24 posts categorized "SAGE Story"

October 15, 2013

SAGE Launches 1st National Storytelling Contest

SAGEStory_Facebook_GraphicWe know that LGBT older people have spent their lives building their own families and communities—the relationships that sustain us. Yet as we age, more and more of us begin to feel less connected.

But you can take the first step toward forging new connections by sharing your experiences with others. SAGE is now seeking stories for a nationwide contest that focus on how LGBT older people combat and conquer isolation, building the support systems they need to age well.

We want to know more about your family, friends, community, and what they mean to you. We want to know about a time when you may have felt alone but found a connection that sustained you. Or maybe a time when you built a circle of support for yourself or for someone else in need. Tell us:

What does “community” mean to you? How do you stay connected to the people who matter most to you?

Enter to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card and bragging rights!
October 10, 2013

The Power of Stories

Today’s post is by Nayoung Woo, who was placed at SAGE in spring 2013 through the Coro Fellows Program. She interviewed a number of LGBT couples for a SAGE Story marriage equality project. Nayoung’s experience illustrates the power of stories to move people on important issues. We hope after reading her story, you’re inspired to share your own—and now’s the perfect time to do it. SAGE has launched a nationwide contest to gather stories that relate how LGBT older people combat and conquer isolation, building the support systems we all need to age well. Enter today!

On my first day at SAGE, I ran into Pat and Barbara. An hour later, I found that they had so captivated my attention and imagination with the story about how they had met that I was squatting on the floor with a painful case of pins and needles in both feet.  

At one point in the conversation, Barbara asked me how old I was, and when I answered, “23,”she pointed at her shoes and said, “My shoes are older than you!" Everyone within hearing distance at The SAGE Center cracked up. That is the memory of SAGE that I will carry with me: of people who lived through magical relationships, both told and untold, and embraced all aspects of their identities, from being LGBT to being older.

But I also know that implied in that rose-colored memory are the pains of a collective that has fought for basic human rights for almost a lifetime, and even after that. For the sake of the legacy they have left me, where I can freely use the words "my partner" without fear of physical harm or legal offense, I will not only remember, but also take action.

Linda_cathy1
Lynne & Cathy

For example, as a Christian, even though I had been an LGBT activist for a while, I had gone back and forth on the notion of same-sex marriage. I would see friends who would, and already do, make the best of spouses and parents, but the Word of God would always stare at me point blank in the face. But one day in April, I took a phone call interview for SAGE, and sobbed through almost an entire hour along with the interviewee, Lynne. She recalled for me the recent experience of losing her partner, and then losing most of the belongings and savings they had gathered together because federal law did not (yet) recognize their decades-long relationship.

After that phone call, I had to change how I thought about basic human rights: no God would have wanted such unfair and unnecessary suffering. When Section 3 of DOMA was eventually repealed in June, I celebrated full-heartedly, for the first time without any guilt from my faith, and I leveraged my conversation to educate and convince other Christians about the importance of legal, and perhaps in the future clerical, recognition of same-sex unions.

In small ways, I took action on my own belief system and of those around me for the sake of the pains that I learned about just by being around SAGE constituents. Now I can no longer consider marriage equality or other LGBT aging issues as contrary or irrelevant to me.

My hope is that I continue to collect valuable stories about a population that has, arguably, some of the richest stories to tell, and that one day I will no longer hear from the interviewees a short pause, a slight sigh, possibly accompanied with a forced grin, saying, "It is how it is," and "What can you do?" Rather, I want to hear more thundering and laughing, much as Barbara had done when she told me how she met Pat, because all their wisdom, survival, courage (and knitting) should be held with great respect.

Nayoung Woo served SAGE as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs and is currently a Master's in Public Health Candidate at Columbia University.

October 3, 2013

SAGE Story: Bringing LGBT Elder Stories to Life

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. Follow him on Twitter.

Those moments when you share a personal story that you've held for years—and the listener connects beyond the intellectual—become gems. You remember them forever. Perhaps you open up about a long-held secret. Or you craft a story to revisit a grievance, impart how someone affected you for years, and ask for forgiveness or atonement. You recall a better track you once took—and why. You honor those special people in your life through a vignette; someone hears it and learns to move on.

Our stories connect us to our past and to our loved ones. We cannot transform the decision-makers of our world unless we recount what shaped our own tiny worlds.

SAGEStory_blogPostThe power of storytelling serves as the premise for SAGE Story, our acclaimed national digital storytelling program for LGBT older people. We have learned that a story can personify a complex policy issue and make it relatable. It dramatizes the human consequences of policy decisions, lifelong economic hardship or an incident of discrimination. And when people share their stories—in person or online—they come to terms with those memories and the process serves as catharsis. Those who hear the stories, in turn, grow more empathetic.

A colleague once remarked that our histories as LGBT people have so often been shaped by others—revised, ignored or erased—that we forget the importance of crafting our own stories.

Continue reading "SAGE Story: Bringing LGBT Elder Stories to Life" »

July 26, 2013

The Personal is Political: Eleanor’s Story

In honor of the 23rd Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, SAGE is pleased to share Eleanor Smith's story. Eleanor is the founder of Concrete Change, a disability rights organization in Decatur, GA. This is an excerpt of a speech she gave at SAGE’s LGBT Elder Institute, held in Atlanta, on January 24, 2013. Visit SAGE Story to listen to her full presentation.
 

Eleanor
Eleanor Smith
(image from Measure up the North
At my one of my first disability rights actions, in Washington DC about 30 years ago, as I was marching along in my wheelchair with a few hundred  others, a fellow marcher pulled up beside me in his power wheelchair and said, “Are you one of those old time dykes?”  I laughed and answered affirmatively. He could probably tell by the flannel shirt.  Later I got to know Eric better, and I learned from him that he was a female to male trans person. What a lot of guts he was showing back then in the 1980s to be a severely mobility-impaired person who also changed his gender. Back then Eric and I were young people with disabilities. Now we’re old people with disabilities. Today I’m going to talk about the intersection of aging and disability and the wisdom of older gays and people with disabilities working more closely together.

 

I have noticed how old people and their organizations and younger disabled people and their organizations often work quite separately from each other, and are unaware of each others’ work.  This is the case even though many of the same issues affect both groups.

We have been taught over the years to realize that all oppressions operate in similar ways. Ageism and ableism are even more closely intertwined that most oppressions. For instance, both older people and disabled people are often devalued because our bodies or minds deviate from the norm by being—or perceived as being—weaker and less functional.   And the physical attributes of both old people and people with disabilities of all ages are considered by many to be ugly, or grotesque. So we all need to be liberated to see old or disabled bodies as beautiful in their own way.

Continue reading "The Personal is Political: Eleanor’s Story " »

July 19, 2013

The Importance of Visitation Rights

Charles_douglas2On June 28, 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a “reminder” to State Survey Agency Directors about access and visitation rights in long-term care (LTC) facilities.

The gist of the memo was to clarify that the 24-hour access and visitation rights residents already have include access and visitation by same-sex spouses and same-sex domestic partners. As the memo stated, “Residents must be notified of their rights to have visitors on a 24-hour basis, who could include, but are not limited to, spouses (including same-sex spouses), domestic partners (including same-sex domestic partners), other family members, or friends.” (Emphasis added.)

Denial of visitation rights to same-sex spouses and same-sex domestic partners is still a sad reality for many LGBT older people. The story of Charles and Douglas, found below, illustrates this point. (Note: while the CMS memo refers to LTC facilities, and Charles and Douglas’ story took place in a hospital, the underlying theme is the same, an utter lack of respect for a same-sex couple’s relationship by the people who should have been supporting them.)

By reiterating resident rights concerning access and visitation, CMS has sent a strong message not only to those who run LTC facilities but also to LGBT older adults, their family members, and friends that LGBT older adults and their loved ones must simply be treated the same as everyone else.   

Charles and Douglas’ Story

Like newlyweds the world over, Charles and Douglas were flying high on their return trip to Salt Lake City following their joyous marriage celebration in New York City in 2011. Hand in hand, they were still glowing after the ceremony that sealed the bond of their 12-year relationship. But onboard the flight back to Utah, a sobering thought began to sink in for Charles—the sad recognition that marriage equality was still something that existed only in a few states. He pulled aside a flight attendant and asked, “Will you let us know when we cross over into Pennsylvania? Because after that, we are no longer legal.”

Continue reading "The Importance of Visitation Rights" »

July 17, 2013

SAGE and The Moth Present....

Did you know that SAGE and The Moth colloborated in two SAGE Story workshops this Spring and Summer? The Moth, an award-winning storytelling program, taught SAGE members how to craft and share their own personal story in a unique and vibrant way. Today, we share a special slideshow of the two workshop finales and the stories of two members, Frans Bloem and Charles Fattone. Watch, like and share!

Interested in learning more about SAGE Story? Visit us on the web and share your story today

 

 

June 16, 2013

Celebrating Fatherhood and Family

Wayne Steinman and Sal Iacullo have been together for nearly 41 years and were the first gay couple in New York State to legally adopt a child. This Father’s Day, we honor them, and fathers everywhere, by telling their SAGE Story.

First Father's Day
Sal, Hope and Wayne Celebrate their 1st Father's Day

We became dads when our daughter, Hope, was placed in our arms in August 19, 1987 in New York City and she was four months old at the time. Sal was actually the lead parent in the adoption―he was the first openly gay male to experience single-parent adoption. However, we were both Hope’s dads. We had legal papers, the court made sure from the get-go that we had both guardianship papers and wills so that if anything happened to Sal, Hope would become my child. We did our second parent adoption in 1994 or ’95, to make it official, but quite honestly, I never felt any different. It was love at first sight and we knew she was our daughter. Papers didn't matter.

 

WandS July 2011 b
Sal and Wayne Celebrate
We were together for nearly 41 years and it was the same thing! We didn't have any papers in the beginning either, but we knew our love was real. When we could get legal documents, we did, in order to protect ourselves and our daughter. In 1994, we applied for a Domestic Partnership in New York. We had a Civil Union ceremony in Vermont on October 7, 2000 with Hope as our witness. When same-sex marriage became legal in Canada, we went across the border and were legally married in Toronto on August 27, 2003―our 10 year anniversary is coming up!

 

We celebrate Father's Day and Mother’s Day. It's nice to be able to share cards and special moments together. We note how much we accomplish as dads. Sal's dad is still alive and we have supportive families surrounding us with birthdays and other things at this time of year, so it's just a big celebration. We also all plan a trip to Provincetown for Family Week in August, which is a nice way to stay in touch and celebrate our family within the LGBT community.

Hope is now 26 and she is a strong, independent, intelligent woman―we couldn't have asked for a better daughter. When she was placed with us 26 years ago there were all sorts of issues―health and otherwise― but we gave her all of our love and support. By fourth grade, she was in the gifted program. She got into Staten Island Tech, a top school and graduated from Wesleyan University. She actually came out in high school, so we have a daughter-in-law as part of the family now too! Hope is now in L.A. and we wish she lived closer, but we're proud of her and ourselves as parents. Happy Father's Day to all!

June 14, 2013

SAGE and Freedom to Marry Host Marriage Equality Event

Today, Aaron Tax, SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations, tells us about an event on marriage equality held earlier this week.

SAGE, like many others in the LGBT field, is anxiously awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is expected by the end of the month. In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision, on June 10, SAGE and Freedom to Marry organized an event at the National Press Club that provided the aging network the opportunity to speak out against DOMA and express its support for marriage equality.  The panel, moderated by political strategist Hilary Rosen, and featuring aging leaders, policy experts, and a local LGBT older adult, discussed the harms DOMA causes to older same-sex couples. If you’re interested in what the panel talked about, visit SAGE’s marriage equality page, where many of the points brought up during this discussion are found.

At the event, Freedom to Marry also debuted a new, touching video about the 54-year relationship between Bill Campbell and John Hilton. While they were registered as domestic partners in New York, the marriage equality did not come to them soon enough—Bill passed away before it became it a reality in New York state.

We are thankful to the following individuals and organizations for participating in the event: Sarah L. Byrne, senior legislative representative, Alliance for Retired Americans; Paul Nathanson, executive director, National Senior Citizens Law Center; Web Phillips, senior legislative representative, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; Stacy Sanders, federal policy director, Medicare Rights Center; Thomas Sciacca, NY attorney with expertise in estate and disability planning; and Imani Woody, co-chair of SAGE Metro DC and director and founder of Mary’s House for Older Adults.

For more marriage stories from older LGBT couples, visit SAGE Story.

May 31, 2013

Untold stories of Asian & Pacific Islander LGBT Elders: “I think the need to be accepted overcame their need to be themselves.”

The following is a guest post by Bryan Pacheco, National Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

 

Three things to know as May ends and we look towards June:

  1. May is Older Americans Month.
  2. It’s also Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
  3. And I worked for the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults, SAGE.

So, what does this mean?

George
George Takei, Copyright: georgetakei.com
Well, for me, it made me really think: What are the stories being told about older LGBT AAPI people? Are they even being told? Outside of the amazing George Takei, I can’t think of another prominent openly gay Asian American older person. Can you?

 

I am Puerto Rican, gay and not yet 30 years old, so the stories of older LGBT AAPI people are not my personal story. Therefore, it was important that I find individuals who could tell and share these stories… And that was difficult.

For starters, it took me some time to locate older LGBT AAPI people who were willing to share their stories publicly. Even at The SAGE Center, located in a diverse city that is generally LGBT-friendly, I found this to be true. After speaking to a number of people, I quickly learned that silence and visibility are issues within this segment of the community.

For example, I heard:

Continue reading "Untold stories of Asian & Pacific Islander LGBT Elders: “I think the need to be accepted overcame their need to be themselves.”" »

May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: A Veteran's Story

Bob
Thanks to Robert, and all of our LGBT vets, for their service.

In honor of our LGBT veterans, we wanted to share a special story told to us by Kathleen Sullivan, Director of Senior Services at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center


For the past three years, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center has worked closely with the Los Angeles Regional Office of the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration to provide cultural competency training to their staff and connect LGBT older adult with military programs and services at the VA. As a result of their groundbreaking work, Robert, an 88-year old World War II veteran finally got the help he needed—68 years after he served his country bravely and honorably. Listen to our podcast to learn more.

LAGLClogoYou can also learn more about issues facing LGBT veterans by visiting our Veteran's Issue Page on our site. SAGE is also launching a special National Telephone Discussion Group for LGBT Military Service Veterans Aged 60+ with American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER) in June. Read more about the veterans group here.