13 posts categorized "SAGEMatters"

December 30, 2016

Live Long and Prosper with George Takei

This post originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of SAGEMatters.

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Takei speaks at SAGE & Friends LA Reception in April 2016.

Q. SAGE believes that we have a responsibility to make diversity and inclusion a centerpiece of our purpose, our people and our work. You once said "diversity is one of the strengths of our society." What does that mean to you?

George Takei: In addition to strength, with diversity we become a more vibrant, engaging and humane society. The community we live in gains strength by the power of the endowments of its members, be they muscular, intellectual or innovative. We also become richer for the performing, creative and artistic talents of the people. We become more vibrant by the inclusion of people of different cultures, histories, faiths and experiences. And we become a more humane society by embracing all people in need. As we say on Star Trek, "infinite diversity in infinite combinations."

Q. How has playing a starship helmsman on television and steering public opinion in real life contributed to your career revival? Any tips for older workers out there?

Takei: In show business, there is the term "to be between engagements." I don’t like not being engaged. All my life, I have not only pursued an acting career but have also created my own 'engagements' when not gainfully employed as an actor, whether it be political activism, public service, writing or, having discovered a fascinating advance in technology, social media. I don’t understand this thing called "retirement." I think life is to be lived.

IMG_5766Q. This summer marked the one-year anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling—what you called a "landmark day for all Americans." What do you think the next frontier is for the LGBT community?

Takei: It is the backlash to nationwide marriage equality. Just as the Voting Rights Bill, which was signed by President Lyndon Johnson back in 1965, is still being resisted by those who are trying to place obstacles to access to the ballot box for minorities, the same kind of backlash is happening with nationwide marriage equality. The totally transparent cloak for this bigotry is the cry of "freedom of religion." And the battleground now is the bathroom, of all places! But, as in Indiana and Arkansas in 2015 and North Carolina and Mississippi now, ultimately we will have to rescind their hateful laws. The struggle continues.

Q. You came to Twitter and Facebook when you were 74 and you now have millions of followers. These platforms have allowed you to push for LGBT rights across the country. You were the public face of #BoycottIndiana after the state enacted a religious freedom law that allowed people to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs. You also led another social media charge against a similar law considered in Arkansas. Do you think we are going to be fighting bills like this for the next few years?

Takei: As I said above, the struggle for access to the ballot box is still being fought more than a half century after the Voting Rights Act was signed. But I also keep in mind that Loving v. Virginia, which granted interracial marriage, was ruled in 1967. When Brad and I were married in 2008, we were barely conscious of the fact that our marriage was interracial as well as same-sex. Our marriage was less than a half-century after Loving v. Virginia. I remain an optimist.

Q. SAGE’s mission is to advance successful aging for our LGBT elders so that they can live a vibrant life. Physical health and humor are both important to you. What principles of successful aging would you say make the most difference?

Takei: There is no one magic formula. It is a combination of many qualities. Physical health and good humor are important parts. Keeping the mind and body engaged, which means exercising both regularly—ideally daily—is also essential. Eating well and in moderation is also key. An optimistic view of life is vital. I rejoice in each and every birthday. It was my grandmother’s favorite hobby. She amassed a handsome collection—104 of them. She was a cockeyed optimist. My number one tip is to find joy in each and every day. Every morning, sunny or cloudy or rainy or torrid, is a wonderful gift. Enjoy it.

Read the interview on page 16 in the Fall 2016 issue of SAGEMatters.

November 30, 2016

Transition Anxiety

This post originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of SAGEMatters, and was later published by The Huffington Post, here.

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From L-R: Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality, Kate Kendell, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Carmen Vazquez, Coordinator, LGBT Health & Human Services Unit for the New York State Department of Heath’s AIDS Institute

As we come to the end Transgender Awareness Month, SAGE CEO Michael Adams shares an illuminating conversation he had early this fall with lesbian and transgender rights leaders about identity, inclusion and a movement in transition.

Michael Adams: Kate, in recent months, as more trans older people are getting involved in SAGE, we’ve had pushback from a small number of constituents who believe that transwomen should not take part in programs SAGE provides specifically for women and lesbians. In essence, they argue that transwomen haven’t had the same gender experiences as cisgender women, given their different life histories and relationships with patriarchy, and that including transwomen in this programming denies cisgender women the ability to share their experiences with others like them. As a long-time feminist and the head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), what is your take on these arguments?

Kate Kendell: A dialogue about where there is allyship and commonality versus where there is difference is the place we should come from. All women, transgender or cisgender, approach any conversation in any space based on their own experiences. Rich women, whether cisgender or transgender, do not have the same experience around gender or patriarchy as poor women. Women of color do not have the same experience around misogyny, patriarchy and sexism as white women. It’s important that we do not have an oppression test, or some sort of code that you must conform to in order to be in a conversation as a woman. Approaching the conversation where women are open to accepting different perspectives is the way to overcome a sense of difference or alienation from each other. For example, some women of privilege may have blind spots, where they don’t understand the nuances of patriarchy. These blind spots exist for both cisgender and transgender women. In order for the space to feel open for all, there should be a cultural competency conversation about understanding how people come from different places.

Adams: Carmen, do these arguments surprise you? As a longtime activist and community intellectual, what’s your perspective?

Carmen Vazquez: It doesn’t surprise me at all. As a person who does not identify as transgender but is a gender-nonconforming person, I have been the target of individuals who have used my female masculinity as a counter to my feminism. I understand the places where some of these women come from. But I agree with Kate that a conversation about alliance and where we have commonality in terms of sexism in this society is much more useful than a conversation about differences. It’s really important that there be a way of understanding the place where these women live. I don’t know who they are or what level of privilege they come from, but there’s a conversation about gender that is very different from the conversation about the patriarchy 40 years ago. There is a desire to hang on to a perspective that isn’t looking at the reality of what our LGBT conversation and community is about in terms of gender.

We have to remember a time when “lesbian” wasn’t even a part of the lexicon. And we should remind our sisters of what it took to get to that place—the struggle with society to whom we were completely invisible. I certainly understand the necessity of bringing some intersectional analysis— also because I am a woman of color. We need to pay attention to what these women fear they will lose if they are in a place with transgender women.

Adams: Mara, SAGE’s organizational philosophy is that anybody who identifies as a woman is welcome in women’s programming, anybody who identifies as a lesbian is welcome in lesbian programming, and that we will not excludetrans people from any programming for which they otherwise qualify. NCTE is on the front lines of these kinds of conversations every day. Do we have it right, or is this approach and our thinking overly simplistic?

Mara Keisling: It’s easy to fall victim to a kind of transition anxiety—“transition” in the sense that society is changing. There is a new America emerging, and we’ve all been hesitant to say that because we’re afraid to face this transition anxiety. There are people who wouldn’t have been welcome in the world before who we want to make room for now. And that makes some people uncomfortable. Just when you think you’ve found your place in society, society changes again. And we’re seeing this now within the trans movement, and the trans communities (plural) where what it means to be trans is shifting constantly.

I don’t think your approach is too simplistic, unless you think it can be static. Because it feels like, at least for the foreseeable future, that nothing static will survive. Not only is society changing but the rules for how society changes are changing, and that’s exciting—when you can actually have a part in changing the rules. That’s where we can make some really big societal differences. Sometimes it’s hard as a marginalized person to be sensitive to other marginalized people, but we have a lot in common. No matter which group of us you separate out and look at specifically, that group is really not homogeneous at all. I think being as welcoming as possible will always be the right thing.

Adams: Kate and Carmen both noted this notion of the value of looking for the spaces of alliance and commonality for dialogue and discussion. I’m wondering, have any of you seen examples of similar situations that started in a fierce and oppositional place but ultimately became conversations that focus on alliance and commonality?

Vazquez: Part of the problem we have, and some- thing I think we are moving away from, is that ours has been an identity-based politics forever, not a politics framed by human rights. When things center on identity and people feel that their identity is somehow being trampled on or taken away, they get defensive. That needs to change. To give you an example of where I thought a successful transition was made is what used to be called the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center. When we were in the process of rebranding in 1994, we focused on our core ideals, vision and values (which included inclusion). It became increasingly clear that we could not say that those were our core values unless we changed our name to be inclusive of an emerging community that needed an enormous amount of support and a space to claim as its own. We did eventually become the LGBT Community Services Center. That was an important process to go through.

We cannot underestimate the importance of shifting the conversation away from identity and towards what our vision is of an inclusive SAGE or an inclusive movement, and what role all of us play in creating that space for inclusion of transgender people. Not just a support group here and there but to have transgender people woven into the fabric of SAGE as an organization. Also, when we talk about SAGE, it’s an organization about people dealing with oppression on the basis of age. That is some- thing that’s common to all older women. A politics of gender and sexual rights is something SAGE should champion and be at the forefront of.

Keisling: What Carmen just said is so important. We have so many different kinds of oppression we have to battle right now. We should be trying to eliminate the oppression and not each other. That should always be the goal—to start thinking about the oppressions and not the identities.

Kendell: Also, sexism and misogyny exist so deeply for a queer-identified people. If we can make the world safe for a transgender woman of color in some small rural town, then lesbian, gay and bisexual people will be far better off. Recognizing the enemy of our liberation as the same enemy of transgender individuals puts us in a much better place now than we were when this conversation started.

Adams: Kate, you’ve been the head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights since 1996. Currently at NCLR what are the trans projects that are front and center in your mind, and where do you hope to be in the near future?

Kendell: One question we always ask at NCLR is: who is being left behind? The second question is: what kind of country do we want to live in? Neither is particularly driven by identity. Although the first one is connected to identity to some degree, because in a nation that still has white supremacy at its core—and racism obviously still entrenched everywhere, and transphobia and homophobia—I think there is still a place for understanding that there will be individuals whose very identity makes them more of a target for oppression.

November 14, 2016

SAGEMatters Fall 2016: Lives of Boundless Opportunities

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SAGEMatters Fall 2016: Lives of Boundless Opportunities

As we share the latest SAGEMatters with you, we are living through a period of unprecedented change. Perhaps nothing reminds us of this more sharply than this year’s high-stakes elections, which have turned long-standing political and social assumptions on their heads.

This theme of change runs powerfully through the features in this issue of SAGEMatters. Inside, you’ll find George Takei’s take on personal evolution; learn how Jeffrey Erdman has taken the LA leather scene by storm in his 50s; and follow an inspiring conversation with Kate Kendell, Mara Keisling and Carmen Vazquez about the changing landscape of gender identity. You’ll also learn how the federal government (after a lot of pushing by SAGE) is moving to transform publicly-funded aging services to make them more LGBT-friendly. Join us in celebrating the realization of a decades-long dream for our communities in New York City, as SAGE announces the construction of the first two LGBTfriendly elder housing communities in the Big Apple. And so much more.

This time of great change and evolution sets the stage for the launch of SAGE’s new strategic plan. The overriding goal of the plan is to dramatically expand the impact of SAGE’s work so that LGBT people can grow older with boundless opportunities for growth and enrichment. We believe that we can achieve this transformative vision by tapping into our legacy of “taking care of our own,” by building ties across generations, by encouraging communities to become LGBT age-friendly and by convincing partners of all kinds to get involved. This issue of SAGEMatters includes a special feature on our new plan—we hope you’ll be as excited as we are.

For me, all of this has a special personal significance as I celebrate my 10th anniversary at the helm of this amazing organization. I’m so proud of the great progress that we have made together on behalf of our LGBT elder pioneers. And I’m tremendously passionate about the next chapter of SAGE’s work.

I know that as you read through this latest SAGEMatters it will be even clearer to you why SAGE’s efforts matter more than ever. Let’s keep working together so that all LGBT elders have the support they need to live lives of boundless opportunity.

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Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

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

July 7, 2016

Why We Fight

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of SAGEMatters.

The Supreme Court validated the relationships of LGBT people across the nation in 2015 when it handed down its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Plaintiff Jim Obergefell took the time to speak with us about his experience in this history-making moment.

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Image: Emma Parker Photography


SAGE: How did you feel at the moment the Supreme Court decision came down? Can you describe it?

Jim Obergefell: When Justice Kennedy read our case number, I grabbed the hands of friends sitting on either side of me and listened intently. The first few sentences were a roller coaster of emotions, as I thought “we won”—followed closely by doubt. When it became clear that we had indeed won, I burst into tears and cried throughout the rest of his decision. I felt a mixture of sadness, joy, and satisfaction. Sadness, of course, because John wasn’t there to experience the win with me. It was impossible not to feel joy at that moment! Here was the highest court in the land saying that John and I—and couples like us—exist and are just as valid as any other couple. I also had a sense of satisfaction because I’d lived up to my promises to love, honor and protect John. It was a bittersweet day, but definitely more sweet than bitter.

SAGE: Caring for a terminally-ill partner requires profound physical and emotional strength. You’ve said that John gave you “the strength to do this.” How did family, friends and community reinforce that strength?

JO: I know I had moments when I was completely exhausted, emotionally and physically, but I always thought back to John and the fact that I was fighting for him, our marriage, and people across the country. I found that no matter how busy I was, I was energized by meeting people, talking about John, and speaking out for equality. My family and friends worried about me, but they understood how important it was, and they could also see how passionate I was about what I was doing. They also kept me grounded and sane by checking in with me and, more importantly, making time for me whenever I was home in Cincinnati. It’s impossible not to be energized when strangers stop me to say thank you, tell me stories, or share why my fight mattered to them.

SAGE: In winning a battle for you and John, you won something for all of us. Have you met any older—“SAGE age”—couples who’ve tied the knot since this summer’s Supreme Court victory? How have they inspired you?

JO: I have, and quite a few! I remember how frequently people were surprised by how long John and I were together, so I’ve loved meeting couples who have been together as long or longer. There’s been such a look of joy and contentment on their faces, and I can’t imagine a better thank you. I know how meaningful getting married was for John and me after twenty years together, so I understand a bit of how they feel. Every time a couple tells me they’ve finally married after being together for so long—or that their marriage is now recognized in all 50 states—I’m humbled to be part of that.

SAGE: In remarks following the decision, you shared your hope that the ruling would decrease LGBT stigma and discrimination. You also acknowledged the crisis in Charleston, saying we must continue to fight as “progress for some is not progress for all.” What issues do you hope to address in the coming year?

JO: Our country still hasn’t lived up to the promise of equality that’s part of our shared American identity, and my experience fighting for marriage equality has inspired me to continue being involved until we do. I’ll be working toward passage of the Equality Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity in federal non-discrimination protections. I’ll continue to speak out on behalf of our transgender brothers and sisters and lend my time and energy toward gaining much-needed protections for them. I also plan to become more involved with fighting homelessness among LGBTQ youth.

Read about Jim Obergefell and other LGBT trailblazers in the Fall 2015 issue of SAGEMatters. Download our Talk Before You Walk toolkit and infographics to learn how marriage equality affects your finances. Sign up for monthly email updates at sageusa.org/subscribe.

May 31, 2016

Connecting Across Generations

By Timothy Wroten

Jay Kallio gained nationwide visibility in 2012 when he shared his story about navigating the healthcare system as a transgender man living with breast cancer. Now in the midst of a new battle, Jay talks about how a younger community of activists has connected him to newfound strength and courage.

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Photo Credit: Rosa Goldensohn/DNAinfo.com

Timothy Wroten: Earlier this year, you were diagnosed with a new condition: terminal lung cancer. Many of us would have given up. Where were you at this point?

Jay Kallio: Most terminal cancer patients go through a process called “purging” where they start giving away their possessions. I found myself doing the same thing through the “Queer Exchange” Facebook group. When folks came to pick up my castaways, I brought them downstairs because I was ashamed of my apartment’s terrible condition. I live in pub•lic housing, which entails a lot of delayed re•pairs and maintenance. I didn’t have money to do repairs myself like I used to. One of the people, Ella Grasch, was concerned and questioned me in detail about the apartment. I described how the bathroom ceiling was going to fall, that lights were out, fixtures had short-circuited, and that the plumbing was backed up—numerous problems.

TW: How did Ella and other young activists you met through Queer Exchange help you get what you needed?

JK: Despite being trained in activism, I was too sick to advocate for my own needs. They got to work and generated networks, resources, and money. Ella knew a wonderful woman named Brianne Huntsman who set up a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe. She works in social media marketing, so she had the skills to do it right. They raised money to repair my apartment and also to pay for some healthcare costs not covered by Medicare. People started to send in money, $10, $50, $100, $500…it was an enormous help. I couldn’t manage navigating the bureaucracy of my housing authority, either. I was overwhelmed by the bare minimum I needed to do to survive. Several young people be•came involved: social workers, someone who works in the mayor’s office, and others. They started making phone calls for me, knowing whom to call and how to get things done. My plumbing problems were soon taken care of. Slowly, many things improved.

TW: You said that meeting younger activists from around the country through Queer Exchange and GoFundMe fueled you to generate yet another bout of activist energy. Tell us about the campaign they helped you fight against your insurance company.

JK: My insurance company refused to cover an experimental cancer treatment—immunotherapy—because it cost too much. It was my only hope for remission. A number of younger activists got involved with my own organizing efforts. First, they joined me at this summer’s Pride March. It was amazing to see the older gener•ation of “ACT-UPers” pushing me in a wheelchair, alongside younger LGBT and health care advocates. Taking the money raised, we planned a rally in front of the insurance company. We videotaped it so we could do an online campaign. We used so many different campaign tactics including street theater, online petitions, and a Twitter war against the insurance HMO. We contacted politicians’ offices, which also added pressure. As we started the rally, one of the executives of the insurance company came to us and said, “Have you talked to your doctor yet this morning?” My doctor had already been e-mailed with an approval for my immunotherapy treatment. They had done a 180 on a life-saving treatment that had previously been denied. It’s because younger activists got involved and gave me a big shot in the arm that I can fight for myself again.

TW: In spite of this battle and other health concerns, your rebel heart still beats strong. How have you helped SAGE and other communities fight for better care and equity?

JK: I have worked with SAGE a lot on LGBT cultural competency and healthcare. I am writing chapters for a guidebook to help healthcare professionals better understand the needs of LGBT cancer patients. I have also presented at a few conferences to advance palliative care funding. I’m getting an awful lot done that will not only help LGBT cancer patients, but also Medicaid recipients and cancer patients across the board.

TW: How can young people join in this fight?

JK: After meeting so many young LGBT activists this year, I’ve said, “If you liked doing this with me, why don’t you consider volunteering with SAGE? We need your help. Beyond pushing us in the wheelchair at the next march, we need you to work with us on advocacy!” The fight goes beyond about being gay. It’s about supporting anyone who may be gay and vulnerable, which includes those who are also young, old, of color, or poor. We need cross-generational community and support for years to come. With our mutual vulnerability, we also share strengths to remedy that vulnerability. Activism works. Get involved.

Read about Jay Kallio and other LGBT trailblazers in the Fall 2015 issue of SAGEMatters. May is Older Americans Month. Connect on social media with #OAM16.

May 12, 2016

Older and Bolder: Starting a second or third chapter? Think big!

The 2016 theme of Older Americans Month is "Blaze a Trail" and we can't imagine a better way to celebrate then honoring the achievements of our LGBT elders. Stay tuned for a series of blog posts on SAGE's trailblazers throughout the month and follow the conversation at #OAM.

We’re taught that most people spend their retirement years baking cookies, tinkering in the garage, and playing dominoes. But a new generation of LGBT older people is thinking bigger and bolder. Fueled by increasing life expectancy many are now calling a “longevity bonus,” they are creating new narratives about what it means to be “SAGE age.” 


BrendaCullaneBRENDA CULHANE
is passionate about her pursuits. She’s a 75-year-old lesbian activist and SAGE constituent living in Portland, Oregon. Brenda plays a powerful role on a local housing committee in Portland and advocates for LGBT needs in assisted and independent living communities. She notes that “We’ve all had friends who have had to go into [these facilities] and do not feel safe coming out in that environment. It’s so sad.”

Brenda’s work doesn’t stop there, though—she also speaks about LGBT issues at civic events and local colleges. Students often want to know how and when Brenda came out, and what her parents thought. She responds with patience and honesty, and values the chance to turn her own life experience into a teachable moment.

 

 

Bruce_067sAdvocacy has also defined 68-year-old BRUCE WILLIAMS’ second chapter. His life changed dramatically in 2006 when he was fired from his longtime role as the executive director of a retirement community in Texas. Looking back, Bruce believes he was terminated because of his sexuality. It was a terrible blow, but he still remembers the work fondly. “I had the luxury of watching people go through the last third of their lives,” he recalls. “I saw commonalities and individualities, and the choices they made. Some were good, some were bad, some were frighteningly ugly.”

When Bruce relocated with his partner to South Florida in 2013, he began volunteering at the Pride Center at Equality Park. Given his background, he gravitated toward the issue of long-term care and reached out to local providers to find out which ones were LGBT friendly. After a rocky start and a lot of rejection, he hosted a small LGBT community health fair. Fast forward to 2015, and Bruce is now preparing for his sixth event as the Pride Center’s Senior Services Coordinator. He remarks that the Pride Center “wanted me to come to work as a gay man—that was the first time in 65 years that had happened!” He’s thrilled to be making an impact with his work, and has plans to do more. “No one’s written a guidebook for getting old—I think I’ll do that!”

DorrellClarkRetirement has put the spotlight on DORRELL CLARK’S creative side—literally! This 63-year old lesbian retired from a job as a subway train operator in 2011 and began volunteering at the Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance. “I am not an artist,” Dorrell says, “I’m a technical person. So to be in the same space as these creative souls was awesome!” She dove into new artistic pursuits, first taking the stage in a gender- bending role as a young gay man struggling to make peace with a homophobic brother. Later, some of her life stories were transformed into a dance performance by local artist Jessica Danser. What’s it like for Dorrell to fulfill a lifelong dream of creativity? “There are no words,” she says. “Seeing my work onstage, I had tears in my eyes.”

Connect with SAGE on social media with #OAM16 and follow the SAGE blog this and every month for inspiring stories of our LGBT elders. 

April 4, 2016

SAGEMatters Spring 2016: Our Stories, Our Voices

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SAGEMatters Spring 2016: Our Stories, Our Voices

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

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

November 9, 2015

Connecting Across Generations

In honor of LGBT Elders Day, SAGE is highlighting Jay Kallio's powerful story of working with young activists and battling cancer. Jay gained nationwide visibility in 2012 when he spoke out about navigating the healthcare system as a transgender man living with breast cancer. Now in the midst of a new battle, Jay talks about how a younger community of activists has connected him to newfound strength and courage. This Q&A was originally featured in SAGEMatters, SAGE's magazine. Read the full issue here.

JayKallio
Jay Kallio (Photo Credit: Rosa Goldensohn/DNAinfo.com)

Earlier this year, you were diagnosed with a new condition: terminal lung cancer. Many of us would have given up. Where were you at this point?

Most terminal cancer patients go through a process called “purging” where they start giving away their possessions. I found myself doing the same thing through the “Queer Exchange” Facebook group. When folks came to pick up my castaways, I brought them downstairs because I was ashamed of my apartment’s terrible condition. I live in public housing, which entails a lot of delayed repairs and maintenance. I didn’t have money to do repairs myself like I used to. One of the people, Ella Grasch, was concerned and questioned me in detail about the apartment. I described how the bathroom ceiling was going to fall, that lights were out, fixtures had short-circuited, and that the plumbing was backed up—numerous problems.

How did Ella and other young activists you met through Queer Exchange help you get what you needed?

Despite being trained in activism, I was too sick to advocate for my own needs. They got to work and generated networks, resources, and money. Ella knew a wonderful woman named Brianne Huntsman who set up a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe. She works in social media marketing, so she had the skills to do it right. They raised money to repair my apartment and also to pay for some healthcare costs not covered by Medicare. People started to send in money, $10,
$50, $100, $500…it was an enormous help.

I couldn’t manage navigating the bureaucracy of my housing authority, either. I was overwhelmed by the bare minimum I needed to do to survive. Several young people became involved: social workers, someone who works in the mayor’s office, and others. They started making phone calls for me, knowing whom to call and how to get things done. My plumbing problems were soon taken care of. Slowly, many things improved.

You said that meeting younger activists from around the country through Queer Exchange and GoFundMe fueled you to generate yet another bout of activist energy. Tell us about the campaign they helped you fight against your insurance company.

My insurance company refused to cover an experimental cancer treatment—immunotherapy—because it cost too much. It was my only hope for remission. A number of younger activists got involved with my own organizing efforts. First, they joined me at this summer’s Pride March. It was amazing to see the older generation of “ACT-UPers” pushing me in a wheelchair, alongside younger LGBT and health care advocates. Taking the money raised, we planned a rally in front of the insurance company. We videotaped it so we could do an online campaign. We used so many different campaign tactics including street theater, online petitions, and a Twitter war against the insurance HMO. We contacted politicians’ offices, which also added pressure.

As we started the rally, one of the executives of the insurance company came to us and said, “Have you talked to your doctor yet this morning?” My doctor had already been e-mailed with an approval for my immunotherapy treatment. They had done a 180 on a life-saving treatment that had previously been denied. It’s because younger activists got involved and gave me a big shot in the arm that I can fight for myself again.

JaySimone
Simone Kolysh and Jay Kallio march with the National LGBT Cancer Network.

In spite of this battle and other health concerns, your rebel heart still beats strong. How have you helped SAGE and other communities fight for better care and equity?

I have worked with SAGE a lot on LGBT cultural competency and healthcare. I am writing chapters for a guidebook to help healthcare professionals better understand the needs of LGBT cancer patients. I have also presented at a few conferences to advance palliative care funding. I’m getting an awful lot done that will not only help LGBT cancer patients, but also Medicaid recipients and cancer patients across the board.

How can young people join in this fight?

After meeting so many young LGBT activists this year, I’ve said, “If you liked doing this with me, why don’t you consider volunteering with SAGE? We need your help. Beyond pushing us in the wheelchair at the next march, we need you to work with us on advocacy!” The fight goes beyond about being gay. It’s about supporting anyone who may be gay and vulnerable, which includes those who are also young, old, of color, or poor. We need cross-generational community and support for years to come. With our mutual vulnerability, we also share strengths to remedy that vulnerability. Activism works. Get involved.

Article written by Tim Wroten.

November 5, 2015

SAGEMatters Fall 2015: Blazing New Trails

The LGBT movement has had countless heroes. From activists who have graced magazine covers, to individuals who have shaped their world more quietly—simply by living authentically and visibly—each has propelled our movement forward in their own way. Many have been LGBT older people upon whom we proudly bestow the title: elder.

In this issue, you will read about activists like Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the historic Supreme Court ruling that ended our fight for marriage equality and began a new chapter in U.S. history. Obergefell’s courage and persistence led the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm that his love for John Arthur was no less than that of heterosexual spouses. It also gave fuller respect for LGBT caregivers and surviving partners. We also share a conversation with Jay Kallio, whose battle against breast cancer as a trans man highlights the healthcare struggles of so many in our community. Jay’s inspiring story also illuminates the ways in which our community members support each other across generational lines in times of need.

This past July 13, I proudly joined three elders who championed our collective cause at the White House Conference on Aging. In this issue, you can also learn about their experiences as part of the intensive campaign that SAGE successfully led, in partnership with our affiliates throughout the country, to ensure that LGBT older people were at the top of the agenda at this historically important meeting.

These are just a few of the exciting stories in our latest issue of SAGEMatters. It’s your steadfast support that makes this work possible.

 

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Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

SAGEMatters is the triannual magazine of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). View and download the Fall 2015 issue here.

September 19, 2013

The Road Ahead: SAGE’s New Strategic Plan

Michael-AdamsToday's blog post is written by SAGE Executive Director, Michael Adams.

I am proud to introduce SAGE’s new strategic plan, The Road Ahead.

As our prior 5-year plan wound down, SAGE celebrated many accomplishments, such as the successful opening of The SAGE Center, the first publicly-funded LGBT senior center; raising the profile of LGBT aging issues at the federal policy level; vastly expanding our nationwide network of affiliates; and launching the country’s first and only LGBT aging resource center. We also explored what still needs to be done, and came to the inescapable conclusion that while we have accomplished a great deal in recent years to improve the quality of life for LGBT older people, much remains to be done.

SAGE_STRATEGIC-PLAN_Final2-1To build on the exciting advances made over the past 5 years and address the vast challenges that remain, this spring SAGE’s Board of Directors adopted a visionary Strategic Framework to guide the next phase of the organization’s work.  Over the next 3 years, SAGE intends to deepen its federal policy work and its affiliate reach to achieve true national impact for the LGBT aging field.  SAGE’s efforts will continually emphasize inclusion of all LGBT older adults—regardless of where they live, and especially for those LGBT elders who have been most marginalized and are most in need of support. We will deepen our commitment to model service provision for LGBT older adults by adapting our services so that they are responsive to health and long-term care trends, evaluating and pinpointing which services are most effective, and using the resulting data to help replicate those services through our affiliate network. As the country’s largest repository of expertise on LGBT aging, SAGE will focus on knowledge-sharing by bolstering our one-of-a-kind National Resource Center on LGBT Aging to continue training aging providers around the country and by providing LGBT older people with the information they need to plan for the future. And having catalyzed a fast-growing LGBT aging field in recent years, SAGE will now focus on sustaining that growth by encouraging and supporting the work of our partners, leveraging strategic alliances, harnessing trends in health care and other sectors to build self-supporting LGBT aging work, and strengthening SAGE’s own infrastructure and support. 

It’s 2013 and we at SAGE are determined to once again change the game for LGBT older adults across the country.  Thank you for your ongoing support as we ramp up our work to turn our Plan into reality.

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