While the history of the word “queer” can be hurtful to some, it is also true that many members of the community – including many elders — identify as queer and/or questioning. This is why, in response to direct feedback from the SAGE community, we have made the decision to update SAGE’s organizational language and shift from LGBTQ+ to LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning and other sexual orientation and/or gender identities).
As an LGBTQ+ organization committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, we continue to evolve and adapt to be fully inclusive of the communities that we serve. Founded in 1978, known as Senior Action in a Gay Environment, SAGE changed its name in the early 2000’s to Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders to better represent our community. In 2016, as part of our research to inform our rebranding, we collected feedback that showed that many of our elder constituents were not comfortable with the term queer because of the history of violence and marginalization associated with the term. Given that putting elder voices first is a core value for SAGE, we chose to continue using LGBTQ+, even as many other community organizations shifted to LGBTQ and LGBTQ+. In 2016, we eliminated the acronym and became simply “SAGE.”
As a part of SAGE’s recent strategic planning process, in 2021 we conducted constituent research among a diverse cross-section of elders both in NYC and across the country. From that research, we learned that the vast majority of today’s elders in our communities are comfortable with the addition of the Q to the LGBTQ+ acronym. In fact, more than 75% of the elders surveyed were comfortable with LGBTQ+ organizations that include the word “queer” in the acronyms they use; 85% of non-cis elders were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with using LGBTQ.
SAGE is committed to honoring intersectional perspectives and identities and providing a platform for all members of the community to be recognized and celebrated as their full selves.
As SAGE does with all of its work, we are making this change with our community of elders at the forefront. Elders who identify as queer and/or questioning have always been part of this community and deserve to see themselves represented in SAGE’s work. Continuing to adapt our language in response to our evolving, diverse community is one way in which we are carrying out our mission to prove that all LGBTQ+ elders refuse to be invisible. SAGE is appreciative of your patience as we make this important shift with the attention it deserves.