Tag Archives: LGBT Health

LGBT Aging through the lens of Gen Silent

It’s never too late to give up our prejudices.Henry David Thoreau

You might remember an earlier blog post where I talked about a question that was posed to me by a good (straight) friend of mine, his question was simple: ‘What’s different about LGBT Caregiving.  In that blog post, I wrote  “ A very profound question that is easy to answer, yet difficult to explain.   “Caregiving in and of itself is the same for every couple, you simply care for the one you love.   The difference for the LGBT caregiver is when we have to interact with systems outside of our home that are out of our control.”

As an LGBT caregiver and advocate, my response to that important question pales in comparisons to the magnificent and gut wrenching documentary, Gen Silent.     The real life stories of love, commitment, discernment, hope, happiness and despair told through the lens of “Gen Silent” are gut wrenching, yet important for all audiences in order to understand the plight of LGBT seniors in America. Producer/Director Stu Maddux does a splendid job in piecing together these LGBT pioneers who helped paved the way for what we know today as Gay Pride.

We should all be indebted to them.  

Throughout their life, LGBT seniors have experienced discrimination solely for being ‘different’. LGBT Seniors are one of the most underserved communities in our nation.  Today’s LGBT seniors grew up in a time where they were told that homosexuality was not only a mental illness, but also a crime!

Systems can be unfair, yet pioneers like those in this marvelous film are the ones who help foster change.   Out of the shadows and into our hearts, this documentary provides  viewers with critical examples of why NO senior should be left behind.  This issue is not a local issue, it is a universal issue.  Somewhere along the line in our discussion about critical issues that face our society, we have lost the ability to look and talk about these issues empathically.

No matter what side of the fence you are on in regards to gay marriage; Equality in not a privilege, it is a basic human right.  Through the lens of Gen Silent” you will see the true meaning of love and why equality and equal rights are so important in our society today because everyone deserves a perfect sunset to their life.

Kudo’s to Stu Maddux and the staff at the LGBT Aging Project for a job well done.   Thank You to Ellen Wender of Creative Arts Enterprises and Treece Financial Group for taking the initiative to bring this documentary to South Florida.  Thank You to Diane Lade of the Sun-Sentinel for writing such a superb article on “Gen Silent” how nursing homes can push gay seniors back into the closet.

For information on how you can bring “Gen Silent” to your community, click here to visit the films website and ‘like’ them on Facebook, too!

To learn how your agency can develop LGBT-sensitive policies, train staff,  create welcoming environments, and receive CEU’s visit SunServe Social Services.

“We might have cancer…but cancer does not have us!”


Filed under Caregiving, The Purple Jacket

Caregivers…”Never Alone”

One of the many things that I have missed while being away from Fort Lauderdale for the past four years has been congregation at The Sunshine Cathedral .  While attending worship services this past Sunday, the senior Pastor  Reverend Durrell Watkins,  preached on a topic that really hit home for me: his sermon was entitled, “Never Alone”.

What I know is that prayer connects us to all the prayers of eternity and to all the people who have ever prayed and so the very act of prayer is a reminder that we are not alone, and if we are not facing the challenges of life alone, then hope, peace, and joy are always possible and that’s pretty miraculous.”   Reverend Durrell Watkins Sunday April 22, 2012.

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It’s More Than a Tree…

Never one to be a horticulturist, I am always intrigued by the variety of beautiful trees we have in this diverse country of ours.  Now that we are back in Florida, I am reminded about the beautiful foliage that Florida has to offer, especially the Palm Trees.  You really don’t get to see many Palm trees in St. Louis.

In Missouri, just like here in Florida, there is an abundance of pine trees.  In fact, we have a pine tree  in our yard where I am constantly picking up the pine cones that fall from the branches.
While picking one of the zillion or so pine cone, I noticed something at the base of the tree that caught my attention…

Intrigued by the green plastic sprouting out of the ground, I asked ‘The Little One’ to explain this phenomenon.  ( I did not know we could grow plastic in the ground and first thought that we might have come across the next great invention and I wanted to be sure we got the Patton on this discovery!)

“Herman planted that tree in 1976, that is the plastic bucket that the tree came in that is coming out of the ground.  Every time I see that tree, I think of Herman!”

WOW…talk about some powerful symbolism!   While Herman has been gone now for over 13 years, Herman’s tree grows tall and strong as a reminder to ‘The Little One” of a long and beautiful relationship.

Richard (a.k.a. ‘The Little One”) and Herman were together for 44 years and moved to Florida in 1976 before it was in vogue to move south.  Like us, there was an age difference between Herman and Richard.  And like us, Richard became Herman’s care giver:  funny how roles change in life when we age?

When Richard  cared for Herman, many of their friends came to help them with their daily task.  Herman often asked Richard…’What would I do without you?”

While caring for your love one or partner should be assumed, that is not always the case; especially for LGBT seniors.  According to SAGE USA  LGBT Seniors are:

  • Twice as Likely to Age as a Single Person
  • Twice as Likely to Live Alone
  • Three to four times less likely to have children to support them
The care giving needs for the LGBT senior community are enormous.  While society norms are (slowly) changing, many LGBT senior today are still living in fear, living in solitude, or afraid to reach out for help because of the fear and discrimination that they experienced when they grew up. However with programs like SAGE USA, The National Research Center on LGBT Aging : SunServe Social Service’s Noble A. McArtor Adult Day Care Center just to name a few,  heighten the awareness of this critical issue in our society which will help foster change.
Often times, the LGBT community is portrayed in a negative light which only heightens our fear.  Richard and Herman were together 44  years…YES, 44 YEARS!  
As a former staff member at The Sunshine Cathedral, I had the pleasure to watching life partners celebrate 30, 40, 50 years together.  There are thousands upon thousands of LGBT couples across the world who celebrate long lasting relationships that often go unnoticed. Many of these couples prefer to go unnoticed and that is OK as personal privacy is important and should always be upheld.
While those positive  stories of love and commitment often go left unnoticed in the main stream media,  many  LGBT Seniors who live alone, or as a couple often times have to fend for themselves as they age because of society ‘norms’ because of their fears that they experienced in their youth.     Bullying just does not happen in High School.  How can we break this cycle,  when will we break this cycle of hate and fear?
Being 81 and growing up in Brooklyn and living in Manhattan, “The Little One”  knows a few things about society norms, hate, fear and the such.   He lived through Stonewall and beginning of the AIDS epidemic; he has  experienced discrimination;  he experienced the draft board and the gay issue in the 50’s.  All in all, he would tell you that the LGBT issues today are no different than they were in the 50’s; equality, marriage, children, the whole package.  For him, what is different today is that these issues are now out in the open and people are talking about them.
Now that people are talking about these issues, the next key ingredient is to have the policy makers listen so that we can foster change in our communities and in our society. Communication will foster change, change will foster opportunities for service and care for everyone.      We have to do a better job in getting the word and the need out in a calm and pragmatic way.  Unfortunately,   listening is often an overlooked  communication skill.
As partners we don’t need a piece of paper to secure  our love or commitment for each other; but as a LGBT couple, we  need that piece of paper to get into hospitals to visit our loved one, we need that piece of paper to get access to so many common, taken for granted services  that have a direct effect on our health and well-being.  This list is endless, yet the need is there, especially for those  seniors, (no matter what side of the fence your on) who have no one to care for them.   Could this really be right in America today?
Come to think about it, we do have that piece of paper…it’s in its natural  form as a tree!  

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