May 9, 2014

Pride and Parenthood: A Conversation with Jane Fleishman About Her Intentional LGBT Family

Today's post is written by Kira Garcia, SAGE's Director of Media Relations and Integrated Marketing.

With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s a great time to honor the courage, creativity and hard work—not to mention abundant love--that goes into creating LGBT families. It would be tough to find a better example of this than the family of Jane Fleishman and Joan Tabachnick. Jane and Joan co-parent their son Ezra, 21 and daughter Rose, 17, with their dads, Irwin and John.

All six of us at India House 2014
Jane Fleishman (second from left) and her family

 

At 60, Jane is pursuing a PhD in Human Sexuality after a career in staff development at a large psychiatric facility. Joan, 58, is a consultant specializing in sexual violence prevention. Irwin is a therapist specializing in transgender teens & families, and John is a retired school principal and puppeteer. I sat down to talk with Jane about her family’s remarkable story.

When did you decide to become parents, and how did parenthood come about for you? I know you have a unique story.

We have an intentional gay and lesbian family, but we all came to it in different ways.

In the late ‘80’s I wanted to be a mom but wasn’t sure how to do it-- I didn’t have a partner. I was searching around and thought I’d find a friend to be a donor. I asked my friend Irwin f he’d be a donor and he said he’d actually like to be a dad. His partner, John, was supportive.

So we embarked upon this project! It took me a long time but I finally became pregnant, and Ezra was born in 1992.

I love being a lesbian mom, and I love my community. Around the time Ezra was born, a lot of my friends were becoming sick with HIV and AIDS and I lost a number of close friends. So when we had a ceremony to celebrate the birth of this baby, everyone was happy to have a reason to get together that wasn’t a memorial. People were coming together for birth instead of death.

I met Joan when I was five months pregnant with Ezra. I had no idea what would happen but I knew she was amazing!

Wow, so Joan and Ezra were new to your life at the same time!

Yes! It was a magical time; I fell in love with both of them at the same time.

Joan’s commitment to become a mom with me was instrumental in helping me have another baby which I wasn’t sure I could do alone. So three and a half years later we had Rose. Rosie has the same bio dad as Ezra, but to recognize Joan’s role as a parent, we gave her Joan’s last name.

So you and Irwin were the legal parents, and then Joan became a third legal parent more recently.

Yes; we always wanted Joan to become a third parent but it wasn’t really an option. Initially, we understood that for Joan to become a legal parent, one parent would’ve had to give up parental rights—we didn’t want that to happen! We were about expansion, not contraction. We wanted the law to acknowledge Joan. Then we heard of friends in Boston who filed for three legal parents under the MA law which recognizes the “best interests of the child.”  When they went through with their legal adoption we knew it was now possible. She became a legal parent in 2012. It was great—we had our friends there and it was beautiful. Joan’s mother came up and we celebrated with bagels and lox.

When we began 20 years ago, it felt like we were ahead of the law but we knew the law would catch up with us—and it did!

What has surprised you most about parenthood?

I came out in the 70’s when I had to be really secretive at work. I couldn’t come out everywhere I wanted to. I felt like my lesbian and gay community was my neighborhood, my people. And I’m so close to my neighbors now! But when I was a young person I never knew my neighbors because I thought they’d shun me.  

When I became pregnant I became part of this huge new community. Hetero women saw me in this new way—I had a shared lived experience with hetero women that I’d never had before! It was wonderful but it was also kind of weird.

How do you think the world has changed for gay parents since your kids were born?

Well, my kids grew up in what is sometimes called, “Lesbianville, USA”. In Northampton a lot of the hetero families are like ‘we wish we had two moms!’ people joke about it, but the water is different here.

 When Rosie was in kindergarten she’d say [of her classmates] ‘he’s got 2 moms … and she’s got 2 moms, but no one’s family is exactly like ours.’ She knew a whole cohort of people that allowed her to be acknowledged, visible, seen, and not so different.

Yet when my son went to college he was struggling with how out he could be about his moms. He was in Boston, and it was a big school and it wasn’t as safe. But now both of my kids are totally out and proud about their parents. But they didn’t get the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to be out. They had to struggle like parents of gay children have to struggle—‘who do I tell?’

I’ve seen a lot of changes in 20 years. I was one of the first to have a baby in my community. There were people in my office who were like ‘why are you bringing a baby into this world, with so much hate?’ and I had to answer those questions.

From the moment Ezra and Rosie were born, we all took a stand that we’d be honest with them at every level, that they would know who their parents were, so that they could be proud.

There’s still hate and intolerance in the world. I’m fighting now the backlash in Uganda. So the issues are not gone. But my children have learned to be proud of our family and we are so happy to have held on to our own dreams of what is possible. 

 

May 8, 2014

SAGE Applauds New Guidance by ACL that Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Married Couples

Today's post is written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations.

[Washington, DC] This week, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) announced how it will implement last year’s historic SCOTUS decision, United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, 2013. Specifically, the ACL issued guidance to its grantees that they must now follow a “place of celebration rule” and consider the terms “spouse”, “family”, and “relative” as being inclusive of same-sex married couples. 

This means that a couple who marries in Massachusetts and moves to Mississippi (where their marriage is not recognized) would still be considered married in the eyes of the federal government with respect to ACL programs. And in particular, any reference to the terms “spouse”, “family”, and “relative”, in the Older Americans Act, would apply to their relationship.  

The ACL grantees affected by this guidance include State Units on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, adult day care centers, home health agencies, organizations that deliver Meals on Wheels, and other entities that make up the aging network.  

Here are a few examples of how the ACL guidance will impact families: 

  • Historically, individuals in opposite-sex marriages who have become eligible for meal services at age 60, have been allowed to share those meal benefits with spouses younger than 60. Now, that benefit has also been extended to younger same-sex spouses. 
  • If older individuals do not have the capacity to direct case management services themselves, a family member can direct those services. That definition of “family member” now includes spouses from same-sex married couples.  
  • The Older Americans Act generally defines exploitation as someone with responsibility for an older adult (including a fiduciary or caregiver) acting in his or her self-interest, and against the best interest of the person being cared for.  The term “caregiver”, in this context, defines a number of types of individuals, including family members. That definition of “family member” is now inclusive of spouses from same-sex married couples.  
  • No individual shall be appointed Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs if the individual, or any member of the immediate family of the individual, is subject to a conflict of interest.  That definition of “immediate family” is now inclusive of spouses from same-sex married couples.  
  • The ACL’s National Family Caregiver Support Program funds a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.  The program provides information about available services, assistance in gaining access to the services, counseling and support groups,  training, respite care and supplemental services.  The definition of “family caregiver” is now inclusive of spouses from same-sex married couples.  

Read the full ACL guidance: http://www.acl.gov/Funding_Opportunities/Grantee_Info/docs/Community_Living_Guidance.pdf 

Read more about the SCOTUS decision, United States v. Windsor: http://sageusa.org/newsevents/release.cfm?ID=79 

Learn more about the ACL: http://acl.gov/About_ACL/Organization/Index.aspx

To learn more about this development, please contact Aaron Tax, SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations at atax@sageusa.org

May 7, 2014

SAGE Wins Two 2014 Communicator Awards from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts

Today's post is written by Robert Espinoza, SAGE's Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications. Follow him on Twitter.

SAGE is proud to announce that it has received two 2014 Communicator Awards from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA)! The Communicator Awards is the leading international creative awards program honoring creative excellence for communication professionals.

The Communicator Awards is an annual competition honoring the best in advertising, corporate communications, public relations and identity work for print, video, interactive and audio. This past year, it received more than 6,000 entries from ad agencies, interactive agencies, production firms, in-house creative professionals, graphic designers, design firms, and public relations firms.

  • SAGE received an “Award of Excellence” (AIVA’s highest honor) for our SAGE Story Contest Memes. As part of LGBT History Month in October 2013, SAGE elicited stories from LGBT older people around the country on the importance of community in their lives, especially in reducing isolation. The month-long social media contest was part of SAGE Story, our premiere national digital storytelling program. The memes were retro, flirty and whimsical in style, modernizing the imagery of a distant era with campy slogans and LGBT themes. 
Yourstory
A SAGE Story Meme
 
  • SAGE also received an “Award of Distinction” for our print design of SAGE’S Strategic Plan, “The Road Ahead. Released in September 2013, SAGE’s strategic plan set the organization’s direction for the next three years. The design for this public plan used art deco illustration (with SAGE characters) and a “road map” theme to connote SAGE’s future in seeking to achieve even more national impact for millions of LGBT older people.

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An illustration from the SAGE Strategic Plan
 

 

Both items were designed by RD Design, based in Milan, New York.

SAGE's marketing and communications has won widespread acclaim and numerous awards.  In 2012, it received two awards of distinction in 2012 from the International Academy of the Visual Arts, as well as a GLAAD Amplifier Award for excellence in advertising and social marketing. In 2010, it received a GLAAD Media Award in Advertising for Outstanding Social Marketing for its New York City campaign on caregiving support for LGBT older people. 

April 28, 2014

NRC Offers Two NEW Trainings this Spring!

TimToday's post is written by Tim Johnston, SAGE's Manager of Education and Training for the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is pleased to announce the launch of two new webinars, Embracing LGBT Older Adults of Color and Transgender Aging: What Service Providers Need (and Don't Need!) to Know.

A webinar is a presentation and discussion that takes place over the internet. Participants can interact with the presenter through polls, Q&A, and video or audio connections. Webinars are a great way to reach people working in remote or rural communities, as well people with jobs or hours that make it difficult to attend in-person trainings.

Why are we focusing on LGBT older adults of color and transgender older adults?

First, we want to draw attention to the fact that while the LGBT population is just as diverse as the non-LGBT population, the needs of LGBT older adults of color are often under addressed by both LGBT and aging network organizations. The webinar begins with video interviews to help participants understand the experience of LBGT older adults of color. Next, we learn about pioneering LGBT people of color in order to question our own prejudices and misconceptions around race and ethnicity. Finally, we discuss ways to create organizations that welcome and include LGBT older adults of color.

Second, many people may know or work with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, but have much less experience working with transgender older adults. Transgender Aging: What Service Providers Need (and Don't Need!) to Know introduces participants to the basics of the transgender experience, with a focus on how to provide respectful and affirming care for transgender older adults. Some of the topics include what it means to transition, how to ask about transgender status in an appropriate and respectful way, and a set of best practices for working with transgender older adults.

These two webinars join our highly successful Introduction to LGBT Aging. Launched in January 2014, Introduction of LGBT Aging has already reached service providers in 12 states. It is our hope that these easily accessible and highly engaging online presentations will continue to educate people across the country.

For more information, or to schedule a live webinar, please contact Tim R. Johnston, Manager of Education and Training at 212-741-2247 or tjohnston@sageusa.org.

April 25, 2014

Recognizing Our Volunteers: Emilia Tamburri

Did you know that volunteering is good for your health? A fun fact for April being National Volunteer Appreciation Month! As part of our recogniztion of SAGE volunteers, we asked Friendly Visitor volunteer Emilia Tamburri, a few questions about her experience at SAGE. Interested in volunteering? Visit us on the web for info on our many opportunities!

Emilia
Emilia in Friendly Visitor action.


Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer because of the rewarding feeling I have after shifts. There is nothing quite like it.

What makes volunteering at SAGE special or different?

SAGE has a wonderful community of volunteers and staff - all admirable and dedicated people. I enjoy working both with older adults and the LGBT population. I also appreciate the lifelong reciprocal friendship with the woman I volunteer for.

How long have you been volunteering at SAGE? Or in general?

Roughly four and a half years.

Do you have a specific memory of a volunteer experience that you would like to share?

The woman I volunteer for is an accomplished poet. I attended a poetry reading of hers and she surprised me with a poem about me entitled Friendly Visitor.  It is a witty and touching poem and I was deeply moved and proud to be her friend.

April 23, 2014

10 Key Points to Know About Health Disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

In recognition of National Minority Health Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to the health disparities and health issues affecting diverse older adults during April. The following post was written by Karen Blacher of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) and originally featured on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog.

April is National Minority Health Month. It is a great time to raise awareness of the health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities.

In the spirit of raising awareness, here are 10 important things you should know about health disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elders including some helpful resources from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA):

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  1. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death among AAPIs aged 65 years and older. These account for over 50% of all deaths in this age range.

  2. AAPIs are at higher risk for Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer. Approximately 1 in 12 AAPIs are living with chronic Hepatitis B, and thedeath rate from Hepatitis B among AAPIs is 7 times greater than rates among whites.

  3. Despite having lower body weight, Asian Americans are more likely than whites to have diabetes. Of Asian Americans who develop the disease, more than 95% are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

  4. The BMI scale, which is regularly used to determine overweight and obesity, is different for Asian Americans. For Asian Americans a BMI over 24 is the cutoff for overweight, and 27 for obesity; compared to 25 and 30 respectively for the general population.

  5. Mental health is a significant concern in the AAPI older adult population. Numerous studies suggest that Asian American elders have high rates of depression. Additionally, older Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over age 65 in the U.S.

  6. There are health disparities within the AAPI elder population, and some AAPI sub-groups are more at risk for certain diseases and illnesses than others. For example, Japanese and Filipino women havetwice as high a risk of getting breast cancer as Korean and Chinese women.

  7. Health beliefs among AAPI elders can be a barrier to health care. For Asian American elders who adhere more to their traditional cultural beliefs, Western biomedical approaches can be perceived as ‘invasive’ or ‘overly aggressive’.

  8. Another major barrier to health care is limited English proficiency. For many AAPI elders that do not speak English well, tasks such as finding a doctor or even understanding symptoms and medications can be incredibly complicated. About 60% of AAPIs aged 65 and older are limited English proficient.

  9. Due to limited resources, elderly AAPIs are more likely to be uninsured or rely on public insurance. Only 33% of Asian Americans aged 65 years and older have private health insurance compared to 52% of the total U.S. population of the same age range.

  10. NAPCA has resources to help address some of these health disparities among AAPI elders.
    • Our toll-free Asian language Helpline, which operates in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Korean, provides information and assistance on Medicare, Social Security, and other senior benefit programs.
    • The NAPCA Healthy Aging Resource Center is a searchable database of health information, materials, and resources in 15 Asian languages. These resources have been culled from health centers, community organizations, universities, health departments, etc.

Karen Blacher is a Research Associate for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA). Karen conducts research on programs, policies, and numerous indicators impacting AAPI older adults and drafts reports and data briefs addressing the needs and conditions of the AAPI elderly population. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

April 17, 2014

Recognizing Our Volunteers: Bob Rizzo

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month and SAGE would like to recognize our many volunteers for all that they do. From our Friendly Visitor program to our Cyber Center and Drop-In room hosts, our volunteer-led programs and people serving meals, we could not perform all of our work without them! 

BobRizzoThis week, we asked Bob Rizzo from our Friendly Visitor program a few questions about his experience. Read his responses below:

Why do you volunteer?

In general, I volunteer to connect with and give back to my community, and hopefully make it a better place. To me volunteering is a two-way street. It's not just doing something for someone less fortunate than myself, but more of an exchange. 

What makes volunteering at SAGE special or different?

Last year when I was investigating where I could volunteer my time, a good friend of mine (who worked at SAGE as a social worker) thought I'd be a good candidate for their friendly visitor program. I had no idea this program existed and was immediately drawn to the fact that it dealt with the aging LGBT community. What a wonderful opportunity to visit and befriend someone who may not otherwise have a social or support system in place. One of the remarkable things about the SAGE friendly visitor program is their meticulous process of matching up compatible, like-minded individuals.

How long have you been volunteering at SAGE? Or in general?

I've been with SAGE since June 2013, though I've volunteered for other organizations such as Gods Love We Deliver and GMHC over the past 20 years.

Do you have a specific memory of a volunteer experience that you would like to share?

Absolutely! My SAGE "friend at home" Kurt, is eighty five years old, partially disabled, and a former Broadway performer. The facility where he lives has an acting class that he takes once a week. About a month ago he invited me to a "performance" of his acting class, where he would be the master of ceremonies. Naturally, I said that I would love to go. The following week when i walked into the community room for the show, there was Kurt sitting center stage, complete with a tux shirt, bow tie, and top hat. There were fifteen elderly women seated in a semi-circle around him, all dressed in roaring twenties outfits. It was a sight to behold. He said that he was so happy I came, and to please sit in the front row so I wouldn't miss anything. The music then started, and as Kurt began to speak and introduce the play, the weak and physically impaired man I'd known for the past four months, literally transformed into his former, younger self. He sat up erect in his chair, his diction was loud and clear, he played off his costars, and he knew exactly how to hold for a laugh. Needless to say, Kurt was obviously a very talented performer in his day. It was hard to hold back the tears as I took photos throughout the performance, and it's a memory I will always cherish.

Kurtandbob

April 16, 2014

National Health Care Decisions Day

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If you became unable to speak for yourself, how would medical decisions be made for you? We'll consider that question and others on April 16th, the 7th Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), a nationwide event promoting the importance of healthcare choices and advance directives. The LGBT community is especially vulnerable in this regard, since many hospitals restrict visitation rights to narrow interpretations of family. This day is a reminder for us all to take steps to ensure that we make our wishes clear about who may visit us and make medical decisions on our behalf in times of crisis.

  • If you don't have advance directives in place, learn how to obtain them here.
  • If you live in New York, please attend our NHDD event on April 29th. A volunteer legal team will be on hand to help navigate advance directive forms. Find out more information here.
  • For more information on the importance of advance directives and other legal documents, visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging's resource page.

Watch a video from NHDD explaining advance directives below.

NHDD Speak Up Video from NHDD on Vimeo.

April 15, 2014

LGBT Older Adult Housing – A Critical Need

Today's post is from Hilary Meyer, SAGE's Director of National Programs and Director of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Horizon

LGBT older adults deserve secure, stable and affordable housing, yet often face harassment and intimidation in their homes and in long-term care settings from aging professionals and other residents. This means that many people live in physically and emotionally unhealthy environments that compromise the quality of their lives.

SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (NRC) is running a social media campaign this week to draw attention to this critical issue. Whether you are an older adults yourself, an aging provider looking for more information or an LGBT organization looking for more information on housing needs, we have you covered with webinars, articles, educational videos, publications and more!

A few highlights from our website include:

Safe, inclusive and affordable housing is a key to aging successfully and happily. We urge LGBT people and their allies to education themselves on all aspects of this important topic.

April 11, 2014

The Growing, Neglected Challenges of LGBT Latino Elders

Robert EspinozaToday’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Follow Robert on Twitter.

Latino elders who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) face additional challenges as they age, compounded by barriers rooted in their racial and ethnic identities, as well as LGBT stigma and discrimination. Yet the attention and infrastructure to ameliorate these conditions is generally lacking. That's the overarching conclusion reached by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) in a first-ever national needs assessment examining the social, economic and political realities of a growing, though multiply marginalized, population.

NCHOA’s report speaks to a timely moment. Demographics project a significant increase in Latino people and older people over the next few decades, trends rooted largely in immigration and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, respectively. For example, the U.S. Census estimates that the number of Latino people age 60 and older will sky-rocket from 4.3 million in 2010 to 22.6 million in 2050. And as societal attitudes and policy changes have made it easier for some segments of the LGBT population to "come out" and live openly, LGBT older people have become increasingly visible in both the aging and long-term care system, as well as society at large.

Yet NHCOA's new report—released in partnership with the national LGBT aging advocacy non-profit, SAGE—contends that this wave has left behind a more marginalized population: LGBT Latino elders. Based on a year's worth of expert interviews, a literature review (that tellingly emphasizes the general dearth in research on LGBT Latino people) and focus groups in four major metropolitan cities with high concentrations of Latinos and LGBT people, NHCOA paints a portrait of Latino LGBT elders aging in communities that aren't accepting of their full identities. LGBT Latinos also report both fearing and encountering biased care providers without the skills or resources to support their unique needs.

Drawing largely from published research, the report describes how many LGBT Latinos enter their later years already facing significant disparities related to physical and mental health, and to health care access and prevention. What are the major drivers of these inequities? According to the report, LGBT Latino elders face financial challenges rooted in lifetimes of discrimination in the workplace and in public benefit programs such as Medicaid and Social Security; lower educational statuses; housing instability; and reduced savings associated with a higher concentration in jobs with low-wage incomes and meager health insurance. It's not simply that LGBT Latino people are in poorer physical and economic health than their peers; it's that they have been systematically impoverished their entire lives by the same policies and institutions meant to protect them—and the effects become visceral in later life.

Perhaps the report's most profound insights are found in the testimonies of LGBT Latino elders interviewed for the report. One respondent describes the overbearing power of religious leaders in destabilizing multicultural LGBT communities: "The ones who kick you out are those who run the church. But those who are rejected believe it’s God who is throwing them out.” Another respondent describes how rejection often comes most painfully from other LGBT people: "Even in our LGBT community when there is someone who says, 'Yes, I am bisexual,' people say, 'Ay no, you are crazy or confused.' I think that there is much discrimination within our community, but as long as you don’t say who you are, things are fine.” Or perhaps the broad societal disregard of older people is the most painful renunciation, as told by one respondent: "We are persons who, because of who we are, people are not interested in."

The report's respondents also exhibit an acute analytical sense, rife with possibilities. One respondent adeptly summarizes the problem as "a lack of information and knowledge about where services are located. There is also a difficulty speaking about one’s own health, as well as a language barrier. This community is not used to speaking about its health, body or sexuality.” And another respondent offers a concise call-to-action to the aging field: "The challenge is to train in our native language the communities or the centers that, in one form or another, are going to provide those services.” The report's recommendations generally abide by this advice. It encourages policies that better fund and deliver supports to all older people (which Latino people and LGBT people disproportionately access), as well as targeted supports for LGBT Latino elders. And it firmly states that the aging field should invest in more multi-lingual, LGBT-friendly outreach, training and services for LGBT Latino older people.

One of the report's more incisive recommendations is to deepen the research on marginalized older people to better craft interventions that will become even more pressing in the ensuing decades, as people of color become the U.S. majority and sexual and gender diversity becomes more salient in civic life. On one level, this could mean better understanding the diversity within "Latino" identities, which encompasses various nationalities, histories, cultures and languages. And it means better studying difference within LGBT people to pinpoint more marginalized sub-groups—transgender people and bisexual people, as two noteworthy examples.

We can't fix what we don't fully understand, is what NHCOA's report ultimately seems to be stating. Yet this report takes us one step closer—and LGBT Latino older people deserve it.