and gender diversity becomes more salient in civic life. On one level, this could mean better understanding the diversity within "Latino" identities, which encompasses various nationalities, histories, cultures and languages. And it means better studying difference within LGBT people to pinpoint more marginalized sub-groups—transgender people and bisexual people, as two noteworthy examples.
We can't fix what we don't fully understand, is what NHCOA's report ultimately seems to be stating. Yet this report takes us one step closer—and LGBT Latino older people deserve it.
In response to the recent church sign posted by the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem, New York City, SAGE recently asked its LGBT elder constituents that take part in its SAGE Harlem program to reimagine a more welcoming sign for the community.
We asked them: “What alternative message should Pastor Manning have placed on this sign to make it welcoming to all Harlem residents, including its LGBT members?" Below are their responses. Feel free to share your response in our comments section!
In March 2014, the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem, New York City posted a sign that reads: "Jesus Would Stone Homos. … Stoning is Still the Law," among other disturbing statements. The sign has elicited controversy and concerns from members of the Harlem community, as well as from news outlets and advocates throughout New York City and around the country.
In response to the sign, SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams has responded:
"The deeply offensive and bigoted signage of the Atlah World Missionary Church is the antithesis of the Harlem community that SAGE Harlem has been a part of for the past 10 years. Throughout SAGE Harlem’s existence, we have been proud to contribute to a community that has increasingly embraced and respected its LGBT members, including LGBT elders. To see the hateful Atlah signage just two blocks from our SAGE Harlem center is deeply disturbing. At the same time, we are reassured by the knowledge that this is a fringe group that does not represent the sentiments of the vast majority of Harlem community organizations and residents. In the face of this verbal assault on the human dignity of LGBT people, SAGE and SAGE Harlem will redouble our commitment to contributing to a Harlem community where all are welcome regardless of their sexual orientations or gender identities.
Since 2004, SAGE Harlem has helped ensure that LGBT elders in Harlem, East Harlem and the Bronx can benefit from culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Located in the historic former Theresa Hotel, SAGE Harlem offers bilingual information, referrals, services, programming, educational presentations and social activities for older LGBT residents in the community, and partners with local social service providers to expand access for LGBT consumers and sensitivity to their issues.
In honor of February being African American History Month, SAGE has been highlighting our diverse programs, constituents and stories relevant to black aging. Look back at our featured stories for the month. For our last post of the month, Dr. Imani Woody of SAGE Metro D.C. and is the founding director and CEO of Mary’s House for Older Adults, a developing LGBT friendly residential housing in Washington, DC, explores issues on ageism and heterosexism in the African American lesbian and gay communities.
People are complex, and African-American older LGBT adults are no exception. They live at the intersection of multiple identities experienced over the life span, in a culture steeped in racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism and homophobia. African-American lesbian and gay males experience at a minimum two hostile environments: being lesbian or gay in a heterosexist society; being a person of color in a racist culture; being female in a sexist culture; and being old in a youth-worshipping culture.
Moreover, research shows that living with racism on a daily basis influences the health and well-being of African Americans, leading to major gaps in health and financial equality, higher levels of infirmity and chronic illness, even earlier death than other populations. African-American elders are likely to experience poverty at more than two times the rate of all other older Americans.
This article comes from research cited in Lift Every Voice: Treading our Path, (NGLTF Task Force, 2012) that tells the stories of lives lived and the very real problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender African Americans coming-of-age and how those experiences shaped their lives as they grew older. People remember being conflicted in telling family members their sexual orientation and sexual identity, fearing rejection and abandonment. A 66-year-old African-American lesbian woman described it this way:
“I knew I was different as a child. … But I guess I was in my early teens [before I knew the words], because you don’t know what the word is. When I was coming up, the word was bull dagger. It was so negative, so you still don’t know. You are a kid; you don’t know, there were no words for it, I hate that word. It’s just I’ve gotten older, I just, ugh. … That’s so derogatory. It’s negative.”
Many older African-American lesbian women and gay men have experienced a sense of grief and loss from being alienated within one’s own race and ethnicity because of perceived sexual identity and orientation. Often the disaffection happens early and scars last for life. Many elders speak of living in hostile environments within the African-American community. As this 63-year-old African-American man explains:
“I know I have an androgynous look, it was even more so when I was younger. So therefore, there was some discrimination against me by assumption rather than fact because they would look at me and because I am androgynous looking they would assume. … One of my issues being African American and looking like this was really when I came out in college in the late ’60s at the height of the Black Power Movement and I was distinctly told by a couple of Black organizations at the time, ‘we don’t want your kind here.’ ”
Suspicions of institutions and institutional care are a shared ancestry of African Americans. This is also a shared experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people coming of age in the decades of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Institutional bigotry, hatred and stigma has led to medical classification and criminalization often resulting in forced psychiatric treatment of LGBT people, and loss of family, church, employment, housing and other community structures. Such bigotry is still found in the medical profession and in church. Listen to the stories of three African-American elders:
… You have to be careful with that [advising providers that you’re gay] because the minute you tell a medical person that you are gay, they automatically, in 90 percent of the cases, will assume you’re HIV positive and start to treat you that way.” (63-year-old African-American gay man)
I grew up in the church. I was baptized when I was about 11 in the Baptist church. I came to D.C. and joined a world-renowned Baptist church. I sang on two choirs, was a part of the missionary group. … I met a very nice young lady and we were going to get married so we sent some invitations to people at the church. … There were some people on the Deacon and Trustee Board who brought me before the church. … We got into this thing about what the Bible did and didn’t say, but they put me out anyway. … It still hurt me deeply. It was one of the deepest hurts I have had in my life to be put out of my church that I have put so much love and energy…” (72-year-old African-American lesbian woman)
In a workplace situation, for example, I might not get an assignment that I know I am qualified for, know that I’m the best person for it, and don’t get it. Is that because I am old? Is it because I am Black? Is it because I am gay? (69-year-old African-American gay man)
In honor of February being African American History Month, SAGE will be highlighting our diverse programs, constituents and stories relevant to black aging. Check back for featured stories every Tuesday, with additional posts throughout the month.
George Stewart, 82 years old, has led a life full of change and surprises. He served in the Army, both in the U.S. and overseas, was a hospital aide during the AIDS crisis in the 80's and surprisingly became an out-LGBT spokesperson when he was an honored speaker at The SAGE Center's ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2012. These are his words.
In celebration of Black History Month, I would like to honor my heroes. Right now, they are President Obama, and, of course, Nelson Mandela. They made history in their movements and they have accomplished a lot of things that we, as African Americans, never thought would be done. Especially Mandela, who suffered in prison and left without being angry and just completed the job he set out to do. His passing was a blow to me, but the way the world united in honoring him was inspiring. President Obama's speech at the ceremony was truly moving and he, making history as the first African American president of the United States, is another man that I think our community can emulate. Those men are my heroes.
I would like to say that my life two years ago was very different. You could say SAGE outed me! I wouldn't say I was closeted at the time, but looking back, I suppose I was. Since I was one of the speakers at The SAGE Center grand opening, I received a lot of media attention. I had a brief interview with NY1 and that was it! Some of my neighbors saw me on television and I was willingly outed. My life is 100% more interesting! I feel much more free in my thinking and what I enjoy. I really feel like I'm being myself. I've lost a couple of friends, but that's their problem, not mine. I've gained more friends than I've lost - that's a plus! I also have a job, people who rely on me and care about my opinions, so I am pretty happy right now.
Looking back at the past two (out) years of my life, what really stands out for me was my trip to Washington, D.C. Through SAGE, I submitted my story to the White House LGBT Champions of Change contest, and was a finalist! Me and a couple of SAGE staffers traveled to D.C. for the ceremony and it was wonderful. I was on a panel with some extraordinary people who were all doing work for the LGBT movement. It was a great experience and I met so many wonderful people. I honestely didn't realize how big the movement was until I was on that panel and learned about what they were all doing around the country! All of the other Champions of Change, along with groups like PFLAG and AVER...I didn't realize all of those people were working for the same cause - LGBT rights and equality.
I've been motivated to work for this cause because of SAGE. I believe everyone should be happy in what they want to do in their lives. I myself have become more open-minded and free because of learning more about the LGBT community. I would like to see this country be more tolerant of other peoples' lifestyles -- especially, for me, the black church. I love my church. I sing in the choir and we have a wonderful congregation. However, the belief system that is engrained is very homophobic. The best way to fight the homophobia is to stay in the church and be a positive presence -- because God loves us all.
Watch George's winning White House Champion of Change video below.
In honor of February being African American History Month, SAGE will be highlighting our diverse programs, constituents and stories relevant to black aging. Check back for featured stories every Tuesday, with additional posts throughout the month.
Our stories connect us and allow us to share common bonds through the use of words, pictures, music and video. Today, we would like to share stories from four African American women from around the country. Each of their voices and stories are different, but all share the desire for recognition and hope for the future. If you have a story to share, please tell us by visiting our SAGE Story portal on the SAGE website.
Cheryl & Elizabeth, SAGE Wilmington of the Cape Fear Coast, North Carolina The two tell us about how despite growing up in faith-based traditions that did not affirm their being lesbians, they somehow met at church. They explain how their faith joined them together and how 10 years later, they are still together and still in church and are accepted in their community!
Frances, SAGE Harlem, New York City Frances, 72, is a lover of Zumba and food! She shares her experience of having a stroke and how her lover of 20 years was so supportive and caring of her in the hospital. She wants women to know that they have the power and strength to get better after a debilitating situation such as herself. Listen to her story, recorded in 2013 for SAGE Story, below.
Helena, SAGE Center on Halsted, Chicago Helena, a transgender older adult diagnosed with HIV, shares her powerful story in a wonderful essay. She writes, "the most important thing I learned in accepting myself as transgender and also living with HIV/AIDS was about stigma. I realized that my fear of disclosing my HIV/AIDS status was extremely unhealthy and only contributed to my loneliness and isolation, and would cause me to indeed die faster." Read an excerpt below and the whole story here.
My name is Helena and I am a 60-year-old transgender female living with HIV. I am not a victim. An HIV/AIDS diagnosis is NOT a death sentence, but is similar to living with breast cancer or diabetes, which through some lifestyle changes, are manageable diseases.
I was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in 2002, and was told I would not live more than six months, and at best, a year. Along with my doctors, I believe that I was a "late tester," meaning because I was diagnosed with AIDS—a late stage infection—and not HIV, I likely contracted HIV 15 to 20 years before showing any sign or symptoms. Because people can carry HIV/AIDS asymptomatically, it is important to be tested on a regular basis to avoid a late test and spreading the disease.