Explore why aging must be part of the LGBTQ movement’s work in this guest post by Dan Stewart, Program Coordinator of SAGE of PROMO Fund (our Missouri member organization) featuring a fabulous FEDTalk by PROMO executive director Steph Perkins!
Our world is aging, and so is our community. Currently there is an estimated 2.7 million older adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT). As the US sees an explosion in those 65 years of age and older, the aging LGBT community is going to grow in leaps and bounds. In just 10 years, the number of older LGBT adults will more than double.
While we may wish to live a long, full life not many folks look forward to getting older. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the pains, aches, and fine lines up ahead. However, with age comes wisdom of experience, a well-informed perspective, and resilience. I have the privilege to see the strength of our community’s oldest members through my work as program coordinator of SAGE of PROMO Fund, Missouri’s statewide education and advocacy program for older LGBT adults.
When President Trump was sworn into office, I spent time processing the unknown future ahead with the older LGBT adults of SAGE of PROMO Fund. While I was at a loss, coming off the high of the Obama era, the older adults around me all shared a common sentiment, “We’ve been through this before, we will get through it again.” While anxiety of the unknown continues, and the political and social reality proves troublesome, I cling to these words of resounding strength and assuredness.
Older LGBT adults have undergone a lifetime of systemic and social discrimination. Many share stories of seeing their identity demonized in textbooks, being kicked out of town for their identity, and arrested for being themselves. However, despite the climate, they continue to stay true to who they are and refuse to be invisible.
Just as our fight for equality was not done with marriage, our fight for equality is not done if we focus only on youth to middle-aged people. True equality extends through all the intersections of the LGBT community, including age. As a community, as an organization, as a person, we can take steps to ensure our movement is truly inclusive of those who have come before us. Here are a few ways to engage older adults in your work:
- Recognize that there are people in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond who identify proudly as LGBT.
- Ensure representation on committees, boards, and community forums includes voices of those 65+. An intergenerational perspective leads to well-rounded conclusions.
- Acknowledge that due to lack of protections (state and/or federal), some LGBT older adults, when at their most vulnerable, may have to enter long-term care and fear for their safety if they are out. It is not uncommon for an out and proud LGBT older adult to go back into the closet to ensure they are treated fairly.
- Recognize accessibility needs at events, meetings, and actions.
- Partner with a local SAGE affiliate. Find yours at www.sageusa.org
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