By Dr. Kathleen M. Sullivan
The political landscape has rattled, angered and activated many of us. The new administration, together with Congress, is seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act, change Social Security and Medicare benefits, and create a Supreme Court that will deny women the right to self-determination and relegate LGBTQ people to second-class status. Transgender kids, in particular, are being targeted in the courts, Congress and at school. People who practice Islam are being detained and denied entry to the U.S. Latino/a residents and citizens are targeted by ICE. Black Lives Matter is perhaps more relevant now than ever before as a movement against racism, institutional violence and oppression.
Our current time is both challenging and fear inducing. There is so much going wrong that many are left to ask, “What can we as individuals and a community do to remain positive, empowered and healthy while at the same time offering positive avenues for change?” I do not pretend to have all the answers or even to know the questions to ask about the current political and social landscape. I do believe that we all have the power to take positive actions that contribute to our communities, our families and movement for equity and equality. We must first, however, take care of ourselves.
If you have flown in an airplane, you have heard, “Put your air mask on first before helping others.” I know that sometimes self-care can feel like pure selfishness, but I am here to urge you to do the things that make you fulfilled, happy and give you a sense of calm. We are all different, so what you choose as self-care will be different than what others or I may choose.
There are also a few things that relate to successful aging that I offer as suggestions. Importantly, exercise at least 30 minutes a day, which you can do all at once or in smaller periods. More and more research finds that exercise is good for your overall health and mind. Next, try to turn off or tune out for five minutes daily. Even a small dose of meditation can help us find a sense of calm in the current political and social miasma. Eat nourishing food and make sure you hydrate with water. As we age, it is especially important for us to drink enough water and to eat well. The better we care for our bodies and minds, the better able we are to help others. Taking responsibility for ourselves is also empowering. Personally, I have a greater sense of control when I plan my workouts and meals, and when I take the time to learn, grow and meditate.
One of the most insidious outcomes of our country’s heterosexist history is the isolation of LGBTQ older adults. We are far more likely to live alone than out straight counterparts. Living alone can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. These feelings are often detrimental to our physical health as well, and are why I urge you to connect or reconnect with others. Our community has created great political and social change, and continues to do so when we work together. Billie Jean King noted in an acceptance speech a few years ago, “Nobody does anything alone.” Fortunately, there are a plethora of places to connect with others in the Bay Area—Openhouse, the San Francisco LGBT Center, AGUILAS and OLOC are just a few examples. When we connect with others, we give ourselves the chance to commiserate, activate for change and share information and stories of triumph.
The Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March on Washington and response to the President’s travel ban are all indicators that, as a nation, we are ready for new and real social and political change. We all have talents and gifts to contribute, and when we do so in concert, we create a better world for everyone.
My last suggestions to you are to get involved with a local community group, go to community meetings and become a citizen lobbyist. We can, and must, create a positive, inclusive and diverse movement for equity for and within the LGBTQ community. As bleak as the nation’s political future may feel, it is also a potentially transformative time in our nation’s history. Together we can swing the pendulum back to a more equitable, open and accepting society, and stay relevant and connected to our communities.
So take care of yourself, connect with others and get involved to create new opportunities of positive change in your community and beyond.
Dr. Kathleen M. Sullivan is a sought-after speaker and trainer on issues related to LGBTQ aging, housing, program development and cultural competency training. For more information: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sullivan-kathleen-a62a9750/
The Trump administration has deleted questions on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) from the national surveys of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Voluntary data collection on LGBT elders is essential for identifying unmet needs and ensuring federal allocation of resources.
Advocates fought hard to make visible the lives, concerns and needs of LGBT elders. The health and well being of the most vulnerable LGBT elders hangs in the balance. Do not let LGBT elders be erased and forgotten.
We only have until May 12, 2017, to submit requests to the HHS to restore LGBT questions to the department’s national surveys. Please submit your comment to HHS about the importance of retaining SOGI survey questions by this date. You may send written or electronic comments to email@example.com
Submit written comments to:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Community Living
Washington, DC 20201
Please tell HHS to:
Restore SOGI questions to the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Annual Program Performance Report for the Centers for Independent Living.
Marcy Adelman, Ph.D.