May Is Older Adults Month

Older adults play an important role in our society, and enhance the vitality and richness of our families, neighborhoods, social networks, and lives. That’s why, every May, the Administration for Community Living leads a national observance of Older Americans Month. This year’s theme: Connect, Create, Contribute.

Although largely invisible until very recently, LGBTQ older adults make up a significant—and growing—share of both the overall LGBTQ population and the larger 65+ population. MAP recognizes that by engaging and supporting all community members we build a stronger society. We also recognize there are challenges for older Americans, especially those in the LGBTQ community, who face unique issues stemming from stigma, isolation, and discrimination. While confronted with the same challenges that face all people as they age, LGBTQ elders also face an array of unique barriers and inequalities that can stand in the way of a healthy and rewarding later life. Two MAP videos highlight just a few of the many challenges older LGBTQ adults face:

Our Nursing Home ad, released in partnership with SAGE and the Open to All coalition, illustrates the devastating harms many LGBTQ Americans face because of discrimination. The video features an older gay man and his family on the first day he moves into an assisted living facility. When the director of the facility learns the man is gay, he refuses to allow him to move in.

Our video, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults, which was created to supplement the report of the same name, follows Jackie and Tina, two women born in the same town during the same year, and whose lives take very different turns and takes a look at their unique needs and experiences.

Older Americans Month is an important reminder to celebrate all of the members of our community. Please join MAP as we join in the discussion and share suggestions, resources, and materials that provide valuable insights and data into the lives of LGBTQ older adults.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
The following sharable resources offer an overview into the lives of LGBTQ older adults.

SCOTUS to Decide if LGBT Workers Are Protected: What’s At Stake?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear three cases related to protections for LGBT people under federal law. The cases are Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgiaand R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The first two cases relate to whether federal employment law’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, while the last case examines whether the law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. It is surprising for many people to learn that there is currently a confusing patchwork of legal protections for LGBT people.  While many federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) already recognize that discrimination against LGBTQ people involves forms of unlawful sex discrimination, these protections are under attack. Are LGBT Workers Protected from Discrimination? Unravelling the Patchwork of Federal, State, and Local Employment Protections, a resource from MAP, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal helps to make sense of the current situation.

The U.S. Supreme Court taking these cases is important for a few reasons.

First, LGBT people lack explicit protections under federal law and have relied on explicit state-level protections, explicit county or city-level protections, and the ability to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to seek recourse when they are treated unfairly on the job.

Second, a growing number of district and circuit level federal courts have ruled that when someone is fired for being transgender, that firing is inherently based on sex stereotypes about what it means to be a man or a woman, and is thus illegal under existing federal law. Similarly, multiple courts have ruled that if a person is fired for their sexual orientation, that is also discrimination based on sex. For example, if a woman is fired for being married to another woman, that discrimination is based on her sex: if she were a man, being married to a woman would not lead to being fired. Yet, the employers in these cases say that it should be perfectly lawful to fire someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The U.S. Supreme Court likely took these cases because of the “split circuits” on this issue as seen in these maps.

No one should be fired just because of who they are.

Finally, clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court could have an incredible impact on the lives of LGBT people.  One in four LGBT people report experiencing discrimination in the past year. If the Supreme Court were to affirm that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under federal law, that would mean that LGBT people nationwide would be protected by our nation’s civil rights legislation in the areas of employment, housing, education, and more. No longer would LGBT people’s access to basic equal protections depend on their state of residence. If the Court were to rule that federal law does not explicitly apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, it would bolster the case for the Equality Act and other state legislation that would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

These cases will be argued before the court in fall of 2019.

For more about these cases and what’s a stake, read this brief authored by MAP, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal.

What’s Best for Kids in Tennessee?

There are more than 443,000 children in the foster care system across the country and about 1,300 of those children live in Tennessee. For some of these children, foster homes are needed until they can return to their families. For others, adoption is the long-term goal.  And yet, there is a constant shortage of qualified families who step forward to welcome a foster or adoptive child in their homes.

Yet, lawmakers in Tennessee are currently considering legislation that would overlook the best interest of these children and instead allow state-contracted agencies to discriminate in choosing which families for placement. This legislation would harm the most vulnerable children in the state by limiting the families who could provide loving homes to them, simply because of who they are. Check out the Tennessee Equality Project for more information and ways to take action.

An ad, re-released and updated for 2019, from MAP, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), entitled “Kids Pay the Price,” vividly depicts the kinds of harms children can face when agencies and workers are allowed to prioritize their individual beliefs over the best interests of children. In the ad, a social worker is depicted saying she would rather keep a child in foster care than allow her to be adopted by a qualified gay or lesbian couple; a child placement worker says that her agency has strict beliefs, and if parents are Jewish, she shouldn’t have to place kids in those homes; and a placement worker says he shouldn’t have to place children in homes that don’t share his belief in “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Tennessee isn’t alone in considering this type of action. Recent events have reached a crisis point, with an increasing number of states and even the federal government permitting taxpayer-funded discrimination at the expense of vulnerable children who need safe and loving homes.

Most recently:

  • In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted an exemption to the state of South Carolina to allow it to contract with agencies that refuse to consider families who do not meet a religious litmus test set by the agency. This waiver was precipitated by an agency that had turned away Jewish and Catholic perspective parents because they didn’t meet the agency’s Evangelical Christian standard.
  • Last year, three states passed legislation allowing agencies to discriminate.
  • A line item in the 2020 budget proposed by the Trump Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services states that the agency will allow child welfare programs to discriminate based on religious beliefs, following the issuance of the waiver to South Carolina’s Miracle Hill Ministries.

There is good news, however. Last month, the State of Michigan, in response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of a lesbian couple turned away by state-contracted agencies, agreed to enforce nondiscrimination provisions in state child welfare contracts and to not permit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, and other characteristics. This brings the number of states that permit taxpayer-funded discrimination to eight (though two more states, Michigan and Alabama, permit discrimination by agencies that do not receive state contracts).

As Christine James-Brown, CEO and President of CWLA, explains at the end of the ad, “We have laws governing child services agencies for a reason,” James-Brown says in the ad. “When states allow adoption decisions to be based on a worker’s individual beliefs, rather than the best interests of children, it’s children who pay the price.”

 

Voices of Rural LGBT America: A Queer Latina Living in Rural Michigan

Stefani has lived in rural areas in both Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and the heavily-rural Upper Peninsula. From a young age, Stefani struggled with physical symptoms that doctors struggled to diagnose. In her rural town outside of Traverse City, the physicians she went to in search of support dismissed these symptoms as related to her weight or potential anxiety.

“When the doctors are uncomfortable with your body and who you are, they speak from that place of discomfort rather than medical knowledge,” she said.

In light of such invalidating and ineffective medical care, Stefani coped with her symptoms for years until moving to the Upper Peninsula for college. When she sought medical help again, the student center doctors believed her, but referred her to specialists outside the university system. Stefani recalls, “the specialists couldn’t get over the fact that I was queer, let alone fat, let alone Latina. All of which prevented them from seeing me as a serious patient with serious symptoms.” Again, the doctors attributed her symptoms to her weight, or dismissed them as anxiety attacks. One doctor even told her, “women have these attacks.”

Eventually, Stefani’s mom, who had extensive experience navigating the medical system after working as a medical interpreter for migrant workers, drove over eight hours to go with her daughter to the doctor.

“Just having her as a validator of my experiences was so important. If I wouldn’t have had that back up, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten my diagnosis. But I had the privilege of her experiences, and her ability to make that trip for me. I really believe I would’ve had a different experience in a non-rural environment because I could’ve gone to a different doctor who believed me. …It’s just like any rural place: we don’t have enough access to health care outside of the big cities.”

Even in the largest city in the region, Stefani points out, “there are extremely few specialists, so you’re stuck with them unless you can afford to travel. And, even when you find an accepting doctor, they may have never knowingly treated an LGBT patient. So, you end up having to educate your own doctor about how they need to treat you.”

While Stefani’s experiences in rural settings include these stories of discrimination and poor treatment, she says she ultimately loves living in rural Michigan. LGBT people living in rural communities have many positive experiences and reasons for living where they live–whether because it’s where they grew up or their families live; because they seek a closer connection to nature; or because they moved there for a job opportunity. Stefani moved to the Upper Peninsula for college and chose to stay there because she loved it.

“What I like definitely outweighs the negative experiences that I’ve had. This is my ninth year here and I wouldn’t still be living in a rural environment if it didn’t call to me. My parents live in Detroit and I could easily move there if I wanted. My work as an activist is most needed in this place. I can find really enriching opportunities to help people who don’t have access to any formalized resources. The rural LGBT community that gets built is so strong and so resilient and really willing to come together and be supportive in ways I haven’t found as much in big cities. Here, they really show up for you.”

Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America, the latest report from MAP, released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, seeks to raise the visibility of LGBT people living in rural America. And while the report documents key challenges facing LGBT people, including lack of vital legal protections and meaningful political representation, it also showcases the joys and rewards of living in rural America for LGBT people and their families.

Voices of Rural LGBT America: One Dad’s Story of Looking for Work in Montana

Last week, MAP published a comprehensive look at the lives of LGBT people living in rural America. Released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America highlights both the joys and challenges of rural LGBT people in many areas of life.

Integral to understanding – and then advocating for – the lives of rural LGBT people is hearing their stories.

Bert lives with his husband, Dan, in Miles City, Montana, a town with a population of 8,483. Bert’s story highlights the extent to which employment options can be limited, particularly for LGBT people, in rural communities because of discrimination and the lack of employment protections.

After losing his job close to home, Bert applied to a job 70 miles away at St. Labre Indian School, a private Catholic high school serving children from neighboring Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations. As both a Catholic and a Blackfeet Native American, Bert felt this was a natural fit, and that he and Dan would figure out a way to make the long commute work. He excitedly accepted the well-paying job when the school offered it to him.

But when Bert looked for housing at the school, in case bad weather ever meant he needed to stay nearby rather than make the long drive home to his family, he mentioned his husband and children to the St. Labre employee showing him available housing. A few days later, Bert received a call from the school’s administrator, asking him to come speak with the entire school board.

“Are you a practicing homosexual?” the board asked Bert. “Why didn’t you mention this when we asked in your interview if you lived by Catholic values?” they asked. Bert explains what happened next: “I live my life by the morals and values I was taught in Catholic school, so of course I answered truthfully that I live by Catholic values. I didn’t think this was a problem.” The school rescinded the job offer, leaving Bert without a job to provide for his family.  Eventually he found another job, but for considerably less pay than what St. Labre had offered.

LGBT people in rural areas shouldn’t have to choose between living in communities where they have supportive family and friends and deep roots, and providing for themselves and their families.

Yet, because the United States lacks comprehensive, explicit federal protections for LGBT people at work, and because rural states are far less likely to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws in employment, housing, public accommodations and more, this is a choice that many LGBT people are forced to make, particularly because there may be fewer job opportunities and they may have to travel a farther distance to find work.

Ensuring that all people can live and thrive in the communities big and small requires action by lawmakers and advocacy and support on the part of businesses, communities, and allies. Learn more about LGBT people’s experiences in rural America in this new report from MAP and what can be done to advance equality across the country.

NEW REPORT: Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America

Popular culture images of LGBT people suggest that most LGBT people live in cities or on the coasts. Yet 2.9 – 3.8 million LGBT people call rural America home.

Today, the Movement Advancement Project released a new report, Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America, which examines the structural differences in rural life and their unique impact on LGBT people in rural areas, who are both more vulnerable to discrimination and less able to respond to its harmful effects. Among other challenges, rural LGBT people are less likely to have explicit nondiscrimination protections, are more likely to live in areas with religious exemption laws that may allow service providers to discriminate, and have fewer alternatives when facing discrimination, as detailed in a new report released today.

Click here to read the exclusive USA Today article about the report.

Although LGBT people in rural areas face many of the same challenges as their neighbors, they experience different consequences, and the many structural challenges of living in rural communities can often amplify LGBT people’s experiences of both acceptance and rejection. The report findings include that:

  • The interconnectedness of rural communities leads to ripple effectsacross many aspects of life. For example, if a person is excluded from their faith community for being gay, they may have a difficult time at work or finding a job, because their church members may also be their coworkers or potential employers. Conversely, if a rural church community or employer takes a supportive stand for local LGBT residents, that support can also ripple outward to other areas of life.
  • When LGBT people (and particularly LGBT people of color) in rural areas do face discrimination, they may have no or fewer alternatives to find a restaurant, doctor, job, home, faith community, and more. And, more service providers in rural areas are religiously-affiliated and are covered under religious exemption laws that may allow them to discriminate, even when providing public services.
  • LGBT people in rural areas are more vulnerable to discrimination. Rural areas are more likely to lack explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people and more likely to have laws allowing religious service providers to turn LGBT people away.

Click here to view infographics pulled from Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America

LGBT people live in rural areas for the same reasons as other people, such as love of family, the strength of tight-knit rural communities, and connection to the land. However, the social and political landscape of rural America means that rural LGBT people are more vulnerable to discrimination. This is why nondiscrimination laws are vital, so that rural LGBT people don’t have to choose between basic protections and the place they call home.

The report is released in partnership with the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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Why Visibility and Acceptance Matter for Trans People

March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual day dedicated to raising up the voices and victories of transgender and gender nonconforming people around the world. First celebrated in 2009, TDOV has always been a critical component of advancing full equality for the entire LGBT community.

In recent years, trans folks’ visibility has increased dramatically in politics, pop culture, and beyond. However, despite growing mainstream awareness of who transgender people are, trans folks, and particularly transgender women and transgender people of color, still face enormous barriers to their safety, health, and well-being.

Here are just a few troubling statistics:

  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that, among transgender people who had ever lost a job, 30% had lost their job because of their gender identity or expression.
  • In the past year alone, among transgender people who visited a place of public accommodation and staff knew or thought they were transgender, 31% experienced some or multiple kinds of discrimination or mistreatment, including 24% who were verbally harassed, 14% of respondents who were denied equal treatment or service, and 2% who were physically attacked because they were transgender.
  • Transgender youth are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness, experience discrimination and bullying in schools, suffer from depression, and experience suicidal ideation, and these risks are exacerbated the more transgender young people experience rejection.
  • Bisexual and pansexual transgender respondents were more likely to live in poverty than were gay, lesbian, and heterosexual transgender people.
  • Nearly half (48%) of transgender older adults live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
  • 17 states require proof of surgery in order to change gender marker on their birth certificate, and three states don’t allow any amendments to the gender marker at all.

That’s why visibility matters.

Research shows that only 21% of all Americans report having a close friend

or family member who is transgender, compared to 70% who have a gay or lesbian friend or family member. Among rural residents, only 15% report having a transgender person who is close to them.

It can be hard to understand what it means to be transgender, especially if you’ve never met a transgender person. But when people have a transgender friend or family member, they are much more likely to support the policies and priorities trans folks need to be healthy and thrive: from accessing comprehensive and competent healthcare, to having safe and supportive school environments.

Most recently, MAP partnered with the Biden Foundation, and Gender Spectrum to launch “Advancing Acceptance” to raise awareness of the importance of family and community acceptance in the lives of transgender and gender diverse youth. According to the Biden Foundation, when parents and families accept and embrace their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) child, that acceptance dramatically improves their child’s self-esteem and decreases the likelihood they will experience depression or suicidal ideation, or engage in self-harming behaviors. And research shows that, when transgender youth are accepted and affirmed at home, in school, and in their communities, they experience greatly reduced anxiety and depression, and greatly improved self-esteem, academic success, and happiness.

And visibility is more than just asking transgender people to make themselves more visible (and potentially more vulnerable to discrimination as a result). Amid an increasingly hostile political environment, it’s also imperative to raise visibility of acceptance of transgender people, both to provide role models for non-transgender people to learn how best to support trans people, and to provide transgender and nonbinary people with visible reminders that they are loved and not alone.

To find out what you can do to improve visibility in your community, visit Advancing Acceptance’s Community Resources. Click here for additional resources that offer an overview into the lives of transgender people, maps and reports about the legal landscape and the impact on transgender youth and adults, and the threat of religious exemptions to the health and wellbeing of transgender people.

1,300 Businesses Across Florida Declare They Are “Open to All”

Today, nearly 1,300 businesses across Florida are joining Open to All, the national public education campaign that unites leaders in business, civic engagement, and the nonprofit sector across the United States to raise awareness of the importance of protecting everyone from nondiscrimination and to defend the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.

Members of the Florida-based coalition Open Doors (Puertas Abiertas), declared that they are Open to All, and pledged to not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, age, immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion or disability.

Open Doors, a project of Equality Florida,is a bilingual, mobile-friendly Florida business directory open to businesses, faith organizations, and other venues with strong nondiscrimination policies that include LGBT protections. The directory makes it easier for residents and visitors alike to seek out places they can be assured will welcome and respect them and their families.

By joining Open to All, these businesses are taking a stand, not just against discrimination against LGBT people, but by publicly committing to serve everyone on equal terms, regardless of who they are. This partnership also brings national visibility to Florida’s businesses and strengthens efforts in the state to support diversity and inclusion. Businesses who take the Open to All business pledge are featured publicly on the Open to All website.

Included among the 1,300 businesses joining Open to All today are Gap Inc. stores across the state. Last October, Gap Inc. announced it was signing the Open to All business pledge and urging other business leaders across the nation to add their voices and declare they are Open to All. Gap Inc. stores include Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, and Intermix, with over 140 stores in Florida, Gap’s third largest market.

Last week the city of San Francisco became the first city to issue an official proclamation declaring it is Open to All. Mayor London Breed called upon businesses across the city to sign the business pledge and take a stand against discrimination. She also urged cities across the country to take similar action and proclaim that they are Open to all.

With your support, Open to All can reach even more businesses in cities and states across the country and ask them to take a stand against discrimination!

TAKE ACTION

The Open to All campaign was developed by and is a project of the Movement Advancement Project.

 

San Francisco Proclaims It’s “Open to All!”

Today San Francisco became the first city to issue an official proclamation declaring it is Open to All. Open to All is the nationwide public engagement campaign to build understanding and discussion about the importance of protecting people from discrimination—and the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.

Check out some of the photos from today’s event.

By joining Open to All, San Francisco is continuing its leadership in diversity and inclusion by pledging to welcome everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion or disability.

Click here to read Mayor London Breed’s op-ed about why San Francisco is joining Open to All.

To commemorate the occasion, Mayor Breed and Supervisor Mandelman hosted a kick-off event in Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco featuring elected officials from across the city, community leaders, and business owners who have signed the Open to All business pledge.

Mayor Breed called upon businesses across the city to sign the business pledge and take a stand against discrimination. She also urged cities across the country to take similar action and proclaim that they are Open to all.

TAKE ACTION: