A wedding cake in rainbow colors and decorated with figurines of two women and two men is pictured in Berlin on June 30, 2017 (Photo by Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images) A lesbian couple planning their wedding in New Zealand was left feeling “shocked and upset” after a baker refused to make a cake for the event.
Moe Barr and Sasha Patrick live in Brisbane, Australia—where same-sex marriages only became legal in November —but decided to make a holiday out of the occasion and travel to Waipu in New Zealand to celebrate their wedding in January. They got in touch with Kiwi baker Katherine Wade of Kath’s Devine Cakes who, on her website , promises to make bespoke cakes for “whatever your special occasion is.”
Barr shared the email exchange with PinkNews after she posted it on social media. “It’s a same-sex wedding so we wanted to make sure you’re LGBT-friendly?” the couple wrote on Friday evening, asking to make an appointment for a consultation the following week and detailing their ideas about the cake. Moe Barr and Sasha Patrick pictured together (Image courtesy of Moe Barr) The baker’s reply came the following morning, denying the couple their request on the basis of her “heart and beliefs,” despite New Zealand legalising same-sex marriage in 2013 —the country has since become a popular destination for overseas same-sex couples wanting to tie the knot.
“I do not wish to offend either of you and I thank you for letting me know that it is a same sex wedding. Even though as individuals you are both fabulous and amazing people, I must follow the integrity of my heart and beliefs. Our government has legalised same sex marriages, but it is not my belief that it is correct, therefore I will not support it and cannot make your wedding cake for you,” she wrote.
Barr told PinkNews that the baker’s response “shocked and upset” them. The couple is still in the process of finding vendors for the wedding and they are concern they will face similar attitudes. “It kind of made us fearful for what was to come,” Barr said. The case echoes one recently under consideration of the Supreme Court in the US, who ruled in favour of a baker who discriminated against a gay couple because of his religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court in the UK is also considering the case of a bakery in Northern Ireland who refused to bake a cake displaying a message of support for same-sex marriage, which is still not legal in that part of the UK . Lower courts have ruled the bakers’ behaviour to be discriminatory. Sasha Patrick and Moe Barr live in Brisbane, Australia, but planned to get married in New Zealand on January 19, 2019 (Image courtesy of Moe Barr) Barr decided to make the email exchange public to warn others to avoid the baker, whose Facebook page is no longer available. Kath’s Devine Cakes has not responded to a request for comment from PinkNews.
“I think it’s important to share because we didn’t want it to happen to someone else, someone who might not have the same amount of support we have,” Barr explained. “With marriage equality only being recently legalised (both in NZ and AUS) I think it’s important to show people that discrimination in any form is wrong and should not be tolerated,” she added.
A LGBTI women’s health conference will shine an important light on women’s topics. | Photo: Twitter Esther Montgomery lives in a very remote community in Australia’s outback. It’s there she has spent decades fighting for Aboriginal LGBTI people.
With a population of 400 people and a four hour drive to the nearest town, living there can be isolating.
But it’s even more isolating if you identify as LGBTI.
‘I want to draw attention to what it’s like being an Aboriginal lesbian woman from a remote community. There’s nothing out here. There’s no women’s services and no one is coming for you,’ Montgomery told Gay Star News.
‘I want to highlight the issues facing LGBTI Aboriginal people.’
Montgomery said there are no support or health services for LGBTI Aboriginal people. Also, medical staff in remote communities do not understand the needs of those communities.
But what’s even worse is Aboriginal LBGTI people also feel isolated from mainstream LGBTI health and advocacy organizations that are supposed to be representing them.
‘I’m hoping to draw attention to the fact that LGBTI organizations don’t employ us and don’t have us on boards,’ she said.
‘It’s frustrating especially when you’re trying to address the issues facing my people and you can’t get your foot in the door in the organization.’
Some of those issues – especially in remote and regional Australia – include chronic illness, being ‘ignored by government’ and racism.
Montgomery not only called out services and people in regional communities for their racism, but also the LGBTI community.
‘I’m talking about same issues from when I was a young girl, I’m 55 now,’ she said.
‘Not a whole lot has changed.
‘They’ve (LGBTI organizations) have made no effort for change, all they say is “we’re all inclusive”, but we don’t have a seat at the table.’ What people need to know
Montgomery’s mission is taking her to the southern city of Melbourne.
She will be speaking on a panel at the LGBTIQ Women’s Health conference.
The two-day conference aims to shine a light on issues largely overlooked by both mainstream and LGBTIQ health organizations.
‘This has culminated in not just a lack of awareness about queer women’s health issues, but also in some pretty concerning research involving certain health outcomes for LGBTIQ women,’ said Rachel Cook, LBQ Women’s Project Lead, at health organization, Thorne Harbour Health.
‘For example, higher rates of drinking and smoking, lower rates of screening for cervical and breast cancer and higher rates of mental health issues.’
This year’s conference will be the largest so far with more than 400 people expected to attend.
‘The conference just keeps growing and I think that in itself is testament to how much a conference like this is needed,’ Cook said.
‘LGBTIQ women have given a lot to the broader queer community for a very long time and it’s time our issues were part of the focus too.’
Some of the issues content covered will include; sexual health, ageing, mental health, activism and feminism, breast and cervical cancers, trans health, living with disabilities, leadership, alcohol and other drugs, rainbow families, domestic and family violence, sex work, marriage equality and the refugee and migrant experience. Ask me anything
For Montgomery she’s happy to answer any questions that come her way, but hopes people ask what it’s like being a LGBTI person in remote and rural in Western Australia. But she also wants to asked about racism in the wider LGBTI community.
‘These are the heartacheS that Aboriginal LGBTI people face.’
Click here for more information regarding the LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference. More from Gay Star News
A poster of ‘Lost In Paradise’, a Vietnamese film about a gay couple that was banned in Malaysia. | Photo: IMDB A senior regional minister in Malaysia said people should be more worried about LGBTI people than child bride marriages.
Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah is the Deputy Chief Minister (Menteri Besar) of Kelantan – one of the nine Malaysian states.
His controversial comments came after a 41-year-old Malaysian man married an 11-year-old Thai girl. The pair married last month and the case has caused a stir.
Police have opened an investigation into the man who lives in Kelantan.
But Mohd Amar said that Malaysia – which is a Muslim majority country – shouldn’t worry too much about the issue.
‘This issue (child marriage) is not wrong in terms of religion (Islam)… it should not be sensationalised and made a national issue and this case is an isolated case,’ Mohd Amar told media.
‘Not everyone marries an 11-year-old child but the LGBT issue, illicit sex and having children out of wedlock are rampant everywhere, so much so that these have become a phenomenon in the country. This should be a concern to the government and society.’
With permission of a religious court, Muslims under 16 are allowed to get married in Malaysia.
Homosexuality and being transgender are both illegal in Malaysia.
The country has banned the positive portrayal of LGBTI people in TV or film and in May started restricting access to LGBTI health and tourism website. More from Gay Star News
Tab Hunter (Photo: Tab Hunter Confidential | Twitter) A message posted to the Facebook page Tab Hunter Confidential has announced that the actor has died.
‘SAD NEWS: Tab passed away tonight three days shy of his 87th birthday. Please honor his memory by saying a prayer on his behalf. He would have liked that.’
No cause of death has been announced. The timing of the message would indicate Hunter passed away Sunday evening California time.
Tab Hunter was born Arthur Gelien in New York in 1931. He relocated to California with his mother after his parents split up when he was still a child.
He shot to fame in Hollywood in the 1950s. The first role that really began to get him noticed was as Robert Mitchum’s younger brother in Track of the Cat (1955).
He then starred in Battlecry (1955),Warner Bros’ biggest hit of the year. Hollywood stardom ensued, and he was Warner’s most popular male star between 1955-59.
He also had a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with Young Love, enjoyed a short-lived sitcom on US TV in the early 1960s, and played numerous theatrical roles. Hiding his sexuality and coming out
At a time when homosexuality was strictly taboo, Hunter kept his sexuality secret, although he had relationships with fellow actor Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame), and figure skater Robbie Robertson. Up until his death, he had been with partner, producer Allan Glaser for 35 years.
Although his famed waned in the late 60s and 1970s, his was rediscovered by younger generations by appearing in John Waters’ cult classic, Polyester, opposite Divine , in 1981.
After decades of rumors, Hunter publicly acknowledged his sexuality in his best-selling, 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential. The book was later turned into a documentary that played at LGBTI film festivals around the world. Hunter personally appeared at some screenings to take part in Q&A sessions.
The social media accounts for Tab Hunter Confidential have since been a source of Tab Hunter news, posting new photos from Tab and Allan and messages from Tab to fans.
It was recently announced that actor Zachary Quinto and director JJ Abrams are to co-produce a movie exploring the love affair between Hunter and Perkins. Hunter’s partner. Glaser, will co-produce.
This is a breaking news story and we’ll add more details as they are announced.
David Pearson is a KPMG employee, but he also leads the firm’s LGBT network, Breathe, on a voluntary basis.
Accountancy Age caught up with him to talk about experiences of LGBT people in accounting, what Breathe is working on right now, and what Pride month means to him.
1. What does your role involve?
I’ve got a day job and then my role leading the LGBT network is a labour of love, which is quite common for networks within organisations. So I’m the chair of the Network and I lead, and I have done for about the last four years. The Network itself has been around since about 2002.
2. What do you do in relation to the LGBT Network?
We have three pillars of the Network where we focus on activity. The Network is called Breathe, which isn’t an acronym its simply its name. One focus area is Breathe in the Workplace, which consist of all the programs and activities for our colleagues within KPMG, so it’s an internal focus on helping our people, provide networking opportunities internally plus a support network and a social network for people who want to get to know each other whether they’re LGBT people within KPMG or if they are allies or supporters.
That includes all sorts of things like a mentoring program or reverse mentoring, a buddying system, where if someone needs an informal chat because they are having an issue in their personal life or work life in relation to being LGBT, then they can informally buddy up with someone and have a chat over a coffee. We have a number of other programs and initiatives which relate to this.
The second pillar is Breathe in the Marketplace, which is to do with our clients and suppliers, so we’re heavily involved in this. We have a real external focus in this so we want to look at how we connect with our clients through networking events, how we can partner with clients and suppliers through events, like speaking events, and then there’s more strategic things we do with clients where we have an ongoing strategic program of longer term change rather than just one-off events.
The third and final pillar is Breathe in the Community, and that’s where we connect with charities and community groups and organisations and we do a range of activities there. I’ll talk about what we’re doing for Pride later but one of the groups we’re heavily involved him is called Elock, which is a mental health and LBGT charity.
3. What’s your view on experiences of LGBT people at KPMG and what do you think needs to be done to improve that further?
I think as an organisation, with the Network, we’re at a kind of maturity curve of LGBT inclusion. We’re probably a reasonable way along that curve because we’ve been around for 16 years so have been doing this stuff for a long time. As you’ve noticed, we’ve moved beyond simply having an internal focus and we’re now in the community and the marketplace so for us it’s about how do we harness the power of our extraordinary people to help develop them further.
We actually have an aim that the future of us now is about learning, leadership, and legacy: so focusing on what Breathe means to us now. We’re in phase one of the learning, and this year is called the year of learning for us. What we’re trying to do with the Network in 2018 is to take our people and provide them with some fantastic training opportunities. We’ve already run a number of events this year for our people in skills that are relevant to their work and also around greater LGBT inclusion as well. One of those is our pronoun day, which we ran earlier this year, where we focused a lot on how we can use language to create an environment that’s inclusive and supportive of good mental health and general wellbeing among everyone.
Next year we’re going to focus on leadership, where we really focus on developing leadership with our people and then get them to a position where they can move up through the network to become leaders of it and then 2020 is going to be the year of legacy which will equip people to create a legacy that they leave behind for others to follow.
4. Did you craft that initiative of three pillars yourself?
Yes I actually did and like most of these ideas, I got it while I was in the shower! It came because I was thinking about how we could bring more structure to our work rather than just random events. The risk is always that they’re forgotten a week later so we’re looking at ways to make what we’re doing more coherent and also tie them much better to who we are as an organisation, so that it ties in with who we are as an organisation and our corporate strategy.
It’s the same thing with this learning, leadership, and legacy idea and I was thinking, ‘how do we distil even further what we are trying to create’. Since then the year of learning has been adopted by the organisation so we’re collaborating with various teams across KPMG to make the learning come alive and that has been fantastic. So it started off as an idea in the shower, and it’s taken roots in the real world and is now a collaboration.
I actually spoke at Stonewall’s UK conference. I gave two talks and one was on the education of all staff and the other was on engaging the senior leaders and sponsors. I mentioned the fact that I had the idea in the shower and someone actually tweeted it!
5. What are the current barriers for LGBT people in accountancy?
I think we’ve made tremendous progress as a profession. We’ve worked hard to be inclusive and recognise that we do have LGBT people and how we can provide them with an inclusive environment. Where I think there are still some barriers is that LGBT acronyms there is an equal acceptance and understanding of all elements. Yes, for gay white men things generally are a lot better than they were say 20, 30 years ago, and again for gay women and lesbians it is not too bad.
But bisexual people are less understood. It is not always fully understood what being bi means and how it plays out in the workplace and I think people are still on a journey around trans inclusion. I think we’re better off than we were even a couple of years ago on trans inclusion but still a lot of misunderstanding, still a lack of awareness and in some cases, a lack of skills and education so for me there’s a ladder. The lowest level is just being aware, then there is being educated so you have a much better insight, and then you go from being educated to actually having tools that you can use to affect the environment through your behaviour and the behaviour of people around you.
So I think true LGBT inclusion is one challenge and I think another is around an understanding of people’s different aspects of their identify, what we’d call intersectionality, which basically means we might be ok recognising, for example a gay woman, but we may fail to take into account the fact that they are a woman and we may fail to take into account the fact that they are black or BAME or of a minority ethnicity. That can have a tremendous impact because the fact that they are a woman may not be the thing which is an issue for them. It could be the fact that person is black for example that might be one of the biggest barriers they face in the workplace. So they may not be well catered for or understood in that context and you could say, its fine they can go and join the gay network but if that network isn’t welcoming and understanding of their identify as a black person then they’re going to be left out again. Not so much in KPMG, though we still have work to do, but I know there’s a big sense that in the profession and more broadly there’s still quite a lack of understanding about race within the context of LGBT people.
You could say the same about disability. People who are LGBT also have disability and yet they may not be well accepted or understood around their needs for disability because it’s assumed that everyone who’s LGBT is able-bodied and white and middle class and that’s not true.
6. What does Pride month mean to you?
Pride month means three things for me. On one hand, it’s a chance for people to come together. It’s a focal point of the year and that’s important because you hear people talking about the LGBT community but really it needs to be remembered we’re not one lump so it’s all these communities having an opportunity to come together is key to me.
The second thing is an element of celebration. The opportunity to celebrate who we are and for us to celebrate together with our allies and supporters and our families and friends. A lot of people think that pride is just for gay people, which I don’t think is true. I think, if you look at London pride for example, the people marching will include people who identify as non-LGBT and are there because they are friends, family members or supporters and people come and march with their children, you’ll have LGBT families marching with their children who may not themselves be gay. That element of togetherness and celebration is really important.
I think the third element for me is a combination of remembrance and protest. Pride itself originated as a protest march, its origins and routes are in protest against the way LGBT people were being treated, and their lack of rights and the discrimination that they faced, and we’ve lost a lot of that now because the environment has changed, the law has changed and many people feel we have moved on. Young people don’t have much awareness of its history so many people who come to Pride have no idea it started as a protest march but I think it’s important to remember LGBT history.
So for me its three things in Pride month – the opportunity to come together, the ability to celebrate, and a reminder of where we’ve come from an the fact that people had to suffer and went through a lot of suffering in order for us to have the rights we have now
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PETALING JAYA: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist Numan Afifi Saadan says he has no choice but to step down as Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s interim press officer following backlash over his activism.
In a statement on Monday (July 9), Numan said the backlash and threats from the "opposition propagandists" have made it impossible for him to exercise his duties.
"Therefore, I have decided not to work with the Ministry in any official capacity," he said, adding that he will be handing over his task to a new press secretary who will be officially appointed soon.
Numan clarified that he was never officially appointed by the Youth and Sports Ministry, despite his name appearing on its official website.
His name had reportedly been listed on the ministry’s website as "special officer", but was subsequently removed.
"In regards to the issue of several names appearing on the Ministry’s official website, I was informed that there are elements of sabotage and an investigation is being conducted," he said.
"I was made to be understood by the Minister that stern action will be taken against the culprit," he added, asking an end to the controversy.
"Syed Saddiq has respected my decision and stands firm against any form of discrimination, therefore I would like to ask for this polemics not be dragged any further."
"Hopefully, we get to live as a community in Malaysia that cherishes diversity without prejudices," he said.
Syed Saddiq came under fire last week after critics voiced out against Numan as being the organiser of a Pride Day breaking of fast event held in 2017.
They insisted that it is inappropriate for a "champion of LGBT causes" to be a government staff member.
In response, LGBT activists said it would be a clear case of workplace discrimination if Numan loses his job.
"Letting go of an employee this way signals to companies and employers in Malaysia that it is okay to dismiss or not hire LGBT staff, which is already a reality for many of us," Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik said.
Parti Socialist Malaysia (PSM) said Pakatan Harapan must fulfil its manifesto that promises to "create a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally".
"Yet, when it comes to appointing an officer under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, instead of appointing someone based on their merits, they are being evaluated based on their personal life choices, which have zero effects on their attitude towards their job," secretary-general Vennusha Priyaa said.
A teenager has reportedly been charged with vandalising the historic Stonewall Inn in New York. (Creative Commons) A teenager has reportedly been charged with smashing the iconic front window and neon sign of the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City , widely regarded as the birthplace of the gay liberation movement.
William Gomez, 19, from Coney Island, allegedly vandalised the gay bar with a baseball bat at around 4am on Saturday morning after being kicked out, reports the New York Post.
He caused about $6,800 worth of damage to the property in Greenwich Village, according to police.
The 19-year old has been charged with criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon, and reckless endangerment.
However, the incident is not being treated as a hate crime.
The New York Post reports that Gomez was arrested in October over an assault in Brooklyn.
Both the window and the neon sign have reportedly now been repaired. Stonewall Inn is often regarded as the birthplace of the gay rights movement. Former US president Barack Obama designated Stonewall Inn as a National Monument in 2016, saying: “Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights.”
The status of the site looked to be threatened by President Donald Trump, when he announced a “review” of national monuments designated by Obama – however, it was later revealed that the bar would be exempted from this revision. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who led the Stonewall riots in June 1969. (Netflix) The gay bar played a key role in LGBT history as the location of a series of riots in June 1969 by members of the community in response to a police raid.
Led by prominent activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were gender non-conforming, the riots sparked an entire civil rights movement, and are the reason Pride Month is celebrated in June.
Some of the first Pride marches began on the anniversary of the riots in 1970, and in many countries Prides are still often known as Christopher Street Day Parades in honour of the pub’s location.
Janet Mock attends the "Pose" New York Premiere at Hammerstein Ballroom on May 17, 2018 in New York City (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images) Activist and writer Janet Mock made history on Sunday, when the episode of Pose she wrote and directed aired on FX to virtually unanimous acclaim.
Mock became the first transgender person of colour to direct a TV show. “Love is the Message” was the sixth episode of the show’s inaugural season, for which Mock also worked as a writer—the first trans woman of colour to write for television—and producer. Set in the late 1980s, Pose focuses on life and society in New York City, from its iconic ball culture to the rise of the Donald Trump-like billionaires, on the backdrop of the AIDS crisis.
The musical drama series was created by acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer Ryan Murphy and features the largest transgender cast on television while also featuring trans talent behind the scenes— Transparent writer and producer Our Lady J also wrote and produced for Pose . Activist Janet Mock attends the TIME 100 Gala celebrating its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People In The World at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2018 in New York City (Photo by Angela Weiss//AFP/Getty Images) Mock, who was included in the prestigious Time 100 Most Influential People in the World this year for her work as an advocate for “marginalised communities everywhere,” had no previous experience directing or writing for television. She told Murphy she wanted this opportunity to “tell stories and to create the mirrors that I didn’t have growing up,” as she recalled in a recent article for Variety .
Murphy, who in 2016 launched the “Half” initiative to ensure at least half of the episodes produced by his company would be directed by women, people of colour and members of the LGBT+ community, recently told The New York Times it’s important to give people first chances. “That’s how you change the world,” he said.
He congratulated Mock’s directorial debut in a heartfelt message on Twitter on Sunday. “I’m more proud of tonight’s episode of POSE co-written with the extraordinary Janet Mock than almost anything I’ve ever done. Janet directed this episode with class & heart. Again she breaks down walls & barriers & makes history as the first trans woman of color to direct an episode of TV,” he wrote, also congratulating the cast on their performances. Janet Mock attends the FX ‘Pose’ Ball in Harlem on June 2, 2018 in New York City (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for FX Networks) “I dedicate this episode to all those we have lost from AIDS. We need to remember, and never forget. Thank you Janet and the cast and crew for making me weep and yet cheer for what is possible when LOVE IS THE MESSAGE,” Murphy added, referencing the episode’s title.
Mock live-tweeted during the episode, sharing insights into her directorial decisions and highlights. “We are deserving of opportunity & more than capable,” she wrote in a post featuring a picture of herself taken on her first night as a director on the set. Taken my first night on set as Director of Episode 6: LOVE IS THE MESSAGE. That smile hides my nerves about being the first trans woman of color to write & direct TV. We are deserving of opportunity & more than capable. My directorial debut airs tonight on @FXNetworks . #posefx pic.twitter.com/BgOmNyBAEn
In recent years, Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation has made for a toxic environment for the country’s LGBT community. In 2013, a law passed that banned “gay propaganda” in Russia , including the rainbow LGBT flag.
To protest Russia’s homophobic discrimination, six activists from FELGTB decided to display the rainbow flag in plain sight … with soccer jerseys.
The group donned jerseys from Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia and visited iconic sites in Russia. They even stood beside Russian police. La bandera arcoíris regatea las leyes rusas y se planta en pleno Mundial Muy orgullosxs de presentar #HiddenFlag. La protesta de la @FELGTB en Rusia #Pride #Orgullo2018 #Rusia2018 theHiddenFlag.org @tles @primocontent @diego.speroni A post shared by LOLA MullenLowe (@lolamullenlowe) on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:29am PDT They wrote of the project, called Hidden Flag : When Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in 1978, he did so to create a symbol and an icon for the LGTB community. A symbol, recognisable across the world, that people could use to express their pride. Unfortunately, 40 years later, there are still countries in which homosexuality is persecuted, sometimes even by jail sentences, and in which the rainbow flag is forbidden. Russia is one of these countries. Because of this, we have taken advantage of the fact the country is hosting the World Cup at the same time as Pride Month, to denounce their behaviour and take the rainbow flag to the streets of Russia.
Yes, in the plain light of day, in front of the Russian authorities, Russian society and the whole world, we wave the flag with pride. How? In a way that no one would ever suspect. Football shirts. Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. Six countries. Six brave LGBT activists, that together, form the flag that toured around iconic sites in Russia, traveling to every corner to fight against a struggle that will never be silenced. You can find more about their efforts here .
Katherine Frey/Washington Post Kenneth MacLean, who was married to his wife for 42 years, fell in love with a man from England after his wife died more than 22 years ago. He travels to England once a year to visit, and his partner, Terry, 81, comes to stay with him at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Md., for a few months every year. By Tara Bahrampour | The Washington Post
In 2016, as Kenneth MacLean was about to turn 90 and was looking to move to a retirement community, he had a question for Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“I asked, ‘Would there be many gays here? Would gays be welcomed?’ ” MacLean, a retired Unitarian minister, wanted to be sure his partner of 22 years, a man who lives in England and spends several months a year visiting him, would be welcomed by staff and other residents. Start your day with the news you need from the Bay Area and beyond.
Sign up for our Morning Report weekday newsletter . The staff member he talked to was generally positive about the community being welcoming, MacLean said, but “not quite ready” to answer his questions about gay residents. MacLean subsequently moved in and felt comfortable introducing his partner. But even after almost two years there, he has little sense of how many of his 1,400 fellow residents on the sprawling, leafy campus are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
That could soon change. Last month, Asbury became the first facility in the Washington, D.C., region to receive LGBT-friendly certification from SAGECare, a program run by SAGE, a national advocacy organization for older LGBT people.
The certification program began two years ago to address the needs of the aging Stonewall generation — LGBT people who were at the forefront of the national battles for equality and acceptance in the 20th century. An estimated 2.7 million Americans 50 or older identify as LGBT, and that number is projected to exceed 5 million by 2060, according to a study by the University of Washington.
As they age, it is not always easy to find facilities where they are comfortable being out. While a few cater primarily to an LGBT clientele, the vast majority of older LGBT people will live in facilities that serve the general population, according to SAGE. Many worry that their peers, raised in an era when homosexuality was seen as criminal or deviant behavior, will not be welcoming or that they will face hostility from staff.
A 2015 report from the advocacy group Justice in Aging found that over three quarters of older LGBT people thought they or their peers could not be open with the staff of a nursing home or assisted living facility about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The SAGECare certification aims to address this, and so far, close to 300 providers in 45 states have received it.
Facilities in historically progressive places like California, Washington state and New York have been more proactive about indicating they are LGBT-friendly, said Rob Liebreich, Asbury’s executive director, who previously worked in Seattle.
But the Washington, D.C., metro area has been slower to adapt, and local LGBT people have worried they would have to go back into the closet or risk being mistreated. Looking into facilities, they are not always comfortable inquiring about policies regarding LGBT residents, relying instead on word of mouth or discreet conversations with current members.
Arriving a year and a half ago, Liebreich decided the 92-year-old Asbury should make a more concerted effort to reach out. “We hadn’t been serving them as intentionally as we could,” he said.
So far, Asbury has trained 25 percent of its staff on cultural competency; by August, it plans to have 80 percent trained, including executives who will receive four hours of intensive education, qualifying it for SAGECare’s highest level of certification.
Along with the SAGECare training, the facility started an LGBT task force in March charged with coming up with ways to engage residents on the subject. These have included showing the documentary “Gen Silent” (about challenges faced by older LGBT people) to residents and associates and advertising in a local guide focused on LGBT people.
Signaling that a facility is LGBT-friendly is not always a simple process. Unlike MacLean, many potential residents don’t inquire about it directly, and intake forms at Asbury don’t ask about a person’s sexual identity. This month, the facility announced its SAGECare certification on its website, but other than that, there are few overt indicators that it welcomes LGBT residents.
But staff members are implementing the lessons learned from their training, such as employing subtle language cues to help LGBT people feel welcome. For example, instead of describing an event as “Family Day,” the phrase “All Families Welcome” is more all-encompassing, said Susan Grotenhuis, Asbury’s family and outreach coordinator. Similarly, she said, “instead of asking someone, ‘Tell me about your family,’ you could say, ‘Tell me about the important people in your life.’ ”
The training also teaches staff not to gloss over people’s concerns about discrimination. For example, if a potential resident says she wasn’t sure whether she should bring her partner to the facility, “The initial response might be, ‘Oh, why would you think that? Of course, you would be welcome,’ ” Grotenhuis said. “But it’s better to be more sensitive, to say, ‘Oh, I understand why you might have been concerned, but we’re very welcoming toward LGBT people, and we would welcome you to our community.’”
Staff are also trained in how to navigate terminology. ” ‘Queer’ may be OK for some, but for older people, it might come with some stigma and negativity,” Grotenhuis said, adding that it’s best to take cues from the residents’ own language during a conversation.
Since Asbury received SAGECare training, several other local facilities have begun working toward certification.
“What we often see in states and regions is that once the first retirement community steps forward, then many others will follow suit,” said Michael Adams, SAGE’s chief executive. “This is an important first step to bringing the region up to par.”
Facilities that have received the training say it has made a difference. The New Jewish Home, a facility on New York City’s Upper West Side with over 500 residents, began working with SAGE before it started offering the credential. While there were always LGBT residents, it is now taking a more active approach to making them feel comfortable, said Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, its director of spiritual care and religious life and a co-chair of its LGBT welcoming initiative. There are now rainbow flag decals on the front door and on the doors of key administrative offices, and some staff members wear rainbow pins on their ID badges.
“The onus is on the institution to anticipate and allay the anxiety and fear, to say, ‘You’re welcome; if you want to share this, we’re ready for you,’ ” Malamy said. Since receiving the training, “I think we are freer about the conversations, and they are less fraught. … I think the difference now is, this is part of our mandate and our responsibility, and we shouldn’t rely on other people … to step up and start the conversation.”
Green Hill, a 175-resident continuing-care facility in West Orange, New Jersey, that received SAGECare certification two years ago, has a section on its website devoted to LGBT issues and a nondiscrimination notice in the lobby. Last month, it raised a rainbow flag for the first time.
While many residents applauded such moves, some did not. “There have been, with some older residents, one or two mentions of discomfort that their whole home environment is going to be changed,” said Amy Simon, a spokeswoman and LGBT senior housing and care program director there. “We talk with them about making a place for everyone and about not being concerned about it unless something should pass that gives them concern.”
At places such as Asbury, where very few residents are openly gay, it may take longer for them to feel comfortable talking about it. It’s the last day of #PrideMonth ! There is ONE final reason from our list of 10 to give to SAGE and support #LGBT pioneers, and it’s a biggie. We’ve been fighting for #LGBT elders for #40FierceYears ! Donate today to ensure we’re here for another 40: https://t.co/jzlF2RikSM pic.twitter.com/rk4HAxNXe3 “If someone has a need to know, I’d be happy to tell them,” said Bill Mullinix, a retired teacher who moved there in December. “I haven’t announced it to anyone. But when you’ve never been married and you’re 77 years old, I think most people can figure it out.”
Alice Wong, 75, a retired federal civil servant, is an active member of PFLAG, an organization for parents of LGBT people. When she moved to Asbury four years ago, she wondered whether her daughter Ellen, a lesbian, would be accepted there.
“I didn’t ask about it, but I did worry about it. I assumed that coming from New York, I was moving into a much more conservative area,” she said. “It wasn’t part of my looking, whether it was gay-friendly. I sort of assumed it wouldn’t be.”
Wong said she has never encountered any negative feedback about her daughter. Still, it is hard for her and others to know who else at Asbury might be LGBT or how their neighbors feel about it.
“We don’t really know what the opinions are because there hasn’t been that much discussion,” MacLean said. “The subject hasn’t come up.”
That is likely to change soon, too. A group that runs a resident lecture series is planning a panel discussion on LGBT issues in October that will include Wong. And during Pride Month in June, more rainbow flags than ever before popped up on balconies and apartment doors around the campus.
Sitting with MacLean, Mullinix and Liebreich last week to talk about the topic, Wong mused about the idea of a meeting group for LGBT residents, similar to the Norwegian group that gets together.
“Well, it’d be kind of small,” Mullinix said.
“I think it would be bigger than you think,” Liebreich said.