By Paul Iarrobino

July 2023 Newsletter

Pride 2023

Everlasting Pride

I was six years old when the police raided the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of June 28, 1969. I was too young to understand the significance of these events. It’s hard to believe same-gender dancing to music was against the law. A crime so heinous it could land you in jail, expose you, and damage your self-worth…your housing ….your job…your livelihood.

While I was coming of age in the mid 1980’s, I knew nothing about Stonewall. I saw dancing to my favorite music as a rite of passage. I felt safe and protected inside those bars. Even though dancing with other men was legal, I also knew the ugly reality of targeted violence that existed outside of those walls. This was during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and I knew firsthand how added hatred fueled acts of violence and discrimination.

As I reflect on Pride this year, I see a paradox. On one hand, I have seen more celebrations, especially in smaller, rural communities and schools, than ever before. But, I have also seen more backlash and threats of violence that resulted in some of these events being canceled. 
With a record surge in the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, especially anti-trans legislation, we cannot allow our community to be silenced, attacked…or erased. I continue to explore new pathways of working within our resilient communities to make sure we understand and recognize our history and ensure our stories are front and center.

Resurgence of the Elder Panel

It seems like half a life ago when I first started working with older LGBTQ+ adults to build a supportive community and create community trainings for social  service workers. These were the early days of visibility and “best practices” hadn’t been developed yet.

Fortunately, Friendly House was supportive of our efforts from the beginning. In 2002, a handful of us spent a weekend being trained by two “Rainbow Train” facilitators from Seattle. It was our first attempt at educating staff working with older adults. Before we had a chance to celebrate, an older adult among us lamented the fact these trainings were nothing but younger professionals reaching other younger professionals working with older adults. “Where were the voices of older adults and their lived experiences,” Ric asked. We listened carefully and we knew he was right. That was the birth of the Elder Panel in Portland.

This combined model of professional training paired with LGBTQ+ elders became our signature model and had a successful run for two decades. Then came COVID and the multitude of related challenges. Friendly House’s SAGE Metro Portland is now renamed Elder Pride Services and is now fully staffed.

I am delighted to partner with Friendly House staff to resurrect the Elder Panel. We are in need of older LGBTQ+ volunteers interested in participating in community trainings. We are recruiting volunteers now and will offer volunteer orientation and training this fall. If you are interested or know someone who might be interested, please let me know.

We are very excited to announce we have received a RACC arts grant. Building off of the success of our first anthology, COVIDOLOGY, we are creating a new body of work. Our next anthology will feature short stories from a diverse group of LGBTQ+ writers. Grant funding will help us forge new partnerships and try out new approaches to elevate our voices at community events.
Our anthology’s launch will take place a year from now, during Pride 2024, and comes at a crucial time in our history with an upcoming divisive 2024 election. Our words have significant meaning and we will amplify our voices against hateful politics and extremists.  
Watch for updates as we make our way through the editing process. We will let you know when it’s released and where you can find our related free and accessible community events.


2 thoughts on “July 2023 Newsletter”

  1. So glad to hear that you are working with the same communities and I hope they know how lucky they are to have you.
    We are living in some stressful times and often must endure hate-filled activities when all we can do is focus on the love because nothing is stronger. Nothing endures so well. And we can never give up.
    Please stay safe.

  2. So excited to hear that the Elder Panel is being rebuilt. It was always very impactful. Let me know when things are up and running and I will gladly host an event highlighting them!

  3. It is even more important now to keep the history of our country honest. We’ve never been a perfect country and we never will be…perfection isn’t possible (at least to my way of seeing the world). However, we can be honest. We can own our past . We can work to make our piece of the world a safe place for everyone. Thank you, Paul, for your work in shining the light on the history of our LGBTQ+ neighbors.

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