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Temple to host LGBT-inclusive discussion on aging

October 7, 2011 — By Jen Colletta — Philadelphia Gay News

Temple University School of Law will stage a conference next week that examines the myriad challenges faced by American seniors — with LGBT older adults included at each step of the discussion.

Temple’s “Aging in the U.S.: The Next Civil Rights Movement?” will run from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at Temple’s Klein Hall, 1719 N. Broad St.

While the event will address some of the legal issues the elderly community grapples with, it was designed to also be accessible and relevant to non-legal professionals, with a reduced fee for social-service professionals and students.

Temple law professor Dr. Nancy Knauer, author of “Gay and Lesbian Elders: History, Law and Identity Politics in the United States” and recipient of several awards for her research on LGBT elder issues, organized the inaugural event.

“This is really an outgrowth of my work with LGBT elders. Aging is something that, if we’re lucky, is going to affect all of us, regardless of sexual orientation,” she said.

At a conference earlier this year, Knauer said she heard Syracuse law professor Nina Kohn pose the question, “Do we all run the risk of outliving our civil rights?” which inspired the upcoming conference.

“She brought up this issue of losing our rights as we got older, so I decided I wanted to reach out to the broader law and aging communities and bring together everyone I could find in the United States who is approaching elder law from a civil-rights perspective. Instead of looking at issues like estate planning or health-care financing, we’re bringing together a real mix of scholars and advocates to look at this question of civil rights.”

Kohn will provide the keynote address for the day, which will offer five panels — Healthcare, Self-Determination and Autonomy; Guardianship, Vulnerability and Autonomy; Elders, Family and the State; Elders and Long-Term Care; and Intersectionality.

In addition to Knauer, speakers who focus their work primarily on LGBT issues will include British researcher Sue Westwood; Daniel Redman, of the Del Martin Elder Law Initiative at the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Hilary Meyer, executive director of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Meyer said the unique format encourages the notion that the “tides are changing” for the LGBT older-adult community.

“Previously, if there was a discussion of LGBT issues, it was often sort of a fringe issue, if it was talked about at all,” Meyer said. “So the fact that a conference like this is incorporating LGBT issues throughout shows that this is a much wider issue, going even beyond LGBT folks: Marginalized communities are finally being paid attention to and are starting to become part of the mainstream discussion on aging.”

Meyer’s agency, launched a year-and-a-half ago, is a partnership of a handful of organizations throughout the country led by Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders, and offers services including informational resources on LGBT aging, cultural-competency training and technical assistance.

The Resource Center is funded through a grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, marking the first time Administration on Aging funds have been used specifically for LGBT older adults.

Meyer will sit on the Intersectionality panel, discussing the fusion of LGBT older adults with the current state of federal policy and activism on aging issues.

“The fact that we received this grant is a huge step in the right direction in terms of federal acknowledgment that this is a population with unique needs that warrants funding,” Meyer said, adding that the LGBT community has been mobilizing to draw attention to this population. “At this point, there is a whole generation of people who have been out of the closet their whole lives but who are starting to face situations where they may not feel comfortable being out as they get older, so we’re seeing more and more people saying that this is not acceptable and that we need to change the system so that they can be served properly.”

Knauer said she’s eager for the conference to encourage registrants to, among other aims, more readily consider the LGBT perspective in their work.

“I think the issues of civil rights is really striking a chord right now because baby boomers are starting to get older and they need to face what that means right now in America. And I think it’s important that we present LGBT issues alongside every other issue. We need to be asking, And how does this affect LGBT people?”

For more information or to register, visit

www.law.temple.edu/Pages/Academics/Aging_in_the_US.aspx.

For more information on the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, visit www.lgbtagingcenter.org.

Jen Colletta can be reached at jen@epgn.com


“Do we all run the risk of outliving our civil rights?” - Nina Kohn