Just 50 years ago, the Compton Cafe Riot, which took place in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, initiated a change in how police treated the city’s transgender community. While this event isn’t widely known, perhaps because police records of the incident no longer exist and it wasn’t covered by the mainstream media, it is an important part of our city’s rich and complicated LGBTQ history.
It’s incredible to think about how far our city, and even our country, has come since then when it comes to embracing diversity. Of course, we owe this progress to the relentless, strong, brave heroes in the LGBTQ community who stood up to the injustice, discrimination, and violence that unrightfully plagued them. These heroes are now older adults who are still active members of our LGBTQ community.
Every year at Institute on Aging (IOA), we host a variety of Pride events for our diverse staff and our aging adult LGBTQ community to celebrate diversity, love, and togetherness. This year, we partnered with other local organizations and held a variety of fun, inspiring, and welcoming events to honor Pride.
Celebrating Pride with our Aging LGBT Community
IOA kicked off Pride month with the annual flag drop, which is always a well-attended event. It’s significant and special not only to our wonderfully diverse staff, but it is also a chance to commemorate the older LGBTQ adults in our community that we have the pleasure of serving.
On June 14th and 15th, we held a two-night marathon viewing of “When We Rise,” a mini-series that recounts the personal and public struggles of the LGBTQ community—a history that isn’t often told. The fight for civil rights in the United States is chronicled, beginning with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, but it is centered around the San Francisco community. Following the first night’s viewing, we hosted a Q&A session with a guest panel of local LGBTQ heroes, Diane Jones, Roma Guy, Celia Chung, and Ken Jones, who were each featured in the miniseries.
On June 20th we were happy to collaborate with the Alzheimer’s Association, Openhouse, and Family Caregiver Alliance to offer comprehensive training for caregivers of LGBT older adults. The program, entitled “The San Francisco LGBT Dementia Care Project: Increasing Access to Dementia Capable Care for the LGBT Community,” was funded by the San Francisco County Department of Aging and Adult Services and was taught by Rochelle Towers, MSW, of Openhouse and Alex Morris, MA, of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The audience of over 50 attendees was comprised of mostly IOA staff members but included some other aging-services providers. The aim of the program was to increase access to dementia-capable care for the LGBTQ community by identifying issues that affect older LGBTQ adults who are living with dementia and to provide training in the specific areas of LGBTQ cultural humility, compassionate communication, and LGBTQ caregiver concerns.
With a goal of providing a safe place for older LGBTQ adults to celebrate who they are and who they love, we partnered with Openhouse to offer our second annual Pride Prom. A live band, great food, punch, and gorgeous decorations created a festive space for older LGBTQ adults to have the prom that many of them didn’t get to have in high school—and of course, they were encouraged to bring their sweethearts. For many of our attendees, it was the first prom that they’d ever attended. The celebratory event encouraged older LGBTQ adults to connect with one another and forge new friendships.
Of course, IOA also participated in San Francisco’s Pride parade to celebrate all of our LGBTQ staff members. We marched with a banner that read “Keep America Diverse.” For us, this was an exceptionally important Pride parade to take a strong stand against some of the current events and political changes that are threatening the LGBTQ community.
Embracing a Diverse Population of Aging Adults
At IOA, it is important to us that all of our employees and our clients feel loved and welcomed, no matter what—and that is the goal of all of the Pride events we hold each year. It is important, however, that we keep the spirit of Pride alive even after the events and festivities are over. At IOA, we consistently offer cultural competency training for our stall, volunteers, and community to ensure that we can best meet the needs of this diverse community.
The LGBTQ community has faced so many challenges over the years, and they continue to as they reach later adulthood. Social isolation, compromised access to housing, and caregiver issues all call for creating a new standard for how to best serve this diverse community. This begins with individualized care, listening to the needs of aging LGBT adults, and creating an environment in which everyone truly feels safe to be themselves so that they can live healthy, independent lives.
At Institute on Aging, we believe in serving a diverse population of adults. We work with members of the LGBTQ community to ensure that everyone receives the care they need as they age. Our programs help older LGBTQ adults age with dignity, support, and pride. Connect with us today to learn more.