January 15th was the day we celebrated the dreamer-activist Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and February is the month we celebrate Black History. As an older, African American, lesbian, activist, scholar, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, caregiver, friend, it is traditionally a time for me to reflect on the history and herstory of me and my ancestors in this country and across the globe.
I grew up wanting a house with a white picket fence. I guess those dreams came from the fairy tales of my childhood. I remember moving into a house in southeast Washington, DC where we were the only black family at the time. I remember hearing about Dr. King‘s advocacy and social justice work, which took him.... Read More
People often ask me, “Why do we need a place for LGBT older people to live? Don’t we have enough nursing homes and retirement homes for them to use?”
So I often share the story of John, a well-to-do gay elder who was found deceased — in his welcoming, upscale retirement complex. He had stopped going to church. He had stopped playing cards and going to the clubs. He had stopped interacting with his friends.
Or I sometimes share the sorrow of my older friend, Helen, who after the death of her partner, was asked by her partner’s siblings to leave the.... Read More
Housing For Diverse Elders is a Public Health Issue
Spring is here. The knockout rose bushes are in full bloom, the other flowers have begun to bloom in the garden. Old Man Winter has left and we can sit on the front porch. However, as I write this, I am in the house, bundled up in a turtleneck and cable knit sweater thinking Old Man Winter hasn’t gone far enough and I should perhaps turn on the heat. My mind automatically drifts to thinking about the older adults that are in need of warm, safe, decent, affordable housing, the increase of homelessness and the decrease of affordable housing among elders in the country.... Read More
During Black History Month, Mary’s House for Older Adults, SAGE Metro DC, and AARP DC held a LGBTQ/SGL (same gender-loving) State of the Union. One of the issues brought to the forefront was the increase of suicides among LGBTQ elders in nursing homes and other facilities. Surprised?
While we’re all sort of aware that suicide is a leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24, we rarely think of it as a leading cause for elders. However, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a startling statistic: people 45-64 years old had the highest suicide rate in 2013, and elders 85 years old and older had the second highest. The NCOA.... Read More
I have been thinking about what it means to be me: an older, African American out lesbian, wife, mother, grandmother, caregiver, educator, and CEO, living and working in the United States. In 2008, the words Audacity of Hope and hopeful came to mind, in reference to then President-Elect Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope and my experiences.
I was born in segregated Washington, DC in a time when nonwhites couldn’t eat in dining establishments; when people of color were treated at two medical hospitals, Freedman’s, the hospital for Negroes, or DC General, the city hospital. It was a time where my parents would have to go back “home” to North Carolina to vote for President, where a retired professional was.... Read More
Fast approaching proverbial rear view mirror status is World AIDS Day, celebrated on December 1 for “achieving the global target of halting and reversing the spread of HIV.” Pretty heady accomplishments toward a “disease with the little name” that among other things wiped out generations of people beginning in the 80s. Back then, homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs and heroin drug users were referred to by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as its top four high-risk group for AIDS/HIV. Many folks and organizations, including government workers, researchers, medical professionals and the Baltimore Afro American newspaper, dubbed this group as the “4-H Disease Alert.”
At that time, not much was known about how you got it or how you could get rid.... Read More
Parade This was the first ever time that Mary’s House had been in the Parade. We were excited to offer FREE transportation to LGBTQ people over 60 and to folks who were not able to walk the entire parade route. Many thanks to Jerry Miller who donated a state-of-the-art trolley and his time. The crowd just cheered to see LGBTQ elders participate in the Parade as well! We threw the prerequisite beads and candy AND we sprayed our WATER GUNS on the crowd. They.... Read More
Op-ed: Pride Needs to Include More Than the Young and Cute
For 25 years, DC Black Pride has been a Memorial Day weekend tradition of celebration and education for Washington, D.C.’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Taking place Friday through Sunday at the Washington Grand Hyatt hotel, this year’s event will see several thousand converging for parties, workshops, and live entertainment. For the first time, this year’s festival intentionally includes older adults in its programming. It also highlights a cause near and dear to my heart: Mary’s House for Older Adults, the first of its kind LGBTQI-friendly residence in D.C. for people age 60 and over.
We, (those of us older than 50) are now finding out what Bette Davis knew, that “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Those of us who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) may have additional challenges including homophobia and heteronormativity, which can send us running back to the very closets we fought so hard to leave, according to Stein and colleagues in a 2010 article in the Journal of Gerontology Social Work.
Recently I did a study with African-American lesbians and gay males. All study participants experienced a sense of alienation, in the African-American and majority-LGBT communities, described consistently as “a hurt that lasts a long time.” They also talked of a sense of not.... Read More
Education + Action = Prevention Power (National Minority Health Month)
In recognition of National Minority Health Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to the health disparities and health issues affecting diverse older adults during April. A new story will be shared every Wednesday with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of April.
My stepmother, Miss Fannie embodies this year’s National Minority Health Month theme “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity.” She didn’t always. She used to be one of the statistics that abound in the African American community about Black people. You see as an African American adult female, aged 65+, with less than a college education, she was among the percentage of people.... Read More
Aging Out: Exploring Ageism and Heterosexism Among African American Lesbians and Gay Males (Black History Month)
In honor of Black History Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to black aging during February. A new story will be shared every Wednesday, with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of February.
People are complex, and African-American older LGBT adults are no exception. They live at the intersection of multiple identities experienced over the life span, in a culture steeped in racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism and homophobia. African-American lesbian and gay males experience at a minimum two hostile environments: being lesbian or gay in a heterosexist society; being a person of color in a racist culture; being female in a sexist culture; and being old.... Read More
As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed. Vincent van Gogh
W., 66, a former journalist and man about town, entered the meeting on LGBT issues a little late and his gait was slower than usual. When the meeting ended, he asked for a ride to the subway. As we rode, he talked about why he was late: not knowing the bus routes for this part of the city, the bus being late and the neighborhood being less than desirable. He hadn’t been feeling well and almost didn’t come to the meeting. It occurred to me that this African American elder continues to.... Read More