Rod Hensel: How to Start a Group for LGBT Older Adults In Your Community

Rod Hensel, The Gayging Advocate

By Rod Hensel
The Gayging Advocate

We are starting the annual cycle of marches, parades and gatherings to celebrate LGBT pride and to give recognition to the symbolic start of the gay rights movement at the Stonewall Inn.  That focus on the past makes it a good time to step up and start organizing like-minded people in your community who care about the special needs of LGBT seniors and recognize that it was  their sufferings and sacrifices that made possible the acceptance we have gained to date in modern society.

I am not an expert, but with the help of many others I have enjoyed some success here in Buffalo, NY where our Silver Pride Project has grown from a small handful of people to over 100 participants in the last three years.  If you’ve decided this is a need you want to fill and a cause you want to take on, then now is a great time to get going.

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Rod Hensel: Annus Horribilis

Rod Hensel

By Rod Hensel
The Gayging Advocate

It may sound like a description of an old boyfriend, but in fact it is a Latin phrase meaning “a horrible year” made famous by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992. Suffering a year of low popularity, two very messy family divorces and a huge fire at Windsor Castle just before Christmas, Her Majesty shared, with unusual candor, that the year “is not a year I shall look back on with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘annus horribilis’.”

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Rod Hensel: The Winter of Our Awakening

By Rod Henselrod-400
The Gayging Advocate

The first snowfall of the season came to Buffalo, NY on November 20. America’s long winter of discontent, as Shakespeare might call it, began on the morning of November 9, the first day of the Trump interregnum.

I felt fear and a world gone out of control on that day and every day since, Fear like I felt as a youngster in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, when it seemed the world could go away at any second in a flash of light. Fear I felt as a young man, when Gay Related Immune Deficiency (later called AIDS) was a mysterious force killing gay men around me as politicians and clergy made what many thought was a reasonable proposal to gather the gays together in quarantine camps to keep the general population safe.

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Rod Hensel: False Equivalency and the Danger of Trump

Rod 400
By Rod Hensel, the Gayging Advocate

Back in the dark ages of the local Mattachine Society, we LGBT seniors can remember that one of the biggest problems we had was how the media portrayed “the homosexuals.”  That memory whispers to me now that Donald Trump stands a good chance of being our next President.

Hillary Clinton is facing a tough media problem, one that held back gay rights for decades.  It’s called false equivalency, and Wikipedia defines it as “a logical fallacy which describes a situation where there is a logical and apparent equivalence, but when in fact there is none.”

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Rod Hensel: The Importance of Pets

Rod Hensel

Rod Hensel

By Rod Hensel, The Gayging Advocate

When we first started the Silver Pride coffee hours for LGBTQ seniors here in Buffalo, the conversation was pretty dull. That changed the first time someone mentioned their pet, and suddenly the talk became animated and new friendships were formed.

Perhaps it’s because many of us do not have family or children, or perhaps it’s because our pets give the unconditional love we craved but were often denied, but clearly the bond between LGBTQ seniors and their pets is special and intense.

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Rod Hensel: Addressing Hunger in the LGBT Elder Population

Rod 400By Rod Hensel, The Gayging Advocate

I had been puzzled since we started it in the Spring. We decided to set up a ”Seniors Healthy Lunch Program” once a month for LGBT seniors in the Buffalo, NY area as part of our local Silver Pride Project activities that already included a program night and a very popular monthly coffee hour.

I had been trying to come up with ideas to get the area’s LGBT seniors to come out and mingle more, realizing that isolation was the cause of many problems facing gay seniors. We had started working with the local Senior Services Department, and they had federal dollars on hand to prepare balanced healthy meals for seniors, but delivered almost exclusively through community senior centers around the area.

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Rod Hensel: Silence = Death

Rod 400By Rod Hensel
The Gayging Advocate

For a week I tried to put together my thoughts on the Pulse massacre in Orlando that left 49 dead and an equal number wounded. I watched the TV and social media coverage for three days straight. I listened to interviews with experts, read opinion pieces and heard what our political leaders had to say. I talked with my LGBT senior friends, with younger LGBT friends and just plain old friends. But I kept returning to those same words in my thoughts: Silence = Death.

If you are too young to recall, that was the rallying cry of a group called ACT UP. As the AIDS epidemic grew and the medical establishment and government tried to ignore it as that “gay disease,” ACT UP staged demonstrations across America that were rude and crude and broke all the rules, making noise that couldn’t be ignored. But even with hundreds, then thousands dead, the establishment just tried to stay silent, refusing to put resources into a vaccine or cure.

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