Meet the Candidates – all of them – at Sept. 3 Rainbow Seniors Pittsfield meeting

All votes count.
All votes count.

Members of the Rainbow Seniors began talking about the upcoming elections months ago, and has joined with the Age Friendly Berkshires Task Force to present a Meet the Candidates program that will include all the candidates (Republican, Democratic and Independent) who are running for contested  offices this year from the Berkshires region. 

Open to all, and slated for Saturday, September 3 from 2:00-4:00 pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum Auditorium, we will hear from all seven candidates for two contested elections: State Senator and State Representative for the Pittsfield area.

The primary takes place just five days later, on Thursday September 8, 2016.

The candidates have not only accepted the invitation of the collaborating senior citizen organizations, but are aware they will be answering questions of special interest to the LGBTQ community – of all ages – as well as those that concern the elders and all Berkshire voters.

Meet the Senate Candidates: (l to r) Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds, Christine Canning.
Meet the Senate Candidates: (l to r) Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds, Christine Canning.

The candidates for State Senate are Adam Hinds, Andrea Harrington and Rinaldo Del Gallo who are facing off in the Democratic Primary, joined by the Republican candidate, Christine Canning. They are vying to replace Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield.

State Representative candidates: (l to r) Michael Bloomberg, Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Chris Connell.
State Representative candidates: (l to r) Michael Bloomberg, Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Chris Connell.

In the State Representative race, incumbent Tricia Farley-Bouvier is facing a challenge from Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic Primary, while Chris Connell is running as an independent for that same office in the General Election.

To our knowledge this will be the first time all the candidates have had a chance to focus on both senior and LGBTQ  issues. It will be a rare opportunity to learn their outlook on these important issues. The panel will be moderated by Ed Sedarbaum, founder of the Rainbow Seniors of the Berkshires.

Open to the general public as well as all  Berkshire seniors, light refreshments will be served. RSVP’s are encouraged, if you plan to attend, let Ed know, send an email to  Ed@rainbowseniors.org

 

AARP says: “older gays and lesbians will face unique challenges as they age.”

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LGBT Advocate looks at the future for Rainbow Seniors

 
Michael Adams is executive director of SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest organization working to improve life for LGBT older adults.
 

America’s older population is growing, and so is the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults who are moving into their later years. In the next several decades, LGBT adults age 65 and above is expected to double, reaching more than 3 million by 2030.

Older gays and lesbians are half as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to have family to lean on for elder care.

 

In my job as executive director of SAGE (that’s for Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders), I’m constantly hearing about the unique challenges facing our community. These are the five main things we need to change if we want our society to be prepared for the full diversity of its aging population.

There are five main areas covered in this story:

1. Basic Health Care 

2. Caregiving Issues

3. Financial Insecurity

4. Social Isolation

5. Access to Aging Services

 

More proof that groups like ours are needed

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The Williams Institute Releases New Report on LGBT Older Adults Highlighting Isolation, Discrimination, and Health Disparities  
Report is basis for recommendations that federal agency target resources to LGBT seniors

In LGBT Aging: A Review of Research Findings, Needs, and Policy Implications, Soon Kyu Choi and Ilan H. Meyer provide a review of what is known about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) older adults.

Some key findings include:

  • Researchers estimate that there are over 2.4 million LGBT older adults over age 50 in the U.S., with the expectation that this number will double by 2030
  • Older lesbians, bisexual, and gay men have higher prevalences of mental health problems, disability, and disease and physical limitations than older heterosexual people
  • Transgender older adults are also at higher risk for poor physical health, disability, and depressive symptoms compared to cisgender adults
  • LGBT older adults are also resilient and find support through chosen families and informal support networks such as LGBT community organizations and religious networks
  • LGBT older adults need to be recognized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) as a “greatest social need” group, opening up important funding avenues to prioritize services for this group
  • Anti-discrimination legislation and expanding the definition of family to include families of choice are policies that should be taken into consideration
  • LGBT older adults are a growing population likely in need of more frequent health care and social support. Culturally sensitive training for service providers could be critical in alleviating expectations of and experiences of discrimination that many LGBT older adults fear when seeking help

In addition, the LGBT Aging report was the basis for the submission of recommendations by several Williams Institute scholars to the Administration for Community Living (ACL).  ACL is considering new guidelines for the targeting of resources to older Americans who have the greatest social and economic need.

The Williams Institute’s submission to the ACL highlighted research on the ways in which discrimination and stigma related to sexual orientation and gender identity can limit the degree to which older LGBT adults experience full inclusion in society and are able to access available services and supports.

Megan Whilden talks OLLI, LGBTQ issues, and the Berkshires

Megan Whilden
Megan Whilden

Tuesday August 16, Noon to 2pm
First Congressional Church of Williamstown
(It’s also a potluck so bring something to share.)

When Megan Whilden was the  Cultural Director for the city of Pittsfield, she did way more than just keep folks entertained. She brought communities together over important issues of the day — and always made sure that all communities were included. She always involved the LGBT community in everything she did, and she still does. For example, she created Out in the Berkshires, a weekend of queer culture and entertainment, and she still moderates the Facebook page Out in the Berkshires.

Now Megan is the Executive Director of OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, where the range of topics for the courses is as varied as the minds of the seniors who attend. She never forgets that diversity is the key to the strength of our communities.

Always a witty and engaging speaker, she will talk about her hopes for the community we share and OLLI’s role in it. OLLI provides educational, social and volunteer opportunities designed especially by and for people fifty years old and better in the greater Berkshires.

See POSTER BOY While It’s Still in Williamstown

I wouldn’t recommend you buy tickets to a show just because it had LGBTQ content. But I have no problem urging you to see Poster Boy, which runs through Sunday, August 7 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. It is a stirring, nuanced, complex theatre piece – with great music and uniquely defined characters — that searches for explanations for a tragedy, finds no simple answers, but leaves you with a lot of new information to think about as you wonder what the full story was and what it means to your own life.

The musical play is based on the suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in 2010 after his roommate secretly videoed him having a sexual encounter with another man in their dorm room. The roommate watched the video live with friends from another room.

Like most people, I believed that Tyler was a deeply closeted kid who killed himself because he was outed. Everyone I know thought that was the story, too. But as the play tells us, that wasn’t his story at all.

The tale is told through the eyes of members of an online gay chat room that Tyler had visited often since he was a young teenager. Discovering that the nice kid they knew as “cit2mo” was the same young man whose suicide everyone had read about in the papers, they knew from their interaction with him that the simple explanation – the outing of a closet case – wasn’t it at all. They search for a better explanation, and through their search reveal to us and to one another the complexity of who they are as individuals and what finding community through the chat room provided them with.

I don’t want to tell you more about the story. I hope you will find it out by seeing the show. I will tell you that the performances are wonderful, with deftly revealed characterization, terrific singing voices, and the level of complexity you find in real life. The set does nothing more than re-create the feel of a dorm room, which is exactly what it should do, while also being able to capture the feel of people conversing with one another in cyberspace. I haven’t seen lighting play such a prominent and powerful role since Berkshire Theatre Group’s “Tommy” oh so many years ago now.

If you have the time – and can afford the $63 for the ticket – I hope you will go and that you’ll be moved by the show as much as my husband, Howard, and I were. There are still some tickets available. You can get them online at wtfestival.org or through the box office at 413-597-3400.

Incidentally, after connecting with WTF when 14 Rainbow Seniors attended their amazing community production “Orpheus in the Berkshires,” the theatre was kind enough to invite me to join the Poster Boy’s creators in a Lawn Talk before the Sunday show, where I had the chance to tell audience members about the reason we have Rainbow Seniors and how to find us.

The pictures shown here are from a rehearsal (photo credit: Daniel Rader) and from the opening night party, which I deftly crashed.

 

 

 

 

US Navy to name ship after gay icon Harvey Milk

A young Ensign Harvey Milk served in the U.S. Navy.
A young Ensign Harvey Milk served in the U.S. Navy.

It has been confirmed that theU.S. Navy is set to name a ship after the gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a recent  Congressional notification.

LGBTQ activists have campaigned for the US Navy to honor Milk and other LGBT individuals who have served in the armed forces. This is remarkable news considering gays were officially banned from openly serving in the military until 2011.

Milk served as a diving officer from 1951 to 1955. He was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

“When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn’t tell anyone who he truly was,” said San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored a resolution asking the navy to name a ship after Milk in 2012.

“Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for who they are.”

The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). The ship would be the second of the John Lewis-class oilers being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, Calif.

The Secretary of the Navy’s office is deferring releasing additional information until the official naming announcement.

Mabus has said the John Lewis-class – named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – would be named after civil rights leaders.

Other names in the class include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren whose court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, women’s right activist Lucy Stone and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972, where he lived in the Castro district, owned a camera shop, and advocated for the rights of LGBT people in the growing gay neighborhood. In 1977, he won his election to the San Francisco board of supervisors, becoming the first openly gay elected official in California.

One year later, Milk was killed in San Francisco city hall by a former supervisor who also killed the mayor, George Moscone.

“Hope is never silent and will be represented in a world port soon via the USNS Harvey Milk,” read a post on the Facebook page of the Harvey Milk Foundation, reacting to the announcement.