Michael Adams

Progress Is Measured By Dollars Too

Filed By Michael Adams | October 26, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: elderly gay men, elderly lesbians, gay rights, LGBT rights, LGBT seniors, Obama Administration, SAGE, seniors

Some of our recent juxtaposed headlines - thousands marching for LGBT equality in the nation's capital at the same time that President Obama is speaking at an HRC dinner and Congress is passing LGBT hate crimes legislation - are fanning the latest round of debate about whether the Obama administration is doing enough to support equality and fairness for LGBT people. Those discussions are extremely important. As the President himself said during his HRC speech, it is entirely understandable that a lot of people aren't feeling very patient.

Recently I've found myself thinking about what counts as progress. The fact is that many of the federal policy changes that can make a huge difference in the quality of life for LGBT people aren't flashy enough to grab headlines when they happen.

For example, recently the U.S. Administration on Aging announced the very first federal grant to an LGBT senior program. The grant, to the L.A. Community Center to support a new senior program there, will make a big difference in the lives of older people, who too often live on the edge. And last week, the Department of Health & Human Services announced federal funding to create the first-ever national resource center to provide assistance to programs serving LGBT older adults.

Of course, it shouldn't have taken until 2009 for these things to happen. But it took an election to change the equation.

I shared (and continue to share) the hopes of many LGBT community members that the Obama administration will soon tackle hot button issues like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and marriage. But when I trooped off to Pennsylvania to work for candidate Obama last Fall I was also motivated by my rage over the prior administration's complete disregard for the needs of this country's older people who happen to be LGBT.

The election brought new opportunities. And since Day One of the Obama Administration, organizations that advocate for LGBT older adults have been pushing for an end to the shameful disregard for LGBT seniors in federal funding and policy.

One grant does not change the world, and if the progress were to stop here we would be deeply disappointed. But from our perspective the federal grant to the L.A. Center and the new national resource center are important breakthroughs, and we count them as real progress for which the Administration deserves credit. Yet few LGBT people will ever learn of these developments.

It's part of the frustrating invisibility of LGBT aging issues in our own ranks. Aging issues aren't discussed that much in the LGBT blogosphere, just like older LGBT faces aren't seen that much in LGBT media. At SAGE, we're always trying to chip away at that invisibility.

Chip ... Chip ...

But I digress.

By the end of his time in office, President Obama's LGBT record will be judged by the full spectrum of what he did, and didn't do. Along the way, it's our right, and in fact our responsibility, to call out the Administration on what they haven't done yet in the fight for LGBT equality.

Lots of LGBT older people in Los Angeles and across the country will benefit greatly from these recent steps by the Obama Administration. Since we're not likely to get a blog post from any of them about it, it seems worth giving a shout out here for some recent progress that came in the form of dollars for LGBT community members who often don't have them. As slow as the progress sometimes seems, we are in fact chipping away at the monumental inequalities we confront at the federal level.

Chip ... Chip ...

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Even chipping away is forward progress. I'm tired of hanging on by my fingernails as all the negatives wash over me.

Congrats on making LGBT seniors a priority, Michael. You're doing good work for a large segment of our community.

Forward motion is forward motion, anyone who says otherwise is stupid or blind.

That doesn't mean we stop putting positive pressure on our leaders. They need to see us and hear from us in many ways. They need to keep considering our issues. They have a lot on their plate, and it would be easy to forget about us if we're too quiet.

But say the right things. And be grateful for real progress. Like the old saying goes: "Mourn the losses because they are many, but celebrate the victories because they are few!"