Lutheran university to host 'Gay & Gray' event for elderly LGBT residents

Aging LGBT Iowans will gather in early August at Grand View University for their second annual senior citizens summit, ‘Gay & Gray in the Midwest.’

A Facebook event page has been set up for the event, which promises a great environment for the graying gay to discuss issues important to them.

“Focused around the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults and caregivers, the 2nd Annual LGBT Senior Summit will bring LGBT elders, allies, and advocates together with healthcare, housing, legal, and other service providers,” the event description states. “It will broaden the conversation about the needs of aging LGBT Iowans; make connections between individuals, communities, and resources; and help LGBT seniors understand their rights.”

The event will be held in the Grand View University Student Center, which the event description notes is wheelchair accessible. Grand View is a small liberal arts college in Des Moines, Iowa affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

One Iowa, which describes itself as the foremost LGBT organization in the Hawkeye State, is hosting the event. Its website says the program is meant to help celebrate the elder LGBT community, as well as reduce homophobia and transphobia experienced by the community.

“While LGBT elders confront the same health, housing, and social issues that all elders face, they must also deal with additional challenges of isolation, discrimination, and lack of understanding,” One Iowa says. “Gay & Gray in the Midwest helps to counter those challenges by connecting LGBT elders with positive experiences and opportunities.”

Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa, told Campus Reform that the senior summit is a new celebration for members of the state’s elderly LGBT community, many of whom had difficulty finding acceptance from community members while growing up in the rural state.

“These are some of the bravest, most interesting people we’ve ever met,” Red Wing said. “Imagine being an 80 year old lesbian living in a farming community in southeast Iowa, looking for acceptance.”

Red Wing noted that One Iowa became the first outside group to use the new Grand View University student center’s event space, which opened in 2015, when it hosted the first Gay & Gray event last year.

Around 165 people attended the inaugural event, which featured activities and discussions on health and finances. New additions to the program this year include having members of the Iowa legislature present to greet attendees, as well as a film screening complete with popcorn.

The ELCA is split on the acceptance of gay marriage and other LGBT issues, and gives each church the autonomy to adopt its own stances.

Red Wing told Campus Reform that One Iowa is working with faith-based organizations to promote LGBT awareness and inclusivity, and believes many mainline Protestant churches are warming up to the LGBT community.

“The world is changing,” she asserted. “We know that there are denominations that are accepting and affirming.”

Red Wing also acknowledged, though, that more-conservative faith groups remain hesitant about accepting the LGBT community and gay marriage, saying, “We need to be, and we are, talking to clergy who represent those congregations that have not made those decisions yet.”

Gay & Gray is not a free event. Early bird tickets cost $15 and it appears that prices will increase as the summit nears.

Event sponsorships ranging from $30 to $3,000+ are available for businesses and nonprofits, and table vendors are also welcome, with spaces available at rates of $100 for businesses and $35 for nonprofits.

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