No golden years for LGBT seniors

Jeremy Mykaels is a senior facing eviction in the Castro

According to studies, queer seniors are poorer than their straight counterparts. They’re half as likely to have health insurance, and two-thirds as likely to live alone. Not to mention facing discrimination in medical and social services, retirement homes, and nursing care facilities. So much for the “golden years.”
Here in San Francisco, LGBT seniors face another grave threat: evictions. Many of our elderly live in rent-controlled apartments that are targeted by real-estate speculators and investors out to make big bucks turning them into tenancies-in-common.

With median rents close to $3,000 a month and vacancy rates low, the odds are pretty good that an evicted senior won’t find an affordable place in the city. For a senior with AIDS, an eviction is especially threatening since our city offers the best treatment and services. Studies show that people with AIDS who lose their apartments tend to die sooner, especially if they become homeless. 

The only LGBT organization that actually addresses the housing needs of queer seniors is Open House. Its 110 units at 55 Laguna will be the first affordable queer senior housing development in the city. I hope it’s not the last. As for seniors with AIDS, there’s only one AIDS organization in the vast list of groups and services -- the AIDS Housing Alliance -- that actually finds housing for its clients. It was started by Brian Basinger, a gay man with AIDS, after he was evicted and his apartment was sold as a TIC.

No one knows how many LGBT seniors have been, and are being, evicted. Ditto for how many seniors with AIDS end up on the streets. We also don’t have stats on how many transgender seniors are victims of real estate greed or live in absolute terror of losing their homes. 

The Rent Board doesn’t break down its eviction stats by sexual orientation or even age. The city’s homeless count doesn’t mention if someone’s queer or transgender. There is no way to determine how many LGBT seniors live in SROs or with life-threatening conditions such as mold or lack of heat. Or how many live in homes that have been -- or are being -- foreclosed.

That’s why the housing subcommittee of the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force is holding a hearing into the housing needs and concerns of queer seniors. Information is power.

All LGBT seniors -- housed and homeless -- are invited to come testify about their housing issues. Whether they live in an SRO or a home that they own, whether they sleep in a shelter or a rent-controlled apartment, whether they’re in a subsidized unit or an illegal in-law, the subcommittee wants to hear from them about their concerns and needs.

The subcommittee will ultimately be making recommendations that will be included in a task force report on what the city can do to address LGBT issues.
LGBT seniors deserve their golden years.

The hearing is Monday, April 1, 9am to 12 noon, room 416, City Hall. Written testimony accepted. For more info, call Tommi at 415-703-8634.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a longtime queer and tenants rights/affordable housing activist who works for Housing Rights Committee. He is a member of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force.


still stands out that the Castro is both the gayest part of SF and the most white.

Could be a coincidence, but do you really think so?

Most of the benefits of progress in civil rights have gone to white women and white gays.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:57 am

...that the gay rights movement has a race problem and a gender problem. But I still don't think that will equate with the Castro becoming less white just because it becomes more straight.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

The Castro is NOT becoming less white. I live in the Castro and it's becoming more straight and more white and that is very obvious to anyone with 2 seeing eyes. Just look at the couples. The straight couples are white overwhelmingly with the occasional white/Asian couple. It's quite obvious if you live here. And unfortunately, there is less ethnic diversity in the Castro now. I'm not sure why they're attracted to an area with over 27 closed store fronts, at last count, with more closed store fronts on the way.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

It would have taken economic empowerment started decades ago to preserve the Castro or Polk as queer enclaves. Those days are long over. Western SOMA took a stab at it, it remains to see if they will be successful.

I'm seeing an almost daily doubling on the shrieking victim quotient on the left, the kind that fears empowerment of all kinds and places more emphasis on social relationships amongst activists than in connecting to average people.

This is what a death spiral looks like. I believe it might be too late.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

"ghettoes" and whining about exactl which terms they want to be known by are both signs of a self-absorbed group suffering an identity crisis.

Get over yourselves and find something important to focus on, rather than tribal battles.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 7:11 am

Couldn't we just call them all queer then, before we use every letter in the alphabet? Too soon?

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

queers decided to reclaim the word from obscurity.

It's so hard to keep up with PC'dom.

Altho my favorite term remains "Cisgendered" i.e. the property of NOT being transgendered.

I kid you not.

Posted by anon on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

More ignorance of which I am sure you are proud.

Using the term Queer has nothing to do with being PC. I won't bother explaining it to you since there is clearly no receptor there, as you consistently prefer to wallow in your ignorance and hate.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

It's none of your business how I refer to you, just as you clearly don't care what you call me, e.g. ignorant, hateful.

Get over yourself. Nobody cares how you classify yourself. Try being less self-absorbed.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 7:09 am

I'm pretty sure I'm cisgendered, but my vestigial third nipple makes me a bit queer.

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 7:28 am

For instance, a "cisgendered person of color" is a straight non-white. So why not just say that?

Or is that just my "privilege" talking?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:17 am

Actually, it is your privilege talking. The point of having mirror-terms like trans- and cisgender is to show that neither is the default identity. Same with an alternative to "non-white," which implies that we start from white and go from there to some other.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:50 am

In Castro, being gay is the default.

In Bayview, being black is the default.

But particularly in regard of being transgendered, it is fairly clear that that is not the norm, because it is a biological concept, and not merely a matter of race or religion.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:07 am

What work like introducing terms like cisgender and transgender tries to do is change perceptions everywhere. In society as a whole, being white and straight has always been the default, to the detriment of everyone who isn't white and straight. The goal is to change that so there is no default.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:45 am

In Africa, being black is the default.

In the Castro, being gay (and male) is the default

In Diva's and Trannyshack, being transexual is the default.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:39 am

For those of us who don't incessantly worry our beads about it, maybe you could create a wallet-sized identity checklist, so that we don't mistake a tranny for a queer, a non-white for a white Hispanic, or an African-American for a multi-ethnic, cisgendered South African. That way, we can all confidently speak in tongues about the matter.

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:12 am

Show some empathy, show you actually care about people, and ask what they want to be called.

You know, it used to be perfectly acceptable to call black people "boy" and worse, and yet I don't see you complaining about objections to that as being too politically correct.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:17 am

instructive. While we can all probably agree that words like "negro" and "nigger" sound dated now, and "black" is more modern, there are always some who go too far, trying to foister the clumsy, inelegant phrase "African-American" on us, even though Euro-American has no currency.

I'm OK with calling homosexuals "gay" or "queer", which I regard as synonymous. But asking me to describe myself as, say, a cisgendered non-female, non-person-of-color is a stretch. I'm a straight white guy, OK?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:42 am

Because a "guy" can be transgender or cisgender. Your description is incomplete.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

describing myself when I'm just a regular straight guy.

You're the one obsessing on all these obscure terms. Most of us know exactly what we are and do not agonize over terms and labels.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

would like to be called. The purpose of classification systems is to assist the classifier. Giving names to commonly co-occuring clusters of attributes is simply a linguistic shortcut.

Posted by anon on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:44 am

They also help emerging communities define themselves. I think we can agree that "to categorize is to control." The difference is that, with labels that come out of oppressed communities, is the control is coming from below.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

"help emerging communities define themselves"

This would require democratic structures that asked members of the community to define themselves.

That has never happened, definitions have been foisted upon us without our democratic consent.

I see the world not as workers being dominated by capitalists, rather by slackers being dominated by operators.

The control of LGBT self determination is coming not from from the operators of the hetero majority, not from the hetero slackers who have no drive to control others. Rather control of our liberation is closely held by the LGBT operators whose purpose in life is to marginalize the LGBT slackers so that the operators get to call the shots.

Operators are operators irrespective of their identity or status and the thing they hold in common is a shared contempt for their respective slackers.

The products produced by the operators for the slackers are always democratically illegitimate, this is why the operators need to rig the game so that they are always in control.

Question: Is control controlled by its need to control?
Answer: yes.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

It's just linguistic shorthand. Language evolves without being forced.

And the left is just as adept at using faux classifications to try and attack other groups. Just consider some of these doozies:

The one percent

Everyone plays games with words. The point is to see thru it. And I do see thru it, whether it is words like "nigger" or words like "cisgendered".

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

Geez, show some empathy. I'm beginning to think you don't care about people. Two more responses and I predict you'll be invoking Hitler.

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

Calling black people "boy"?

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

I contest the notion that lesbian and gay theory has to be reconsidered in order to harmonize with the emerging, unsettled gender theory.

I contest the notion that because our mutual irrational opponents hate on us for similar reasons, our emancipatory theory has to likewise be rooted in that same irrational framing.

Transgender folks get to chart their own emancipatory trajectory but do not get to impose their perspective on others, not without resistance.

Theory on the small overlap between the larger lesbian and gay community and the small transgender community has to be negotiated, not directed via shaming.

That would substitute religion for theory. And differing on theory is not a personal attack, it is not hatred, that is how religion views differences.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:53 am

I part company here. Hetero is the default, 90% of the world is hetero. Binary gender is the default, 98% of the world is binary gendered.

Cis/trans have been used to colonize by division: Cisjordan, Transjordan, Ciskei, Transkei. If gender is truly a continuum, then this binary division makes no sense.

This is what I mean by unsettled theory.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:39 am

He can get a much bigger and less crowded kitchen outside the city - somewhere like Fremont or Orinda has a lot more space. He also looks kinda pale and could definitely use more sun. Moving might be just the life tonic he needs.

He should make lemonade out of lemons.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

eviction as it led to them making changes in their life which made them happier.

Clinging to some grim rent-controlled rathole in your senior years is not very dignified. Better to give a younger person a chance of living in SF.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 7:12 am

...Fairfax? It's always sunny in Marin.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:51 am

which takes its rights quite seriously and is very vocal about them. Jeremy might feel quite comfortable there. I encourage him to explore his options vs. fight a losing battle. There is no "defense" against an Ellis eviction - he will, in the end, lose his home.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:25 am

LGBT Seniors and others concerned about these issues are also invited to the Grayson LGBT Elder Life Conference this Saturday March 30 at the LGBT Center

Posted by Lee on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

Growing old is never easy, turn 50 next year.

Posted by Garrett on Apr. 03, 2013 @ 9:57 am

in many cases, simply because they can. And with social security retirement and qualification ages likely to rise to about 70 to keep SS and MediCare solvent, we should expect more of that.

And as life expectancies move towards 90, being 50 is very much still mid-life. Many of these welfare and entitlment programs and care systems assume the old model that we're all decrepit by the age of 60, but the reality is that is far from the truth any more.

70 is the new 50.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2013 @ 10:07 am

Don't save for your retirement? Make do with less when you retire. Why should I care or pay people for their imprudence?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2013 @ 8:27 am

Hi, thanks for sharing

Posted by dog trainer on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 5:47 am

they're being "targeted"....when is all this going to just....STOP. I personally know of three people who are NOT gay, who have been uprooted from their living quarters because some corporation saw the investment in the building as profitable. None of us is immune to these actions unless we own our home. I own a condo in the city and wonder how I'll continue to pay for it when I retire. I will likely have to move....and while the thought upsets me, I realize that I can't have what I can't afford. Dollars and cents, certainly not a bias by any stretch. I could claim that as a retiring senior, I should be entitled to a lower percentage rate on my mortgage, simply because it will benefit ME and others like me. But I would be laughed at, because I do not fall into minority that I know of, unless married white female with a job qualifies as one.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 8:29 am

True, of course. But you'd never know it reading the SFBG, which endlessly demands that people should be entitled to what they cannot afford.

And, as you note, especially if they can claim membership of a victim class like being gay, non-white, transgendered, old, disabled and, ideally, all of them at the same time.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 8:46 am