Celebrating LGBT Pride Month | Lisa’s Story

June 26, 2014 - Serving Seniors

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month and we’d like to highlight Lisa, a regular client at the West Senior Wellness Center, cancer survivor and transgender woman. We at Serving Seniors have a very diverse clientele including many gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. Lisa is very open about the fact that she spent the first 68 years of her life as someone of the opposite gender. She enjoys sharing her story in an effort to educate others and spread awareness about what it means to be transgender.002

Lisa was born in 1936 and her birth certificate indicated that she was a male. However, Lisa knew by the age of three or four that she wasn’t really a boy despite what she was told. “I knew something was wrong with my body,” Lisa says. Transgender people often experience a genuine disconnect between the sex assigned to them at birth and their internal sense of who they are. It can cause undue pain and distress which Lisa is all too familiar with.

Lisa went on to join the United States Air Force and served for four years. After her service, she attended college where she earned her degree in journalism and went on to work for several newspapers. She did what she thought was expected of her by marrying a woman and having a child. She says her parents would never understand or accept her living as a woman; so instead, Lisa waited to make that change. Once both of her parents passed away she immediately went to see a therapist and began the process of transitioning.

10 years ago, Lisa officially became Lisa and has a new birth certificate to prove it. “I feel more normal. I’ve become more talkative. In my other gender, I was afraid to talk.” Today she is healthy, vibrant, confident and full of joy. It can be challenging to find an accepting community as a transgender person which is why Lisa is grateful for the folks at Serving Seniors. She says the staff and her peers accept her exactly as she is and Serving Seniors is a community she is glad to be a part of. Lisa truly embodies LGBT pride and even has a tattoo to show it!  She is an inspiration and a reminder that it is never too late to live the life that makes us genuinely happy.

The Special Issues of LGBT Seniors

April 8, 2014 - Serving Seniors

In August, the Social Security Administration began processing benefit claims for partners in same-sex marriages in response to the Defense of Marriage Act court decision. While this is a big step forward for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and marriage equality, much remains to be done. LGBT seniors face several particular concerns as they age:

  • According to a 2011 study commissioned by the San Diego LGBT Community Center, more than one-fourth of the 400 LGBT senior respondents said they sometimes, often or almost always attempt to hide their sexual orientation from neighbors or others.
  • 31 percent reported feeling embarrassed when asked about their sexual orientation.
  • LGBT seniors tend to have fewer children than their heterosexual counterparts. This, coupled with rejection from other family members, can lead to limited or no family caregivers. According to the study by the Center, 68 percent of local LGBT seniors said they had neither family nor friends to count on for support or assistance.
  • Only 18 percent of respondents who had younger siblings said they could count on them for assistance.
  • More than half said they had not planned well enough for their retirement.
  • Twenty-three percent said their annual income was less than $20,000.

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So what needs to happen to make certain we are supporting this vulnerable population and allowing them to live the lives they want and deserve? First, there needs to be an increase in housing, health care and social welfare services dedicated to San Diego’s LGBT senior population. This means agencies that specifically support LGBT seniors and mainstream seniors’ organizations must ensure that policies and procedures are in place to ensure that everyone — regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion — is welcomed and provided equal services.

We are proud that Senior Community Centers is just that sort of place. Our basic philosophy is that “we leave judgment to a higher pay grade” and every senior is welcome to be part of our community. A wise man once said, “Love has no limits, only people do.” This could not be truer when you speak about the LGBT community. We all have a responsibility as humans to love and support one another.

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The full article first appeared in the September Issue of the San Diego Daily Transcript.

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