March 27, 2015

Day 5: What a Week!

SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging's 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.

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A packed room for "Addressing Expressions of Intimacy and Sexuality in Long-Term Care"

Hilary_meyer2013I had the distinct honor this afternoon of moderating the “Addressing Intimacy and Sexuality in Long-Term Care” panel with the esteemed experts, Jon Kole from Hebrew Home at Riverdale; Dan Kuhn of All Trust Home Care; and, Lynda Markut of the Alzheimer’s Association of SouthEast Wisconsin. All three panelists contributed to sharing vital information about creating a healthy and safe environment that allows for intimacy and sexual expression in long-term care residences.

They spoke to a packed house of over 50 attendees, who had excellent questions related to assessing competency for consent, addressing bias amongst residents an how to be respectful and responsible legal guardian.

Earlier in the day, I was proud to be a part of a thought leader focus group discussion, led by our friends at the National Council on Aging and the Walmart Foundation about enhancing diverse women’s empowerment throughout their lifespans.

Stimulating and exciting conversations all day at the Aging In America 2015 conference!


Tom-WeberAnother great day at ASA, addressing dental care, boundaries, sexual health and more pet assistance for older adults.  One thing I like about ASA is that topics come up with relevance that didn’t necessarily make it to our agenda, but that we are clearly dealing with in the lives of our clients and program participants.  Many people are doing innovative projects and services in pockets around the country that can really help us.  Likewise, the LGBT community has much to share with everyone else that is relevant across the board, particularly in the areas of sex, sexuality and aging.  For instance, the workshop I attended earlier this afternoon, “Sexual Health and Functioning Across Sexual and Gender Identity Groups in Later Life,” was presented by our community partners and allies from Howard Brown in Chicago, ActionAIDS in Philadelphia and ACRIA from NYC in our own backyard.  This was just one of a series on sexual health, sexuality and the need for physical intimacy being produced throughout the day by the LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) of ASA.  Our own Hilary Meyer is on a panel on entitled “Addressing Expressions of Intimacy and Sexuality in Long-Term Care” that was packed (see photo above)! It’s great to see so many people interested in these issues and looking for solutions.


TJohnston1Early yesterday morning Deborah Terry-Hays and Robin DiAngelo of Senior Services in Seattle lead a session on micro aggressions.

Micro aggressions are brief exchanges where someone who has some kind of privilege (for example, being white in the United States or identifying as heterosexual) says something hurtful toward toward a person who is a member of a marginalized or underprivileged group (for example, if you're a person of color, or a member of the LGBT community). 

Both facilitators did a great job of explaining how these comments come from structural and institutional inequality, noting, “oppression is most often invisible to the privileged group, normalized, and not consciously intentional.” Because these exchanges are part of larger social norms, micro aggressions are usually not conscious on the part of the aggressor, but can still create a hostile and invalidating climate for the target of the aggression.  

Being aware of micro aggressions and preventing them requires humility and being open to feedback. When someone takes the time, energy, and risk to point out a harmful comment, we should strive to really hear what they’re saying, rather than becoming defensive. Likewise, those of us who are often the recipient of micro aggressions need to find the resources and space that will help us remain centered and connected to supportive relationships. 

Overall, a very important topic that was extremely well presented and received. 

March 26, 2015

Day 4: Great Workshops and Progress at ASA

SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging's 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.

TJohnston1Wednesday afternoon I worked with National Resource Center Certified Trainer Doug Carl to facilitate a conversation titled Improving LGBT Inclusiveness of Aging Service Providers. We talked about different ways to bring LGBT aging training to aging service providers, including providers who may be hesitant to discuss LGBT related information.

After introductions and going over some key terms, Doug explained how he has been able to make inroads and build strong relationships with aging network service providers across the state of Georgia. He highlighted the importance of not only tapping your personal networks but also finding LGBT allies who can help advance the goal of bringing training to service providers. You never know who may identify as LGBT or have an LGBT family member, and support can come from anywhere.

The participants came from all over the country and left the session feeling energized and prepared to advocate for LGBT older adults. Personally, I’m inspired by their commitment and am sure that the resources we share through our websites (www.sageusa.org and www.lgbtagingcenter.org) can help them continue their advocacy! 


Catherine_thurstonLast night, the LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) gathered for a great committee meeting. The room was packed and there was standing room only! What a long way LAIN has come since its inception! It was great to hear about our progress from last year and what the future holds for LGBT aging. I also met with Karen Fredricksen-Goldsen, the Principal Investigator behind Caring and Aging with Pride, the largest LGBT health study and the first to be funded by National Institute of Health (NIH). Karen and her team will be coming to SAGE next month to do follow-up interviews with 100-150 LGBT older adults for the next round of her study. We at SAGE are very proud that New York City’s LGBT residents were the largest proportion in the overall sample of 2,450 people, and that our inclusion in the study helped expand the diversity of the overall sample (21% of the LGBT older adults are people of color; over 300 transgender elders were interviewed). Looking forward to what today will bring at Aging in America!

 

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Standing room only at the LAIN meeting!

 

 


Tom-WeberThe last few days at ASA have been phenomenal! Not only is it a great networking opportunity (just ran into Katherine Acey from our friends at GRIOT Circle!), but it allows SAGE to bring LGBT aging to the forefront of this massive conference on aging.

Tuesday night, I attended a wonderful reception at the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s LGBT Center, by the Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging.  They conducted tours of the new LGBT housing facility in Chicago, Town Hall, which is a collaborative project between the Center on Halsted and Heartland Housing.  It is an amazing facility in a combination new building/restored historic police station, that has about 70 residents, LGBT elder programming and a senior lunch program funded by the city of Chicago – a truly gorgeous space. 

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in two successful workshops.  One about Innovative Senior Centers with Catherine Thurston & Pattie Cippe Hart from the Center for Living Well in Washington Heights/Inwood, and the other about Storytelling with Serena Worthington and Kathi Boyle from the SAGE affiliate of Western Pennsylvania at Persad Center.  Both workshops were very well received and had great attendance.  "Helping Elders Tell Their Stories: Best Practices from StoryCorps and SAGE" particularly produced a really happy cohort of people as paired up matches began telling their partners parts of their own stories of their lives. Watch the room buzzing with people sharing their stories and connecting over some surprisingly shared experiences. Can’t wait to see what today brings!

March 25, 2015

Day 3: A Great Start at ASA

SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging's 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.

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Just for fun - these SAGE Staffers and friends were packed in an elevator and headed to a special tour of the Town Hall Apartments, an LGBT-inclusive senior housing facility created by Center on Halsted and Heartland Housing.
 
Catherine_thurstonI had the pleasure of being a part of a presentation yesterday at the American Society on Aging Conference entitled “Innovative Senior Centers: A Model for the Future.”  The main presenters were Tom Weber, the Director of Care Management at SAGE and Patricia Cipora Harte, the Director of the Center for Adults Living Well @ the YMYWHA of Washington Heights. More than 50 audience members attended a lively session on the history of how both centers came to exist, including SAGE’s advocacy with the New York City Department for the Aging around how “community” can be defined in a myriad of ways, not only by geography.
 
The interactive session asked the audience, who represented Senior Centers across the country to think more deeply about what innovation means to them and the communities they serve and also shared lessons learned from SAGE and the Y’s 3+ years’ operating our centers. Tom and Patricia shared videos created by their staff showcasing their programs. In the “what we learned” segment of the workshop, Patricia spoke of “change being the only constant” and the importance of knowing your community. The importance of creating a culture in which both experimentation and failure were allowable was also highlighted.


 

Hilary_meyer2013Yesterday, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a thoughtful and engaging session with my co-worker Dr. Tim Johnston, "Maximum Impact! Finding Intersections to Make Older Lives Better." This session was moderated by the Administration on Community Living’s Greg Link, about the impact of multicultural aging intersections. A number of participants reported on exciting successful programs including such as buddy-to-buddy and senior companions, foster grandparent, and co-branded programs with other communities of colors, etc. 

The participants also reported out on challenges such as finding ways to break down the provider suggestion that “we don’t need specific population services because we serve everyone the same.”  FORGE Transgender Aging Network’s Loree Cook-Daniels shared that her organization surveyed their target populations to ask “do you know what services are available” and “ do you access them – why or why not?” so that advocates have information to show providers that evidence transgender people actually do not use their services. 

National Hispanic Council on Aging’s Dr. Yanira Cruz shared that they hosted national focus groups across the country to understand the needs of Hispanic elders, to get information that would similarly help inform local service providers as well.

Other panelists that participated in the dynamic workshops included Bob Blancato of the Elder Justice Coalition, Angie Boddie of the National Caucus and Council on Black Aging, Quyen Dinh of the SouthEast Asia Resource Action Center, Aaron Tax of SAGE, and Amy Gotwals of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.


 

TJohnston1SAGE and the Alzheimer’s Association have been working together to bring LGBT cultural competency to the Association, and Alzheimer’s awareness to SAGE and SAGENet. Yesterday afternoon at the Aging in America conference Catherine Thurston, SAGE’s Senior Director for Services and Training and Marshawn Brown, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke about the importance of strategic partnerships in creating LGBT allies.

Marshawn Brown began by describing how the Alzheimer’s Association conducted a diversity needs assessment that resulted in the Association identifying LGBT people as an underserved population. While the Association was engaged in this assessment, SAGE’s strategic planning process identified Alzheimer’s as an issue area worthy of special consideration. These overlapping goals set the stage for our partnership and served as the guidelines for developing our memorandum of understanding.

No group has the time or resources to reinvent the wheel, and this partnership is a great example of how two organizations can work together to improve their services and achieve strategic goals. Catherine Thurston noted that while SAGE is growing quickly, we “cannot do all and be all” which means that “creating partnerships is key to making sure that there is no wrong door for LGBT older people to walk through when seeking services.” Partnering with SAGE allows organizations to demonstrate their commitment to LGBT inclusivity and create a strong network of allies, helping to build an aging network that affirms LGBT older adults and caregivers.

Our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association is well underway and already building bridges between LGBT and Alzheimer’s advocates and support services. We hope that this strategic partnership can serve as a model for other LGBT and aging service providers. ​

March 24, 2015

National LGBT Health Awareness Week: Time to Come Together

Banner_Facebook_LGBT-Week

This week marks the start of the 13th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week! As part of the LGBT State Exchanges Project at the Center for American Progress, SAGE is pleased to be a part of “Time to Come Together: Trust. Transparency. Truth.” This is a time for our community members, advocates, service providers, government officials and others to come together to advance the health and wellness of our community.

  • It’s time to TRUST that our providers and the healthcare system are sensitive to and addressing our personal identities and health needs. As our report, Out & Visible notes, 65% of transgender adults in our study feel that there will be limited access to healthcare providers as they grow older.   
  • It’s time for TRANSPARENCY in our healthcare systems to be more open and honest about services and costs to help ensure greater access to healthcare. We must advocate for authentic and complete data collection of sexual orientation and gender identity to reflect reality.
  • It’s time to tell the TRUTH. We must be honest about our sexual orientation, gender identity, and health needs with our providers and the healthcare system overall. As our report, Out & Visible shows, 43% of LGBT older people who are single and 40% of LGBT older people in their 60s and 70s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations. 

If you want to promote LGBT Health Awareness Week or get involved, please visit www.healthlgbt.org.

Yesterday also marked the 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! What a long way we have come. SAGE is proud to celebrate the many benefits that have helped our community. Below are a few key facts on the ACA:

  1. LGBT Americans – who are disproportionately underinsured and uninsured – have benefited tremendously from the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Over the single year that encompassed the first open enrollment period under the ACA, the rate of uninsured low- and middle-income LGBT adults (those who can get financial assistance under the law to get covered) fell by 24%. In 2013, 1 in 3 (34%) LGBT adults with incomes under 400% of the federal poverty level were uninsured. By 2014, that number had dropped to 1 in 4 (26%).
  2. Less than $100/month: Of LGBT Americans who got financial help to purchase a plan through the health insurance marketplace last year, half are paying less than $100 a month in premiums. 
  3. 16.4 million: The Affordable Care Act was the fastest expansion of health insurance since 1965. Since the law went into effect, 16.4 million people who did not previously have health insurance are now covered.
  4. 129 million: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 129 million people no longer have to worry about an insurer denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, or a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For people who have been denied coverage when insurers have deemed being transgender a "pre-existing condition" this is a significant step toward improving health care access. For more information, see this brief from the Center for American Progress, The Affordable Care Act: Progress Toward Eliminating Insurance Discrimination Against Transgender People.
  5. 20 percent: The Affordable Care Act is now projected to be 20 percent cheaper than expected over the next 10 years, due in large part to slower growth in premium costs than expected.

 

Day 2: SAGE at AIA

SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging's 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.

TJohnston1As the Manager of Education and Training for SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging I’m lucky to work with an incredible group of Certified Trainers located all across the country. Because our trainers live from southern California all the way to Maine, the ASA conference is an opportunity for us to meet in person and share our successes and upcoming goals for the next year. These informal conversations allow us to swap training stories, share strategies to improve our trainings, and discuss upcoming training needs.

Our trainers are also leading a number of workshops at the conference. Loree Cook-Daniels is part of a session called Changing in the Blink of an Eye: Public Policy Affecting Transgender Elders Deborah, Deborah Terry-Hays is discussing Micro-Aggressions, and I’ll be presenting with Doug Carl on Improving LGBT Inclusiveness Through Aging Service Providers, just to name a few!

If you see one of us around the conference, please come and say hello. We'd love to tell you more about our suite of trainings and hear how your organizations are working to help LGBT older adults. 

SerenaHere’s a shopping tip from a local. There is a fantastic grocery store tucked away near the conference hotel—the Hyatt Regency Chicago—called Mariano’s. They have great quick serve, a gelato/coffee bar, a robust gluten-free section and competitive prices (especially for the neighborhood). An interesting amenity is that you can select any item in the store and they'll grill if for you for free. Grab me a latte when you’re there! You can track me down via Twitter with my handle @SerenaWorthy. I'm also sharing my map of "Fun and Cheap Things to Do Next to the Conference Hotel." Check it out and let me know what you think via Twitter!

 

March 23, 2015

Day 1: Hello Snowy Chicago!

SAGE staffers at the American Society on Aging's 2015 Aging in America Conference will be reporting back to us all week with their views on the conference, panels they are participating in, innovative strides in the field of aging, ideas they are taking back to work and more! Check back daily for their insights.

Tom-Weber
Tom Weber, SAGE's Director of Care Management Services

Woke up this morning to a very blustery, wintery, snowy day in Chicago.  I was fortunate because I arrived yesterday, but almost everyone coming in today was having problems and delays, and some people are not able to get here until tomorrow, including Kathi Boyle from SAGE of Western Pennsylvania, whom Serena Worthington and I are presenting with on Wednesday.  One of the presenters coming in from DC for the session I just attended came in the middle because he couldn’t get here sooner.  The session was called “Aging in Community with Pets: Insights, Innovations and Advance Planning.” 

The problem of pets and helping people take care of them is a problem we have come across many times amongst our clients at SAGE, particularly when someone has to go into a hospital or move out of their apartment and into a facility.  Sometimes people refuse medical help because they don’t want to leave their pets or they spend the little money they have on their pet needs and neglect their own needs to nutrition and medical care. 

I heard about several innovative programs in this session, including Meals on Wheels delivering pet food along with meals so people don’t feed their animals the food meant for them, and an Adult Protective Services Program (APS) in Texas getting a grant to help them help the pets of the people they work with, like boarding, grooming and vet bills.  There were also suggestions for what to do during an emergency and specific caregiving and life care planning for people with pets.  We will look into the possibility of maybe replicating some similar programs for our clients at SAGE.

This is what Chicago looked like this morning. 

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Photo by instagram.com/oppressjunket

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Michael Adams, SAGE's Executive Director

I arrived in Chicago early last night for the American Society on Aging Board Meeting.  It’s been an honor to serve on the ASA Board with amazing colleagues – including Yanira Cruz of the National Hispanic Council on Aging and Karyne Jones of the National Caucus & Center on Black Aged –since 2012.  As ASA prepares to launch a new Strategic Plan, it’s exciting to see all of the great opportunities for advancing our collective work to strengthen the quality of life for older adults across the U.S.  As the next step in that direction, Aging in America 2015 is going to be a dynamic few days! We’re not going to let the (unpredicted) snowstorm  here in Chicago get in our way!

 

 

SAGE Brings LGBT & HIV Aging to the 2015 Aging in America Conference

Today’s post is from Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives. Keep up with her conference activities @SerenaWorthy.

Today marks the start of American Society on Aging’s 2015 Aging in America Conference, the nation’s largest aging conference where “Over 2,500 attendees…learn, network and participate in the largest multidisciplinary conference covering issues of aging and quality of life for older adults!”

As a Chicagoan, I’m looking forward to welcoming my colleagues—who are more like frolleagues really (friend + colleague) —to my snowy city. What we lack in spring warmth, we’ll make up for in Midwestern friendliness and excellent food!

ASASelfieBetween now and Friday, SAGE staff members will be involved in 12 conference programs related to LGBT aging including: six 60 minute workshops, three 90 minute workshops, a collaborating program, a symposium, and a national forum.

HIGHLIGHTS

In an exciting departure from the traditional panel workshop format, SAGE National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is hosting Maximum Impact! Finding Intersections to Make Older Lives Better. This three hour session will feature a highly interactive format with roundtables, presentations and small group breakouts. A group of experts from national organizations that make up one of the Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging’s technical assistance resource centers will discuss their challenges and victories in multicultural aging policy advocacy and services provision and the audience will interact with the experts to discuss what is most needed now and what organizations could be doing in the future.

Another highlight is Friday’s National Forum: Social and Health Disparities in Aging. This half day forum will address how the Affordable Health Care Act’s mandates for delivering improved health outcomes “do not take into account for social and health disparities that exist within a community.” Presenters will explore Perspectives from Gender and Sexual Orientation and Perspectives from the African-American, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Communities, SAGE’s Executive Director, Michael Adams— along with a remarkable slate of panelists—will demonstrate the Need for an Integrated Policy, Research and Programs Response.

I’m looking forward to seeing my dear frolleagues from across the country and to my three workshops—

Helping Elders Tell Their Stories: Best Practices From StoryCorps and SAGEwith my co-workerTom Weber, Director of Community Services and SAGE Western Pennsylvania’s Kathi Boyle.

Multiculturalism in Aging: Chicago Perspectivewith Karen Lowe Graham, Manager of Community Programs, Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center; Winnie Lam, Home and Community Based Services Officer, Chinese American Service League; Maria Oquendo-Scharneck, Health and Diversity Coordinator, AgeOptions; and Marta Pereyra, Executive Director, Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly.

Pioneering Inclusive Housing for Diverse Elders with Meghan Jackson, Senior Service Manager, Center on Halsted and Kathleen Sullivan, Seniors Services Director, Los Angeles LGBT Center

For a list of all of the sessions related to LGBT aging, check out this excellent guide compiled by ASA.

For updates from ASA, check out their Facebook page and follow them @asaging or using #AiA15.

To keep track of SAGE Staff, check us out on Twitter.

SAGE @sageusa
National Resource Center on LGBT @lgbtagingcntr
Michael Adams @Adams_SAGEUSA
Serena Worthington @SerenaWorthy

March 19, 2015

SAGE and Aging Organizations Brief Supreme Court on Why Elders Need Marriage Equality

USSupremeCourtWestFacadeSAGE, with the assistance of Jack Nadler as the lead lawyer from the firm Squire Patton Boggs, recently filed an amicus brief (friend of the court brief) related to the upcoming marriage cases that the Supreme Court will hear on April 28, 2015. SAGE filed the brief with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Justice in Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, and the American Society on Aging. 

In this brief, SAGE made four major arguments: 

 

  1. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage deprives them of access to federal, state, and private benefits that are especially important for older adults;
  2. denial of the right to marry deprives older same-sex couples of the intangible benefits that marriage provides to older different sex couples;
  3. allowing older different sex couples to marry despite being non-procreative, while forbidding older same-sex couples from marrying because they are non-procreative, is self-evidently irrational; and
  4. older same-sex couples should not have to wait any longer to enjoy the benefits of marriage. 

 

Our hope is that our unique aging lens will provide a compelling view of marriage to the justices – and that perhaps – our brief will make a difference in bringing us closer to the day when same-sex couples can age with access to benefits, services, and supports, equal to their different sex counterparts.

Read a copy of the brief and our press release on the SAGE site.

This post was written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's Director of Federal Relations.

March 17, 2015

Celebrating the Launch of the SAGE-GRIOT Innovative Senior Center of Brooklyn

Yesterday SAGE celebrated the launch of the SAGE-GRIOT Innovative Senior Center of Brooklyn, a new partnership with GRIOT Circle. The partnership is part of a citywide expansion of services for LGBT older adults funded by the New York City Council.  SAGE now serves community members in Brooklyn, Harlem, Midtown Manhattan and Staten Island--a major increase in its reach that means better services and supports for thousands of New Yorkers!

 
The SAGE/GRIOT Circle partnership enables both organizations to serve a larger number of participants with a greater breadth of programming, including exercise classes, support groups, case management and more.

The event was commemorated by a proclamation from New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, a member of the Council's LGBT Caucus, as well as remarks from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado, GRIOT Circle Board Treasurer Rev. Janyce Jackson- Jones, as well as GRIOT Circle members, who performed an original poem for the crowd. GRIOT Circle Executive Director Katherine Acey and SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams celebrated the collaboration, the potential for growth, and the beginning of a new chapter for both organizations.

A Quick Chat With SAGE Participant Brenda Culhane

Our monthly “Quick Chats” with SAGE participants offer a first-person perspective on our community.  This month, we spoke Brenda Culhane, a 74-year-old lesbian and SAGE participant in Portland, Oregon. Brenda came out a bit later than some, at age 39, and is now an active LGBT advocate and spokesperson. Brenda spoke with us about her struggle to live openly, why she values her community, and the changes she’s witnessed in her lifetime for LGBT people.

Brenda culhane

At what age did you come out? Can you describe that process? 

I came out later in life.  I had thought that I was different when I was in college but was too afraid to act on it. I got married to prove I was not different.  I came out after that marriage was over...I was 39. This was in the 1970’s. 

Who are the most important people in your life?  

My friends—many of whom I met at SAGE.  We all work to support each other, especially if someone is ill or going through a hard time.  We are there for each other because most of us do not have family nearby or wanting to be involved in our lives.

I have one friend, Sherri, who is developmentally delayed who lives up the street from me. My mom used to live in the house where I’m living and Sherri took an interest in her and checked on her every day. I was my mom’s primary caretaker and so I really appreciated Sherri, it took a big load off me! After my mom died we became friends. It felt like we had the same mother at that point so we call each other ‘sis’. She checks on me. She has a lot of prejudice against gay people, and she really struggles with the fact that I’m gay. She’s getting more exposed to my friends. So I think in her head, at this point, she thinks it’s ok for women to be gay but not men. It doesn’t seem like it would make that much difference in the world what her opinion is, but she is getting more educated. 

The conservative neighbors down the street have a teenage boy in Catholic school who came over and wanted to interview me. I said “why?” and he said “we’re interviewing different people” and I said “you mean gay?” and he cringed and said yes. So even the Catholic schools are doing that! 

That’s promising! So just by being open about who you are, you are educating and enlightening people around you in a one-on-one way.

Yeah! In the 60’s and 70’s the message was ‘everyone come on out come out!’ It was so terrifying to do that. I’m kind of a wimp on some things. So every time I came out my stomach was in knots.  Even now, coming out to my doctor is still hard. 

But do you find that you’re met with more love and respect than you used to be, when you come out?

Yeah. When I was first coming out to myself, I got married because I was too afraid. Then I got a divorce and came out. I lost some friends. The people who had a really hard time with it, in retrospect, were questioning their own sexuality. Looking back now, that makes sense. 

How did you find out about SAGE? What kinds of SAGE activities do you participate in? 

I belonged to a group here in Portland called Gay and Gray that became affiliated with SAGE a few years ago.  I am involved in the SAGE housing committee.  We all have had friends who have had to go into assisted/independent living and they do not feel safe coming out in that environment.  They have all gone back into the closet.  It is so sad.  This committee goes around to the various senior living residences and asks them to be part of our brochure for LGBT seniors.  This month the group put out our second brochure and it has 4 more residences included—we’re very proud of that. We’ve faced challenges because most senior residential places would rather not deal with this issue.  We are all proud of our newest brochure.  

I’m also on a speaker committee that talks about LGBT issues to any group requesting SAGE services.  I have spoken at high schools, colleges and conferences so far.  I enjoy going to these venues and educating people about us.  And of course I love our yearly gatherings, like our Valentine party, our Holiday Party and our summer BBQ.  I have many friends whom I only see at these events and it is wonderful.

Why is SAGE important to you?

I feel emotional support from the staff and enjoy the yearly gathering with lots of other LGBT folks.  It is a lot of fun. 

What makes you smile? 

My dog Emmy, a good book, a great movie, a wonderful meal, a sunset, the smell of spring flowers, and having a butch flirt with me.

-- Posted by Kira Garcia