LGBTQ Pride Month

An 83-Year-Old LGBT Activist Wants You To Listen To Your Elders

"I don't think we'll be quiet for long."

Sandy Warshaw is an 83-year-old LGBT activist who hopes her voice — and the voices of other elderly LGBT people — will start being heard.

"I think that older people usually are not listened to," Warshaw said during an appearance on A Plus's A Grain of Saul. "It doesn't make any difference whether they're in the gay community or the not-gay community."

Warshaw, who didn't come out until her mid-40s, grew up in an era where the acceptance of LGBT community looked nothing like it does today. She remembers her mother telling her to "stay away from those lesbians" when she went to camp, before she even knew what lesbians were. 

Now, though, she's working with organizations like SAGE, an organization that provides advocacy and services for elders within the LGBT community. At one point, Warshaw was their Director of Advocacy.

"I think what is making me optimistic is organizations like SAGE, who are bringing LGBT seniors into the front," Warshaw said. "Recently we had something called SAGE Table where they mixed generations; it made it important for my generation to tell the next generations — if nothing else — 'your experience is different than ours.' That didn't happen in the women's movement, that didn't happen in the civil rights movement, so I think it's important."

Warshaw has watched with consternation as President Donald Trump took the White House, putting together an administration she believes threatens the LGBT community. 

"I don't think it's a question," Warshaw said. "I think that we stand to lose equality in the health care system, equality in the marketplace."

She pointed to potential religious rights bills that will allow stores to turn down service to LGBT folks if they are trying to get a wedding cake, solely because the couple is gay.

Still, though, she has a lot of optimism. She's watched as transgender issues have become more commonplace and drew comparisons to 25 years ago, when public discussion of the LGBT experience was much less commonplace.

She's also got her eyes on upcoming elections, where she sees a chance to take more steps forward. 

"We may have to wait, unfortunately, 18 months until we see too much change, but I don't think we'll be quiet for long," Warshaw said.

A Plus is proud to have collaborated with Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) — the United States' largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults — for this story. Learn more about SAGE by visiting www.sageusa.org

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