April 4, 2016

SAGEMatters Spring 2016: Our Stories, Our Voices

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SAGEMatters Spring 2016: Our Stories, Our Voices

SAGE is proud to lead the charge on behalf of LGBT older people, whose stories are most powerful when LGBT elders themselves tell them. In this issue you'll hear an extraordinary array of voices.

The cover features Bishop Tonyia Rawls—a religious leader whose Charlotte congregation is part of Unity Fellowship Church, which was born from a need to minister primarily to LGBT African Americans during the height of the AIDS crisis. For the third year in a row, Bishop Rawls enlisted members of Charlotte's faith community to participate in the SAGE storytelling Summit, which harnesses the power of stories to advance anti-discrimination efforts in North Carolina. In this issue, Bishop Rawls talks about working with clergy in North Carolina and leveraging those relationships to build a system of mutual respect and hope for LGBT communities.

You'll also hear from several participants in SAGEWorks, a national employment initiative for LGBT people 40 and above. This initiative ignites the potential within members of our community who have fallen out of the workforce late in their careers and hare having a hard time getting back in.

We're particularly proud to share a conversation with Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz, who have transformed countless lives through their work as activists, certified counselors, and founders of chapters of Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Florida and New York. Ruth and Connie were recently honored with the SAGE Pioneer Award, which recognizes LGBT older people who pave the way for LGBT equality.

And lastly, we're honored to share an essay by Tim Maher, who reflects on his late mother's final days on Fire Island, the LGBT summer community where his family eventually came to accept him as a gay man. SAGE's cart service made Fire Island accessible to his mother during that time, just as it does for other older people, including those who need assistance moving around the car-free community. Tim's essay is the first in a series of stories about caregiving within our communities.

I hope you're as moved and inspired by these voices as I am. They are the sources of strength, resilience and warmth that enrich our communities, year after year.

 

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Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

SAGEMatters is the triannual magazine of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). View and download the Spring 2016 issue here.

April 1, 2016

Serena Worthington on the LGBT Aging Community Crisis

This post originally appeared on the Erickson Resource Group blog on March 28, 2016. Read the original post here.

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We are all aging. The demographics are shifting and resources are lacking to support our seniors. For the LGBT community, resources, and particularly housing needs are virtually non-existent. Due to stigma, discrimination, family dynamics and other issues, this aging community is at risk of having limited support. This week’s guest on Caregivers’ Circle, Serena Worthington from SAGE discusses the complexity of this issue and the efforts being made to rectify it. Listen here.

March 31, 2016

LGBT and Faith-based Communities: On the Reconciliation of Sexuality and Spirituality

To commemorate Women’s History Month, SAGE highlights the inspiring work of Reverend Elder Darlene Garner and how faith intersects with her LGBT activism.

By Vera Lukacs

Darlene Garner is the first African-American woman to be elected on the Board of Elders at Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and a fierce LGBT advocate. She is a co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG), leads the biannual Conference for People of African Descent (PAD) and was President of the Board of Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry. Along with two other LGBT couples, Reverend Elder Garner and her partner Candy Holmes were the first LGBT people to be married in Washington, D.C. in 2010 after marriage equality was recognized there.

Garner believes in the intersectionality of faith and LGBT issues, and MCC is a haven for spiritual LGBT folks. MCC is an inclusive sanctuary for the LGBT community, the international denomination welcomes people of all gender identities, sexualities, and faith with open arms. In Elder Garner’s words,

“MCC’s pioneering work on the reconciliation of sexuality and spirituality and our theology on the sacredness of the human body are reflected throughout all of our justice efforts and serve to advance women’s issues globally. Whether the issue is women in leadership; a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth, retain custody, or adopt a child; a woman’s right to access to education, water, or health care; a woman’s right to choose whether, when, and who to marry; or a woman’s need for a safe place to be herself, MCC has taken a stand and the people of MCC around the world have been and continue to be actively involved.”

In this powerful speech, Rev. Elder Darlene touches on the intersectionality between the LGBT and the faith-based communities: 

 

Elder Garner, SAGE thanks you for your extraordinary work in the LGBT and faith-based communities!

March 28, 2016

Getting In The Game at the 2016 Aging in America Conference

By Ben de Guzman 

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 25, 2016. Read the original post here.

The Diverse Elders Coalition and its five member organizations had a large presence at this year’s Aging in America Conference, which wrapped up last week in Washington, DC. Coincidentally, aging issues in America got a boost at the same time, as the U.S. House of Representatives took a critical vote on the Older Americans Act. While it was exciting to be in the same space as thousands of other people in the aging network while this major legislative hurdle was passed, the conference itself offered reminders of how much work there is still left to do to make sure diverse elders and their needs are being served. 

AiapicWith over 21 sessions, the DEC and its member organizations offered a wide range of programming on the issues of concern for its constituencies. From housing to economic security to healthy aging, the expertise of our member organizations was well represented. On Monday, I had the pleasure of moderating a great conversation about cultural competence with representatives of four of our member groups. Randella Bluehouse from the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), Dr. Wes Lum from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), Maria Eugenia Hernandez Lane from the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), and Sherrill Wayland from Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) gave concrete examples of how their work is particularly tailored to their constituencies as testament to the need to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. As someone who started his career in DC working on cultural competence in health care settings, it was interesting to revisit this space with my colleagues across our coalition and learn about their work.

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SAGE staff at ASA 2016.

Our Symposium on Tuesday, “Getting in the Game: Diverse Elders and Civic Engagement,” was an opportunity for the five principals who lead our member organizations to come together on stage to talk collectively about their work and the constituencies we serve. The election year and the current candidates vying for President have been a topic of conversation throughout the conference, and our Symposium allowed our presenters an opportunity to talk about what it will mean to mobilize our communities during this important time. The principals were also able to make some of the first public statements since the House of Representatives announced their vote in favor of Senate Bill 192, the Older Americans Act, without opposition. While recognizing the importance this legislation has for all our communities, we noted our organizations’ policy recommendations about how to make this legislation more inclusive for diverse elders. From better data collection, to more explicit provisions around culturally competent service delivery, to stronger anti-discrimination language, our organizations have been at the forefront of working for an Older Americans Act that will truly serve ALL older Americans.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), perhaps best summed up the challenges and opportunities our elders face when she introduced herself at the Symposium. She noted that although she came to this country as the daughter of refugees from Vietnam and talked about the ongoing challenges older refugees face such as post-traumatic stress, she was clear about being a child of war and one descended from a line of warriors. Their resilience in the face of dire adversity is what allows them to survive and what inspires us to do more for them so they can thrive.

 

March 25, 2016

Kim Watson: A Fearless Advocate for the Trans Community

By Vera Lukacs

Award-winning trans advocate Kim Watson’s inspirational work paves way for the LGBTQ community.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, SAGE would like to bring attention to a particularly inspiring woman. Kim Watson is the co-founder of Community Kinship Life (CKLife), an organization that provides services, resources and support to transgender people. Kim is a mentor and mother figure to young trans people, bringing  them together to live and learn in a safe and stimulating space. Kim also works with Black Transmen Inc., and is currently writing Healing Our Women for POC Trans Women.

Kim watsonKim, herself a woman of transgender experience, advocates for many other transgender people. When asked about the importance of allies in the transgender community, she says, “Allies are folks who are committed to support their SOFFA (significant other family friends and allies) without any deception. The LGBTQ community still has hiccups while trying to support the trans* community, but with dedication they will get better, I believe, in time.”

In a recent GLAAD blog post for #LGBTQFamilies Day, Kim Watson shares on being a mother, wife and mentor of trans experience: “I am also the mother figure/mentor of chosen kids. I have nine boys and one girl who are my chosen children. Now, being a mother figure to these kids has stabilized my patience, my commitment, my passion and energy to keep loving all of them unconditionally. I cannot always see them, but every day I speak to most of them, or they text me.”

Kim is the recipient of many awards, including the Christine Jorgenson Award, the Black Trans Ally Award, and the Certificate of Merit from Senator Jose Serrano (NY).

Kim says, as an aging advocate, it’s important to “stay stress free and practice self care”. Kim, we thank you for your hard work and advocacy for the trans community!

March 23, 2016

Dreaming At Any Age

by Marsha Aizumi. This article originally appeared in the Pacific Citizen.

Almost five years ago I retired from a 13-year job that I loved. It was time. And it was also frightening. Work gave me purpose and a place to belong. Would I find that same fulfillment now as a retired person? I had decided to write a book about my journey with my transgender son and also I seemed to be moving in the direction of becoming something I knew nothing about: an LGBTQ activist. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and take a leap of faith. So that is what I did.

During these past five years, I have learned that my greatest power lies in being myself. I have also learned that age puts no limitations on what you can do. Everything is a choice. For the first part of my life, I really didn’t know what being myself was. I was a perfectionist, because I never wanted to be wrong. And if I was perfect, nobody would criticize me. But often being perfect and expecting perfection from others gave neither of us room to grow and make mistakes. And it also put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. I didn’t risk taking on anything where I could fail and so I never took on things that could expand who I was as a person.

I was often afraid to speak out for fear of offending others and having them judge me as a terrible employee, mother or human being. At work, my bosses would encourage me to share my thoughts and not be so invisible. I tried to be visible, but at the first hint of disapproval I would quietly move into invisibility once again. Not being seen seemed safer.

And then Aiden, my son, came out as transgender and my world was turned upside down. Something inside of me changed. I could no longer think about myself; I needed to think about him. No longer could I go through life casually seeing how every day would unfold for me. No, I had to make each day count. I had to courageously step out, most of the time being scared of saying or doing the wrong thing, but doing it anyway. Brene Brown, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly says, “You can be brave and scared at the same time.” Most of the time, you didn’t have to tell me I was scared. I felt that inside. But brave was a whole new concept. If I was scared and I did it anyway, that was brave?

In the beginning I made a lot of mistakes. I said the wrong thing, but I learned the power of saying “I’m sorry.” I did wrong things and learned the power of asking, “How can I do it better next time?” Sometimes people did or said hurtful things to me. And I learned the power of saying, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but when you said that about my son, my heart felt bad.” In most cases, I was forgiven, or given better ways to handle things or was apologized to. In all cases, I walked away understanding more, feeling prouder of myself or realizing how I could do things better in the future. The hard part of apologizing, asking how I could do better or sharing my feelings was that most of the time, I felt like a lobster without a shell. Later I found out that was how you feel when you are being vulnerable.

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Marsha speaking at the HRC Time to Thrive Conference in February 2016. Photo by Steph Grant Photography.

 

But being vulnerable has helped me grow and provided me gifts that I never thought would come into my life as a retiree. Authentically sharing my journey of transitioning with my transgender son, I have met so many beautiful people all over the country. And taking on challenges like speaking to larger and larger crowds, even though I was scared, has given me a purpose greater than I thought I would have. Last month, I spoke in Chicago at a conference called Creating Change. At the end of the workshop, I stopped a young lady who left our presentation crying. “Are you okay?” I asked as she walked past me. “Yes,” she replied, “I am walking out with hope.” Two weeks later I spoke to 800 educators and professionals in Dallas. I was scared going on stage, but I just kept telling myself just keep your heart open and be yourself. At the end, they gave me a standing ovation.

I think what I want to share with you today is that you are NEVER too old to go out and make a difference. Forget your age… find your passion! Go out and share who you authentically are. If you are not sure what your life can look like if you do this, rent a movie called “The Intern” with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. Or google the name Virginia McLaurin, a 106-year-old lady who started a social media campaign at age 104 to meet President Obama and dreamed of being invited to the White House. The video of their meeting has gone viral and inspired so many! We are never too old to bring value to the lives of others. And we are never too old to dream.

Marsha Aizumi is the author of “Two Spirits, One Heart” and is on the PFLAG National Board of Directors. Learn more about her at www.marshaaizumi.com.
March 21, 2016

Suicide and LGBTQ/SGL Older Adults

By Dr. Imani Woody

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 20, 2016. Read the original post here.

During Black History Month, Mary’s House for Older Adults, SAGE Metro DC, and AARP DC held a LGBTQ/SGL (same gender-loving) State of the Union. One of the issues brought to the forefront was the increase of suicides among LGBTQ elders in nursing homes and other facilities. Surprised?

While we’re all sort of aware that suicide is a leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24, we rarely think of it as a leading cause for elders. However, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a startling statistic: people 45-64 years old had the highest suicide rate in 2013, and elders 85 years old and older had the second highest. The NCOA suggests these stats may be higher because elder suicide may be under-reported by 40% or more and they include the double suicides involving spouses or partners that occur most frequently among older people.

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Photo courtesy of AARP DC.

 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 10,189 people 60 years old and older died from suicide in 2013, and those elders 85 years old or older committed suicide at a rate four times higher than the nation’s average.

We can work to change these statistics.

Bette Davis said “Old age ain’t for sissies,” and she wasn’t talking about LGBTQ/SGL folks necessarily. However, being old and LGBTQ/SGL is HARD. It is so hard that the research is showing that a large majority of older gay folks are going back into the closet. Anecdotally, we are finding their numbers climbing in the suicide rates. One expert stated that a person “thinking about suicide may not want to die but is in search of some way to make pain or suffering go away.”

So, what do we know? We know that ageism coupled with homophobia and the maltreatments of racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and heteronormative standards can lead to isolation and depression. We also know that the realities of living alone; not having a partner or spouse; leaving one’s home; and becoming dependent on systems and people can bring about a sense of loss and grief so great that suicide seems the only answer. We can change the environments that cause our elders to run back into the closet for safety or commit suicide.

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Photo courtesy of AARP DC.

Back in the day, nursing homes were called “old folks homes.” The term of art is now “assisted living facility,” but the atmosphere is the same – and nobody wants to be in one. But what if? What if an assisted living facility was truly a place that assisted in one’s quality of life, not set up like a hospital but like one’s home? What if the staff looked less like medical personnel and more like neighbors? What if the caregivers and the patients were educated to work and live in a culturally competent manner, respectful and accepting of race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and there was a zero-tolerance policy for anything less? What if the expectation was to CARE and everyone in the facility felt safe and supported? Far-fetched? I think not.

The keys to changing those statistics mentioned earlier are in our hands. We must transform the nature of an “assisted living” facility to “we care living” facility. The panelists and attendees at the State of the Union had several recommendations for organizations, including:

  • Support policies such as affordable housing, Social Security, and Age-Friendly City
  • Integrate LGBTQ/SGL Older Adult programming with other (culturally appropriate) programming to create opportunities to decrease isolation and depression
  • Create partnerships to share the history of older LGBTQ/SGL older adults
  • Recruit Millennials and others to act as volunteers to visit and engage older adults

It is equally important that we work on an individual level. On an individual level, we can become present in an LGBTQ/SGL older adult’s life. Your presence changes their environment, and supportive environments save lives.

 

March 18, 2016

The 2016 Aging in America Conference: Bringing the Diverse Elders Coalition Together

 

By Ben de Guzman 

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on March 16, 2016. Read the original post here.

Washington, DC, is a beautiful city this time of year. While we haven’t quite hit the peak time for the annual cherry blossoms to be in bloom, the weather is just beginning to turn to spring and the greenery is just beginning to come out from its winter hibernation. As a longtime resident of the District, I always appreciate springtime and look especially forward to the many conferences and local events that bring friends and colleagues into town to take advantage of both the beauty the city has to offer, and the unique role we play as the nation’s capital.

I’m waiting with particularly eager anticipation for next week’s 2016 Aging in America Conference, which will be held March 20-24 at the Marriott Wardman and Omni Shoreham Hotels. This conference is one of the largest of its kind and brings thousands of leaders, advocates, policymakers, researchers, and elders together to talk about the latest advances in serving the nation’s aging population. The Diverse Elders Coalition and its member organizations have an ambitious slate of programming on tap, including robust programming, a face-to-face meeting with the principals of our organizations, and social opportunities to connect with our member groups. You can check it all out here.

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Photo from last year’s LAIN event at the 2015 Aging in America Conference.


As five leading national organizations serving elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders, our member groups have unique constituencies that are often not served by the attendees of the conference. The Symposium we are putting on as a coalition, “Getting in the Game: Diverse Elders and Civic Engagement,” will be an opportunity to put the spotlight on those elders who are all too often not part of the conversations that usually happen here. Our member groups will share stories and resources from their decades of experience directly engaging and serving their communities and what that means for the current political climate. The Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 22 at 9:00 am in the Marriott Wardman Park Washington 4 room.

The unique needs, challenges, and strengths of the constituencies our member groups serve will be centered on the discussion we will have around cultural competence. Staff of our member groups will come together for a session that I will moderate on “Providing Culturally Competent Services for Diverse Elders,” which will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel Congressional B Room on Monday, March 21 at 1:30 pm. My first job coming to Washington, DC focused on supporting culturally competent health care practices, so this conversation will be a personally meaningful way to bring my career thus far full circle and see how the field has evolved in the more than 16 years since I last worked in it.

The Diverse Elders Coalition gives me the opportunity to work with five teams of people doing important work for elders who are too frequently ignored by too many systems that are supposed to serve them. Although the five teams work in different spaces on a range of issues, events like the 2016 Aging in America Conference is an important venue to come together as colleagues, compare notes, and recommit ourselves to the ongoing work to refocus the attention of policymakers and the aging advocacy movement to the constituencies we serve. 

March 17, 2016

SAGEWorks: Helping Women Rejoin the Workforce

By Vera Lukacs

As part of a larger effort to support and benefit LGBT older adults, SAGE held a special SAGEWorks event on March 16th to help those looking to rejoin the workforce. Panelists included Jason Rosenbaum (Thomson Reuters), Jens Audenaert (ADP), JoAnne D'Aleo (The Transition Network), Angela Lee (Callen-Lorde), Addie Rimmer (Workforce Opportunity Services) and Tawanna Huguley (Good Shepherd Services).

Participant Wanda Lawrence found the event highly informative. “I’m feeling more confident now as opposed to when I walked in the door. This has been a challenge for me but I feel very supported in this space.”

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-03-17/c3f59f4c19cf4d92949f611587285b53.pngPanelists at SAGE Center Midtown: Photo by Michele D'Amato

In the article, Older Women Are Being Forced Out of the Workforce, Harvard Business Review highlights a study by economists at the University of California at Irvine and Tulane University that uncovers “robust evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women.” One example of gender and age disparities in the workforce is the lower callback rate for middle-aged female applicants, as compared to their younger counterparts. The rate comparison between middle-aged and young male applicants was similar.

It’s no surprise that women and men experience the workplace differently. For instance, a woman makes 79 cents to every dollar a man makes. It’s a cold, hard fact that women have a harder time getting jobs, keeping them, and growing within their positions over time — and it’s especially challenging for older women in the LGBT community.

SAGEWorks, a national employment initiative for LGBT adults 40 years and older, connects LGBT job seekers with the skills and support to land a job in their desired field. Programs include 2-week boot camps, individual coaching, work readiness exercises, and more.

To commemorate Women’s History Month, SAGE is sharing the unique perspectives of aging LGBT women. Do you have a workplace story to share? Tell us in the comments!  

Faith, Hope and Justice: A Conversation With Bishop Tonyia Rawls

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post blog on March 16, 2016. Read the original post here.

By Susan Herr

Held in partnership with the Freedom Center for Social Justice, a day-long SAGE storytelling training in North Carolina recently convened LGBTQ activists, aging service providers, movement builders and faith leaders. SAGE’s Susan Herr sat down with Bishop Tonyia Rawls to talk about the social justice mission of the Freedom Center, founding a church, and becoming an elder in a community of faith.

2016-03-15-1458082691-5718444-TanyiaRawlsSH: The Freedom Center has partnered with SAGE for three years as part of the SAGE Story project. Let’s start by talking about the work of the Freedom Center.

BR: The Freedom Center for Social Justice works at the intersection of race, faith, gender identity/expression and social justice. We are committed to the growth, safety and empowerment of the LGBTQ community. Our mission is accomplished through education, programs, partnerships and advocacy. We have three major programs.

The first is the Do No Harm campaign which asks clergy, public officials and small business owners to sign the Do No Harm Pledge promising that they won’t use religion or religious text to create un- safe spaces or violate the law.

Second is the Transgender Faith and Action Network, which is a social network for trans people of faith and allies. It is currently in the testing stage and will have its national launch in spring 2016. The network will provide resources, research, opportunities for connection and tools to build stronger trans-affirming spaces on the ground. We also host an annual transgender retreat that offers an opportunity for refreshing, learning and strategizing.

Finally, we work with key partners like SAGE, NAACP, Southerners on New Ground, Campus Pride and others who share our vision of a world where equal protections and opportunities exist for all.

SH: I was lucky enough to meet you and to learn more about the Freedom Center at this year’s Storytelling Summit in Charlotte. Tell me about the SAGEStory partnership between Freedom Center and SAGE.

BR: We have captured the stories of more than 30 LGBTQ seniors through these summits, many of which we included in a mini documentary produced by the Freedom Center organizer AJ Williams called “Quiet As It’s Kept.” The majority of participants are people of color. However, the group is diverse. The 2014 and 2015 cohorts went through a 6-week training period and learned the skills needed to not just tell their stories, but to turn those stories into positive change and power.

SH: The keynote speaker for this year’s event was the Reverend Nelson Johnson, Pastor of the Faith Community Church. He described his decades-long journey from homophobia to the leadership role he now uses to counter oppression of LGBT people in some Christian denominations. As a recovering fundamentalist myself, I was moved to tears by his story. Why did you invite him to be the keynote speaker?

BR: One of the things we are committed to is not working in silos. While we are unapologetic about our work with and for LGBTQ people, our general concerns are bigger than that. He may be a Black preacher who once held fundamentalist anti-gay views, but he is also an elder who lives in the South. We have far more in common than not. The only way we can cross those bridges to one another is to be willing to let ours down. Reverend Johnson is committed to justice, period. He is a long-time civil rights activist and has been willing to do the often hard work of self-reflection. I honor that part of him, which is why we invited him to share his journey.

SH: You and your wife Gwen moved to Charlotte from D.C. in 2014 to establish Unity Fellowship Church Movement’s first flock there. The denomination, founded in 1982, was born from a need to minister primarily to LGBT Black people during the height of the AIDS crisis. How is the genesis of Unity Fellowship alive in your church today?

BR: Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte was the first church in the denomination to be established in the Bible Belt. The Founder, Archbishop Carl Bean, established a phrase that “God is Love and Love is For Everyone.” In 2014, I founded Sacred Souls Community Church, which is now entering the United Church of Christ. We have been able to expand our reach to all of the members of our community in a way that looks beyond race, class, land of native birth and any other measure that keeps people marginalized and oppressed.

SH: Do elders play as powerful a role in your church as they do in other faith communities?

BR: Elders are those 45 and older who play a vital role in every aspect of our ministry. In addition to their experience and spiritual depth, they have skills that can come only with time. I have grown to depend on them as a pastor and they are some of our strongest advocates for spiritual and social justice for all.

SH: Do you consider yourself an elder?

BR: My mom died at 58 years old and my grandmother at 56. They were both amazing women who impacted not only my life but the life of so many others who looked to them for wisdom, guidance and support. At 57, I find myself functioning in a similar role. I celebrate my life and appreciate the opportunity I have been given to share my experiences, resources and support to those coming along. I view this role as an elder as one of the highest honors one can hold. I believe the world needs us.

SH: SAGE works to ensure that LGBT older people are represented in a wide array of anti-discrimination efforts across the country. North Carolina, where SAGE has two affiliates in addition to our partnership with the Freedom Center, is one of the states where we have focused our efforts. Do you feel hopeful about North Carolina’s ability to advance policies that protect LGBT people of all ages?

BR: North Carolina is going to surprise many people because we have been working together across lines of difference to stand strong against those forces that seek to distract citizens from the real issues that harm them. We also are holding together to reject the notion that the differences between us far outweigh the needs we have as a state. The Freedom Center is working together with groups as diverse as the Latin American Coalition, Time Out Youth, historically Black colleges and other “unusual suspects” to look at politics, justice, faith and hope through a lens of new possibility. LGBTQ issues are being taken out of the box and now applied to life in general.

Follow Susan Herr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/herrview. Follow #SAGEStoryLGBT on Instagram.