Black LGBT Seniors Struggle with Double Discrimination

Matthew S. Bajko, Special to The Informer from New America Media | 4/23/2014, 3 p.m.
Larry Saxxon said homophobia in the African-American community and racism in the LGBT community makes for a narrow margin with which to work for gay African-Americans. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter, Courtesy of New America Media)

As American society continues to grow older, "LGBT elders of color are an important part of this demographic shift," notes the national organization Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), in its 2013 report, "Health Equity and LGBT Elders of Color: Recommendations for Policy and Practice."

Health Disparities

Yet, says the SAGE report, "Available research shows that they often face heightened health disparities and are largely rendered invisible in public policy discussions on aging."

The 30 African-American respondents to the San Francisco survey reported a "significant need" for housing assistance and were "the least likely" to have a will, power of attorney for healthcare, revocable /irrevocable trust and a power of attorney for finance.

"Among the racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans have the lowest rates of future planning," concluded the report.

Perry Lang, executive director of the San Francisco-based Black Coalition on AIDS, who also served on the Task Force, sees housing as a key concern among his agency's clients, whether they are old or young, LGBT or straight.

"I think the housing connection is definitely there," said Lang, 59, who is also a gay African-American. Even though only a small percentage of survey participants had HIV/AIDS, he noted, "As a health organization we realize it is difficult sometimes to work on health issues if people do not have adequate housing."

The African-American Community Health Equity Council, collaboration between Lang's agency and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, plans to review the recommendations in the final Task Force report.

"They make recommendations for the larger African-American community and they include LGBTQ members on it," said Lang, who serves as the council's administrative director. [Some experts add "Q" for queer.]

"I think the pivotal piece to me is an acknowledgment by the task force that what is recommended for the LGBTQ community we also recognize is beneficial for other communities."

Matthew S. Bajko wrote this article for Bay Area Reporter through the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowships, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.