8 posts categorized "SAGENet"

October 24, 2014

The Disease That Defined My Generation

Perry Halkitis Photo1SAGE is honored to have Perry N. Halkitis, Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor of Applied Psychology, Public Health and Population Health, NYU, as our keynote speaker for this year’s annual SAGENet affiliate meeting. Dr. Halkitis will be talking about Survival and Resilience: How the Experiences of Long Term Survivors Inform the Delivery of Care for Adults Aging with HIV. His post below was originally featured on The Huffington Post on September 25, 2014.

PBS recently aired a documentary, The Boomer List, examining the life stories and experiences of those born in the United Sates between 1946 and 1964. According to these parameters, I too am a baby boomer having been born in 1963. But despite this chronological reality, I have never felt any particular kinship or connection with the baby boomer generation, a sense that was validated as I listened to the interviews of most of those who were depicted in the documentary.

The ideas of historians William Strauss and Neil Howe provide ample explanation for why I feel the way that I do. Beginning with their seminal work Generations, Strauss and Howe postulated a framework for delineating generations that has less to do with historical intervals defined by years than by the shared sensibilities. In their view, a generation shares age location in history. Those who constitute a generation experience significant historical events, social trends, and other phenomena while in similar developmental period of their lives. Because of these experiences, members of a generation are shaped throughout the course of their lives by these elements that they encounter during their childhoods an/or emerging and young adulthoods. In this perspective, I am a member of Generation X and not a baby boomer. That seems right to me.

But my point has less to do with my being a baby boomer or member of Gen X than it does with me being a member of another generation -- the AIDS Generation. For those of us who came or were coming of age during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, our experiences were shaped by this epidemic that was devastating our country and taking countless lives. All of us who came of age at the time are members of the AIDS Generation -- men and women, gay and straight, HIV-positive and HIV-negative. Whether we experienced the epidemic front and center in cities such as New York or Los Angeles or whether we watched it from afar in news accounts in our small hometowns, this disease defined our formative years and is forever embedded in our consciousness.

I explore these ideas in my book, The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience, in which I document the life experience of 15 gay men who are long-term survivors of the epidemic. For gay men of my generation, in particular, this disease has left its inedible mark and has defined our lives for the last three decades. In the book I write:

Many of my generation entered our teens and young adulthood in this historical period of the 1970s and 1980s with a sense of confidence and zeal due to the efforts of our predecessors, the Stonewall generation--who spent years hiding their identity--demanding their rights and easing the path for us. We had also the energy of the civil rights and women's rights movements to support us. This is not to say that we came into our own with ease and without fear. Many of us still remained in our closet throughout our high school years for fear of being found out to be a faggot. Still, the promise for sexual freedom and sexual expression existed within our grasp. Little were we to know that we would become the AIDS Generation, and that within a decade this deadly disease would destroy our physical, emotional, and social lives. I know this because I am part of the AIDS Generation (p.5)

Some 33 years after the initial diagnosis of HIV in the United Sates and with hundreds of thousands deaths of gay men in the last three decades, the disease that defined my generation continues to afflict us. In 2010, 72 percent of all new HIV infections were among gay and bisexual men, and those entering their formative years nowadays continue to do battle with this disease. It is true that some conditions in the lives of gay men have improved in the last three decades. We now have effective treatments to fight HIV infection, the use of an HIV antiviral in the form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) provides us with another powerful tool in our arsenal to prevent the disease from spreading, and historic legislation enacted over the last several years has enhanced our civil rights and protections. Be that as it may, this disease continues to haunt us and negatively impact our lives.

On September 27th as we acknowledge the National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, it is time for all of us to take stock and band together socially, politically, and emotionally to demand an end to the AIDS epidemic -- an idea espoused by progressive leaders such as New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo.

I am a member of the AIDS Generation. And unless we continue to fight this disease on all fronts and enhance and protect the health of gay men, my generation is only the first of many generations of gay men who will continue to battle this despicable disease.

Follow Perry N. Halkitis, Ph.D., M.P.H. on Twitter:www.twitter.com/DrPNHalkitis

                                                                                                                                                                                                    

October 21, 2014

Tulsa Two Spirit Society Leader, John Hawk Co-Cke’, to present at SAGENet Annual Meeting

Wakomontanasideprofilecroppedpic2011We are thrilled to announce that John Hawk Co-Cke’ will provide an introduction to Two Spirit People at our upcoming annual meeting of SAGENet Leaders at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma—home of Oklahomans for Equality.

SAGENet affiliates provide services and programs to LGBT older people in their local communities and they also work on city and state advocacy to ensure that public policies better support the needs of LGBT elders. This 2-day training and networking event bringing together established and emerging leaders from SAGENet affiliates to exchange ideas about LGBT aging programs and to discuss how federal policy affects their local work.

The Two Spirit People by John Hawk Co-Cke’ with information provided from “The Spirit and the Flesh” by Walter L. Williams

Native Americans have often held intersex, androgynous people, feminine males and masculine females in high respect. The most common term to define such persons today is to refer to them as “Two-Spirit” people, but in the past feminine males were sometimes referred to as “berdache” by early French explorers in North America, who adapted a Persian word “bardaj”, meaning an intimate male friend.

Native Americans focused on their spiritual gifts. American Indian traditionalists, even today tend to see a person’s character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Thus they are honored for having two spirits, and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female.

Therefore, many Native American religions, rather than stigmatizing such persons, often looked to them as religious leaders and teachers. The Two Spirited persons were also Name Givers, Healers, fortune tellers, Sexual teachers, master craftsman, powerful warriors, and considered a Gift from the Creator.

Because of this tradition of respect, in the 90’s many gay and Lesbian Native American Activists in the United States and Canada rejected the French word berdache in favor of the term Two-Spirit people to describe themselves. Many non-American Indians have incorporated knowledge of Native American Two Spirit traditions into their increasing acceptance of same-sex love, androgyny and transgender diversity. Native American same-sex marriages have been used as a model for legalizing same-sex marriages and the spiritual gifts of androgynous persons have started to become more recognized.

John Hawk Co-Cke’ is an HIV Prevention Specialist with the Muscogee-Creek TCE/HIV Project. He is a Certified Anger Management Specialist and Leader of the Tulsa Two-Spirit Society. He recently became an ordained minister because, as he says, “We’re going to be having a lot of gay marriages coming up in Oklahoma!!” He is a member of the Osage and Peoria Tribes of Oklahoma and is of Creek Nation heritage.                  

 

September 12, 2014

Moving Non-discrimination Protections through Storytelling

SAGE Story is a national digital storytelling program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LGBT elders. The initiative brings together sites in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to build their capacities as LGBT aging advocates and to collect stories on the ways in which discrimination has affected LGBT older people.

This collaborationis designed to capture the critical voice of LGBT elders on LGBT equality advocacy struggles—from efforts to pass state and local nondiscrimination laws, to policy initiatives for relationship recognition, to campaigns to encourage pro-equality public opinion.

To prepare them to lead this work, our LGBT aging advocates will receive a custom training in non-discrimination messaging and framing from Jace Woodrum, Director of Communications for the Gill Foundation and Roey Thorpe, Director of Advocacy Programs for the Equality Federation. The training is based on new research, conducted by the Equality Federation and the Movement Advancement Project.

Recently, SAGE's Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives, spoke with Jace Woodrum to learn more.  

Jace-Woodrum-Headshot-for-BlogCan you tell me a bit about the research process?

When we do polling around non-discrimination laws both in local communities, state-wide and at the national level, we see high levels of support, oftentimes in the 70th and 80th percentile, but when we get into the midst of a campaign around non-discrimination—our opponents use some very hurtful scare tactics to stir up concerns in the public which can make it tough to keep the support that we start with. Our research is focused on understanding the real concerns people have and developing messaging that helps people navigate those concerns and remain supportive.

How was the research conducted?

The process began with one-on-one interviews with LGBT people to understand their experiences of discrimination. Then, we went into some exploratory focus groups to learn about how people think about non-discrimination laws. Over the course of the project, we honed in on trans issues, and we also looked separately at employment non-discrimination and housing and public accommodations. We have done dozens and dozens of focus groups, polls, and some online surveys as well.

Why is this project important?

We know that we are making, as a movement, huge advances on marriage, but our progress on non-discrimination has stalled at the state-wide level. Advancing non-discrimination laws and ensuring basic legal protections for LGBT people is critical because even as we’re winning marriage, our community still faces discrimination, especially transgender people who are especially vulnerable to unfair treatment at work and in our communities. Once we secure the freedom to marry nationwide, it’s only going to get more complicated. For example, we are seeing this play out right now in Pennsylvania, a state that has marriage equality but doesn’t have critical non-discrimination protections.

What are some key ways that framing and messaging have changed based on research?

For years, we talked about marriage as a set of rights and benefits that same-sex couples wanted to access. Then, through research, we learned that our way of talking about marriage as a set of critical rights was not building support among the public and was not accurately depicting why same-sex couples wanted to marry: for love and commitment. So we shifted our messaging, and we’ve seen huge gains in public opinion and in the number of states allowing same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry. We’ve had similar breakthroughs from this non-discrimination research project, and we’re learning more and more everyday.

SAGE Story is funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund

North Carolina Sites

SAGE Raleigh at the LGBT Community Center of Raleigh
SAGE Wilmington of the Cape Fear Coast
The Freedom Center for Social Justice


Pennsylvania Sites
SAGE Western Pennsylvania at Persad Center
SAGE Philadelphia at William Way LGBT Community Center

--Posted by Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives. Follow her at @SerenaWorthy

February 25, 2014

Aging Out: Exploring Ageism and Heterosexism Among African American Lesbians and Gay Males

In honor of February being African American History Month, SAGE has been highlighting our diverse programs, constituents and stories relevant to black aging. Look back at our featured stories for the month. For our last post of the month, Dr. Imani Woody of SAGE Metro D.C. and  is the founding director and CEO of Mary’s House for Older Adults, a developing LGBT friendly residential housing in Washington, DC, explores issues on ageism and heterosexism in the African American lesbian and gay communities.

ImaniPeople are complex, and African-American older LGBT adults are no exception. They live at the intersection of multiple identities experienced over the life span, in a culture steeped in racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism and homophobia. African-American lesbian and gay males experience at a minimum two hostile environments: being lesbian or gay in a heterosexist society; being a person of color in a racist culture; being female in a sexist culture; and being old in a youth-worshipping culture.

Moreover, research shows that living with racism on a daily basis influences the health and well-being of African Americans, leading to major gaps in health and financial equality, higher levels of infirmity and chronic illness, even earlier death than other populations. African-American elders are likely to experience poverty at more than two times the rate of all other older Americans.

This article comes from research cited in Lift Every Voice: Treading our Path, (NGLTF Task Force, 2012) that tells the stories of lives lived and the very real problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender African Americans coming-of-age and how those experiences shaped their lives as they grew older. People remember being conflicted in telling family members their sexual orientation and sexual identity, fearing rejection and abandonment. A 66-year-old African-American lesbian woman described it this way:

  • “I knew I was different as a child. … But I guess I was in my early teens [before I knew the words], because you don’t know what the word is. When I was coming up, the word was bull dagger. It was so negative, so you still don’t know. You are a kid; you don’t know, there were no words for it, I hate that word. It’s just I’ve gotten older, I just, ugh. … That’s so derogatory. It’s negative.”

Many older African-American lesbian women and gay men have experienced a sense of grief and loss from being alienated within one’s own race and ethnicity because of perceived sexual identity and orientation. Often the disaffection happens early and scars last for life. Many elders speak of living in hostile environments within the African-American community. As this 63-year-old African-American man explains:

  • “I know I have an androgynous look, it was even more so when I was younger. So therefore, there was some discrimination against me by assumption rather than fact because they would look at me and because I am androgynous looking they would assume. … One of my issues being African American and looking like this was really when I came out in college in the late ’60s at the height of the Black Power Movement and I was distinctly told by a couple of Black organizations at the time, ‘we don’t want your kind here.’ ”

Suspicions of institutions and institutional care are a shared ancestry of African Americans. This is also a shared experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people coming of age in the decades of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Institutional bigotry, hatred and stigma has led to medical classification and criminalization often resulting in forced psychiatric treatment of LGBT people, and loss of family, church, employment, housing and other community structures. Such bigotry is still found in the medical profession and in church. Listen to the stories of three African-American elders:

  • … You have to be careful with that [advising providers that you’re gay] because the minute you tell a medical person that you are gay, they automatically, in 90 percent of the cases, will assume you’re HIV positive and start to treat you that way.” (63-year-old African-American gay man)
  • I grew up in the church. I was baptized when I was about 11 in the Baptist church. I came to D.C. and joined a world-renowned Baptist church. I sang on two choirs, was a part of the missionary group. … I met a very nice young lady and we were going to get married so we sent some invitations to people at the church. … There were some people on the Deacon and Trustee Board who brought me before the church. … We got into this thing about what the Bible did and didn’t say, but they put me out anyway. … It still hurt me deeply. It was one of the deepest hurts I have had in my life to be put out of my church that I have put so much love and energy…” (72-year-old African-American lesbian woman)
  • In a workplace situation, for example, I might not get an assignment that I know I am qualified for, know that I’m the best person for it, and don’t get it. Is that because I am old? Is it because I am Black? Is it because I am gay? (69-year-old African-American gay man)

Continue reading "Aging Out: Exploring Ageism and Heterosexism Among African American Lesbians and Gay Males" »

October 23, 2013

"Why Do I Do This Work?"

Last week, 17 SAGENet affiliates from around the country met in Denver, Colorado for the Annual SAGENet Affiliate Meeting. Each year, our affiliates gather to connect, share ideas and learn more about the policy issues that affect LGBT older adults. In communities across the country, SAGENet is building a movement to reduce isolation, improve financial security and enhance the quality of life for LGBT older adults. The annual meeting is a way for SAGENet leaders to share ideas and best practices, study emerging policy issues, gain practical skills, and network. With the help of our local co-hosts SAGE of the Rockies and The GLBT Cennter of Colorado and with support from AARP Colorado and the Gill Foundation, we were able to hold another successful and informative meeting.

This year, we asked the question: "Why do I do this work?" Here are some answers:

August 6, 2013

Update on Philly LGBT Older Adult Housing

This post was written by Ed Miller, Senior Programs Coordinator, SAGE Philadelphia at the William Way Community Center.

ANDERSON MEETING AUGUST

SAGE Philadelphia at the William Way Community Center (WWCC) is fully engaged with preparations for the application process for the John C. Anderson Apartments. The new six-story, fifty-six unit LGBT-friendly building is on schedule to open in early 2014. It is centrally located in the heart of the Philadelphia "gayborhood," just one block from SAGE Philadelphia at WWCC.

The highly anticipated Information Sessions to inform the community about the application process are scheduled to take place on August 6, 2013 and August 28, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. The community is working to get the word out about the sessions, especially to those who may be isolated or not connected to community news, the Internet, and social media.

Everything is coming together and you can just sense the excitement in the air. SAGE Philadelphia will implement new senior programs at the site while offering extended senior programs housed at the community center. A good deal of the work in visualizing programs and services was part of WWCC's original proposal. However, the final decision on what those programs look like will be determined by the results of a survey competed during the application process. Although this narrows our community center's window to ready itself for opening day, residents have a major stake in this venture and we want to ensure that their needs are honored and met first and foremost. This is a most exciting time for the LGBT community in Philadelphia.

To RSVP for an information session, email marketing@pennrose.com.

July 3, 2013

Chicago Pride Parade & SAGENet Pride

Today’s post is from Serena Worthington, Director of Community Advocacy and Capacity-Building. Follow her on Twitter.

Chicago PrideThis last Sunday, my partner, Terri Griffith, and I had the opportunity to ride on the AARP Illinois trolley in the Chicago Pride Parade with folks from SAGE Center on Halsted, Affinity Community Services, and AARP. Like many Pride celebrations, Chicago had a record breaking turnout—over a million!

Being in the parade, rather than viewing it from the sidelines, gave me a chance to see block after block after block of the massive crowds. Everyone had a huge smile on their face and tons of enthusiasm for everything. I was amazed by the sheer density.  At first, everyone was just a big blur of rainbow colors and lot of skin, but a few minutes into the parade, I found myself getting quiet and really just looking at them looking at us. There were so many people who got truly, genuinely excited when they realized our trolley was full of LGBT elders. People screamed, shouted encouraging things, blew kisses, and generally made a fuss. There is no experience like basking (albeit secondhand) in the approval that LGBT older adults get from a Pride Parade crowd. One of my favorite moments was passing Center on Halsted. The Center has an annual Senior Pride Viewing Party in the John Baran Senior Center—which overlooks the parade route. From our trolley, we could see all of the SAGE Center on Halsted constituents packed against the windows waving enthusiastically at us.

People loved that AARP was the sponsor. Our excellent host, AARP Associate State Director, Terri Worman, would periodically hold up her AARP card in one hand and give the crowd the thumbs up sign with the other. This never failed to generate smiles and laughs of recognition. More than once I saw someone turn to whoever was standing next to them and, from the looks of it say, “I’m in AARP!” I’m no lip reader but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were saying. Many thanks to Terri and her partner Paula Basta for making sure everyone was warmly welcomed, provided with AARP t-shirts and rainbow swag, and given lots water and snacks.

Watch us roll by in this video from Windy City Times


Check out a few Pride pics from our SAGENet affiliates around the country!

June 11, 2013

SAGE Pride Across the Country!

SAGE is celebrating Pride all month throughout New York City, but we can't forget our SAGENet affiliates all around the country! Here are some highlights from our affiliates' Pride events this month.

PortlandSAGE Metro Portland will be celebrating Pride this weekend! They will be featuring two members who are celebrating 60+ years together and who are instrumental in the community. In partnership with the Portland Primetimers and LOCA (Lesbians of a Certain Age), they will host the Senior Tent at Pride Festival. Stop by the tent to learn about resources for LGBT older adults and each of the partnering programs. They will also have a place for you to sit and take a rest from the festival. On Sunday June 16, SAGE Metro Portland will be marching in the parade and invite all LGBT older adults and allies to join us.

SAGE Philadelphia just celebrated their Pride this past weekend! SAGE Philadelphia provided a presentation on LGBT older adult housing for a local Black Pride organization and distributed brochures for the John C. Anderson Apartments during the Pride parade.

Sageutahzone
SAGE Utah Pride Zone

Out in Utah, Pride festivities happened a few weeks ago with a huge parade and SAGE Utah had a large presence. SAGE Utah also set up a SAGE Zone for folks to rest, relax and “embrace the SAGE within.”

SAGE Center on Halsted constituents and individuals with disabilities are invited to view Chicago's June 30 Pride parade at the John Baran Senior Center at the Center on Halsted. This annual event is extremely popular with SAGE folks who might not be able to enjoy the parade otherwise.

Tulsa
SAGE Tulsa's Toby Jenkins in front of new Pride Exhibit
SAGE Tulsa also celebrated Pride earlier in the month! The Oklahoma Equality Center hosted a SAGE Tulsa Zone during their Pride Festival. Spectators got prime seating with a view of the parade from the Oklahoma Equality Center.

 

Want to learn more about our SAGENet affiliates and what they're doing for Pride? Visit our SAGENet page.