by Karen Ocamb
April 28, 2012
Let’s face it: much of the LGBT movement has one massive Peter Pan complex. We won’t grow up. We don’t want to go to school just to learn to be a parrot and recite a silly rule. Nope, not us. We’re here, we’re queer and everyone just has to get used to it!
But while the minds, hearts and spirits of LGBT movement founders and Stonewall activists still stir with the fight for real freedom, the body is aging – whether we like it or not. And with aging comes limitations, dependency, and the fear of being forced back into the closet just to get proper and safe treatment. For couples who have shared lives and expenses together, losing a husband or wife could also mean losing financial freedom while trying to survive a broken heart. Suddenly being a second class citizen in the United States of America hits home: we are the cause we’ve been fighting for.
Two years ago, on April 11, 2010, Lorri Jean, CEO of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center officially launched the Rock for Equality campaign in conjunction with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Aids Community Action Foundation. The campaign noted that LGBT workers pay into the Social Security system but are denied benefits when a partner dies, including retirement benefits, disability insurance, survivor benefits and burial expenses. Two years ago they estimated that since 2000, those benefits totaled more than $2 billion, depriving LGBT older taxpayers of more than $120 million in Social Security benefits every year. According to the calculating “Denied” clock on their website, as of 5:03pm Pacific time today, the total was $2,434,079 and counting.
Jean got the idea for the campaign after hearing about Alice Herman, a senior lesbian who not only lost her legally married wife Sylvia, but the other half of her duel-income – forcing her to leave her home and live in her car. She explained the urgency: