(San Francisco, CA, December 20, 2011)—A pioneering new guide released today gives California’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders—who are more likely to face discrimination, be low-income, and live in poverty—comprehensive information about their rights and the services that are available to them as they navigate the system of public and social benefits.

The guide—called “Navigating the System: A Know-Your-Rights Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders in California”—is designed as a resource to empower and help protect California’s LGBTQ elders who often are targets of discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The 61-page guide, published by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, Transgender Law Center, Openhouse, and Planning for Elders in the Central City, offers a wide range of resources for the state’s LGBTQ elders and equips them with the tools they need to:

•Know California’s anti-discrimination laws

•Find LGBT-friendly housing and service providers

•Effectively address discrimination or mistreatment

•Understand how relationship recognition laws affect benefits

•Navigate the unique challenges that confront transgender elders

•Understand how to protect their families and choices with life-planning documents

•Identify available benefits, particularly for people with disabilities

Advocates and LGBTQ elder community members put together this publication because they saw a need for a California-specific and comprehensive resource that they could turn to for help explaining information about laws and services, said NCLR Elder Law Fellow Daniel Redman.

“The result is a publication that all LGBTQ elders—including those who are among the most marginalized in our aging community—can use to better understand their rights, to assert those rights in a variety of elder care contexts, and to more easily navigate the complex systems that they face everyday,” said Redman, who co-authored the guide. “We have a responsibility to care for aging members of our community, ensuring that they have access to resources and services that will allow them to live with dignity and respect, completely free of discrimination and mistreatment.”

A recent survey found that the majority of LGBTQ elders feared they would face discrimination if they were open about their identity in long-term care facilities, with more than half believing that staff or other residents would abuse or neglect them.

LGBTQ people—and elders in particular—are also more likely to struggle financially than their straight peers, with same-sex elder male couples more likely to live in poverty, and same-sex elder female couples twice as likely. In fact, a San Francisco study found that almost 62 percent of gay men and lesbians aged 60 and older earned less than $39,000, including over 42 percent who earned less than $26,000. Transgender elders, in particular—because of ongoing and systemic discrimination—experience poverty at extraordinary rates

“LGBTQ older adults face unique challenges as they age due to a legacy of discrimination and marginalization,” said Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn. “ ‘Navigating the System’ and the agencies that collaborated to write it provide critical information and resources that empower LGBTQ seniors and their support networks to manage these challenges.”

“Many seniors and their families are in great need of assistance with navigating the difficult and confusing system of government social services especially during this time of so many budget cuts. Lavender Seniors is pleased that NCLR is addressing this issue with ‘Navigating the System,’ ” said Lavender Seniors of the East Bay Director Dan Ashbrook.

Said Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis: “This is an extraordinary resource for transgender seniors and their families who often face barriers to accessing quality services and care. This guide will help seniors live with the dignity and respect we all deserve.”

Added Planning for Elders Interim Executive Director James Chionsini: “This LGBTQ guide is a wonderful development. We work with many LGBTQ seniors who are looking for something just like this.”

Download “Navigating the System: A Know-Your-Rights Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders in California.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.


For 17 years, Lavender Seniors has been improving the lives of LGBTQ elders by delivering volunteer driven services, outreach, and advocacy. Programs are designed to foster a sense of belonging for all LGBTQ elders in particular those who are isolated, copying with chronic conditions, or loss. Education for service providers and government officials is also a regular part of Lavender Seniors’ services. A critical aspect of this work is ensuring that LGBTQ elders are well-prepared to lead healthy independent lives by addressing discriminatory policies and procedures among health and human services and government institutions. www.LavenderSeniors.org

Transgender Law Center champions the ideal that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. Unfortunately, people who don’t fit narrow gender stereotypes face discrimination that undermines our common human dignity. By working for and with transgender people and our allies to change laws, policies and attitudes, the Transgender Law Center makes it possible for us all to be who we are and live safe and fulfilling lives. For more information visit www.TransgenderLawCenter.org

Openhouse enables San Francisco Bay Area LGBTQ seniors to overcome the unique challenges they face as they age by providing housing, direct services and community programs.


Planning for Elders, a community non-profit founded in 1991, works to fulfill its mission through advocacy, organizing, education and training for San Francisco’s seniors, persons with disabilities, and their caregivers. www.PlanningforElders.org