October 10, 2017

Coming Out to Your Healthcare Provider


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In celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 11, SAGECare and our partner the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation want to share the vibrant voices of LGBT elders. Many of the people in the videos embedded below discuss the various consequences of neglecting to disclose your sexual orientation to your doctor. If a doctor assumes that you’re heterosexual, you may end up missing out on an array of important services you need and deserve.

Many doctors respond to this issue by saying that there is no need for patients to disclose their sexual orientation, stating that this information wouldn’t cause them to treat a patient any differently. While these reassuring words may be said with good intentions, it’s important to be able to openly discuss these matters. That way, doctors can ensure that their patients are receiving completely person-directed care, including all the relevant information, treatments, and help that speak to their specific needs.

While great progress has been made, statistics show that many LGBT people, and transgender people in particular, are still subjected to some of the most painful discrimination when accessing healthcare. This includes, but is not limited to, when people seek medical services related to gender reassignment.

Many older LGBT adults say that medical visits are easier for them once their doctor knows their sexual orientation. After having this conversation with their doctor, many patients report that they no longer feel like they have to censor themselves or worry about being judged or discriminated against. Once the information is out in the open, patients can count on their doctor’s office to be a safe space where they will be treated with respect. 

That’s why SAGECare, SAGE’s cultural competency training program for long-term care providers, and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation created these videos. With the voices of LGBT elders and those who care for them out in the open, LGBT older adults will receive better care. Come out to your provider. And remember SAGE's slogan: We refuse to be invisible.  —Grace Jones


October 9, 2017

Trump Administration Issues License to Discriminate


The Trump administration recently issued guidelines that dangerously give a license to discriminate against the LGBT community, especially our elders, under the guise of so-called religious freedom. 

Issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime opponent of LGBT equality, the guidance gives federal agencies broad leeway to discriminate against LGBT people based on their religious beliefs and allowing them exemptions from federal laws, rules, and regulations.

Of particular note to the LGBT older adult community, nearly 85 percent of retirement communities are faith-based, according to a recent analysis by LeadingAge and Ziegler, a Chicago investment bank. What’s more, these organizations make up more than 80 percent of all units available to LGBT elders, putting them at specific risk. LGBT elders’ care could be seriously compromised by allowing these institutions or individuals to find an exemption to refuse to care for LGBT elders.

This license to discriminate also exacerbates the challenge of LGBT people seeking housing. LGBT older adults already face extreme discrimination when seeking housing: A study by the Equal Rights Center and SAGE found that 48 percent of elder same-sex couples experienced overt discrimination when applying for senior housing, and the problem is amplified for older transgender people. When it comes to visiting a doctor or a medical facility, this license to discriminate could allow providers to refuse care to LGBT people or provide substandard service.

Further, this license to discriminate goes directly against the wishes of a vast majority of Americans and a bipartisan group in Congress (60 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats), who support protecting our LGBT community, according to a recent Public Religion Research Survey.

“Today’s Department of Justice guidelines are merely a license to discriminate based on so-called religious freedom, and they are a disaster for this country,” says SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “Neither individuals nor faith-based organizations—nor any other entity—have the right to elevate their religious beliefs above the laws that protect all Americans. For LGBT elders, this guidance is particularly dangerous."

Adams continues: “The vast majority of long-term care providers in this country are faith-based organizations. The notion that the federal government would suggest that such organizations can elevate their religious beliefs above their legal, ethical, and professional responsibilities to provide respectful and discrimination-free care is outrageous. SAGE and LGBT elders will fight any effort to implement this license to discriminate against LGBT elders and the LGBT community.”

SAGE will continue to stand with and for our LGBT pioneers. We will not back down. We refuse to be invisible.

October 6, 2017

SAGE Assures Same-Sex Married Couples That Their Rights Are Safe

Copy of Graham Healthcare Bill

Given the severe challenges that LGBT people have faced under the Trump administration, we understand our community’s alarm when hearing news that the administration is planning to revoke a rule proposed in 2014 to protect married, same-sex couples in long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

In consultation with our community’s best legal minds, SAGE has carefully reviewed this announcement. The proposed rule from 2014 is no longer needed in light of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015, which ensures that our marriages are federally recognized and afforded equal rights under all circumstances in all parts of the country. Therefore, in this case the Trump administration’s action will make no difference.  

Having said that, we all know that the progress our community has made is under regular attack by the Trump administration. This week alone the administration has moved to roll back protections for transgender employees and voted against a UN resolution condemning the death penalty for same-sex relations. Our elders suffer the consequences of these incessant assaults on our rights and dignity. SAGE  remains relentlessly vigilant to fight any effort to turn back the clock on our community.

October 3, 2017

Send in the Singers: Sing for Your Seniors and SAGE

Quentin Earl Darrinton CATS

Quentin Earl Darrinton of Cats performs at SAGE 


The idea behind Sing for Your Seniors is simple: Singers brighten up the lives of elders in their community by offering free, uplifting musical performances, live and in person. Music not only brings joy—it can also carry therapeutic value, particularly for older adults who show signs of withdrawal, says Jackie Vanderbeck, the organization’s founder and producing artistic director. Founded 12 years ago, in 2005, Sing for Your Seniors is a New York–based nonprofit organization that has generously donated much of its time to the LGBT elders at SAGE. We recently sat down with Jackie and asked her all about Sing for Your Seniors and its strong relationship with SAGE:

Jackie vanderbeck_SingForYourSeniors
Jackie Vanderbeck, Founder & Producing Artistic Director

SAGE: Hi, Jackie! First things first: What is your personal favorite part of working with Sing for Your Seniors?

Jackie: My favorite part would have to be the connections we make. I love that our artists are getting to know and building relationships with our elder community through the many centers and hospitals we serve. It’s not often these two demographics cross paths in the fast-paced bustle of New York City. Through Sing for Your Seniors, we have built a bridge that strengthens our capacity for compassion, understanding, and inclusion.

SAGE: Sing for Your Seniors has performed at SAGE once a month for around five and a half years, so about 65 times! What makes the SAGE crowd unique compared to other audiences?

Sing for Your Seniors visits a large variety of centers and hospitals all over New York, and SAGE is a favorite among our artists because of their enthusiasm and knowledge of the music we share. Many of our audience at SAGE have worked in the Broadway community or grew up appreciating it. So, while at some of the centers I might encourage our group to choose songs from the golden era, at SAGE I tell them to bring it all—the more obscure the better! We like to try and stump the SAGE crowd. Through this mutual love of music and theatrical storytelling, we have gotten to know each other and really have become a family. It’s beautiful to see our artists hugging and chatting before our session even begins. It’s like a little reunion every time.

SAGE: You’ve had a number of award-winning Broadway performers volunteer with Sing for Your Seniors, many of whom have come to SAGE. How do you get them on board?

Being a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, I am lucky to have a large network of friends in the entertainment industry, many of whom are performing on Broadway. When I am looking to do one of our Broadway Sessions, board member Daniel Torres or I will reach out to someone we know in a particular show to see if they’d like to participate. When possible, we pair a show whose message is poignant to a particular community we serve. For example, I was very passionate about bringing Fun Home to SAGE. Fun Home is the first Broadway musical to have a lesbian protagonist, and I wanted the folks at SAGE to have the opportunity to see what their generation paved the way for. In that session, SAGE enjoyed performances from several members of the original cast, including Tony Award winner Judy Kuhn and Tony Award nominee Beth Malone. Accompanying them on piano was musical director Chris Fenwick, fellow CCM alum and friend, who jumped at the chance to bring the show to SAGE.

We have had cast from 15 shows participate since starting the Broadway Sessions program in 2012. SAGE has received four, with performances by Kinky Boots, Cats, Fun Home, and most recently, War Paint.


The cast of War Paint performs at SAGE


SAGE: Beautiful! Any final thoughts?

Performing with Sing for Your Seniors is very freeing for artists in an industry that is still very much developing its awareness for inclusion. Artists can come to our sessions and share with an audience any song they desire without having to think twice about whether or not they are the “right” gender identity, ethnicity, age, sex, or sexual orientation—or simply look the way a character has traditionally been portrayed. By giving artists a space to explore and strengthen their craft in a setting that celebrates all perspectives, not only is it beautifully impactful to our performers and our audiences, but my hope is that we are fostering a louder voice in the inclusion movement.  —Daniel Kessel

Sing for Your Seniors is a New York–based nonprofit organization founded in 2005. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Beth Malone FUN HOME
Beth Malone of Fun Home at SAGE
Annaleigh Ashford KINKY BOOTS
Annaleigh Ashford of Kinky Boots at SAGE
September 16, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Our Mother

SAGE CEO Michael Adams’s poignant and empowering message delivered at LGBTQ icon Edie Windsor’s memorial service in New York City on September 15, 2017. You can view a video of the memorial service here. The service starts at the 30 minute mark.


Edie and Michaels mom
Edie and my mom at the 2016 SAGE Awards

Since I learned the news of Edie’s passing on Tuesday, I’ve been carrying around a beautiful picture of Edie and my mom, taken at last year’s SAGE Awards gala. I’ve pondered why, of all the many pictures I have of Edie, it’s that photo that I’ve been clinging to these past few days. Then it came to me: in so many ways, Edie was our mother.

Like mothers do, she made every one of her children feel that they were the apple of her eye. I know, because she made ME feel that way. Always. I’m not one to dwell on whatever I manage to get right; I’m too busy figuring out what I got wrong and how to fix it. But when Edie told me she was proud of me, that meant EVERYTHING to me, as if my own mother had told me. Because in a powerful way that I can’t quite explain, Edie mothered me. My amazing Mom who is in that picture with Edie raised me up as a child to be the person I am, for better and for worse. But it was Edie who raised me to do my best for our beloved LGBTQ community. She taught me so much. She inspired me. She made me smile and made my heart beat on the toughest of days.

This is my personal story about Edie. But it’s also our LGBTQ community’s story, because Edie loved and mothered all of us. Edie once said: “I’ve been having a love affair with the gay community.”  And we all felt her love. Edie was family at SAGE. She served on our Board of Directors for many years, she was a guiding light for the bold community education group Old Queers Acting Up. She was a regular at the SAGE Center. But she had so much love to spread around. She loved my sister LGBT leaders Glennda Testone and Wendy Stark and so many more. She loved The Center and Callen-Lorde and so many of our community organizations. 

Edie gave us her fearless leadership in New York City, across the U.S., and indeed across the world. Her impact was so huge, so widespread. And yet it was so personal, so much about each of us, because she was always on the move, always beside us, always rooted in our community. Whether she was serving as assistant stage manager for Taking Liberties, an amazing lesbian musical supporting Astraea [Lesbian Foundation for Justice], the [National Gay and Lesbian] Task Force, and the [Lesbian Herstory] Archives. Or when she attended the very first conference of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. Or when she was a marriage equality ambassador for the Empire State Pride Agenda. The list of Edie’s activist efforts goes on for pages.

Continue reading "Saying Goodbye to Our Mother" »

September 14, 2017

SAGE Takes Loving, Caring Activism to the Streets at Pride Celebrations Across the Country

SAGE motivated tens of thousands of LGBT people across generations to step out at Pride celebrations nationwide. It was a summer of firsts: In New York City, SAGE partnered with Airbnb to bring a trans elder to his very first Pride. While in Talkeetna, Alaska, a town of 900 residents 100 miles north of Anchorage, 300 members of the LGBT community participated in its inaugural Pride event. Varied in theme and locale, Pride gatherings from St. Louis and Tulsa to Albuquerque and Chicago, all had one thing in common. SAGE was there in force with the unified message of “We Refuse to Be Invisible!”

SAGE Milwaukee


SAGE Milwaukee

Pride NYC
SAGE New York


SAGE Center on Halsted AARP Illinois Affinity SAGE West Suburban Senior Services Howard Brown
SAGE Center on Halsted, Chicago


SAGE of the Desert
SAGE of the Desert, Palm Springs


SAGE Tampa Bay Pride
SAGE Tampa Bay


Theo Hutchinson and David Russell at Pride
At right, Theo Hutchinson, Airbnb winner, with David Russell at NYC Pride


SAGE Alaska
June 5, 2017

Now Available: SAGE Health Storylines Self-Care App

SAGE Website Banner

The SAGE Health Storylines self-care app makes it easy for older adults living with HIV and AIDS—and their caregivers—to track their health. A variety of tools, including a medication tracker, a mood tracker, and a symptom tracker, allow you to build your health story. The My Storylines feature allows you to learn more about your health, and to share more—safely and securely—with your doctor about what happened between visits.

App ImageThis app was designed in partnership with SAGE and Self Care Catalysts and is powered by the Health Storylines™ platform from Self Care Catalysts Inc.

You can customize your app with several self-care tools such as:

  • Medication Reminders
  • Symptom Tracker
  • Daily Mood Tracker and Journal
  • Vitals Tracker (Weight, Blood Pressure, etc.)
  • Ability to sync with wearable devices (e.g. Fitbit)

By using SAGE Health Storylines, you have the opportunity to anonymously contribute learning from your story to a vital data resource that helps researchers improve care in the future for people like you.

Need help getting started? Send an email to support@healthstorylines.com.

The FREE app is available for iOS and Android devices. You can also use the web version on your desktop computer by clicking here.


SAGE App on Apple AppStore SAGE App on Google Play


May 31, 2017

LGBT Elders Tell Washington: We Refuse to Be Invisible 

InvisibleHomepageBy sending more than 9,000 letters to Washington, people across the country raised their voices with SAGE and many other organizations, LGBT and allies alike, to tell the Trump administration that we refuse to be invisible

Given the erasure of LGBT issues from White House and federal agency websites within hours of Donald Trump’s inauguration, we at SAGE were alarmed but not surprised when we learned of the Trump administration’s plans to eliminate LGBT elders from an annual federal aging survey, the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAPP), which is overseen by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). This crucial survey helps determine how $2 billion in publicly funded elder services gets distributed. 

With the new regime in Washington seemingly determined to wipe out the progress toward LGBT inclusion in federal aging policies and programs, we at SAGE quickly realized that our LGBT elders and their advocates were in for a big fight. SAGE responded against this outrageous elimination with the #WeRefuseToBeInvisible campaign, a grassroots effort to mobilize a strong response during the Public Comment period that the administration is legally required to undertake before making major changes—such as erasing an entire population—to an important federal program. The Public Comment period for the survey exclusion ended on May 12, and thanks to an outpouring outrage against this erasure, Washington heard our unified message: We refuse to be invisible! 

On April 27, a bipartisan group of 19 U.S. Senators led by Senator Susan Collins, Republican chair of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, publicly demanded a reversal of the Trump administration’s plans to erase LGBT elders. Then, on the last day of Public Comment, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus sent a bipartisan letter from 50 members of the House of Representatives to Tom Price, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. The letter admonished the ACL, the division of HHS that oversees the survey, for its the erasure of LGBT adults and demanded that it reinstate the LGBT demographic question. 

Now we await a final decision from the Trump administration on LGBT inclusion in the elder services survey. But while we wait, we will not back down in our opposition to the erasure of our older LGBT community, because unfortunately, there is every indication that more battles are looming on the horizon. 

Through all of these battles and those to come, SAGE will continue to stand with and for our LGBT elder pioneers. We will not back down. We refuse to be invisible.

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Pride Month Is Here

YOU ARE SIMPLY THEIn case you've been hiding under a rock, June is Pride Month, and everyone at SAGE is excited to celebrate! Starting this weekend, the calendar is jam-packed with events around New York City to show the strength of our community and the depth of our passion. 

As we let loose, though, we are aware more than ever of the tenuous state of affairs in our government. Our response can only be one of action. We will never give up, and we will never stop fighting for our rights. This Pride month, we refuse to be invisible! 

To that end, join SAGE in participating at one of these events planned throughout June: 

May 15, 2017

Living Lessons in Activism

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, recently talked with three LGBT trailblazers who see momentum in the current political environment. It made for an uplifting and powerful conversation.

Michael Adams: Each of you has been a pioneer in social justice movements through the lenses of LGBT rights, racial justice, AIDS activism, transgender rights, and much more. When you think about the movement building you’ve been a part of, what lessons surface as most relevant to you at this particular moment in time?

Mandy Carter: When I put all of this into the context of the recent election, I have to point out that North Carolina was the only state in the South that did not go all Trump. HB2, which has been called “the bathroom bill” but is much deeper than that, has devastated the state. But [former Republican Governor] Pat McCrory’s support of HB2 cost him the election. The Moral Monday Movement, an incredible co- alition of organizations, made the difference in turning out of the vote that defeated McCrory. Now we have a Democratic governor and a Democratic attorney general. Maybe the bigger picture is sometimes we lose forward. What seems on the surface like a loss might, in the long run, be a win.

Today, there are 79 million of us post-World War II baby boomers and 80 million millennials aged 18 to 25. Now is the time for all of us to come together. Furthermore, by 2050, the majority of people in this country will be of color. We’re in a major movement moment. On a scale of one to 10 in optimism, I’m a 10.

Peter Staley: Like Mandy, I am really heartened to hear how much we are on the same page. ACT UP and AIDS activism were a response to a backlash that was occurring in the country in the early years of the AIDS crisis. What happened this past November shocked us all, but what I’ve seen is the first example in my lifetime of a true, strong, and growing progressive movement in this country across all issues.

Social media is an important tool for organizing now, but what made ACT UP so powerful in 1988 and 1989 was a couple of hundred people coming together in a room for strategizing and for feeling a sense of community as we do this work over the long haul. That component of organizing is still as essential as ever.

Social media is an amazing tool for getting the word out, but I’ve never found an app, a website, or an online tool that has the energy of face-to-face strategizing and brainstorming on how you’re going to create a demonstration against a specific target.

Elizabeth Coffey-Williams: I see a growing galvanization of intersectionality that is replacing the depression people were feeling just weeks and months ago. In my area [Philadelphia], people are coming together who in the past may have been in different camps. I’m seeing people take each other by the hand. I’m seeing people give each other what they need when they need it. I certainly respect the value of social media, but there is very little that can compete with that human connection—being in a room, smelling the issue, feeling each other. Now that the initial shock is over, people are moving to action. It’s also important to remember that this is not our first rodeo.

Peter Staley: What’s so exciting about today’s movement is that it’s those who don’t have skin in the game showing up for each other. When thousands of New Yorkers showed up at JFK Airport within hours of Trump’s horrifying immigration order, and then tens of thou- sands showed up at airports across the country only a few hours later, only a handful of those demonstrators had skin in the game. These were largely non-Muslim people using their bodies to defend Muslim immi- grants. That was a beautiful, defining moment for the resistance and will continue to define us.

Michael Adams: I’m struck by the optimism and incredibly powerful sense of resilience in every one of you. Where do you find that resilience?

Elizabeth Coffey-Williams: Considering the fact that when I completed my transition—which I had begun in the ’60s—in 1972, many of the words we use to describe it now didn’t even exist then. My resilience comes from the fact that my steel was tempered in raw shit. I’ve climbed up through a lot. We’ve all had our challenges, but those challenges have strengthened us. Yes, I’m resilient, and I feel like I have an enormous obliga- tion to lovingly and hopefully act and interact with the people who are coming after me.

Mandy Carter: We lived with Jesse Helms for 30 years. So when we put it in a herstorical and a historical perspective
—the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears—let’s thank the people who came before us who demonstrated the incomprehensible human capacity to endure. It’s not as if we haven’t dealt before with things like what are happening now, because we have. One thing that has really saved me is this quote: “Don’t mourn; organize. If there’s a need, fill it.” I find inspiration in my elders, but I’m also struck by today’s defiance that says, “No, we’re not going to have this, and we’re going to do something about it, darn it!”

Peter Staley: Although the history of AIDS activism is worth drawing lessons from, we weren’t as resilient as Hollywood might portray us. As activists, we’re all human. This type of work can be very painful and very exhausting, and one of the ways to get through it is to cut yourself a break and take care of each other. You can’t be a perfect, high-powered activist running on full charge 24/7. Life goes on while you’re doing this often depressing work. Enjoy life and take care of yourself. Embrace some dark humor about what you’re doing. God knows AIDS activists facing death on a constant basis were famous for their dark humor. That’s the only way mentally we could get through that early period of AIDS. Now we have amazing, cre- ative humor coming out of the resistance. We are not going to be able to get through the Trump era unless we crack a lot of jokes about the horribleness that is going on. But what really kept us in the game in the early days of AIDS activism is that we had our backs against the wall. The death rate kept going up, and frequently it was our own lives on the line.

Michael Adams: If you had to create an elevator pitch to impart your best wisdom for this newgeneration of activists, what would it be?

Mandy Carter: Remember when Edie Windsor won that incredible U.S. Supreme Court decision that killed the Defense of Marriage Act? It was the same court that all but gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We cannot get into the idea that “I’ve got mine and I’m good, and I’m sorry that you never got yours.” If there ever was a time for solidarity, it’s now. A lot of us walk in multiple identities: I’m black; I’m a lesbian; I’m a Southerner. Remember the first conversations about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? We heard people say to let the transgender part go and we’d come back and get them later. We have to look at the past and come up with new models in which no one gets left behind and no one gets left out.

Peter Staley: Learn your history. Get inspired by it, but please don’t come up to us old farts and ask us what to do. Every movement is different, every time is different, and you’re going to figure it out. Use our history as inspiration, both good and bad, but go out there and make your own movement. Trust yourself to make it happen.

Elizabeth Coffey-Williams: Come to a comfortable understanding of where your skill sets lie. Find your lane. Work in it. I also want to tell young people to look at my successes and look at my mistakes, but don’t do what I did. Do it your way. I’m already good at being me. I want them to be good at being themselves and bring something new and fresh and hot to the table.

Michael Adams: If you had a do-over, what did you get right and what would you do differently?

Peter Staley: ACT UP started splitting apart around year four or five. We were able to save the activism, but the movement suffered. Movements need a mechanism for resolving internal tensions. So if I had a do-over,I’d have a way to force the camps that were developing to work through things and to bring them face-to-face for a facilitated discussion.

Mandy Carter: As a young, black lesbian activist, jobs in the movement that reflected me didn’t exist. Until we formed the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and the National Black Justice Coalition, there was nowhere for a queer-identified woman of color to get a job, so I had to join a predominantly white organization. If we’re looking into the future, I would ask if there could be a more equitable financial way to work for the movement that represents you. Don’t make it either; make it both.

We also have to create ways for organizations to exist without the people who founded them. So many times the personality of the person who started a movement hangs so heavily over the organization that when they leave, we have to start over from the beginning.

Elizabeth Coffey-Williams: Early on in 1970-1971, it was rather unheard of to be an extraordinarily defiant trans woman who stood up and refused to sit down. I’m really glad I did that, because in some LGBT sectors, the letter “T” is still a very small “T.” But one thing I might do differently is maybe integrate my efforts of being a fiber artist, being involved in the NAMES project and the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and facilitating various gender groups. But the one thing I will never regret is not letting myself be sat down or pushed down.

Michael Adams: This has been an incredible conversation. Is there one last burning thing you’d like to add?

Mandy Carter: Each and every one of us has a moral compass. How do we tap into that and use the gifts we have? We have to realize our potential. The sky’s the limit; go for it!


MANDY CARTER describes herself as an “out, Southern, black, lesbian social justice advocate” and is a recipient of the Spirit of Justice Award from GLAD.

ELIZABETH COFFEY-WILLIAMS is a transgender advocate, artist, and actor known for her roles in classic John Waters movies.

PETER STALEY is a longtime AIDS activist who was instrumental in ACT UP and was a founding member of the Treatment Action Group. He was featured in documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”

MICHAEL ADAMS is Chief Executive Officer of SAGE and has led the organization for 10 years.