Supporting and Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Older Adults
by Cynthia Andrews, Homage DEI Manager
Homage Senior Services and similar organizations are making much-needed commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But our actions must speak louder than our words when it comes to serving underrepresented populations. As the DEI Manager at Homage, it’s my job to not only educate but supply actionable steps each of us can take to celebrate and support our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) communities. It’s Pride Month, and people are flying rainbow flags, posting on social media, promoting activities, and honoring our unique, diverse communities. Some may see this as just an annual event, but I see it as a new beginning, an opportunity to make a new commitment to serve our LGBTQIA+ staff and clients every day.
How can we as a community uphold our commitment year-round to ensure that our aging LGBTQIA+ people feel welcomed and included? We can be Allies! An Ally is someone who stands up for, supports, and encourages the people around them. It’s a term that gets used a lot in the LGBTQIA+ community. In this case, it refers to someone who is heterosexual and/or cisgender but who tries to make the world a better place for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.
How can you be an Ally?
- Listen: Listen to what LGBTQIA+ people are saying! It’s not about you, your feelings, or opinions; it’s about hearing theirs. This can be challenging when we think we know how to fix things, people, and problems, but a true Ally accepts folks as they are. An Ally listens for their LGBTQIA+ neighbors to share how they want to be supported.
- Be open to learning: find books, articles, films, etc., about the history and current issues facing LGBTQIA+ communities. You don’t need to be an expert but educating yourself on history can help you understand today’s struggles. Download a glossary, learn the terminology, and use it out of respect for your friends and loved ones. We are never too old to learn new things!
- Speak up: When a friend, family member, co-worker, or stranger says something hateful or ignorant, call them out on it. Remember, silence can mean agreement.
- Show up: When an LGBTQIA+ friend invites you to an event, go! Be there to listen, learn, show your support, and most of all, enjoy. You’ll probably have a wonderful time!
- Allow yourself to be uncomfortable: When you encounter something that makes you uncomfortable, don’t dismiss it. Sit with it, ask yourself, ‘why am I feeling this way?’ and look at it as an opportunity to grow. I repeat, please do not ignore the signs of discomfort. Your body will tell you because you will get angry, defensive, sad, and hopefully reflective. That’s when the work begins.
Many communities across the country do not have specific programs or senior centers for LGBTQIA+ older adults. In addition, many LGBTQIA+ older adults need support services but may not know where to find them. Homage is committed to ensuring our LGBTQIA+ older adults have access to home-delivered meals, social connections, friendly check-in calls, and more. But we need to do more than that for this vulnerable population.
So today, I am calling on you — as a community, friends, and family to become Allies and help create a safe and equitable space for our LGBTQIA+ Elders. If you are willing to volunteer or are an LGBTQIA+ senior 60 and older. We invite you to sign up and help us open our doors to a regular meeting time sponsored by Homage Senior Services. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 425-290-1277 to join us in this important work.
Sources: Isobel Debrujah, “So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin” Jamie Utt, “So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know” Southern Poverty Law Center, “Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry”
Originally published in The Everett Daily Herald on June 15, 2022.
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