Monthly Archives: January 2014

“I Was Shocked, I Was Shamed”

Robina Asti 92 yo transwomanThat’s how Robina Asti, 92, described her response when the Social Security Administration denied her benefits as the widow of Norwood Patton.

Although Robina transitioned genders decades before her marriage to Patton in 2004, the Social Security Administration ruled her marriage wasn’t valid when it was entered into because “she was not legally a woman,” and so denied her request.

While the case itself is important enough to write about, what is really remarkable is the 7-1/2 minute video Lambda Legal made of Robina.  This lovely portrait beautifully highlights her love of flying as well as her occupational and romantic history.  She says, “I have lived a very private life, but the SSA is forcing me to speak out.  I don’t want other people to have to experience this.”

Lambda Legal is representing her in her struggle with the Social Security Administration, an effort that will benefit many, many marriages involving trans people and their partners when it is — as it inevitably must be — won.  In the meantime, however, Robina and Lambda Legal deserve many thanks for a really remarkable oral history.  Make sure you check it out:

When Senior Living Goes “Gay-Friendly”

rosevilla_logo_in_color_with_taglineHow, exactly, does a continuing care community actually implement an LGBT-friendly policy?

That’s what Vassar Byrd, Chief Executive Officer, and Rachel Rushing, Director of Social Services for Rose Villa in Portland, Oregon, discuss in a blog post at the website ElderBranch.

The 52-year-old facility has always had an open door policy, but upped their commitment to LGBT friendliness after a 2009 meeting with a lesbian couple who reported that another facility had accepted their money before telling them, “you realize when you move in, you’re going to need to be sisters or roommates right?”

The process Rose Villa engaged in included individual conversations with residents who management felt might have problems with the new policy:  “I actually went and spoke to a couple of those folks one-on-one and said, ‘This is something that’s important to our community and I feel that there’s broad support here, but I really want to be sure that you’re comfortable with it too — how do you feel about having neighbors who are not like you?’  People surprised me in a very positive way.  The worst comment I [received] was, ‘I’m not sure, I’m a little scared, but we’ll see who they are.’  You really can’t ask for more than that.  I was very pleased.  Other people — maybe they just didn’t want to go on record as being more biased — but they asserted that they would have no problems with all kinds of neighbors.”

Staff trainings on LGBT residents are held twice a year, and the facility has an active partnership with the Gay & Grey organization in Portland.

You can read the whole article at

LGBTQ Aging and Economic Justice

Marriage is a human rightIf you like reading things that make you think, do not miss Robert Espinoza’s article, “Our Issues Entwine: LGBTQ Aging and Economic Justice,” published in the Fall 2013 edition of Tikkun and available at

Drawing on his parents’ lived experience as Spanish-speaking elders with multiple health conditions as well as his deep involvement in LGBTQ, aging, and economic justice movements, Espinoza spins a very thoughtful, engaging narrative.

“The aging and LGBTQ advocacy fields often propose policy solutions that are too narrow to address the complexity of how all marginalized people — including heterosexual people of color such as my parents, members of the LGBTQ community, and more — experience the process of aging.  We need social transformations that address the intersecting forms of oppression that older people face — and that can make sense of the chaos and silence that shroud my parents.”

Espinoza also critiques those who feel efforts should be focused on the largest population groups, pointing out that LGBTQ aging issues are actually issues that face many other populations as well, so addressing them will have widespread benefits.

We remain outsiders to the same political movements we’ve spent our lives creating,” he concludes.  Check it out.


Creating Change 2014 LGBT Aging Activities

creating_change_2012Next week, for the 26th time, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will bring together many of the nation’s LGBT activists (3,500 are expected this year in Houston) to participate in a 5-day, 350+ workshop extravaganza.

LGBT aging issues are a prominent part of the mix.  Here’s a brief recap:

— An Elder Hospitality Suite will be available throughout the conference to welcome elders and allies and provide a place for quiet conversation.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  LGBT Elder Institute:  Movement Building: Creating an Age Aware Activist Network

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.   SAGE reception in the Elder Hospitality Suite

8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.    SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues will be given to Stu Maddux, the producer and writer of the groundbreaking film Gen Silent.

Friday, January 31, 2014

10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.   LGBT Workers and Paid Leave:  Creating New Alliances in a Growing Social and Economic Justice Movement

10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.   Paying It Forward: LGBT Aging Advocacy from the Lone Star State & Your State to Washington, D.C.

3:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.    Improving the Quality of Services and Supports for LGBT Older Adults

Saturday, February 1, 2014

9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.     Why the Affordable Care Act is Important to LGBT Older Adults

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.     LGBT Elder and Provider Caucus

9:00 p.m. to midnight    LGBT Elders 50+ and Allies Dance

It’s not too late to register for Creating Change.  More information and registration is available at

We’re Not All White Gay, Mostly Male

Pat and Cherry GeorgiaEvery life, every relationship, is a roller-coaster.  We have highs and lows.  If we are very, very lucky — like Pat and Cherry — we have a partner to hold us tight through both the ups and the downs.

This week Georgia Voice published a profile of Pat and Cherry, two women who have been together nearly 30 years.  The first part of the profile focuses on the daring and flirtatious start of their relationship: “This cutie comes after the predator,” as Pat describes them.  “I had roaming feet when we met.”

The profile includes Pat’s work to move the 1996 Olympic volleyball competitions out of Cobb County, which had recently passed a resolution condemning the “Gay lifestyle,” and her work with Southerners on New Ground.  And it includes her subsequent breakdown, job loss, depression, and PTSD.

Now the couple sees the Atlanta Dream professional women’s basketball team as Pat’s “therapy through basketball.”  You can read more about this charming couple at

Cape Cod Addresses LGBT Elder Issues

Sandy Chernick Sandi Herschel Cape CodAs awareness of LGBT elders increases, so does media coverage of our issues.  (Or is it the other way around?)  Last year Cape Cod Online published a long story about what is happening regarding LGBT elders in their area.

The article in part revolves around Sandy Chernick and Sandi Herschel (pictured), who have been partnered for 32 years.  Herschel reminds us what it was like for those who are now LGBT elders:  “When Herschel was a senior in high school in the late 1940s, her relationship with another girl led to that girl being beaten by her mother in front of Herschel’s house.  The girl’s brother had seen the pair together at a movie and told the girl’s mother.  ‘I can still see Dolores covering her head like that, and all my friends around looking,’ Herschel said.”

The article also talks about how much has changed: recently Barrie Atkin, a Provincetown homeowner and executive producer of the 2011 documentary “Gen Silent” was added to the AARP Massachusetts Executive Council advisory board.  Her task is to help them become “more supportive of and engaged in the LGBT aging community.”

Also discussed are various LGBT aging projects in Cape Cod.  To read the whole article, go to

LGBT Elder Housing Opens in Philadelphia

SKY17-A56 new units for low-income LGBT elders have opened in Philadelphia, after years of planning, fundraising and construction.

The John C. Anderson “apartments are partnered with the nearby William Way LGBT Community Center to provide residents with counseling, programs and events.”  Rents range from $192 to $786 based on income, which can be no more than $33,000/year.  There is a waiting list for the lower-cost units, although about a dozen of the higher-cost units remain open at this time.

The Washington Post ran a video on the project as well as an article.  You can find both at

Revamped LGBT Aging Website Offers More

NRCLA logoThis week the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging unveiled its redesigned website, including new resources.

If you want to advocate for LGBT older adults, the Resource Center offers a new Volunteer Education Ambassador.  When you sign up, you will be given access to a digital toolkit containing a PowerPoint presentation, “Understanding and Supporting LGBT Older Adults,” a presentation script, a document answering Frequently Asked Questions, and a feedback form.  You will then be entered into the Resource Center’s Education Ambassador database so groups in your area can contact you directly to request a presentation.  To learn more, go to

Another new feature is access to a 1-hour long, online webinar, “Introduction to LGBT Aging.”  Check that out at

The Resource Center has added three new topic sections: Alzheimer’s/dementia, end of life decisions, and racial equity.  Make sure you check out the new additions to older categories while you are at there!

Finally, you can learn more about the Resource Center’s EIGHTEEN partnering organizations at, certified trainers (, and a list of agencies that have received training on LGBT aging issues (

Check it out!