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Competing Black Pride weekend events create friction

Competing Black Pride weekend events create friction

Josh Middleton    April 25, 2019

Philly Black Pride and Woody’s are at odds this week after PBP claimed that the Gayborhood bar was throwing a PBP block party without the namesake organization’s consent.  PBP President Le...

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PGN welcomes international journalists

Mark Segal    April 25, 2019

Representatives from 19 countries visited the office of the Philadelphia Gay News to see how a newspaper for the LGBT community operated in the Unites States. Among these questions: What...

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Christian adoption agency agrees to work with same-sex parents

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Christian adoption agency agrees to work with same-sex parents

Victoria Brownworth    April 25, 2019

In what’s being called a major victory for LGBTQ people, Bethany Christian Services says it will comply with a legal settlement prohibiting adoption agencies with state contracts in Michigan from...

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International News

Larry Nichols    April 25, 2019

Colombians stage kiss-a-thon in support of LGBT rights   Dozens of same-sex couples kissed simultaneously outside an upscale shopping mall in Colombia’s capital, in the latest demonstration calling for LGBT rights in...

Media Trail

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Media Trail

Larry Nichols    April 25, 2019

Boy’s drag performance at Ohio bar prompts lawmaker’s action   The Toledo Blade reports the drag queen performance of a 9-year-old boy at a bar outside Ohio’s capital city has prompted a...

Queer library set to open in Montgomery County

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Queer library set to open in Montgomery County

Gary L. Day    April 25, 2019

The opening of a new queer library in Hatboro, Pa. on May 4 will mark another step in the increasing LGBTQ visibility in this Montgomery County suburban community.  The queer library...

Prominent lesbian journalist murdered in terrorist killing

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Prominent lesbian journalist murdered in terrorist killing

Victoria Brownworth    April 25, 2019

Internationally known independent journalist and LGBTQ-activist Lyra McKee, 29, was shot to death on April 19 in Northern Ireland. The Belfast lesbian was reportedly covering a riot in Londonderry when...

Buddy Program fosters connections

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Buddy Program fosters connections

Lenny Cohen    April 25, 2019

Studies show that being social and cultivating an interpersonal support system leads to a healthier lifestyle. Action Wellness, a Philadelphia-based organization serving the needs of those living with chronic illness...

Former student alleges violent assault at Valley Forge Military Academy

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Former student alleges violent assault at Valley Forge Military Academy

Tim Cwiek    April 25, 2019

A former student at Valley Forge Military Academy and College has filed suit against the prestigious Main Line institution, claiming he was sexually assaulted by other male students in a...

Road to Stonewall 50: Stormé DeLarverie

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Road to Stonewall 50: Stormé DeLarverie

Victoria Brownworth    April 25, 2019

When Stormé DeLarverie died at age 93 on May 24, 2014, it was a mere month before the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Now the 50th approaches. The New...

Providing care and services to LGBT+ older adults: It’s a process and a journey

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A rainbow flag near the entrance to your organization is great, but it’s not enough.

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To truly be an organization that is sensitive to and provides a spectrum of services to older LGBT+ adults takes a lot of commitment and ongoing work.
Whenever your clientele consists of older adults, you’re dealing not only with issues of homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, and other isms related to identity -- but of ageism. 

Unfortunately, ageism exists not only in mainstream society, but even in the LGBT+ world.

If you’re really committed to providing person-centered care, then you as a practitioner and an organization need to become inclusive, competent, and affirming of LGBT+ older adults and their families. Keep in mind that just because LGBT+ older adults, and LGBT+ people in your organization, aren’t out, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

This work takes time and is multifaceted. What you’re working against is most people’s lack of education, deep-seated internalized prejudice, stigma, and a long history of discrimination and harm by institutions including medical, legal, and religious.

It is understandable that LGBT+ older adults would choose not to disclose their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to service providers because of legitimate concerns of being mistreated or even harmed.

Doing this work, which includes better and open communication between care provider and client for the sake of optimum person-centered care, will also result in a healthier and more responsive organization. And as the Baby Boomers become older adults, many more out and proud, you’ll be ready to provide appropriate services for them.

There are several things to do to get started. Acknowledging and affirming that older people have sexuality is an important place to begin.  

Then, start having conversations about sexuality and gender, incorporating precise, normalizing language including “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “transgender,” and “cisgender.” Talk openly about the existence of older LGBT+ adults.  Keep in  mind that you might be working with LGBT+ colleagues, or they may have LGBT+ family members – or you, yourself, may be LGBT+, and understand first hand challenges LGBT+ people have had, and continue, to face.  

Straight professionals who are aware of and sensitive to LGBT+ issues can play an essential role in providing and affirming a supportive environment for their LGBT+ colleagues and clients. Straight and/or cisgender allies, your support and involvement in this work can make a huge difference.

But individuals can only go so far without the enthusiastic, sincere support from the leadership of any organization.  The leadership needs to be clear that it does not tolerate discrimination of sexual and gender minorities in terms of both services provided and employment, and is committed, with time and financial resources, to evolving into an inclusive, affirming, and competent organization.  

Another component of this work involves assessing your organization’s policies and forms beginning with nondiscrimination policies for staff and clients. Make sure they include the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Intake forms should provide opportunities for self-disclosure of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex assigned at birth, name and pronouns used, and relationship history beyond the three options of married, single, or divorced. Inclusive bathroom signage, such as “all-gender bathroom” is important.

Acknowledging and celebrating Pride Month in June and LGBT History Month in October can provide additional opportunities for learning. A task force to assist in these efforts can be helpful.

Finally, doing this work, ideally on an ongoing basis, requires training and education in sexual-orientation and gender-identity with a focus on LGBT+ older adult experiences, needs and concerns for all employees, from the top down.  The goal?  Open-hearted, healing encounters -- not based on assumptions or judgments – in which meaningful connections and growth can occur.

Rabbi Erica Steelman, MAHL, MPP, is Director of LGBT+ Initiatives and Staff Chaplain for Abramson Senior Care.


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