The rights and protections that LGBTQ people experience today didn’t happen overnight. Many individuals in our senior LGBTQ communities across the country fought hard to gain legal and social acceptance.
Although our history is an ever continuing process, learning about the achievements and experiences of the past can only help educate and develop understanding about our future.
Many significant changes created a huge impact on our culture, and the people that created that change deserve recognition.
At a quick glance, here are some achievements from the past of important note in the United States created by many in our community who have achieved elder status:
December 24, 1924, saw Henry Gerber establish in Chicago, with formal recognition from the state of Illinois, the Society for Human Rights. It is now recognized as the first gay rights group in the United States.
June 28, 1969, saw the start of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, setting the stage for the beginning of a full blown fight for civil rights.
It was December 15, 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the official list of mental illnesses. Same sex attraction was no longer listed as a mental illness.
On June 26, 2003, following the outcome of the historic Texas v. Lawrence ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared sodomy laws unconstitutional, making it possible for gays and lesbians to enjoy sex and romance without fear of prosecution or incarceration.
It was May 17, 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, eventually leading to full marriage equality on June 26, 2015.
So what exactly is National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day?
It’s a date that offers an opportunity to explore the history and people who have brought the equality we experience today to the LGBTQ community.
While more work will always need to be done to combat bigotry and intolerance, don’t pass up the opportunity to recognize and pay homage to the LGBTQ elders who have survived and made a difference.
If you have a story to share about an LGBTQ Elder who has made a difference in your life or helped the LGBTQ community in way that deserves to be recognized, visit www.lgbteldersday.org to find out more information about sharing another fascinating story with our national community.
Unfortunately, there are no current events scheduled to coincide with National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day in our region (it’s relatively new – the registrar of the National Day Calendar officially proclaimed it as of May 16, 2015). However, there are some LGBTQ elder resources available across the state.
If you’re a resident of North Carolina and you’re a senior in the LGBTQ community, know there is friendship and support for you in Raleigh where the organization SAGE (Service and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) serves the city and surrounding metro region. Located in the Four North Blount building in central Raleigh, SAGE Central Carolina offers gatherings and outings and provides advocacy work for LGBTQ seniors. You can visit their Facebook page for more details or pay a visit to their website.
Purportedly offering support and social activities to a large portion of North Carolina’s coastal region is SAGE Wilmington of the Cape Fear Coast. Like the Raleigh chapter, they are said to have social activities and advocacy support. You can check out their Facebook page, but their website is down. A phone number (910-262-0327) is available for the local LGBTQ Center, which reportedly can provide information on this SAGE chapter during the Center’s operating hours.
Here in the Queen city, there’s the Charlotte LGBTQ Elders group,
The organization was founded in 2018. An initial attempt was made to get the group up and running in early 2020, but the pandemic and unexpected death of key member Dan Kirsch waylaid earlier efforts. Now back on track, in the past year the organization has finalized their 501C3 status with help from local attorney Lee Robertson.
After a re-launch and info session April 21 at Time Out Youth, several individuals have volunteered for the renewed effort. A May 9 meeting will see the selection of co-chairs and setting up committees. Their Facebook page is regularly updated with the latest news on organizational events.
Charlotte LGBTQ Elders was conceived to serve as a resource for LGBTQ individuals aged 55 and older. The group’s work focuses on monthly programs and social events, as well as providing cultural LGBTQ-related competency training for organizations that serve elders. In the near future, they plan to become a local chapter of SAGE.
More details, including an upcoming events calendar are available at their website.