Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Recession Hits (Gay Retirement) Home

In another of many signs of the damage being done by the U.S. economic downturn, RainbowVision, the Santa Fe LGBT retirement facility GrayPrideParade first wrote about on February 25, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The New York Times also reports that the recession, which impacted RainbowVision primarily because so many people have been unable to sell their homes to move to the community, led management to increase the monthly fees charged to existing residents.  This has, in turn, led to rancor and division, with some residents refusing to pay the fees, thereby creating more financial pressures.

The Times goes on to report that this is the second LGBT retirement community to file bankruptcy papers; the Palms of Manasota near Sarasota, Florida, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year.  In addition, “a development near Portland, Oregon is struggling at 25 percent of capacity,” and proposed communities in Austin, Texas; Boston; and near Phoenix, Arizona “never opened because of a lack of finances and a decline in real estate values.”

The full article is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/us/gay-retirement-communities-struggling-in-the-recession.html; the Times charges online users once they have accessed a certain number of articles in a month’s time.

The White House’s Open Front Door

This week the Office of Public Engagement, “the open front door to the White House,” launched a new “one-stop-shop for all the ways you can engage with the White House online” at www.WhiteHouse.gov/Engage.

LGBT elders and advocates may be particularly interested in the latest news section (www.WhiteHouse.gov/Engage/latest-news), which contains a weekly schedule of events for which public input is invited.  This page also contains links to 14 White House blogs, including the Middle Class Task Force.  The “Get Involved” section links to 17 ways someone can engage with the White House, from interning there to Joining Forces, which offers multiple ways to support our military personnel and veterans.  Another link here was mentioned in passing in yesterday’s blog post, which is an invitation to nominate Champions for Change to gain White House recognition for people who are helping make positive social change.   You can also reach the White House’s LGBT page from here — go to Communities in Focus and scroll down for the LGBT Community.

This is but one of many ways that individual LGBT elders or advocates can make a difference in how LGBT older Americans live.  Make your voice heard!

Calling All Policy Geeks

Last week I was privileged to meet Gautam Raghavan, the new White House LGBT Liaison, when he and his boss Jon Carson spoke to a meeting of the New Beginnings Initiative, a coalition of LGBT groups working with the Obama Administration to effect pro-LGBT policy changes.

Did you know that the White House has a free LGBT update that can keep you updated on what’s happening?  Today’s edition features profiles of two LGBT leaders who were honored by President Obama last week.  Janice Langbehn was given the Citizens Medal in thanks for her work to keep other LGBT families from experiencing the horror hers did, when she and their three children were kept from her partner’s deathbed by a Florida hospital.  Also last week, Sharon Stapel was honored as a Champion of Change for her work with New York’s Anti-Violence Program, the largest such organization focused on providing services to LGBTQ and HIV+ victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and hate crimes.  Mr. Raghavan invites us to submit more nominees for the Champions of Change awards by nominating them via an email to lgbt [at] who [dot] eop [dot] gov

That’s also the address to use if you want to submit other ideas or comments on LGBT issues to White House staff.  If you want to sign up to receive the LGBT updates directly, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/webform/sign-updates-issues-impacting-lgbt-community

Caring for the Frank Kamenys

In one of history’s delicious ironies – in line with both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dying on July 4 – Frank Kameny, 86, died on October 11, 2011 – National Coming Out Day.

Frank was one of the earliest, most visible Gay activists to shatter the closet door and come out swinging.  In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. Rather than slink away as others did, he fought, ultimately taking his case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Although he lost that case, he again refused to give up, and continued to play critical roles in the development and maturation of the LGBT rights movement.  GrayPrideParade.com wrote about him on May 10, 2011.

Last week Metro Weekly reported that in the last couple years, Frank Kameny was physically incapable of keeping up all aspects of his home, and – due in large measure to the employment discrimination he’d faced throughout his life – was financially unable to hire the work out.  At one point, he kept warm via his kitchen stove.  Both straight and gay volunteer groups as well as mainstream government services were mobilized by a series of knowledgeable advocates to fill in his gaps, allowing Frank to die peacefully in his long-term home.  To read more about who did what and get inspired for your own community work, you can read the article at http://www.metroweekly.com/feature/?ak=6674

Gen Silent

I was so pleased when I coined the quote about Gen Silent:  “This film is critically important to our movement…it may be this generation’s ‘Word Is Out,’ marking the first public revelation of LGBT aging.”  Unfortunately, the young reporter didn’t do what I intended and look up “Word Is Out,” instead dropping the quote altogether.

It is out of such moments, such minor decisions, that our LGBT history is lost.  Gen Silent taught me other ones.  As I told the reporter, “I’ve been working on LGBT aging issues for 37 years, and there were facts in this documentary that I’d never known.”  One of those was the origin of what I thought was the “camp” practice of calling gay men by women’s names.  It wasn’t camp; it was closet.  Giving your partner a female name made it far easier to talk with others about daily things, simply and consistently implying that the person you did them with was your friend “Mary.”  Another one: Lawrence and his partner of decades never signed their Christmas cards with their last names…just in case.  It was a shocking detail, that tiny data point: to have to be that careful even with people close enough to be on your Christmas card list; it took my breath away.

There are many more reasons to see Gen Silent, and bring everyone you can think of, if you’ve not seen it already.  As I also told that reporter, this documentary introduces us to real people who get under our skin, who make us laugh, and who move us to tears.  It’s unforgettable.  You can find out more at http://www.gensilent.com/.  While you’re there, be sure to vote for it in the Gotham Independent Film Awards; if it wins, the publicity it will get will help this critical film reach a much wider audience.

“Neighbors and Friends”

Last week I had the delightful experience of appearing on “Neighbors and Friends,” the Iowa City LGBT television show hosted by Elsie Gauley Vega, a lovely lesbian now in her 80s.

The show is produced in a multiple-room studio inside the large, bustling Iowa City Senior Center.  Elsie initiated it when she returned to Iowa City in 2007, fresh from a long-term relationship that failed in part because her partner was simply too closeted for Elsie.  The Daily Iowan quotes her as saying, “I felt as a lesbian citizen and a lesbian church member, I had work to do.  I knew that society needed to learn, to know, and accept the fact that, generation after generation, a certain percent of the population is lesbian, gay, or transgendered.”

You can read more about her show and even watch some episodes online at: