June 19, 2014

Portraits of Pride: Jimmy Harris

Pride month is underway! To celebrate, we're sharing “Portraits of Pride” featuring SAGE participants each week throughout June. This week we're introducing Jimmy Harris, an actor and SAGE participant who charms both on and off-stage. 

SAGE_portrait3_Jimmy

Born in Richmond, Kentucky as the ninth of ten children, Jimmy remembers that his mother encouraged him to move away, saying "You're out of here! You're going to end up in a big city--you're going to learn how to eat frog legs and lobster!" 

True to his mother's prediction, Jimmy moved to New York City at age 20 in the late 1960's, drawn by a love affair with a well-to-do man. He remembers that he experienced a "shock of luxury--that I was willing to adjust to very quickly! It was a magnificent journey."

Eventually Jimmy graduated from Fordham University and moved into the professional world. After being fired from a job at insurance company for being gay, he built a successful career as a court reporter, then left it to pursue his dreams of show business. Despite being offered a partnership in the firm he worked for, Jimmy knew it was time for a change. "I had to take the road that would liberate my soul and not stifle my personality," he remembers. "I didn't want to be in a suit five days a week."

Jimmy's brave choice paid off; he's had a successful career as an actor, having performed in a few films and about 25 plays over the years. Though he's now retired, Jimmy says he's tempted to return to acting from time to time, so keep an eye out for him on Broadway! If you don't see him onstage you'll find him at The SAGE Center, where he meets friends for dinner two or three times a week.  

-- Posted by Kira Garcia 

June 17, 2014

Policy Update: An Executive Order to Protect LGBT Workers

Today, we learned that the President Obama will sign an Executive Order (EO) banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity by federal contractors.  We appreciate this bold move by the President to provide much-needed protections to the LGBT employees of federal contractors, who deserve to be judged, not based on who they are or whom they love, but on how they perform on the job.  Today’s announcement is of particular importance to LGBT older adults, who, despite facing unique challenges, including discrimination based on both their age and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, continue to work in this challenging economy. Many of this generation are in fact compelled to stay in the workforce given the financial effects of facing a lifetime of discrimination both in and out of the workplace and the continued discrimination in government benefits.  While LGBT older adults are often perceived to be a wealthy population, nothing could be further from the truth.   Many LGBT older adults must continue to work – undoubtedly many as employees of federal contractors – to age successfully like their counterparts.  SAGEWorks, SAGE’s national, older adult, employment program, helps LGBT older adults navigate this often challenging time in their lives to obtain employment.  

This Executive Order also serves as a reminder that those who are not employees of federal contractors still remain at risk of being fired simply for who they are or whom they love.  There is still no national, non-discrimination protections to protect individuals based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the workplace.  We call on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to provide concrete protections, and to send a much-needed message, that all working individuals, including LGBT older adults, can and should be able to bring their entire selves to work, without the fear of discrimination.  

This EO has been a long time coming and many of our allies in the LGBT advocacy community deserve our thanks and appreciation for helping to bring this day to pass.  We congratulate the White House on this landmark Executive Order and we look forward to seeing the President’s leadership in working with Congress to pass ENDA. 

-- Posted by Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Government Relations

June 16, 2014

Two Recent Policy Victories for Transgender People

What would you do without an accurate I.D.?

Imagine the challenges associated with having to present identification that misrepresents your gender identity--whether at the airport, during a traffic stop, or in countless other situations--and then being mistreated, denied benefits or subjected to discrimination. For many transgender people, including elders, this is a daily reality.

Two major recent policy victories will help to change this, by making it easier for transgender people to obtain accurate legal documentation--a critical tool in accessing public services and housing, traveling safely, and fully engaging in civic life.

On June 5, New York State announced that it will no longer require New Yorkers to provide documentation of gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatments to update the gender on their birth certificates. This will alleviate the bureaucratic burden of documenting these procedures for some transgender individuals. For others who choose not to undergo medical intervention, this announcement will mean that for the first time, their legal documentation can match their true identities.

Last week, more good news: the American Medical Association announced that transgender people shouldn't be required to have surgical intervention in order to change the gender reflected on their birth certificates.

Each of these steps toward transgender equality will have special significance for transgender older adults, since accurate legal documentation is vital to accessing services like Medicaid, social security, and nutrition benefits. When an accurate I.D. is easier to obtain, these services will be, too.

For more about these issues and why they're important, read Improving the Lives of Trangender Adults, a report published by SAGE and the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2012.

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

June 12, 2014

Portraits of Pride: Frances Gordon

Pride month is underway! To celebrate, we're sharing “Portraits of Pride” each week throughout June, featuring SAGE participants. This week we're introducing Frances Gordon, a lesbian originally from Georgia who has called New York City home for so long now that it "feels like forever".

SAGE_portrait2_Frances

Frances stays fit with a regular workout routine, but she loves a good party, too. She remembers past Pride celebrations at a women's bar called Bonnie & Clyde's, which was on West 3rd Street in New York City (you can read more about it here). 

Bonnie & Clyde's closed in the mid-1980's, and Frances remembers that women's bars were sometimes hard to keep track of. She says that they opened and closed so quickly that "sometimes they only lasted a month or so".  Regardless of the location, Frances celebrates SAGE Pride with grace and a terrific smile!

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

June 11, 2014

A Quick Chat with SAGE Participant Shelley Teitelbaum

SAGE and its affiliates offer dozens of programs every month throughout the country. Our monthly “Quick Chats” with SAGE participants offer a first-person perspective on these programs and a little more insight into the remarkable folks who make up our community. This month we spoke with Shelley Teitelbaum, a 75-year-old New York City native who has been a SAGE participant for two and a half years. 

Shelley_Teitelbaum_small

 

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Shelley. Where are you from originally?

I’m a native New Yorker; I’ve lived in the village since 1963. 

And what do you do?

I’m a retired attorney; I had a general civil practice. When I retired I was looking for ways to fill my time, so I started coming to SAGE for the Conscious Creative Aging group, a monthly book club, and dinner. I also teach French at another senior center near Washington Square. SAGE is important to me as a lesbian, because it provides services. But it’s also important that it provides a good meal and a chance to hang out—to have book clubs, listen to music, things like that.

What’s your favorite aspect of SAGE?

I especially love my creative aging group—being with eleven other gay and lesbian men and women—because they’re fearless! We share hopes, joys, fears, and learn from one another what it’s like to age. We didn’t learn about that in school, you know.  We start each meeting with a meditation, then share our responses to readings and share thoughts on selected topics. We work on how to deal with aging gracefully and consciously. 

That sounds beautiful! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

It’s been a pleasure!

--Posted by Kira Garcia 

 

June 5, 2014

Portraits of Pride: Michael Roberts and Michael Johnson

Pride month has begun! To celebrate, we’ll share a “Portrait of Pride” each week throughout June, featuring SAGE participants. This week we're introducing Michael Roberts and Michael Johnson, who were photographed in their home. 

SAGE_portrait1

Michael Roberts (left) and Michael Johnson (right) have been together for more than thirty years, having met at a party when, as Michael Johnson says, “Michael [Roberts] went to meet the host—I went to flirt with everybody!” More recently, they became the first gay male couple to be legally married in New York State.

Michael and Michael live together in a historic Harlem townhouse that they’ve lovingly restored, and have been SAGE participants and treasured friends of the community for decades. 

-- Posted by Kira Garcia 

June 2, 2014

Remembering Arlene Kochman, Former Executive Director of SAGE

SAGE is saddened to announce the recent passing of Arlene Klarfeld Kochman, who served as  Executive Director from 1991 to 1996. 

Arlene oversaw the rapid expansion of SAGE services , dramatically expanding the numbers of LGBT elders receiving support, and relocating SAGE to its current headquarters at 305 7th Avenue in Manhattan.  

Arlene_Kochman_small
Arlene Kochman, former Executive Director of SAGE

 

Arlene was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who also brought increased visibility to issues related to HIV and aging. She made important contributions to the public dialogue on this issue, which remains a key focus for SAGE policy advocacy and services  today.

In 1993, Arlene was quoted by the New York Times in an article about New York City’s domestic partnership registry, which acknowledged same-sex couples and served as an important benchmark on the road to marriage equality.  

"It means something," said Arlene Kochman, executive director of Senior Action in a Gay Environment in Manhattan. "The more people who say, 'We are domestic partners and we have this piece of paper,' the more it will begin to be known that this is a binding agreement and it will be respected." 

Arlene forged and witnessed remarkable progress for LGBT elders and SAGE--and for the larger LGBT equality movement--during her lifetime. Her dedication and leadership are remembered with great gratitude and fondness. 

May 30, 2014

A Major Victory: Medicare Will Cover Transition-Related Care

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Department Appeals Board (DAB), an independent federal appeals board, ruled that Medicare must cover medically necessary care for individuals with gender dysphoria, just as it covers medically necessary care for those with other medical conditions.  In short, Medicare will now cover transition-related care for transgender older adults. 

SAGE applauds our advocacy partners, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), for their tireless advocacy on this issue.  This is an important milestone for transgender older adults, who after a lifetime of being denied medically necessary care, are finally on a level playing field with other Medicare recipients. Older transgender individuals are now able to get the comprehensive medical coverage they need and deserve. 

The ability to access complete gender-transition related health care is essential to ensuring the health and well-being of transgender patients.  The Medicare policy denying this care ran counter to decades of extensive scientific and clinical research, which supports surgically altering an individual's primary and secondary sex characteristics as a safe, effective and medically necessary treatment for severe gender dysphoria. This decision is lifesaving for many transgender individuals suffering from severe gender dysphoria.  Both the medical and mental health professions have recognized that when denied proper medical care, individuals with gender dysphoria can develop severe psychological distress, dysfunction, and debilitating depression -- placing them at increased risk for suicide and self-harm. 

Recognizing the dangers of denying proper medical care, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have issued policy statements recognizing the medical necessity for gender transition-related treatments including hormone therapy and/or sex reassignment surgeries, as well as mental health care. For more information on this important change, the National Center for Transgender Equality has put together a comprehensive fact sheet on Medicare coverage of transition-related care.

-- Posted by Aaron Tax, SAGE's Director of Federal Government Relations

May 29, 2014

Aging and HIV: New Insights, New Recommendations

In the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, most people diagnosed faced death within a few years, if not sooner. Thirty years on, much has changed; HIV has become a more manageable chronic illness and many people are aging with the disease. 

The proof is in these startling statistics: it's predicted that 50 percent of people with HIV in the U.S. will be age 50+ by 2015—and by 2020, more than 70 percent of Americans with HIV are expected to 50+.

With that in mind, SAGE, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) and ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America)  have created a report outlining eight recommendations to address the needs of a growing demographic of older adults with HIV, many of whom are LGBT and people of color. The full report, Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health & Wellness of Older Adults with HIV, can be found online here.  

In conjunction with this project, several leaders in the field joined forces for a recent national teleconference on HIV & Aging. Among the many issues discussed, Dan Tietz of ACRIA highlighted the power of images. Tietz reminded listeners that "It's important to target prevention messages to older adults. Don't use images of young adults and teenagers to reach at risk older adults." 

As the experience of living with HIV/AIDS has changed, our approach to care and messages about prevention must also evolve. This new report should serve as an important resource in accomplishing that goal. 

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

 

Exploring Housing Struggles and Solutions in a New Webinar

One of the biggest issues facing many LGBT older adults in cities and towns across the country is finding safe, affordable housing. With this in mind, SAGE and Enterprise Community Partners are co-presenting a webinar on June 4th from 2:30pm-4:00pm ET, on building housing services and supports that are inclusive and supporting of LGBT elders.

Due to higher levels of financial insecurity and a general lack of affordable housing, many LGBT elders find that they cannot afford homes in the communities in which they have lived for years. Others face harassment and intimidation in their homes and in long-term care settings from aging professionals, other residents, and even their own family members. [1] In fact, in a recent report, the San Francisco Aging Policy Task Force concluded, “that the number one problem LGBT older adults are dealing with…is ensuring they have stable housing.”[2] 

Join this outstanding panel as they discuss public policy solutions including: increasing access to affordable housing, connecting health care providers to housing providers, addressing housing discrimination, and increasing the number of LGBT culturally competent housing providers. 

Building Housing Services & Supports Webinar

Wednesday, June 4
2:30pm-4:00pm ET
Register online here

Moderator
Michael Adams, Executive Director, SAGE

Panelists

  • Cheryl Gladstone, Senior Housing Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
  • Kat Taylor, Disability Rights Program Manager, Equal Rights Center
  • Seth Kilbourn, Executive Director, Openhouse
  • Sherrill Wayland, Executive Director, SAGE Metro St. Louis

Facilitator
Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives, SAGE

 


[1] The Aging and Health Report: Disparities and Resilience Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., Kim, H.J., Emlet, C. A., Muraco, A., Erosheva, E. A.,Hoy Ellis, C. P., Goldsen, J., Petry, H., Institute for Multigenerational Health, 2011, http://caringandaging.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Full-report10-25-12.pdf

[2] LGBT Aging Panel Zeros in on Housing, Matthew J. Bajko, Bay Area Reporter, March 6, 2014,  http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69531