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Trump to LGBT elders: DROP DEAD

Standing with our pioneers, #WeRefuseToBeInvisible

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LGBT elders, gay news, Washington Blade

President Donald Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Four months into the Trump administration and it’s become clear that LGBT elders and their advocates are in for a big fight, with the new regime in Washington seemingly determined to erase the progress toward LGBT inclusion in federal aging policies and programs. Given the erasure of LGBT issues from White House and federal agency websites within hours of Donald Trump’s inauguration, we at SAGE were alarmed but not surprised when we learned of plans to eliminate LGBT elders from the annual survey that determines how $2 billion in publicly funded elder services gets distributed. This outrageous move sends a clear message to LGBT elders, many of whose very lives depend upon federally funded services, that the Trump administration doesn’t care whether they receive those services or not.   

As the leading voice for LGBT elders nationally, SAGE responded quickly with the #WeRefuseToBeInvisible campaign – a grassroots effort to mobilize a strong response to the public comment period that the Trump administration is legally required to undertake before erasing an entire population from an important federal program. To date, SAGE’s campaign has resulted in more than 8,000 letters of opposition making their way to Washington.

Many organizations, LGBT and allies alike, have joined the cause. As Dr. Yanira Cruz, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging, put it: “We know that Donald Trump and [Health & Human Services Cabinet Secretary] Tom Price won’t change their minds on their own, which is why we’re joining forces with SAGE to raise our voices in demanding that HHS add LGBT questions back into its survey of older adults…Because everyone, at every stage of life, deserves to be counted, heard, and treated with respect.”

A broad array of organizations – from national and local LGBT leaders like the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force and Fenway Community Health to aging sector leaders like Justice in Aging and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations have mobilized their constituents to express opposition to the erasure of LGBT elders. A recent analysis published on Storify demonstrates the degree to which #WeWillNotBeInvisible has caught on via social media, touching a powerful nerve across LGBT communities and with allies.

There are emerging indications that at least some in Washington are listening. On April 27, a bi-partisan group of 19 U.S. senators led by Susan Collins, Republican chair of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, publicly demanded a reversal of the Trump administration’s plans to erase LGBT elders.

The deadline for the public comment period for the survey exclusion is May 12. SAGE and our many campaign partners will be generating opposition until the last possible moment. Unfortunately, there is every indication that, as the public comment period winds down and we await a final decision from the Trump administration on LGBT inclusion in the elder services survey, more battles are on the horizon.

The so-called “religious freedom” executive order signed by Donald Trump last week lays the groundwork for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long-time opponent of LGBT equality, to authorize religious-based discrimination across federally supported programs. Given the history of religion-based anti-LGBT teachings, and the fact that faith-based organizations make up more than 70 percent of the long-term care providers upon which older Americans are forced to rely, LGBT elders have every reason to be deeply concerned that they will pay a high price for the Trump administration’s determination to favor religious voices over all others. Tragically, discrimination far too often forces LGBT elders who need care and services back into “the closet” in order to protect themselves from mistreatment. We’ve made progress on that front in recent years, as SAGE has led efforts across the country to use training to improve treatment of LGBT elders by care providers. It will require extraordinary vigilance to ensure the administration’s drive to elevate religious voices – fueled by right-wing evangelical Trump supporters – does not erase that progress.   

And the threats don’t stop there. On the very same day the “religious freedom” executive order was signed, the House of Representatives – in a party-line vote – succeeded in passing a slapped-together bill that would replace Obamacare with a disastrous approach to health care that favors the wealthy and dumps on everybody else. Among the many groups that would be hurt by Trumpcare, older people face the threat of health insurance premiums that are five times higher than premiums for younger people. Here again, we must fight as hard as possible to ensure that this terrible rollback in progress is stopped in its tracks.

Through all of these battles, and those to come, SAGE will continue to stand with and for our LGBT elder pioneers. We will not back down. We refuse to be invisible.

Michael Adams is CEO of SAGE.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    May 10, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    More proof that the Trump administration agenda is anti-LGBT! Stop buying the lies and blind devotion of Trump supporters!!!

    • Steve Kay

      May 15, 2017 at 1:44 am

      just google trump racist and trump father racist Racists hate all minoritiess

      soon after he was elected the nuts came out and over a hundred jewish temples community centers and cemeteries were vandalized Here in baltimore the unitarian church and the presbytarian church on north charless street were vandalied swastica on the UU church people crapped on the front of the presby USA which btw is the only denomination where ALL of their churches will religiously marry lgbt

      many others do it ALSO, check pew resarch for info

  2. Mark Cichewicz

    June 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    After all that we see, all that Trump’s done how can any LGBTQ American support him or his agenda. As Hitler tried to eradicate us Trump is doing the same as he did. He wants to trample us. LGBTQ Americans, Please stop supporting the enemy.

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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Books

‘Two Omars’ is uneven, but remarkable memoir

Celebrated actor’s gay grandson charts own path

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Omar Sharif Jr. came out during Arab Spring. (Book cover image courtesy of Counterpoint Press)

‘A Tale of Two Omars’
By Omar Sharif Jr.
c.2021, Counterpoint Press $26.00 / higher in Canada / 224 pages

You always wanted to make your mark.

There’d be no footstep-following in your life. You’d carve your own path, select your own adventures, seize the opportunities that appealed to you, and blaze trails for the sake of others’ journeys. You’d take the best of those you knew and loved, and you’d go your own way. As in the new memoir, “A Tale of Two Omars” by Omar Sharif Jr. you’ll also make your own mistakes.

Born into a family that had ties on several continents, Omar Sharif Jr. never had to worry about money or a place to live. On one side of the family—his maternal side—the Holocaust left a mark on his mother’s parents, who’d barely escaped the concentration camps. On the other side, Sharif’s paternal grandparents were both famous and beloved actors with roots in Egypt. Sharif was close with his entire family, but particularly with his grandfather, Omar Sharif.

Sharif recalls many a dinner party, listening, while his grandfather held court at dinner, laughing and telling stories. Everyone, everything seemed so elegant and refined and those meals showed Sharif a life that he could have if he wanted it. As time passed, the lessons he received were paid back: He was one of the few allowed to help his grandfather as Alzheimer’s took hold at the end of the great actor’s life. 

But this is not a story of a famous actor or a grandfather. It’s the story of a man who’s not just half-Jewish and Egyptian. He’s also gay, a part of himself that Sharif kept hidden until well into adulthood, although he says that other children must’ve sensed it when he was young. It was a part of himself that he feared revealing to his father. It helped him land a dream job that ultimately became a nightmare. 

The title of this book—”A Tale of Two Omars”—is a bit of a misnomer. Judging by what author Omar Sharif Jr. writes here, there are several Omars: The activist; a globe-hopper; a son and grandson; a writer and a grandfather whose life was impactful but who has a surprisingly small footprint in this book.

Which is not to say that readers will like them all.

Indeed, parts of this book may seem as though you’ve read them before: Bullied as a child, fear of coming out, the college revelation, the mismatched first love. Those ubiquitous bits are here, but they pale in comparison to Sharif’s ultra-urbane life and the hair-raising, terrifying account of getting and getting out of what seemed like the ultimate job with a wealthy sheikh, a job that slowly grew dangerous. That story-within-a-story is so edgy, so mouth-drying, that you’ll throw away the thriller you bought last week.

Then there’s the part about his life-threatening activism, a tale that starts and ends this book …

And so, beware at the unevenness of this memoir, but understand that the tedium doesn’t linger. Skip past the ho-humness of “A Tale of Two Omars” and the rest is remarkable.

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Books

‘Charm Offensive’ suffers from too much drama

A cute story but we all know how it will end

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‘The Charm Offensive: A Novel’
By Alison Cochrun
c.2021, Atria $17.00 / 368 pages

The applause is all for you this time.

It’s deafening, really — perhaps because there’s a standing ovation beneath it. All the work you did, the emoting, the emotions, you know how much your fans appreciate it. So take a bow. Drink in the love. As in the new novel, “The Charm Offensive” by Alison Cochrun, that’s one thing that’s sometimes missing in life.

Dev Deshpande was good at his job. He knew it, his colleagues knew it, it was fact. He might personally be terrible at love – case in point: he was still smarting from a three-months-ago break-up with his boyfriend, Ryan – but Dev was a pro at his job as producer for the reality TV show, “Ever After.” In fact, he’d been in charge of making dreams happen for six years’ worth of beautiful “Ever After” contestants; it helped that he believed in fairy tales.

Maybe one day, he’d find his own Prince Charming.

Just not this season.

This season, his lead director made him handle the “prince” instead of the usual “princesses,” and that was a challenge.

Charles Winshaw was 28, devastatingly handsome, extremely wealthy, and a nervous, introverted nerd who rarely dated. Geeky, awkward, and prone to panic attacks, he sincerely had no clue how to be romantic. Truth was, he was only there because his best friend and agent put him on “Ever After” to counter a reputation for being weird.

Still, Charlie was weird, and it was up to Dev to make him work for the show.

Shoring up Charlie’s confidence didn’t work, and neither did a pep talk. He couldn’t seem to just perform a role without freaking out and it was becoming obvious. By the time Dev’s assistant suggested having a few practice dates, Dev was willing to try anything.

He took Charlie to dinner. He spent time doing jigsaw puzzles with him, and he got Charlie to relax a little. If sparks flew, well, it was one-sided: Charlie was completely straight.

Wasn’t he?

You know what’s going to happen in the end, don’t you? Of course, you do. You’ll know it by page 30, step-by-step, with virtually no surprises, which leaves a long way to the final sentence of “The Charm Offensive.”

Now, it’s true that this novel is cute. It has its lightly humorous moments and author Alison Cochrun gives it a good cast, from contestant to show creator. It doesn’t lack details; in fact, reality dating show-watchers will feel right at home here. It even has the ubiquitous panoply of exotic locales for the “challenges” that the contestants must endure.

At issue is the length of this book. There’s too much of it, too many shirts that creep up, too many mentions of vomit, too much needless drama, too many will-he-won’t-he, when we know full well he will. This extra doesn’t ratchet up the tension, it makes things slow.

And so: cute story, familiar scenes, good characters in “The Charm Offensive.” But if taut is what you want in a rom-com, leave this book and bow out.

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