SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
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Larry Chanen & Joy Tomchin

SAGE Donors

A Q&A with Larry Chanen and Joy Tomchin, Co-chairs of SAGE National Leadership Council.

When did you first become involved in the LGBT movement, and in what capacities?

Larry: I first became active in the LGBT movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a volunteer cooperating attorney for Lambda Legal—thereafter as a member of Lambda’s Legal Advisory Committee.  I subsequently became involved in a number of other LGBT organizations as well as political and judicial campaigns.

Joy: For over 30 years I’ve been supporting countless LGBT, women’s and children’s rights organizations—as an activist and donor. In the beginning, I would send anonymous money orders to the National Gay Task Force (now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force)—I was too afraid to come out! “Who is this anonymous donor?” asked (then) Executive Director, Virginia Apuzzo, and the rest is activist history.

What organizations have you served since and how?

Larry: In addition to Lambda, I’ve been active in other LGBT organizations, including serving on the Board of Directors (BOD) for Empire State Pride Agenda; co-founding the Lesbian and Gay Community Mediation Service (now Center Mediation Service) in 1990; and, most recently, serving as Co-Chair of the SAGE BOD. For many years, I was a counselor and Board Member of Identity House, an LGBT peer counseling organization and have been a senior sponsor of the JPMorgan Chase Pride employee networking group.

In November 2010 I received the “Out and Proud Corporate Counsel Award” from the National LGBT Bar Association and will be honored at SAGE Awards 2011.

Joy: I joined the BOD of Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1987, served as Board President from 1989 to 1992, and there, co-founded the Lesbian AIDS Project.  In 1990 I was appointed by New York City Mayor David Dinkins to the Economic Development Corporation Board of NYC and served for four years as the only openly gay or lesbian member. I joined the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund BOD in 1993, serving as national co-chair for four years. I’ve also assisted numerous lesbian and gay organizations in their search for a home (including SAGE) and served on the Mishkin Committee of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah.

Currently, I’m co-producing a documentary (with journalist David France) about how the LGBT community beat the pharmaceutical battle against AIDS and changed the way the government handles approval of life-saving drugs. We are looking forward to early screenings at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival.

Why, in your opinion, is SAGE and its mission so important today?

Joy and Larry:  Today, SAGE is uniquely positioned to transform the aging experience for LGBT older adults nationally. With the aging of LGBT “baby boomers,” demographics are shifting and the number of LGBT people aged 65 and over will increase 60% by 2030. Despite a growing population, LGBT concerns are nearly absent from local and national policy discussions on aging. This historic challenge requires a rapid response on a nationwide basis—a response SAGE will make successfully.

Why did you agree to co-chair the SAGE National Leadership Council (SNLC)?

Joy and Larry: We have been involved with SAGE for years as board members and advocates in the community. SNLC is an opportunity to extend those historic efforts and create a legacy for future generations. It’s an exciting time and we are thrilled to help SAGE find the national support necessary to accomplish its national mission.

What do you envision SNLC accomplishing for SAGE?

Joy and Larry:  SNLC will galvanize leadership volunteers in regions across the country and establish advocates for SAGE in new audiences. Members of the SNLC are building relationships, raising awareness and inspiring change that touches the lives of LGBT older adults locally and across the country.

Any other thoughts for SAGEMatters readers?

Joy and Larry:  SAGE’s mission addresses a critical facet of the broader LGBT movement in the United States. New York has benefited from SAGE’s work for over 30 years—it’s time for this work to have a national impact.

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