For the past four months, I have been questioning my visibility in the world.
This past March, the Trump administration surreptitiously acted to erase LGBTQ people from a major, national aging survey that determines how our tax dollars, budgeted under the Older Americans Act, will be allocated.
Using the delete key on a government computer, we LGBTQ seniors had our identities wiped out and thus lost the opportunity to self-identify so that we might receive the appropriate and respectful services that other non-LGBTQ folks enjoy.
The stunning effect of all of this was that our lives, skills and talents were to be ignored, and our needs unaddressed.
If we are not counted, we don’t exist.
Now, however, in an action almost as furtive as the original erasure, LGB folks have been returned to the Older Americans Act survey. While there was no explanation for the position change, there was plenty of pressure from a variety of LGBT groups – like SAGE and the National LGBTQ Task Force – as well as from our allies to remedy our exclusion.
Note, however, that the T in the LGBT acronym has not been included.
So, lesbian, gay, and bisexual community members served under the Older Americans Act will have the chance to express their needs and concerns. And I honestly cheer, “Hurray for them.”
But I, as an 83-year-old trans woman, won’t have that opportunity – and neither will the rest of my trans and gender non-conforming peers.
“Well, what’s the big deal? Are the needs of older trans folks so different from the rest of the LGB community?”
If you even considered asking such a question, you obviously don’t know us trans and gender non-conforming elders.
Until we are included, you won’t know our aspirations for the later years of our lives. And you won’t understand how our fears and concerns, or the needs and expectations we have for this last part of our life journey, differ from those of cis-gender older adults.
“Age Out Loud” was the theme of this past May’s Older Americans Month, with the federal government’s stated goal for that celebration being “to give aging a new voice.” Well, the voice of this old transgender activist is “loud and proud but deeply angry” about the way LGBTQ elders are being treated under the Trump administration.
The best way to pay tribute to our elders is to assure that all older Americans are recognized, celebrated, and have their unique needs met. That calls for putting the T back in the LGBT acronym and including us in the Older Americans Act survey and other important, fact-finding research efforts around aging issues.
Barbara Satin is assistant Faith Work Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force.