Storytelling Highlights the Lives of LGBTIQ+ Elders Around the World

 In: Articles

SAGE is investing in international work through several new programs and initiatives. At the heart of this work is a commitment to centering the lived experience of LGBTIQ+ elders themselves. One way SAGE has done this is through collecting and disseminating LGBTIQ+ older people’s life histories and personal testimonies. These stories not only shed light on the personal realities of LGBTIQ+ elders, but they also help position them as self-advocates.

Recent examples of SAGE’s storytelling work with international partners include a collaboration with CIPAC and the World Health Organization to feature the story of Julio Hernandez Gil in the WHO’s Commission on Social Connection Series.  This series is a new WHO initiative seeking to address the effect loneliness and social isolation have on our physical and mental health, and the well-being of our communities and society globally. Fernandez’s story illuminates the disparate affect loneliness and social isolation have on LGBTIQ+ older people in Costa Rica, and beyond. In his short film, Julio reflected,

“As I reach old age, I have become more isolated from society because people continue with their everyday lives… If you had told me years ago that I would reach old age and it would lead me to withdraw from society, maybe I would have prepared myself psychologically for how to embrace old age. Older adults are considered disposable in general, but in our LGBTIQ+ community, that is even stronger. I believe the most beautiful thing that could happen in our society is increased empathy, respect and admiration for older adults.”

Through the LGBTI Elders Advancing Initiative, SAGE also partnered with Outright International, Mitini Nepal and EnGendeRights to support the publication of two storybooks featuring the stories of twenty-three LGBTIQ+ elders from across the Philippines and Nepal: Golden Rainbow: Stories of Pain, Grit, Duty and Love of Filipino Older LGBTI People and Our Lives, Our Stories: LGBTI Seniors in Nepal.  SAGE will also be working with CIPAC to publish another book of life stories from LGBTIQ+ older people in Costa Rica in a few months.

Hannah Yore, SAGE’s Director of International Programs, describes the importance of this work in her forward to the storybooks:

“At SAGE, we are deeply honored to lend our support to this invaluable work. Too often, the voices and lived realities of LGBTIQ+ older people are silenced and ignored. The very act of sharing one’s life story, as the contributors of this storybook have done, is thus a tremendous act of power and bravery. The narratives contained within these pages are not just stories; they are profound testaments to the unwavering courage and resilience of LGBTIQ+ older people, not only in the Philippines and Nepal but across the globe. Thank you to all who have contributed for offering windows into the past, reflections of the present, and beacons guiding us toward a future where dignity and joy prevail.”

SAGE looks forward to continuing to work with LGBTIQ+ elders to help share their stories from around the world. It is our hope that these testimonies both increase the visibility of LGBTIQ+ older people and their representation within the larger LGBTIQ+ human rights movement and, ultimately, work to build solidarity among LGBTIQ+ aging advocates across borders. While there are many exciting works on the horizon and inspiring stories to be shared, the work alone could not be done without the vulnerability of our LGBTIQ+ older people and the support of our international partners.