The Trump administration is not so quietly moving to wipe out questions about LGBT people in the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders ( SAGE ) is putting up a heavy resistance. The survey is a critical endeavor that guides the federal government on how to spend $2 billion each year on elder services across the country.
"Despite the Trump administration doing everything within its power to erase LGBT elders, we at SAGE are more energized than ever to fight back against such attacks and to stand strong with our community's pioneers," said SAGE CEO Michael Adams.
SAGE learned earlier this year that LGBT elder erasure was an imminent threat and moved to action.
"We were outraged, as were SAGE constituents, and revved up our advocacy to tell Washington that LGBT elders will not be ignored and refuse to be invisible," Adams stated. "Fortunately, the federal government can't make a change this drastic without providing a public comment period."
To date, SAGE's efforts have resulted in the submission of more than 6,000 comments telling the Trump administration that LGBT elders must not be erased.
"This is just one part of SAGE's aggressive, five-year strategic plan, launched last year," Adams said. "The plan encapsulates SAGE's vision of an equitable world in which LGBT older people are valued and have boundless opportunities. Through this plan, SAGE hopes to make a difference in the lives of 500,000 LGBT elders and catalyze 500 LGBT age-friendly communities by 2021."
In 2016, SAGE announced plans to build New York City's first LGBT-friendly elder housingone development in Brooklyn and the other in the Bronx. SAGE offers support nationwide via their LGBT Elder Hotline and also serve LGBT elders at 30 SAGE affiliates across the United States. Their newest initiative hopes to bring more people to the table, literally.
"Aging is something that many people are uncomfortable addressing, despite the fact that all of us get older," said Adams. "That is why SAGE is kicking off SAGE Table in partnership with AARP on May 18, a one-day event where LGBT people of all ages and their allies will break bread to have the conversation about what getting older means to all of us and how we can take care of each other."
Supporters can find additional information regarding table hosting at SAGETable.org .
"The LGBT community has always been an intergenerational community blessed with a fierce elder population," Adams said. "It's time we woke up to the contributions of our elders, and the fact that we all deserve respect and support as we age. Our elders are a big part of the reason that the LGBT community has survived decades of discrimination, bigotry and violence and will continue to thrive despite the obstacles."
Adams referenced previous generations in progressing the civil rights movement as we know it in the LGBT community.
"When we follow the lead of our elders, we are strong and resilient; we know how to fight back," he said. "Our trailblazers were at the forefront of the LGBT-rights movementfrom Mattachine and Daughters of Bilitis in the '50s to the Stonewall uprising in 1969, through the worst of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, and so much more."
The message to anti-LGBT elders is clear: back off.
"Every advance has made us stronger," he said. "We fought through AIDS and literally won the right to get old, just like we've fought for marriage equality and so much more."
Furthermore, Adams demanded leadership from the current administration.
"Leadership matters," he said. "During past administrations, we have seen Presidents speak out when groups with diminished political power are targeted by others. Far from speaking out, too often this administration has refused to denounce those perpetrating the discrimination, pandered to the haters, and advanced policies that will actively harm women and elders and LGBT people and immigrants and Muslims and more. It's clear that the leadership in the fight for social justice isn't going to come from Washington. It's going to have to come from each and every one of us. The good thing is there's lots of evidence that is happening."
Constituents have until May 12 "to make certain that LGBT elders are not erased by the federal government," Adams said. Supporters of the cause can make their voices heard here: sageusa.org/DontEraseLGBT. Messages may also be sent to members of Congress via email, postal mail and by calling their offices directly. SAGE also asks their supporters to write letters to the editors of local publications, both online and in print.