Trans Aging and Policies

by Emilia Dunham

Reporting on the Philly Trans Health Conference

The last session I attend in day 1 was perhaps one of the most enlightening of the day. Serena Worthington of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and others presented on issues facing trans elders and steps to be done. 

There needs to be just as much priority of programs and funding to include LGBT elders. Hopefully new national health reports that recommend research on LGBT elders will alleviate the vast, VAST gaps in this area as there are many disparities in the community and neglect from the larger LGBT community. Other opportunities with the Older Americans Act may allow for new care for LGB and trans people.

Currently organizations like SAGE are developing national policy strategies to identify action items and to identify issues among LGBT elders that can be addressed in the short- and long-term.

Issues for trans elders

  • Issues particular to trans elders
  • NCTE’s study shows that transgender people are much more likely to be harassed in employment; lose jobs; lose relationships with family, friends and partners. This is of course dramatic for trans elders who are already at risk for social stigma, unequal treatment in social services, loss of families, etc.
  • Invisibility (we don’t know how to identify trans and LGB elders or whether they want to be found)
  • Inability to change gender marker on federal documents such as social security & Medicaid
  • The pain of not being able to access care and aligning body, identity documents and one’s gender identity is difficult for this community especially in the “end of life” when they don’t know if this will be able to happen. Even being buried with the correct name is problematic for some and ILLEGAL in some areas (Oklahoma) — READ: ILLEGAL! What??!

Ok, obviously there are some REAL issues here, but how often do we hear about trans or LGB elders and how often do our programs include these folks?

Published by Emilia Dunham, MPP, MBA

Emilia Dunham is currently a Project Manager at MassHealth/Department of Public Health, and formerly the Project Manager of the Life Skills project at The Fenway Institute, an HIV intervention study for young transgender women. Emilia worked at Fenway for 7 years, first as a Quality Control and Regulatory Assistant mainly involved with biomedical HIV prevention trials, before serving as the Program Associate for The Network for LGBT Health Equity, a network instrumental in many national LGBT health policy improvements. She is also involved with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, serving as a Steering Committee member and the Policy Committee Co-Chair, an organization largely responsible for the recent passage of the Trans Rights Bill. Additionally she serves as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, Co-Chair of the Recommendations Committee. Emilia received a Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. There she served as President of the LGBTQ student group where she planned programs such as Pride Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and AIDS Week. In addition, she advocated for LGBTQ inclusive policies and programming on campus such as a Gender Neutral Housing program, an LGBTQ Center and the expansion of Women’s Studies to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Emilia recently earned a Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration in health policy and management from the Brandeis Heller School School for Social Policy and Management.

One thought on “Trans Aging and Policies

  1. I’m very pleased that Serena from SAGEwas able to present on the issue of trans seniors, who are overlooked and unattended to even by trans organizations all too often. Many trans seniors never had the opportunity to transition, because the medical services were not available to us. I did not have the opportunity to transition until the age of 50, although I knew with certainty that I was trans from my earliest recollections at age 3.

    I serve on the SAGE Communities Advisory Council in the NY Metro area representing the concerns of trans elders, and I welcome any ideas, interests, and needs of trans seniors who would be interested in any programs or services from SAGE. SAGE wants to be a welcoming place for trans seniors and your input is invited.

    Please note that many trans seniors face extreme poverty and often are disabled and ill at advanced age. We cannot attend conferences such as the Trans Health Conference to represent ourselves. I was unable to attend because I could not afford it after a long bout of cancer. Please remember that not all trans people are youth, and trans seniors face a time of extreme vulnerability, including not having access to medical care, being homeless, and not having adequate food. Trans organizations should be aware that we exist, and being trans is not confined to the young.

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