While some local LGBT organizations have focused their mission on LGBTQ youth, the LGBT Health Resource Center (LHRC) of Chase Brexton Health Care has recognized the need to address the rapidly aging LGBT population.
The organization launched a program last September called SAGECAP Baltimore to improve care for older LGBT individuals who often live alone. SAGECAP is an initiative that will provide resources, education and support for informal, unpaid LGBT caregivers in the community.
Most recently, LHRC decided to pay homage to LGBT elders by launching the first-ever National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day on May 17. The inaugural event, which featured multi-media tributes, including portraits of LGBT elders adorning the walls, took place in and around the community room at Chase Brexton where more than 70 attended.
The goal of this occasion was to acknowledge the lives of older LGBT adults who changed the tide in our society and hear their stories, said Nate Sweeney, executive director of LHRC, at a ceremony prior to unveiling portraits of two elder transgender individuals. Monica Stevens and Jean-Michel Brevelle were honored for their work in raising awareness of the plight of transgender individuals in Maryland.
In addition, several other elder LGBT individuals were honored through digital storytelling as a result of a partnership between LHRC and the University of Maryland Baltimore County who sought to record the life stories of older LGBT adults. Those featured included Louise Parker Kelley, Lou Hughes, Breezy Bishop, Ken Gault and Greg Grenier.
The presentations were followed by an LGBT Elder Day pinning ceremony where commemorative pins were given out to mark the event.
“We were absolutely thrilled that the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care was able to launch National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day,” Sweeney told the Blade. “It is so easy to get caught up in all the work of LGBTQ equality and miss the chance to stop and think about all those who have worked in the years before us.”
Sweeney pointed out how LGBT elders paved the way for progress. “Some of our elders were at the forefront of the fight, and some quietly lived their truths, sharing their identity with friends, families and coworkers,” he said. “Both of these narratives have changed what life is like today, and we as a community need to show our gratitude by making sure those who came before us can live their truth in their elderhood.”
Community activist Merrick Moses agreed. “We have to celebrate our elders. Unfortunately, many young people don’t know the deep and rich history of Baltimore’s LGBTQ communities. Our elders deserve honor, love and respect.”
This celebration will occur every May 17.