An LGBT Pride month forum on June 21 hosted by Verizon Corporation in cooperation with the AARP, which advocates for people age 50 and older, and the Harvey Milk Foundation highlighted a recently released AARP study on the needs and concerns of LGBT seniors.
The event also included the showing of a video produced by Verizon as part of its recently launched LGBT supportive campaign called Connected by Pride. The video features LGBT young people describing their experiences coming out to their parents.
Among those speaking at the forum, held at the Verizon Technology and Policy Center in downtown D.C., was Stuart Milk, nephew of famed gay rights advocate and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation.
Stuart Milk also presented a video about his uncle’s role as one of the nation’s first openly gay elected officials and vocal advocate for LGBT equality, including his recognition in the late 1970s of the needs of LGBT elders.
Milk was assassinated in 1978, ending what political observers called a remarkable series of accomplishments for LGBT rights on the local and national level before his life was cut short just 11 months after he took office as a San Francisco legislator. In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nii-Quartelai Quartey, the AARP’s Senior Advisor and National LGBT Liaison for Multicultural Leadership and Community, State, and National Affairs, gave a presentation on AARP’s recently released study called “Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans.”
Among its findings, Quartey told the gathering, is that 900,000 of AARP’s 38 million members self-identify as LGBT. He said the study also revealed these findings:
• 60 percent of AARP’s LGBT members have children and grandchildren.
• Black and Latino LGBT seniors are concerned to a greater degree than others surveyed in the study about discrimination.
• A significant number of LGBT seniors must rely on themselves as the major component of their support network.
• 80 percent of Baby Boom generation seniors, including LGBT Baby Boomers, plan to work past the age of 65.
• Older LGBT adults “want to be seen and heard.”
Also speaking at the forum was Susan McCabe, governance chair of the board of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBT rights organization. McCabe said one of the group’s most important recent accomplishments was the successful lobbying effort persuading the California Legislature last fall to pass a “Bill of Rights” for LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities.
Among other things, she said the law signed last October by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) strengthens protections for LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities against a wide range of potential discrimination, including attempts to expel or refuse to admit someone based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
She said the law also requires those who operate or work at long-term care facilities to undergo training in cultural competency on issues pertaining to LGBT seniors.
Stuart Milk told the gathering about how the Harvey Milk Foundation’s work now includes advocacy for LGBT equality in countries throughout the world as well as in the U.S. He said he has been honored to talk to people in Europe, Asia and Africa who have heard about Harvey Milk’s groundbreaking work on behalf of LGBT rights in the U.S.
David Wilson, who described himself as a “proud out gay man” who has worked at Verizon for 30 years, served as moderator of the forum.
Longtime D.C. LGBT rights advocate Mario Acosta-Velez serves as Verizon’s Director of State Government Affairs and as National President of GLOBE, Verizon’s LGBT employee organization. He announced at the forum that Verizon has continued its longstanding partnership with the national group Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, by helping to support PFLAG’s national help network.
“This week Verizon announced a donation of $250,000 to support PFLAG’s important work to unite LGBTQ youth and individuals and their families,” Acosta-Velez told the Washington Blade.
He noted that in conjunction with its support for PFLAG, Verizon has also launched a national campaign to celebrate Pride at Verizon and in the LGBTQ community through “a new commercial featuring real coming out stories from LGBTQ youth.”
The video has already aired on the MTV Movie Awards show and YouTube and is expected to be aired on other venues.
One of the ‘coming out’ videos can be accessed here.
The AARP LGBT seniors study can be accessed via aarp.org.