What is it, exactly, that SAGE does?

Since I feel like many people have had this question in their mind, at some time, I decided to address it here, to clarify.

SAGE is advocacy and education. Why do I mention these together? Largely, because these two things are so intertwined. While we do a very little bit of direct advocacy, the huge majority of SAGE work is done in the form of education. While our umbrella organization, PROMO, does more direct advocacy at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City by helping legislators understand the need of LGBT equality. On the SAGE end, our education is in the form of instructing existing service providers about the needs of LGBT older adults, and why those needs might look a bit different than the majority of people they provide services to.

The position on housing and services for LGBT older adults that our local SAGE has always held, is that separate is not equal. Our stand has been to SagePromoFundadeducate and advocate within the existing services and housing providers, to help them understand that LGBT older adults are an under-served population. There are units and beds available in retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing facilities, and there is no reason why LGBT older adults can not fill them. The education that we do, helps make those places safe. In short, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The room is out there.

We also do Information and Referral. What does that mean? It means that we maintain, on our website, an extensive list of providers, of many kinds, who have answered some questions we posed to them about their employment practices, as relates to LGBT employees or potential employees, and about serving LGBT consumers. If folks have questions, and do not have internet access, we answer those questions over the phone. (314-862-4900)

So - how does all of this keep us out of the office so much? Advocacy can be done over the phone. Of course it can be, but we have evidence that face-to-face interaction is MUCH more effective. Education could be done on the internet. Yes, it could be, but again, we are certain tt face-to-face makes things much more personal, and has much better potential for winning over a person who is fence-sitting on their opinions or experiences surrounding LGBT issues. We know we have struck a nerve when people in a seminar cry, because one single thing that was said was so powerful to them. Those Ah-ha moments are what we live for! Information and Referral is all on the internet. It sure is, but, in many instances, we only got those partners for our network by going out into the community and networking ourselves. Service providers do not know about us or what we do unless we network with them. We, do THIS piece in person, as well.

Where on earth might we be on any given work day for SAGE? We could be tabling at a health fair or Diversity Day Program. Our most recent Diversity Day participation was at the USDA! That's the United States Department of Agriculture! I had the opportunity to speak about SAGE, and share about what we do, and how we could be of assistance to them. I could be at one of the many SRT (Senior Response Team) meetings around the St. Louis Metropolitan area, which is nothing BUT networking. Most recently, I was able to present about SAGE at these meetings in St. Charles and Chesterfield. Or, we could be out at a VA hospital, talking with their staff about how to respectfully provide service to an LGBT patient. We've talked to Social Work, Gerontology, Medical, and Human Sexuality classes at the Community Colleges as well as at almost all of the Universities in the area. None of these things happen unless we build bridges to get us into these places.

In the office, we're answering phones, responding to e-mail, making schedules for trainings, and planning the content of those trainings. It all takes time. We are happy to do it. It's the most rewarding job I have had in my entire life. How long will we need to continue? We're not sure, but know that our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We have made great progress in the past few years, but there is still much left to be done. That's what we'll be doing, until the day that we turn off the lights, lock the door, and never have to come back. We're not quite there yet.




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