At 92, Guy Kinman is the only openly gay male at his retirement community. That may soon change.
As his generation gets older, they are going back in the closet.
Kinman with representatives of local LGBT organizations and adult-care providers met Sunday at the Gay Community Center (GCCR) about the formation of a SAGE Chapter in Richmond.
With beginnings in New York in 1978, Services and Advocacy for Gays, Lesbian, and Transgendered Elders is one of the nation’s oldest LGBT organizations.
Shannon Marling, an intern with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Gerontology, presented at Sunday’s meeting.
Marling hopes to combine the aging services industry with the LGBT community to create a network for older adults. According to Shannon, society does not support aging gracefully – particularly in the LGBT community.
“Ageism in general is rampant,” she says.
Specific issues like relationships and social acceptance impact older LGBT adults.
“It effects how or when people access services because they don’t necessarily want to admit that they are aging or have aging issues.”
Marling says SAGE can help create a positive image of aging for all adults by connecting LGBT seniors to supportive caregivers, advocating on behalf of the population, and providing a volunteer friends program.
Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the US population with 20% of Americans being 65 or older by 2030 according to census projections.
Although no state agency currently collects date on LGBT seniors, rough estimates place 3-8 percent of the population as LGBT. Including the surrounding counties of Henrico, Hanover, and Chesterfield, Metro-Richmond’s population is 1.2 million.
Jay Squires, President of the GCCR, says Richmond needs SAGE.
“For an older person to find herself in a situation where she has to go back into the closet because the facility where she’s living isn’t supportive of LGBT people must be terribly difficult,” he says. “Particularly for someone whom has previously benefited from all the advancements our community has made the past 40 years since Stonewall.”
While taking a leadership role in the chapter’s formation, the GCCR hopes to make the process collaborative by involving longstanding groups like the Prime Timers and Richmond Lesbian Feminists and government agencies.
“We want to bring together a broad coalition to move this process forward,” Squires says.
Marling estimates a full chapter will be in place within 12 months. As part of this process, she will be working with the GCCR and other community organizations to conduct a needs assessment, build a work plan, and create newsletters and a speaker’s series.
For Kinmen this could mean more out neighbors at Imperial Plaza.
“You’re working me up,” Kinman says. “I won’t be the one token anymore.”
The Gay Community Center of Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Avenue, hosts a second SAGE informational meeting on Monday, June 28 at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Shannon Marling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
True unity does not come from ‘smoothing things over’, but by recognizing and celebrating our differences, then looking for ways that we can support each other’s efforts.January 16, 2017
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