December 18, 2017 at 3:00 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT seniors ‘out & proud’ at mayor’s holiday party
LGBT seniors, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay seniors advocate Ron Swanda, standing at right, joins some of the LGBT seniors and their friends at the mayor’s annual senior holiday party at the DC Armory on Dec. 13. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Three large tables reserved for LGBT seniors became a magnet for many more LGBT seniors and their friends at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Annual Senior Holiday Celebration on Dec. 13 at the D.C. Armory.

More than 3,500 District seniors from all parts of the city attended the event. High-level city officials, including several of the mayor’s LGBT cabinet members, volunteered to serve prepared meals to attendees seated at more than 100 tables that transformed the Armory into a giant banquet hall.

Gay D.C. seniors advocate Ron Swanda said he and other LGBT seniors asked the mayor’s office if a few tables could be reserved at the event this year for LGBT seniors. Swanda said mayoral aids, led by Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, were happy to arrange for the reserved tables.

“They’ve always been welcome,” said Alexander-Reid in noting that LGBT seniors attend the annual holiday seniors party every year. “But this is the first time we’ve reserved tables for them specifically,” she said. “We started at 10 then we went up to 20 and we’re up to 30,” Alexander Reid said, referring to the number of LGBT seniors sitting at the reserved tables.

“So the goal is to get as many seniors out and proud as possible,” she said.

During the course of the celebration, which included live entertainment and dancing, many more LGBT seniors attending the event walked over to the reserved tables to mingle with and greet the LGBT seniors seated there.

Bowser, who spoke at the event and walked through the packed Armory greeting dozens of seniors who approached her, said she was pleased that the LGBTQ Affairs Office took the initiative to reserve tables for LGBT seniors.

“This is, as I mentioned in my remarks, one of the biggest, most fun parties of the year,” she told the Washington Blade. “And it’s to celebrate seniors aging in place. And we have a diversity of seniors in our city, including LGBTQ seniors,” she said.

“What we have done, what Sheila and her teams have done, is make sure we have had competency training across the government for everyone who is interacting with seniors to make sure they know all of the services available to them,” Bowser said.

She was referring to an ongoing program run by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs that provides what is sometimes referred to as sensitivity training to D.C. government employees on LGBT-related issues.

Swanda said transgender seniors have become more visible at the annual holiday party and other D.C. senior events in recent years.

A statement released by the mayor’s office said volunteers from the Coast Guard, Navy, PEPCO, and D.C. Public Schools Junior ROTC program joined nearly 150 members of the mayor’s administration to help serve lunch to the seniors attending the event.

The seniors’ event at the Armory took place a little over two months after D.C. Office on Aging Director Laura Newland hosted a town hall meeting on issues related to LGBT seniors. Newland said the Office on Aging welcomes LGBT seniors to its numerous senior facilities, including recreation facilities across the city.

In response to some of the LGBT seniors attending the town hall meeting, including a request that her office open a center specifically for LGBT seniors, Newland said she would look into that request.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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