December 5, 2017

Equality Is Not a Cakewalk for LGBT Elders

SAGE’s Director of Advocacy, Aaron Tax, and Dr. Imani Woody—LGBTQ activist and founder of Mary’s House, the first LGTBQ senior housing development in Washington, D.C.—spoke at the ACLU’s rally on the Supreme Court steps before opening arguments for the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado on December 5, 2017. Below are their remarks.


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Equality Is Not a Cakewalk for LGBT Elders

Good morning! I’m Aaron Tax, the Director of Advocacy at SAGE. We are the nation’s largest and oldest advocacy and services organization for LGBT older adults.

Why are we here today? It’s because the opportunity for LGBT older adults to grow old with the dignity and support they need and deserve is fundamentally at risk in this case.    

When LGBT older adults get a meal at a senior center, enter long-term care, or seek funeral arrangements for a loved one, make no mistake, none of those institutions are making a statement about LGBT people.

Why? Because these institutions are open to the public. And they and their employees are simply serving the public.

We all agree businesses can make decisions about what kinds of products or services they provide—but they cannot pick and choose whom they serve. A senior center can choose to open its doors to seniors, it can offer canasta or bingo, or, let’s hope, something much more interesting. But it can’t decide to serve only people of certain religions or races, or specific sexual orientations or gender identities, but not others.   

If we allow businesses to exempt themselves from laws barring discrimination, we’d return to a time when businesses open to the public engaged in outright discrimination against people for all sorts of reasons. 

We, as a nation, decided to close that chapter of our history, which is why we have laws that ensure businesses don’t discriminate among customers based on who they are.

At SAGE, we know that LGBT older adults can’t afford to go back to a time when businesses, aging providers, and others, could display a sign in their window saying, “LGBT elders not served here.” That’s not the society we want to live in. And perhaps more importantly, our Constitution doesn’t protect that kind of discrimination. Thank you.


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We Cannot Turn the Clock Back to a Time When Discrimination Was Legal

I’m Imani Woody. I’m a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother and an elder lesbian of African descent.

This case is a personal one to me, because we all know that it goes beyond cake and wedding planners. My ability to go to a restaurant, catch a cab, go to the doctor, or even just go to the movies with my wife are threatened if people can use their religion as a license to discriminate.

In the ’60s, people used race to discriminate against my family and not allow my mother, who was deathly ill, to be treated at a hospital that was nearby. Because of this discrimination, my father drove us—his five children and his wife—to a hospital that accepted colored people. However, it was too late to save my mother; she died that night. I was 10.

And when my brother died of complications associated with AIDS, the funeral home refused to pick up his body from the hospital—this was after my father had pre-paid funeral arrangements.

So, I know firsthand the havoc discrimination can cause on families and individuals. No matter who you are—you and I, and everyone here today—has a right to equal treatment under the law.

Many LGBT older adults are not as lucky as I am. I am fortunate to have a wife and family. And I have a home. But many LGBT elders can’t be here today on the steps of the Supreme Court. Many of us don’t have family to rely on. Many can’t get to the grocery store, can’t get a meal, or can’t get to the doctor without the assistance of paid businesses. Unfortunately, many of the people and organizations we rely on as we get older are religiously affiliated.  

I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t want to live my life—and I know I can’t live my life—in a world where I never know if my next meal or my next visit to the doctor might be stopped in its tracks because someone wants to use their religion as a license to discriminate against me—because I’m a woman, because I’m Black, or because I’m a lesbian.

The Constitution does not give landlords, senior centers, nursing homes, or hospitals the right to put a sign outside that says “Straight people only.” That’s not my country. And I know that most of us don’t want to live in an America like that either.

By being here today, I’m giving voice to other LGBTQ/SGL elders who share their plight and can’t be here today. And I’m asking the Supreme Court to do the right thing and not turn the clock back to the time of earlier legal discrimination, where children lost their mother, a father lost consideration for a burial, and where people lose their quality of life because discrimination is again legalized. Thank you.

December 4, 2017

LGBT Home Care Workers

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Did you know that LGBT older adults make up 2.7 million of the quickly growing aging population in the United States? By 2030, that number is expected to more than double.

Now more than ever before, there is a high demand for caregiving within the LGBT community. That’s why SAGE is conducting research about home care workers – but we need your help.

Will you participate in a 15-minute phone interview with a member of SAGE’s staff about home care workers? If you’ve hired a home care worker for yourself or a loved one in the past few years, or anticipate needing to so do, please email care@sageusa.org. Thank you for your willingness to speak with us!

Yes, I'll participate in a 15-minute phone interview! >>

November 28, 2017

Welcome to Pride

Age Friendly Pride

 

SAGE is partnering with The Center for Black Equity, Centerlink, and InterPride on an age-friendly Pride initiative. The goal is to encourage the inclusion of older LGBT people in all aspects of Pride marches, parades, and festivals. The first step is hearing from you—those who plan, sponsor, and attend Pride.

We would be grateful if you took a few minutes to complete a brief survey. The results will inform the creation of our Age-Friendly Pride Toolkit, which we hope will be used to increase the age-friendliness of Prides across the country. Thank you in advance for taking the time to give us your feedback!


Pride Participant Survey>>

Pride Planner, Sponsor, and Organizer Survey>>

Sign the Age-Friendly Pride Pledge to be listed on SAGE’s website and in our Welcome to Pride Guide>> 


Thank you to AARP for their generous support of Welcome to Pride: An Age-Friendly Pride Initiative.

November 1, 2017

Caregiving Around the Clock: National Family Caregivers Month and Resources for the LGBT Community

National Caregivers Month (1)Each November we recognize National Family Caregivers Month. As the theme for this year makes clear, many of us are aware that caring for a spouse/partner, family member, or friend is often a 24/7 commitment of caregiving around the clock.

SAGE recognizes the importance of caregiving and planning within the LGBT community. A 2015 AARP report indicates 9 percent (3 million) of the 34.2 million Americans who provide unpaid care to another adult over the age of 50 identify as LGBT.  Additionally, LGBT older adults are less likely to have children and more likely to live alone, meaning that friends or families of choice often step in to provide care and support for LGBT older adults. And while we may anticipate becoming a caregiver for a loved one, we may put off thinking about our own caregiving needs should we have surgery or an illness that requires support from others.

During National Family Caregivers Month, SAGE is excited to introduce two new guides designed to help support the LGBT older adult caregiving community. The first guide, "Caregiving in the LGBT Community: A Guide to Engaging and Supporting LGBT Caregivers Through Programming," provides an overview of caregiving in the LGBT community, along with specific ideas, lessons learned, and best practices for expanding programs to support LGBT caregivers and those caring for LGBT older adults. The second guide, "Create Your Care Plan: An LGBT Person’s Guide to Preparing for Medical Procedures," is designed to help LGBT older adults prepare for surgery or a chronic illness by putting a plan in place for their medical team and caregivers. This guide includes planning worksheets, resources, and tips for getting on the road to a successful recovery. Care-planning worksheets are also available for download.

Take time during National Family Caregivers Month to read through these resources and share with others in your community who may benefit from them. We also recognize that caregiving and recovery from a medical procedure can often be a stressful time. While you may find yourself caregiving around the clock, you are not alone. SAGE’s LGBT Elder Hotline (1-888-234-SAGE) offers peer support and additional resources. The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging has a resource page dedicated to caregiving. Together, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge and resources to provide care and support to our LGBT family. —Sherrill Wayland

 

October 31, 2017

What Students Need to Know About LGBT History

LGBTQ History is made every day, not just to be celebrated over the course of one month. We recently asked SAGE Facebook fans about what they view as the most important stories for the next generation to learn. Check out some of the answers below:

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Sidenote: Our Instagram story poll returned almost unanimous results—where's the LGBT History in our schools? We have several Facebook followers who would make A+ teachers, if you're in need!

 

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Join the conversation on Facebook and Like SAGE USA to add your voice to a nation of LGBT elders, allies, and advocates.
—Lucy Doyle

October 30, 2017

Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Pushing Us Back Into the Closet? No Way!

 

C72c6297-a7ff-4ad1-a0b2-6c366523d7a2Can you imagine being forced back into the closet when you and your partner apply for affordable housing? Or not being allowed to honor your spouse's last wishes upon their passing? And all denied to you because an establishment decides to discriminate against you based on its "religious beliefs" or its own definition of free speech? 

The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case before the United States Supreme Court represents much more than allowing a same-sex couple its right to purchase a wedding cake. It's about protecting older LGBT people from having a license to discriminate in senior centers, housing, long-term care facilities, and funeral homes. That's why SAGE, with the assistance of the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, joined the American Society on Aging when it filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the Colorado Court of Appeals' Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling that everyone has a right to equal treatment under the law.

"This case could affect tens of thousands of older LGBT people," says SAGE CEO Michael Adams. "As we have stated in our amicus brief, many LGBT elders are single. Many are poor. And many are in declining health. Most of these LGBT older adults are not looking to buy a custom cake or purchase a floral arrangement or have their picture taken. They are seeking nondiscriminatory access to facilities such as senior centers, long-term care facilities, and funeral homes. They are entitled to live out their later years in dignity. SAGE stands in opposition to allowing discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”

October 26, 2017

SAGENet Blossoms in the City of Roses


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SAGENet celebrates in Portland.

SAGENet affiliates converged on Portland, Oregon, earlier this month for an annual meeting that brings together the largest group of people in the United States who lead programs tailored to the needs of LGBT older adults.

“Each year, we meet to deepen our skills by sharing what works in our communities,” says Serena Worthington, SAGE’s Director of National Field Initiatives. “It fuels us to do the work we love with and for LGBT elders.”

 

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From left: SAGE Wilmington's Jeff Mills (kneeling), SAGE Hudson Valley's Jeff Rindler, SAGE's Christina Da Costa, SAGE Alaska's Gayle Schuh,
SAGE Raleigh's Bob Wenz, SAGE's Sterling Herr, SAGE PROMO Fund's Dan Stewart, SAGE Utah's Charles Hoy-Ellis, and SAGE Milwaukee's Marissa Burns.

Nearly 40 participants learned about promoting effective grassroots advocacy; fostering good mental health in a post-Trump world; implementing SAGE’s new branding initiative; and much more.

“I found the Media Activist Training to be the most helpful to me personally, since I sometimes have trouble finding the best way to express my thoughts,” says Julie Schmidt of SAGE Alaska about the training offered by Ross Murray, Senior Director of Education and Training at GLAAD. “What jumped out to me was the power of personal stories, a technique that makes a campaign more effective.”

Possibly the most important aspect of this year’s SAGENet meeting was offering the affiliates an opportunity to exchange ideas. “I love to hear about all the wonderful work the other affiliates are doing around the country to make the lives of our LGBT pioneers and advocates better and more fulfilling,” says Marissa Burns of SAGE Milwaukee. “And I love being able to share my experiences in return.”

As with all SAGENet events, there was plenty of time to socialize, this year over ice cream, gourmet doughnuts, and a lavish cocktail party hosted by Glen Ulmer and Marcelo Santibanez in their home, where No Apology from the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus gave a surprise performance.

 

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Seated, from left: SAGE Metro Portland's Max Micozzi and Portland State University's Alan DeLaTorre. Standing, from left: SAGE's Sterling Herr,
SAGE's Serena Worthington, and AARP's Bandana Shrestha.


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Clockwise, from left: SAGE Albuquerque's Havens Levitt, SAGE  of PROMO Fund's Dan Stewart, SAGE of the Rockies' Reynaldo Mireles,
SAGE Cleveland's Mary Beth Bartholomew, SAGE Metro Detroit's Pat Baldwin, SAGE's Bill Gross, and SAGE Center on Halsted's Todd Williams.

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Clockwise, from left: SAGE Tulsa's Olivia Cotter, SAGE Milwaukee's Marissa Burns, SAGE's Karalin Sprague,
GLAAD's Ross Murray, and SAGE of the Desert's Candice Nichols.

October 10, 2017

Coming Out to Your Healthcare Provider

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 9, 2017

Trump Administration Issues License to Discriminate

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2017

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

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

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

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