Pride season seems to have a more urgent tone across the country this year. For many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, particularly older adults, Pride is a reminder of how far our community has come and how much we may be in danger of losing should the pendulum swing in the other direction.

I am a member of the board of Maine’s chapter of Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders, SAGE Maine, the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. As someone who works broadly and deeply with this community, I see this as a moment of great opportunity despite the current uncertain political climate. Pride is a time to celebrate the connections we have built in our Maine communities as well as an opportunity to foster new connections and relationships across generations.

Our SAGE Maine chapter recently hosted two intergenerational community dinners called SAGE Table. Eighty-five people of all ages and orientations gathered in Portland and Bangor to discuss that while aging poses distinct challenges for everyone, LGBT aging presents particular, often exacerbated, versions of these challenges. Issues such as isolation, discrimination, affordable housing and other topics were discussed.

Isolation is a key issue despite many advances in inclusion witnessed in the last decade. Many older individuals aren’t accustomed to the level of societal acceptance that younger LGBT people often enjoy. Many older LGBT adults did not feel that marriage or raising children were options for them. These perceptions, fostered in earlier decades, can now be tempered through cross-generational contact and discussion so that our whole community feels a sense of inclusion. We can all become less isolated.

Too often, throughout the 20th century, discrimination was the common thread in the lives of today’s older LGBT adults. After decades of activism that produced greater understanding and some significant societal advances, the political environment has shifted ominously, as was mentioned above. Many LGBT older adults in both rural and urban areas fear having to return to the closet in their communities, particularly when it comes to accessing care in the aging network.

I travel all over our beautiful state and have yet to meet one older person who tells me they aspire to reside in assisted living or a nursing facility as they age. However, as we all know, because of health care issues and the lack of affordable, senior-appropriate housing, many older adults run out of options and end up in institutionalized care. While almost all people in this situation find it problematic and challenging, I hear too many demoralizing stories of our LGBT elders being marginalized in these institutions and forced to hide their truths about who they love or who they are.


We can do better than this. We must join together across generations and across communities to make sure that we do better than this. Regardless of political ideology, I believe that we, as Mainers, must agree that basic human decency is a nonpartisan commodity.

Older LGBT adults have lots of ideas about what we can change in our communities so that we can all thrive as we age together. SAGE Maine offers supportive services and resources for LGBT older adults statewide and their caregivers. We advocate for policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older adults and provide training for care providers. SAGE works to promote positive images of LGBT life in later years and to transform discrimination and misunderstanding through enhanced dialogue and education.

By traveling and working throughout our great state, I know that most families have been affected by the same issues that confront the LGBT community. We, like other Mainers, are diverse, engaged and committed to working for increasingly inclusive, prosperous and enlightened communities.

I urge you to contact SAGE Maine ( for information, resources or assistance at any time. No question or issue is too big or too small.

John Hennessy is chair of the SAGE Maine board. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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