4 posts categorized "Intergenerational"

January 27, 2017

Closer to Joy: Trans-formational Meditation at SAGE

Starting mid-January, SAGE’s program staff is delighted to offer an innovative new program: Energy, Power & Joy in Somatic Meditation for Trans People. We had the opportunity to sit down with Diana Goetsch, the facilitator of this somatic meditation program, to learn more.

By Pat Lin 


_E4C0300A life-long learner, teacher, writer, accomplished poet, Tai-chi and yoga practitioner, Diana Goetsch is also the facilitator of SAGE’s groundbreaking new meditation program for older trans people. Goetsch began meditation in 1982 as a university student and was immediately struck by its effects, even before she began to truly deepen her practice. “This practice gave me my life.” Exuding a soothing serenity, Goetsch sat with me to talk about practicing with community, trusting the body, older and younger trans folks, and the potential life-changing benefits of somatic meditation.

 

So what exactly is somatic meditation?

Basically we start to put people in touch with their bodies. At first, this thing called “I” gets in touch with this thing called “the body”. But eventually the difference between the two starts to disappear. And then the body is in touch with the body. And then trouble happens. It's the best trouble in the world. I think we call it Life, with a capital L. 

Wow. How is it different from normal meditation?

Somatic meditation has more emphasis on relaxation and on trusting the body as a wisdom figure. Most meditation that I see places the emphasis on concentration. And it's mental – in the head. This can be helpful for some people. But in somatic meditation, the only transformation that happens is initiated below the neck, in the body. The body is taken as the teacher. And normally people don't listen to our bodies. We're extremely cruel to our bodies. We overfeed them. We underfeed them. We give them drugs. We get them drunk. We use our bodies for our entertainment. And trans people call their bodies wrong. They say, "I'm in the wrong body." Somatic meditation not only makes the body an ally- it does more. It hands over the car keys, frankly. I think that’s the biggest difference, with somatic meditation.

Is there a difference between practicing alone and in a group? 

I think there is, but both are essential. The group practice is very helpful though, especially amongst trans folks, for that feeling of shared energy and understanding. And if you are new, the experience of guidance is a great benefit in helping to stay with the practice and experience its benefits. However, practicing alone helps us lock in and go further on the path. And I think some of the openings and insights that we gain alone are maybe the most profound. But I think we need both. A friend of mine calls it “communion and community”. The communion is that very personal, very unique and individual engagement with a practice. Community is that everyone is essential. 

What do you think about the SAGE community?

I think visiting SAGE and visiting this hub of life is always a pleasure. It's very full of life, this place. What I see are deeply engaged people who are extremely savvy with geriatric issues. There's a lot of respect, a lot of dedication. It's only been a couple months, but I'm so impressed by what I see. Maybe more than anything, there's an energy and spirit about this building. When I see people having dinner together, it’s very different from the people my grandfather lived with at the end of his life, in a residence somewhere in Florida. Waiting to die, frankly. These people are not waiting to die. This is a very vibrant place, and I think they feel cared about. That's the sense I get anyway.

What do you think is the relationship between older and younger people?

The whole emphasis is on young people in America. It’s always been this way. And having been a close friend of my grandfather who lived to be 91, I watched him and other older folks in residences be shoved aside. To me these people were resources for younger people, and vice versa. Older folks derive tremendous amount of energy and validation by mixing with young people, especially kids. I'm beginning now to work with the young end of the spectrum and the older trans folks. Maybe there's a way to get them talking to each other because I think there's a lot of benefit. 

Having worked with both, what things do you notice between the younger and the older generations of trans folks?

What I see among older trans folks that is different from younger trans folks is the result of decades of PTSD. Decades of trauma. Decades of battering. Hurting themselves, even their own thoughts and thought processes. There's a lot of canceling. A lot of self-hatred, a lot of trauma, a lot of shakiness. A lot of frozenness that I don't see in younger trans folks. Younger trans folks have a lot of trouble and I’ve worked with them. But one thing they're much more open to is their bodies and bodily pleasure. Getting with people, having lovers. Older trans folks are much more likely to shut that down. Not always. But they're much more likely to shut it down. They're just kind of happy to survive. And meditation might get us closer to joy. 

Is there anything you’re looking forward to in teaching this class?

I think just the people who show up and what they bring to the table. The discoveries that they will bring to me and to the rest of us. One thing about somatic meditation is that there are guidelines that are thousands of years old. It's just put into American English in an available way. There are guidelines, familiar markers along the way, things I can see and help people with. But ultimately it is always an inner journey. And what people discover through their bodies with embodied practice, they bring back to me and everybody else. So I'm interested in whoever shows up and what they bring back. And they might make discoveries that I've never heard about, so I'm very excited. 

Final Question: What was it like when you first started meditation?

It was a Zen practice. I was learning in college. Most of it was book instruction; it was not very deep teaching. But I think something took deeper root about ten years ago with my teacher Reggie. This practice basically gave me my life. And this practice put me on the path to coming out to myself, if you really want to know. 7 years of doing this and I basically realized, you know what, I'm trans. And I have to live in this way. It was meditation that gave me this. I had my coming out, so to speak, to myself, at a cabin alone for 12 days at 10,000 feet in Colorado doing this practice. How do you like that? It's true. Every word is true. Once you see it in the body, once you listen, once you surrender, and the body puts you on notice, you can't un-see it. 

October 7, 2016

PBS Takes a Look at the Most Intimate of Transformations

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On Monday, October 10, PBS will premiere From This Day Forward, a moving story by filmmaker Sharon Shattuck that documents her father’s transition from male to female. In the film, Shattuck reflects on her family history and its ability to change, adapt and survive.

Viewers can join in on social media with #FromThisDayForwardPBS following the program for a discussion with the filmmaker and producer. SAGE and Family Equality Council will join the conversation with additional context and resources.

Transgender people face discrimination and uncertainty on a daily basis in housing, healthcare and at work. According to SAGE’s Out and Visible report, 65% of transgender older people surveyed fear they will be denied medical treatment as they age. When searching for housing, 1 in 4 transgender older people reports discrimination on the basis of their gender identity, and 1 in 3 transgender older people fear they will not have the same employment opportunities if they identify openly at work.

This fall, From This Day Forward will be available to communities, organizations and campuses across the nation. For a list of upcoming screenings or to host a screening of your own, visit fromthisdayforwardfilm.com. Check your local listings at pbs.org, and thanks to POV for sharing this important film!

Do you think #TransIsBeautiful? See what happens when trans people of all ages come together.

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.