GenPride stands against anti-Asian hate and violence, and in solidarity with the AAPI community

We are outraged and heartbroken by the recent murders in Atlanta, as well as the many physical acts of violence around the nation (including in the Puget Sound Region), that are manifestations of the ever-present racism that Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities have endured for 160 years. The past year has only further highlighted the historic structures that allow this to continue in this country and the incredibly harmful impact of politically powerful demagogues who do not stand on the side of justice and honor of all people across our myriad of backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities.

We at GenPride stand in strong solidarity with the AAPI community. As an organization whose mission is to serve the needs of LGBTQIA+ seniors, we are dedicated to addressing the heavy social, intersectional disparities based on race, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

We are deeply committed to the work ahead as we fight to break down racist structures and work to build a new future where all can thrive with safety, pride, and dignity. We continue to actively examine, implement, and refine our approach to building this future together.

GenPride Statement of Solidarity against Racism

Get Support & Take Action 

Included here are a handful of resources that may be helpful to members of the GenPRIDE community.  

Washington State Resources 

National Resources 

  • Stop AAPI Hate – Includes details on how to report a hate incident. 
  • Asian Pride Project – “An online space for family and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Asian & Pacific Islander (API) people. It is a place to share our stories and experiences with each other, in the languages of our communities, in video, sound, pictures, and words. Together, we can move towards understanding and celebrating our families and friends for who they are.” 
  • Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT) – An organization working on behalf of medically underserved communities living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS and other health disparities. 
  • Chinese Rainbow Network, Inc. (CRN) – Founded in 1996 by the members of the Chinese LGBTQ+ community in the United States. In 2015, CRN became the only non-profit organization (NPO) serving the Chinese LGBTQ+ community in North America. It has attracted thousands of members ever since. 
  • Coming Out: Living Authentically as LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander Americans – by Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a LGBTQ resource guide helping Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with the coming out process. 
  • DEQH * DESI LGBTQ+ Helpline for South Asians – 100% Confidential support for South Asian Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Queer, Trans, Non-Binary, Questioning individuals in the United States. 
  • Prism Foundation (Formerly known as GAPA: Gay Asian Pacific Alliance) – An organization providing funds and leveraging resources to empower the Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ community. 
  • The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance – “The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance is a network of Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander LGBTQ organizations.” 
  • The Visibility Project – “A national portrait + video collection dedicated to the Queer Asian American Women & Trans* community. The Visibility Project breaks barriers through powerful imagery and storytelling.” 
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Stay well and have fun during the quarantine

Stay well and have fun during the quarantine

Need a reset like something funny or cute to take your mind off things for a moment?

Check out some of our picks, and let us know if you’ve got any you’d like to share!

Community Suggestions and staff picks have no affiliations or site vetting, please reach out with any questions.

Art + Pride

Learn about LGBTQ+ Artists Who Have Made an Impact, catch up on some great vibes and nostalgia.


A Brief History of LGBTQ Art + Symbolism

Here’s a brief history of LGBTQ Art by Revel & Riot, a great blog with lots of humor and T-shirts!


How to Have Sex in the Coronavirus Pandemic

So, if we are going to have to rethinking what we’re doing, not have folks over, not get out to sexy places and events, and overall may just have a difficult, awful time of it, how’s the sex going to even happen? Is it even a thing in a pandemic?

Yes. It is a thing.



Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch

British Museum, the Guggenheim, National Gallery of Art, Musée d’Orsay, Rijksmuseum & Van Gough Museum to name a few, all without having to leave your couch!


Pluto the dog!

A “talking” dog, a wiry 13-year-old Schnauzer, has become a pandemic hero since the canine made her first appearance on Facebook last week. She’s very funny.


Cats wearing hats, whats the catch?

A suggestion from our beloved Adam, ‘Cats wearing hats made of their own hair! It’s actually a LOT more adorable than it sounds.’


Cat Videos

There might be a million cat videos online, since that’s pretty much the only reason the internet was created it seems. “This video is one of my favorites though because cats really just don’t care.” – Beatrix


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The Lavender Palette – GenPRIDE Field Trip

The Lavender Palette – GenPRIDE Field Trip

We had a great turnout of 39 GenPRIDE elders and friends for our field trip to The Lavender Palette, an art exhibit of Washington state’s gay and lesbian artists active from 1910 through 1970, offered at the Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds, WA.

The curator of the exhibit, David Martin, gave us a guided tour through the galleries, revealing many personal stories and context about each artist, their lives and work. These personal details about the artists drove home how courageous and innovative they were, and how they managed to survive in a less-welcoming era when discrimination was widespread and same-sex trysts were illegal.

Though the full exhibit closed at the end of January, you can still see selected pieces in a continuing exhibit at Cascadia Art Museum. This subset will be on display until the publication of the exhibit’s companion book, sometime this spring.

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Rural Area Resource Guides

Rural Area Resource Guides

Community Survey to help build Resource Guides for Trans and Non Gender Conforming in Rural Areas

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Take the Survey

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Thurston County

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Snohomish County

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Pierce County

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Are you a Significant Other, Friend, Family member, Ally or Service Provider?

Take the SOFFA Community Survey to help contribute to these guides!

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Mental Health Basics

Mental Health Basics

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What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.

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What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.1Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.

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Why is mental health important for overall health?

Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.  Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.2

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Can your mental health change over time?

Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors.  When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours,Cdc-pdf caring for an ill relative or experiencing economic hardship they may experience poor mental health.

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How common are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.

  • More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.3
  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.4
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.5
  • 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.6

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What causes mental illness?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 

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Seattle LGBTQ Organizations and Periodicals Timeline

Seattle LGBTQ Organizations and Periodicals Timeline

Here are brief descriptions of many of Seattle’s LGBTQ civil rights organizations, listed according to the decade of their founding. Kevin McKenna is author and section coordinator.




  • Seattle Gay News
  • Northwest Gay Review
  • Northwest Passage
  • Pandora
  • Out and About





The Dorian Society

The Dorian Society was the first and only homophile organization in Seattle, officially founded in 1967. University of Washington Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Nicholas Heer served as the first president. Heer had been active in the homophile movement in Boston before moving to Seattle. The Dorian Society’s membership was predominantly middle-class white men. The Dorian Society targeted heterosexual allies by portraying homosexuals as respectable citizens. While advocating the repeal of Washington State’s anti-sodomy law and increased services for homosexuals, Dorian Society members also encouraged members of the gay community to conduct themselves responsibly in public. In 1969, the organization established a “Dorian House” on Capitol Hill, which was the first gay institution in Seattle that was neither a bar nor a bathhouse. Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities began in the Dorian House the same year. The Dorian Society produced the newsletter Columns, the foundation of Seattle Gay News.

Queen City Business Guild

Gay bar and bathhouse owners formed the Queen City Business Guild in the 1960s. While relatively inactive prior to the gay liberation movement, the guild supported the creation of Seattle’s Imperial Court, a drag organization, and assisted the Gay Community Center in organizing a gay campground in the Cascades.

Freedom Socialist Party

The Freedom Socialist Party was an anti-racist, socialist feminist organization founded in 1966. The party supported the gay liberation movement, and included many gay men in its ranks in its early years. The Freedom Socialist Party met in Freeway Hall in the University District. Today, FSP is located at “New Freeway Hall” in Columbia City. Their website is

Radical Women

Radical Women is a socialist feminist organization founded in the late 1960s that grew out of the Freedom Socialist Party, but only included women. Radical Women identified the root of gay and female oppression in the heterosexual monogamous family, which they viewed as the basic social unit necessary to support a capitalist political economy. That is, they viewed capitalism and patriarchy as inextricably linked and sought the defeat of both. Radical Women continues today with socialist feminist politics that also take into account racial oppression and gender identity issues. Their current home is “New Freeway Hall,” located in Columbia City, and their website is

Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities

Founded by Bob Deisher as Seattle Counseling Service in the Dorian House on Malden Avenue in 1969 when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness, SCS provided a space for people to talk to volunteer counselors. In 1970, 264 people came into the SCS house for counseling while over two thousand phoned into the center for counseling. Today, Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities continues to provide counseling with a wider understanding of sexual minority and gender identity issues. Today, SCSSM is located on Melrose Ave and Pine Street on the southwestern slope of Capitol Hill. Their website is

Seattle Gay Liberation Front

Formed in June 1970, the Seattle chapter of the Gay Liberation Front argued for societal change rather than the inclusion of gay people as respectable members of society. The organization stressed that people should have the right to choose their sexuality, sex, and gender and publicly express their gender and sexuality as they please. The GLF sought to end the nuclear family as the basic unit of social organization and argued that children be raised without assigning gender roles to them. Beyond sexual politics, the Gay Liberation Front included “the liberation of all oppressed peoples” in its political action statement, endorsing radical racial minority, feminist, anti-war and other activists challenging imperialism and sexism.

Gay Women’s Alliance

The Gay Women’s Alliance was born out of the Gay Liberation Front in December 1970 to address the specific concerns of lesbians, who did not feel fully at home in either women’s liberation or gay liberation. They asserted the need for coalitional activism particularly with the women’s movement and were supportive of gay liberation.

Gay Community Center

Founded by Paul Barwick, John Singer (later named Faygele benMiriam), and Robert Perry in 1971 on Cherry Street and First Avenue Seattle near the historical center of gay bars and bathhouses in Pioneer Square, the Gay Community Center offered a space where gay men and lesbians could socialize without alcohol. More than two thousand people came by the center by the end of 1971. Rising rent forced the center to close at the end of 1972, but a new Gay Community Center opened on 16th Avenue on Capitol Hill during Gay Pride Week 1974. The new center featured a library, job and housing notices, a twenty-four-hour hotline, and a food and clothing donation service.

Lesbian Resource Center

Founded by the Gay Women’s Alliance as the Gay Women’s Resource Center at the University District YWCA in 1971, the center provided services for gay women and offered a space for lesbians to socialize without alcohol, much like the space the Gay Community Center had provided for gay Seattleites, though predominantly gay men. Lesbians had access to lists of sympathetic doctors and businesses friendly to gay women at the center. “Rap groups” formed at the center, following the model of the consciousness raising groups that were at the heart of the women’s liberation movement at the University of Washington and the surrounding neighborhood.

Stonewall Recovery

Founded by Bill DuBay and David Baird in 1971, Stonewall served as a treatment center for gay drug addicts. Stonewall used group therapy and strict supervision to ensure recovery from addiction and other emotional trauma specific to the experiences of gay men and lesbians at the time. Stonewall fought for the right to serve as a center for gay parolees from Walla Walla State Penitentiary. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services certified Stonewall as a drug treatment center in 1972. Stonewall moved into a former Carmelite nunnery in 1974, but the cost of repairs to the nunnery proved too great, and Stonewall dissolved in September 1976 after two failed attempts to find a new home in the greater Seattle area. Stonewall served about 500 patients before it dissolved.

Seattle Gay Alliance

Founded by Dorian Society members who were more open to the strategies of the Gay Liberation Front, the Seattle Gay Alliance brought members of the older generation and younger generation of gay activists together beginning in 1971. SGA publicly contested sexual double standards, advocating that gay couples should have the same right to public displays of affection as straight couples.

Metropolitan Community Church

Evangelical preacher Robert Sirico founded a branch of the Metropolitan Community Church in Seattle after coming out in 1972. Troy Perry had founded the first Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles in 1968 for gay Christians. The MCC shared space with a United Methodist congregation near the Dorian House in the 1970s. Today, the Emerald City Metropolitan Community Church holds services at the University Temple United Methodist Church in the University District. Their website is

Office for Women’s Rights

Established by the City Council Council with the passage of the city’s 1973 Fair Employment Practices Ordinance, the Office of Women’s Rights was responsible for adjudicating cases of discrimination against women and sexual minorities. When sexual minorities were added to Seattl’e housing nondiscrimination ordiance in 1975, the Office of Women’s Rights took on cases of housing discrimination against women and sexual minorities too. Inititiative 13 threatened to disband the Office of Women’s Rights in 1978, but Seattle voters defeated the initative. The Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays was first housed within the Office for Women’s Rights.

Stonewall Committee

The Stonewall Committee was a coalition of gay men and lesbians that organized Seattle’s early Gay Pride Marches. These early marches held in Downtown Seattle stressed the importance of gay men and lesbians making their voices heard in solidarity with all oppressed peoples, including workers and people of color.

Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund

Founded by Geraldine Cole in Seattle in 1974, the Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund provided aid to lesbians involved with child custody cases. Since most cases of lesbian motherhood in the 1970s involved women married to men who came out as lesbians, it was difficult for lesbian mothers to win custody battles with their husbands given the negative views of gay people in most parts of the country at the time.

The Dorian Group

Founded by Charlie Brydon in 1975, The Dorian Group mobilized predominantly white, professional class gay men and lesbians to articulate a civil rights politics that did not critique society-at-large in the way gay liberationists and lesbian feminists did up to that point. The Dorian Group quickly became the most visible gay rights organization at City Hall. By 1977, The Dorian Group was engaging in Washington State politics, seeking the passage of a statewide nondiscrimination bill covering sexual minorities in housing and employment. By 1980, The Dorian Group had become a member organization of the New York-based National Gay Task Force and the Washington, DC- based National Gay Rights Lobby.

Union of Sexual Minorities

The Union of Sexual Minorities carried the politics of the Gay Liberation Front into the late 1970s, raising awareness around a variety of issues that its members viewed as related to a racist and sexist society. They openly discussed and publicized critiques of the United States as the primary source of imperialism and capitalism in the twentieth century. Their newsletter The Other Side raised awareness around issues affecting sexual minorities as well as issues affecting racial minorities and colonized peoples. A conversation among members of the Union of Sexual Minorities and Mujer, a Chicana feminist organization in Seattle, prompted Mujer to openly oppose Initiative 13 and assert that gay people existed in all racial groups.

Washington Coalition for Sexual Minority Rights

The Washington Coalition for Sexual Minority Rights formed as a coalition to replace the Seattle Gay Alliance after its dissolution with a more radial perspective than The Dorian Group in the late 1970s. The coalition did was made up of constituent organizations, including Seattle Counseling Service, the Gay Community Center, the National Organization of Women, the Feminist Coordinating Council, the Freedom Socialist Party, Radical Women, and the Union of Sexual Minorities. WCfSMR meetings regarding David Estes and Dennis Falk’s petition for an initiative to overturn Seattle’s nondiscrimination clauses covering sexual minorities spawned the Seattle Committee Against Thirteen and Women Against Thirteen.


Founded as the Seattle Municipal Elections Committee in 1977, SEAMEC has worked to register gay people to vote and has developed a candidate ranking system to publicize were candidates fall on LGBTQ issues. Today, the organization calls itself the Seattle Metropolitan Elections Committee, ranking candidates from the greater Seattle area rather than just the city itself. Their website is //

Citizens to Retain Fair Employment

Citizens to Retain Fair Employment (CRFE) formed in 1978 to fight what became Initiative 13, an effort to repeal Seattle’s nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual minorities in housing and employment. Closely associated with The Dorian Group, CRFE recruited allies in City Hall and in the state legislature in Olympia in its efforts to convince Seattle voters to vote “no” on Initiative 13. CRFE’s campaign literature stressed that everyone’s privacy was at stake if Initiative 13 passed, making the campaign less about discrimination against people and more about the universal right to privacy.

Seattle Committee Against Thirteen

The Seattle Committee Against Thirteen (SCAT) formed in 1978 to fight what became Initiative 13, an effort to repeal Seattle’s nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual minorities in housing and employment. Attracting activists rooted in or sympathetic to gay liberation, SCAT sought to make discrimination against gay people central to the campaign to defeat Initiative 13 unlike CRFE. They stressed that everybody knew someone who was gay, whether they knew it at the time or not, and that taking away the rights of sexual minorities was a slippery slope toward taking rights for all minority groups. Their grassroots campaign targeted minority neighborhoods and forged a connection between Initiative 13 and Initiative 15, which granted police officers greater discretion to use firearms with its passage.

Women Against Thirteen

Women Against Thirteen (WAT) formed in 1978 to defeat Initiative 13. WAT’s activism focused on the initiative’s proposal to disband Seattle’s Office of Women’s Rights, which enforced cases of discrimination against women and sexual minorities in housing and employment. Their outreach did not only target women, however. By eliminating the Office of Women’s Rights, cases of discrimination against women were to be placed under the purview of the Office of Human Rights, which already handled cases of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, political beliefs, religion, and ability. Like SCAT, WAT targeted racial minorities, arguing that the Office of Human Rights already had a large enough caseload without adding cases involving women.

Seattle Gay Clinic

The Seattle Gay Clinic was founded in 1979 as a safe space for gay men to get screened for STDs. Prior to its founding, many gay men in Seattle had unpleasant experiences with Seattle-King County Department of Public Health’s VD clinic, reporting instances of moral judgment from nurses there. The volunteers at SGC were predominantly gay men who were sympathetic to gay patients and sex positive. Many local AIDS organizations were founded out of the Seattle Gay Clinic, including the Chicken Soup Brigade and the Northwest AIDS Foundation.

Ingersoll Gender Center

Founded by Marsha Botzer in 1979, the Ingersoll Gender Center has served transgender, trans*, gender variant, and genderqueer people as a support center ever since. The center incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1984. The center hosts an All-Trans Support Group every Wednesday evening and has helped members of the community find sensitive healthcare providers.

Greater Seattle Business Association

Organized by Stan Hill in 1981, the Greater Seattle Business Association formed to promote gay businesses in the Seattle area. Thirty-three gay business owners signed on as charter members. GSBA produced an annual directory of gay businesses to assist members of the gay community in patronizing gay-owned businesses. GSBA sought to foster the creation of a gay business district along Broadway in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, the GSBA board began to allow allied businesses to join the organization. Today, GSBA is the largest and most active LGBT business chamber in the United States, counting almost 1,000 businesses as members. GSBA’s offices are located on East Pine Street on Capitol Hill, and their website is


Modeled after the original Shanti group in San Francisco, Shanti/Seattle formed in 1983 as an emotional support network for people living with AIDS. Volunteer counselors received training and were matched with patients and met at the patients’ convenience, usually in their home or at their hospital bedside. Shanti prided itself on providing counseling to patients regardless of how advanced their case of AIDS was.

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence formed in San Francisco as a collective of queer nuns committed to erasing stigma, increasing queer visibility, and assisting marginal members of the LGBTQ community. Since the early AIDS epidemic, when a Seattle chapter formed, the Sisters have promoted safer sex practices while maintaining a sex positive attitude in the face AIDS. The Seattle chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is the Abbey of St. Joan.


Modeled after the original Shanti group in San Francisco, Shanti/Seattle formed in 1983 as an emotional support network for people living with AIDS. Volunteer counselors received training and were matched with patients and met at the patients’ convenience, usually in their home or at their hospital bedside. Shanti prided itself on providing counseling to patients regardless of how advanced their case of AIDS was.

Northwest AIDS Foundation/Lifelong AIDS Alliance

The Northwest AIDS Foundation was formed out of the Seattle Gay Clinic in 1983 to raise money to help those affected by AIDS. After 1985, the Northwest AIDS Foundation began a “Rules of the Road” safe sex campaign to encourage condom use among gay men, the first of several safe sex campaigns in Seattle. Today, Lifelong AIDS Alliance performs the education and care functions of the Northwest AIDS Foundation and the Chicken Soup Brigade put together. Their website is

Seattle AIDS Support Group/Seattle Area Support Groups and Community Center

Founded by Josh Joshua, Stan Henry, and Ann McCaffray in 1984, the Seattle AIDS Support Group provided a space for people living with AIDS to meet and discuss their new lives living with the disease. SASG fostered a sense of camaraderie amongst those who attended meetings. Today, under the name Seattle Area Support Groups and Community Center, SAGS has expanded to offer various support groups targeting the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV/AIDS, including various Alcoholics Anonymous and groups, spiritual groups, social groups and events such as book clubs and game nights, and other substance abuse and addiction support groups. SAGS is located in a house on 17th Avenue East on Capitol Hill, and their website is

Blood Sisters

Blood Sisters was founded by in 1985 by a group of lesbian activists, organizing blood drives in solidarity with gay men suffering from AIDS.

AIDS Prevention Project

The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health established the AIDS Prevention Project in 1985. Bob Wood served as the Medical Director, and Tim Burak served as the Project Coordinator. The APP work closesly with the Northwest AIDS Foundation and the People of Color Against AIDS Network in reaching out to communities subject to higher transmission rates of HIV, including gay men and intravenous drug users. The APP worked with local bathhouse owners to distribute condoms and information about HIV transmission, viewing bathhouses as cites of education for men engaging in risky sexual behavior rather than sites of transmission that needed to be shut down as happened in other cities. The APP succeeded in obtaining many private and public grants to experiment with AIDS prevention programs. Most notably, the APP was one of five programs in the coutnry receiving federal funds for the Center for Disease Control’s Community Demonstration Project for AIDS Prevention and Risk Reduction.

Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force

The Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force was founded in 1985 to advise the mayor on issues relating to the gay community beyond AIDS. The MLGTF included eleven members representing the Greater Seattle Business Association, Stonewall Recovery, the Northwest AIDS Foundation, the Lesbian Resource Center, and other organizations and committees. When the City Council approved the creation of a Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays in 1989, the Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force ceased to exist.

Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network

The Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network was formed in 1985. The organization worked with service providers and city officials to increase awareness of bisexual issues. The testified in hearings of the Seattle Commission on Children and Youth and the Seattle Women’s Commission in 1988, and they began printing a bimonthly newsletter North BI Northwest that same year.

The Pride Foundation

Established through the Greater Seattle Business Association in 1986, the Pride Foundation has served as a donor-based philanthropic organization, funding community nonprofit organizations. While originally focused on supporting organizations in the greater Seattle area, the Pride Foundation now funds organizations across the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, and provides scholarships, grants, and fellowships to support LGBTQ students, scholars, and community organizers and advocates. Their website is

People of Color Against AIDS Network

Founded in 1987, the People of Color Against AIDS Network has advocated on behalf of AIDS victims of color, including African Americans, Asians, and Latinos. They have fought for more equitable access to health care and resources for people of color living with AIDS and engaged in their own safe sex campaign targeting communities of color around Seattle.

Northwest Network

Founded in 1987 by lesbian survivors of physical abuse, the Northwest Network is dedicated to assisting LGBTQ victims of abuse and domestic violence. They provide free and confidential services to all members of the LGBTQ community, regardless of gender identity, race, religion, or cultural background. Their website is

AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACTUP)

A Seattle chapter of the New York-based AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power formed in 1988. ACTUP activities targeting local government were less prevalent in Seattle than elsewhere, given the proactive measures already being taken by the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health. They organized a protest when Vice President George Bush visited Tacoma to put pressure on the Reagan-Bush administration to do more to combat AIDS at the federal level. When the University of Washington Medical Center Board approved a policy to bar HIV-positive hospital workers from performing surgery with the patient’s consent in 1991, ACTUP protested. They began a needle exchange program to prevent the spread of AIDS among intravenous drug users before the Department of Public Health gained approval to do so, and ACTUP members distributed condoms and information on safe sex outside public schools in 1991 before the Seattle School Board voted to begin a safe sex program.

Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays

In 1989, the City Council approved the formation of the Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays, replacing the Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force. Today, the commission is called the Seattle LGBT Commission. The commission has 15 members, 7 appointed by the mayor, 7 appointed by the City Council, and 1 appointed by the commisssion. The commission advises the mayor and the City Council on all issues relevant to the LGBTQ community with the power to recommend policies, hold City of Seattle departments accountable for following nondiscriminaiton ordinances protecting LGBT employees, and engaging in projects to increase understanding of the LGBT community among the city’s population. The website for the commission is

Lambert House

Named after queer youth advocate Gray Lambert in 1993, the Association of Lesbian and Gay Youth Advocates was founded in the late 1980s as a support network for Seattle-area youth that seeks to empower gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Since 1991, Lambert House has sat on 15th Ave in Capitol Hill. About half of youth that visit the Lambert House are queer of color youth. In addition to providing social activities for LGBTQ members of the community under age 22, Lambert House has support groups, including the Transgender Group, Queer Young Females, and the Boys Group. Their website is

BiNet Seattle

BiNet Seattle is a chapter of the BiNet USA network, a gender-inclusive bisexual and bi-curious community. BiNet USA first formalized as the North American Bisexual Network in Seattle in 1990. Their website is

Queer Nation

The Seattle Tribe of Queer Nation was active from 1990 to 1995. It was the seventh tribe formed and outlasted most others. Queer Nation drew insights from academic queer theory, allowing for more fluid definitions of gender and sexuality. Queer Nation/Seattle battled violence against LGBTQ persons while advocating queer visibility with the goal of expanding the general population’s knowledge of gender and sexuality. Internal discussions also addressed racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. Queer Nation members fought heteropatriarchy through both art and activism. One campaign begun by Queer Nation was Bigot Busters/Decline to Sign, a campaign to counter petition gatherers for anti-gay Initiatives 608 and 610, to prevent the initiatives from qualifying for the 1994 Washington State ballot. Both initiatives failed to qualify, as did identical Initiatives 166 and 167 in 1995.

Project NEON

Established throught Seattle Counseling Services, Project NEON started in 1991 to combat methamphetamine addiction in the gay community and HIV transmission among intravenous drug users. Project NEON’s outreach campaign increased the visibility of the prevalance of methamphetamine use and abuse in Seattle and continues to offer services for users. Project NEON offers a harm-reduction approach with the goal of increasing awareness of the detrimental health effects of methamphetamine use, including increased risk of HIV and STI transmission, by providing honest information about how meth affects the mind and body. Counseling is offered at SCS for those looking to reduce their risk, manage, or cease their use of methampetamine. Find out more here:

Entre Hermanos

Entre Hermanos was founded by LGBTQ Latinos in 1991 to address the specific social, educational, and health needs of the Latino LGBTQ community. They affiliated with the People of Color Against AIDS Network in 1993 and were incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2001. They sponsor a weekly Latino night at Neighbours Nightclub on Sundays. Their website is

Hands Off Washington – Equal Rights Washington

Formed in 1992 as anti-gay initiative made its way to the Oregon State ballot, Hands Off Washington began as an organization to prevent the anti-gay movement from making its way into Washington State. The organization has evolved into Equal Rights Washington, which has been a major lobbying organization for LGBTQ rights in Olympia. With the help of lobbying efforts by Equal Rights Washington, the Washington State Legislature passed civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Washingtonians in 2006, domestic partnership for same-sex couples in 2007, and same-sex marriage in 2012. Equal Rights Washington was actively involved in the 2012 electoral battle over same-sex marriage, campaigning to defeat Referendum 74. Their website is

Bailey-Boushay House

Founded by Betsy Lieberman in 1992, the Bailey-Boushay House continues to provide both outpatient and inpatient hospice care for people with AIDS in Madison Valley. The house is named after Thatcher Bailey, who helped fight prejudice and ignorance in Madison Valley as plans for the house were made, and his partner Frank Boushay, who died of AIDS in 1989. Bailey-Boushay particularly serves those who cannot afford standard hospital care or are otherwise disadvantaged, including the homeless, mentally ill, and chemically dependent. Their website is

API Chaya

API Chaya was founded in the mid-1990s to support Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander survivors and families impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as human trafficking survivors from all communities. API Chaya engages communities to change societal conditions that enable domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and all forms of oppression, especially violence against women and the most vulnerable in our society. The Queer Network Program at API Chaya works to engage the API LGBTQ community to address and prevent intimate partner violence. In order to do this, we work to build skills among allies and community members, raise the visibility of our community and concerns, and supporting survivors of violence. Their website is

HIV Vaccine Trials Unit

In 1994, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington teamed up to establish a national HIV vaccine trial. The joint Fred Hutch/UW HIV Vaccine Trials Unit is the hub for an international HIV Vaccine Trial Network, working to develop an effective vaccine against HIV infection.

Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project

The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project was founded in 1994 to document the history of lesbian and gay life in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Seattle. The organization has conducted oral histories, which have been deposited at the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections. NWLGHMP has also produced two publications. “Claiming Space: Seattle’s Lesbian and Gay Historical Geography” is a map of gay spaces in Seattle throughout the gay community’s history. Mosaic 1: Life stories from isolation to community is a book comprising excerpts from the oral histories conducted by NWLGHMP. Their website can be found here.

Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington

Founded in 1995, the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington formed as conversations over same-sex marriage were heating up in Hawaii. Co-founder Roger Winters developed a petition, which became the basis for a statewide listserv to keep same-sex marriage advocates connected via email. The Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington advocated for same-sex marriage recognition at the state level, dissolving in 2007 as more and more organizations began joining the fight for gay marriage.

Gay City Health Project

Gay City Health Project was founded in 1995 to promote wellness in the LGBTQ community. Gay City serves as a de facto LGBTQ community center. Through donor funding, Gay City provides STI testing for members of the gay community at no cost. Gay City has expanded to include an arts program to promote healthy living in the LGBTQ community. Gay City sponsors a team for the annual Seattle to Portland Classic bike ride as well as a Seattle SNAP, a sober softball team. Gay City’s suite on Pike St. on Capitol Hill includes an LGBTQ library as well as a resource and referral service for community members. Their website is

Emerald City Black Pride

Sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Health since 2011, Emerald City Black Pride is an initiative to foster pride, promote health, and build community among LGBTQ people of color. In addition to holding an annual pride party in late July, ECBP has programming throughout the year to achieve that goal.

Trikone Northwest

Trikone Northwest is an organizaiton working to build a safe and inclusive world where LGBTQIA+ South Asians by building communiyt, increasing social and political visibility, and promoting racial and sexual equality. Their website is

Pride ASIA

Founded in 2012, Pride ASIA’s mission is to celebrate, empower and nurture the multi-cultural diversity of the LGBTQ communities through the Asian Pacific Islander lens. Pride ASIA is a proud member of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea). Pride ASIA’s website is

Gender Justice League

Sponsored by the Gay City Health Project, the Gender Justice League is a non-profit collective founded by trans, queer, and allied activists to address the particular discriminations faced by trans, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people in addition to homophobia, biphobia, misogyny, and racism. This includes combating fear and hate-driven attitudes and violence toward trans people as well as economic justice, as trans people are twice as likely to face unemployment as cisgender people. GJL activists work toward increasing trans and queer visibility and acceptance through grassroots activism in the community and elevating media representation of trans, queer, and gender non-conforming people. Their website is


Noor is an all-inclusive LGBTQI and Questioning confidential meeting space for individuals in the greater Seattle area that have ever identified as Muslim. Noor keeps a private Facebook group to protect the privacy of its members. If you have ever identified as Muslim and would like to know more about Noor, you may contact the Facebook group administrator here.

Queering the Museum Project

The Queering the Museum Project was founded by two University of Washington graduate students, Erin Bailey and Nicole Robert, in an effort to queer museum practices. They successfully organized a community-based exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry called “Revealing Queer,” which was on display in 2014. The exhibit featured artifacts from the history of LGBTQ activism in the Puget Sound region. Part of the project was the Digital Storytelling Project. You can find the videos for the Digital Storytelling Project here:

We Are 1

We Are 1 is a coalition of community health-oriented organizations to promote wellness and health for gay men, bi men, trans people, and straight men who have sex with men in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties. We Are 1 does not merely focus on sexual health but is taking a holistic approach to health and wellness, including diet, exercise, use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, mental health, and combatting violence. Sponsoring organizations include the Washington State Department of Health, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Snohomish Health District, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Pierce County AIDS Foundation, Evergreen Wellness Advocates, Seattle Counseling Service, NEON Project, Gay City Health Project, Center for Multicultural Health, and Entre Hermanos. Find out more at

Citation: Kevin McKenna, “LGBTQ Organizations and Periodicals,“ Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project < (>

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Open Positions at GenPRIDE

Open Positions at GenPride

To apply, click on the job title below.

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Housing update 3

Housing update 3

Now that the LGBTQ-Affirming Senior Housing project has received funding commitments from the city, county, and state, the project team is advancing into the next phase of design work for the project and initiating the entitlements process to obtain all necessary land use and building approvals with the city. 

We are currently working to optimize the design of the GenPRIDE senior community center to provide additional floor area and an enhanced connection to Broadway, and we’ve assembled a team of engineers to begin designing the structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing elements of the building. The project team is also focusing on making the building green and energy-efficient, including solar panels on the roof. 

The design and entitlements process is expected to progress through late 2020 with an anticipated construction start in early 2021 and completion in 2022. 

Community members are encouraged to submit comments by sending an email to

Stay tuned!

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LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior

Housing Comes to Seattle!

GenPRIDE to be the ground floor service provider.

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The mayor announced on Monday, December 9 2019, that the Office of Housing has chosen to fund Washington state’s first ever LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing building, to be located on Capitol Hill. The property, located between Pike and Pine on Broadway in the heart of the historic LGBTQ neighborhood, will break ground in late 2020 or early 2021 with completion slated for early 2023.

The project, which has been a community-collaboration involving nine LGBTQ non-profit organizations, has partnered with developer Capitol Hill Housing to build and operate the new apartments. GenPRIDE, who provides LGBTQ+ senior services and activities, was chosen to be the ground floor service provider. The space will include a community meeting room, a commercial kitchen for meals and events, a health clinic, and offices for GenPRIDE’s outreach to residents and will serve as their hub of operations for expansion into King County.

“This is a remarkable time in Seattle’s LGBTQ history, and we are both excited and humbled to be playing a part in building a stronger senior community for those who have been instrumental in achieving the rights many of us enjoy today,” says GenPRIDE Executive Director, Steven Knipp. “We are looking forward to making this a vibrant center filled with people who want to connect with others and be a part of our incredible community.”

There will be a community celebration and information events held in early 2020 to both commemorate this achievement and to provide a forum for input into his exciting new property.

Look to for more information.

GenPRIDE, is a Seattle-based non-profit founded in 2015 to serve the needs of the LGBTQ+ aging community. Our collaborative partners in the housing venture are University of Washington Aging with Pride, Ingersoll Gender Center, Gay City, GSBA, Allyship, County Doctor/Carolyn Downs Clinic, POCAAN, Seattle Counseling Services, and Capitol Hill Housing.

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Sexuality in Later Life

Sexuality in Later Life

Many people want and need to be close to others as they grow older. For some, this includes the desire to continue an active, satisfying sex life. With aging, that may mean adapting sexual activity to accommodate physical, health, and other changes.
There are many different ways to have sex and be intimate—alone or with a partner. The expression of your sexuality could include many types of touch or stimulation. Some adults may choose not to engage in sexual activity, and that’s also normal.
Here, we explore some of the common problems older adults may face with sex.

What Are Normal Changes?

Normal aging brings physical changes in both men and women. These changes sometimes affect the ability to have and enjoy sex.

A woman may notice changes in her vagina. As a woman ages, her vagina can shorten and narrow. Her vaginal walls can become thinner and a little stiffer. Most women will have less vaginal lubrication, and it may take more time for the vagina to naturally lubricate itself. These changes could make certain types of sexual activity, such as vaginal penetration, painful or less desirable. If vaginal dryness is an issue, using water-based lubricating jelly or lubricated condoms may be more comfortable. If a woman is using hormone therapy to treat hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms, she may want to have sex more often than she did before hormone therapy.

As men get older, impotence (also called erectile dysfunction, or ED) becomes more common. ED is the loss of ability to have and keep an erection. ED may cause a man to take longer to have an erection. His erection may not be as firm or as large as it used to be. The loss of erection after orgasm may happen more quickly, or it may take longer before another erection is possible. ED is not a problem if it happens every now and then, but if it occurs often, talk with your doctor.

Talk with your partner about these changes and how you are feeling. Your doctor may have suggestions to help make sex easier.

What Causes Sexual Problems?

Some illnesses, disabilities, medicines, and surgeries can affect your ability to have and enjoy sex.

  • Arthritis

    Joint pain due to arthritis can make sexual contact uncomfortable. Exercise, drugs, and possibly joint replacement surgery may help relieve this pain. Rest, warm baths, and changing the position or timing of sexual activity can be helpful.

  • Chronic pain

    Pain can interfere with intimacy between older people. Chronic pain does not have to be part of growing older and can often be treated. But, some pain medicines can interfere with sexual function. Always talk with your doctor if you have side effects from any medication.

  • Dementia

    Some people with dementia show increased interest in sex and physical closeness, but they may not be able to judge what is appropriate sexual behavior. Those with severe dementia may not recognize their spouse or partner, but they still desire sexual contact and may seek it with someone else. It can be confusing and difficult to know how to handle this situation. Here, too, talking with a doctor, nurse, or social worker with training in dementia care may be helpful.

  • Diabetes

    This is one of the illnesses that can cause ED in some men. In most cases, medical treatment can help. Less is known about how diabetes affects sexuality in older women. Women with diabetes are more likely to have vaginal yeast infections, which can cause itching and irritation and make sex uncomfortable or undesirable. Yeast infections can be treated.

  • Heart disease

    Narrowing and hardening of the arteries can change blood vessels so that blood does not flow freely. As a result, men and women may have problems with orgasms. For both men and women, it may take longer to become aroused, and for some men, it may be difficult to have or maintain an erection. People who have had a heart attack, or their partners, may be afraid that having sex will cause another attack. Even though sexual activity is generally safe, always follow your doctor’s advice. If your heart problems get worse and you have chest pain or shortness of breath even while resting, your doctor may want to change your treatment plan.

  • Incontinence

    Loss of bladder control or leaking of urine is more common as people, especially women, grow older. Extra pressure on the belly during sex can cause loss of urine. This can be helped by changing positions or by emptying the bladder before and after sex. The good news is that incontinence can usually be treated.

  • Stroke

    The ability to have sex is sometimes affected by a stroke. A change in positions or medical devices may help people with ongoing weakness or paralysis to have sex. Some people with paralysis from the waist down are still able to experience orgasm and pleasure.

  • Depression

    Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, such as intimacy and sexual activity, can be a symptom of depression. It’s sometimes hard to know if you’re depressed. Talk with your doctor. Depression can be treated.

  • Surgery

    Many of us worry about having any kind of surgery—it may be even more troubling when the breasts or genital area are involved. Most people do return to the kind of sex life they enjoyed before surgery.

  • Hysterectomy

    is surgery to remove a woman’s uterus because of pain, bleeding, fibroids, or other reasons. Often, when an older woman has a hysterectomy, the ovaries are also removed. Deciding whether to have this surgery can leave both women and their partners worried about their future sex life. If you’re concerned about any changes you might experience with a hysterectomy, talk with your gynecologist or surgeon.

  • Mastectomy is surgery to remove all or part of a woman’s breast because of breast cancer. This surgery may cause some women to lose their sexual interest, or it may leave them feeling less desirable or attractive to their partners. In addition to talking with your doctor, sometimes it is useful to talk with other women who have had this surgery. Programs like the American Cancer Society’s “Reach to Recovery” can be helpful for both women and men. If you want your breast rebuilt (reconstruction), talk to your cancer doctor or surgeon.
  • Prostatectomy is surgery that removes all or part of a man’s prostate because of cancer or an enlarged prostate. It may cause urinary incontinence or ED. If you need this operation, talk with your doctor before surgery about your concerns.
  • Medications. Some drugs can cause sexual problems. These include some blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, Parkinson’s disease or cancer medications, appetite suppressants, drugs for mental problems, and ulcer drugs. Some can lead to ED or make it hard for men to ejaculate. Some drugs can reduce a woman’s sexual desire or cause vaginal dryness or difficulty with arousal and orgasm. Check with your doctor to see if there is a different drug without this side effect.
  • Alcohol. Too much alcohol can cause erection problems in men and delay orgasm in women.

Am I Too Old to Worry About Safe Sex?

Age does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. Older people who are sexually active may be at risk for diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, and trichomoniasis.

Almost anyone who is sexually active is also at risk of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The number of older people with HIV/AIDS is growing. You are at risk for HIV/AIDS if you or your partner has more than one sexual partner, if you are having unprotected sex, or if either you or your partner is sharing needles. To protect yourself, always use a condom during sex that involves vaginal or anal penetration.

A man needs to have a full erection before putting on a condom.

Talk with your doctor about ways to protect yourself from all sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Go for regular checkups and testing. Talk with your partner. You are never too old to be at risk.

Can Emotions Play a Part?

Sexuality is often a delicate balance of emotional and physical issues. How you feel may affect what you are able to do and what you want to do. Many older couples find greater satisfaction in their sex lives than they did when they were younger. In many cases, they have fewer distractions, more time and privacy, no worries about getting pregnant, and greater intimacy with a lifelong partner.

As we age, our bodies change, including our weight, skin, and muscle tone, and some older adults don’t feel as comfortable in their aging bodies. Older adults, men and women alike, may worry that their partners will no longer find them attractive. Aging-related sexual problems like the ones listed above can cause stress and worry. This worry can get in the way of enjoying a fulfilling sex life.

Older couples face the same daily stresses that affect people of any age. They may also have the added concerns of illness, retirement, and lifestyle changes, all of which may lead to sexual difficulties. Talk openly with your partner, and try not to blame yourself or your partner. You may also find it helpful to talk with a therapist, either alone or with your partner. Some therapists have special training in helping with sexual problems. If you sense changes in your partner’s attitude toward sex, don’t assume they are no longer interested in you or in an active sex life. Talk about it. Many of the things that cause sexual problems in older adults can be helped.

What Can I Do?

There are things you can do on your own for an active and enjoyable sex life. If you have a long-term partner, take time to enjoy each other and to understand the changes you both are facing.

Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor if you have a problem that affects your sex life. He or she may be able to suggest a treatment. For example, the most common sexual difficulty of older women is painful intercourse caused by vaginal dryness. Your doctor or a pharmacist can suggest over-the-counter vaginal lubricants or moisturizers to use. Water-based lubricants are helpful when needed to make sex more comfortable. Moisturizers are used on a regular basis, every 2 or 3 days. Or, your doctor might suggest a form of vaginal estrogen.

If ED is the problem, it can often be managed and perhaps even reversed with medication or other treatments. There are pills that can help. They should not be used by men taking medicines containing nitrates, such as nitroglycerin. The pills do have possible side effects. Be wary of any dietary or herbal supplements promising to treat ED. Always talk to your doctor before taking any herb or supplement.

Physical problems can change your sex life as you get older. If you are single, dating and meeting new people may be easier later in life when you’re more sure of yourself and what you want. If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner may discover new ways to be together as you get older. Talk to your partner or partners about your needs. You may find that affection—hugging, kissing, touching, and spending time together—can be just what you need, or a path to greater intimacy and sex.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

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Special Event Support

Special Event Support

Provide set up, tear down, hosting of special events.

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Majority of LGBT Adults Concerned About Social Support and Discrimination in Long-Term Care

Majority of LGBT Adults Concerned About Social Support and Discrimination in Long-Term Care


When it comes to aging-related concerns, older LGBT adults worry most about having adequate family and other social support to rely on as they age, discrimination in long-term care (LTC) facilities, and access to LGBT-sensitive services for seniors, according to a new AARP survey. Black and Latino LGBT adults report the greatest concern about future family and social supports, and greater worry about potential abuse in LTC facilities because of their race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity.

The survey, “Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans,” found gay men and lesbians have similar concerns about whether they’ll have enough family and/or social support. However, gay men are more likely than lesbians to be single, live alone, and have smaller support systems, which may put them at higher risk for isolation as they age. Transgender adults also report smaller support systems and are at an increased risk of isolation, while bisexuals are least likely to be “out” within health systems.

LGBTinfographic-custom_600x600“Older LGBT adults often have serious concerns about aging with dignity, compounded primarily by fears of discrimination and lack of social support,” said Nii-Quartelai Quartey, Ed.D., AARP Senior Advisor and LGBT Liaison. “LGBT adults are clearly saying that they want LGBT-sensitive long-term care and other services.”

Over half (52%) of LGBT adults said they fear discrimination in health care as they age. A majority are especially concerned about facing neglect, abuse, and verbal or physical harassment in LTC facilities, with Black LGBT adults reporting the highest level of concern.

Most LGBT adults (88%) want providers in LTC facilities who are specifically trained to meet LGBT patient needs. They also want some providers or staff who are themselves LGBT.

Nearly one-third of older LGBT adults were at least somewhat worried about having to hide their LGBT identity in order to have access to suitable housing options.

“With well over a million LGBT seniors in the US, a number that will double by 2030, this is an opportunity for the health care and housing industries to step up and meet the needs of this growing demographic that aspires to thrive not hide as they age” said Quartey.

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Fact Sheet: Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity

Fact Sheet: Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity
Sixty-eight percent of Hispanics had health insurance coverage in 2009 compared to 88 percent of white Americans.

Download this fact sheet (pdf)

Below are the facts that outline racial and ethnic health care disparities in the United States. The reports “ Easing the Burden: Using Health Care Reform to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care for the Chronically Ill” and “ Measuring the Gaps: Collecting Data to Drive Improvements in Health Care Disparities” outline how robust implementation of provisions in the Affordable Care Act can help address these disparities and ensure that all Americans, regardless of race and ethnicity, get the quality health care services they need when they need them.

Who has health coverage? Percent of Americans with health coverage, by race: Whites, 88%; Asian Americans, 82%; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 80%; African Americans or blacks, 79%; Hispanics, 68%; American Indians and Alaskan Natives, 68%. Note: percentages for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and American Indian and Alaskan Natives is based of 2005-2007 data all other percentages based on 2009 data.

African Americans or blacks

Black or African American refers to people having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa, including those of Caribbean identity.

Health coverage

Seventy-nine percent of African Americans had health coverage in 2009 compared to 88 percent of white Americans.

A total of 16.6 percent of African Americans aged 18 years and over do not have a regular source of health care.

Nearly half (46 percent) of nonelderly black adults who do not have insurance report having one or more chronic health conditions.

Chronic health conditions

Thirteen percent of African Americans of all ages report they are in fair or poor health.

Adult obesity rates for African Americans are higher than those for whites in nearly every state of the nation—37 percent of men and nearly 50 percent of women are obese.

African Americans have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease than other groups. Nearly 15 percent of African Americans have diabetes compared with 8 percent of whites.

Asthma prevalence is also highest among blacks. Black children have a 260 percent higher emergency department visit rate, a 250 percent higher hospitalization rate, and a 500 percent higher death rate from asthma compared to white children.

African Americans experience higher incidence and mortality rates from many cancers that are amenable to early diagnosis and treatment. African-American adults with cancer are woefully underrepresented in cancer trials and are much less likely to survive prostate cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer than their white counterparts.

Leading causes of death

Leading causes of death among this group are heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

There are 13.24 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in this population.


The federal government defines Hispanic or Latino as a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. Hispanics are thus a heterogeneous group and may be any race.

Health coverage

  • Sixty-eight percent of Hispanics had health insurance coverage in 2009 compared to 88 percent of white Americans.
  • Thirty-five percent of nonelderly uninsured Hispanics report having chronic health conditions.
  • Close to a third of Hispanics lack a usual source of health care and 46 percent of uninsured Hispanics who report having chronic health conditions lack regular care.

Chronic health conditions

  • Ten percent of Hispanics of all ages report they are in fair or poor health.
  • A total of 37.9 percent of Latinos age 20 and over were obese in 2008. Obesity rates were higher in women (43 percent) than men (34.3 percent).
  • Fourteen percent of Hispanics have been diagnosed with diabetes compared with 8 percent of whites. They have higher rates of end-stage renal disease, caused by diabetes, and they are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.
  • Hispanic women contract cervical cancer at twice the rate of white women.
  • One in five Latinos report not seeking medical care due to language barriers.

Leading causes of death

  • Leading causes of death among this group are heart disease, cancer, and accidents.
  • For reasons that are not understood Hispanics live longer than other Americans and have lower rates of infant mortality (5.52 infant deaths per 1,000 live births).

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Pacific Islands including Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian ancestry.

Health coverage

  • In the 2005 to 2007 period about 80 percent of the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders racial group had health insurance coverage. Given that in the same time frame 83.5 percent of Asians had health insurance coverage, this would suggest that coverage rates for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders were less than 80 percent.

Chronic health conditions

  • Eight percent of this population reports it is in poor or fair health.
  • In comparison to other racial and ethnic groups, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity. This group also has little access to cancer prevention and control programs.
  • The state of Hawaii found that the diabetes rate for Native Hawaiians was twice that of the white population. Native Hawaiians are also more than 5.7 times as likely as whites living in Hawaii to die from diabetes.
  • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Leading causes of death

  • The leading causes of death among this group are cancer, heart disease, accidents, stroke, and diabetes.
  • The infant mortality rate for Native Hawaiians is 9.6 per 1000 live births, which is 1.7 times greater than non-Hispanic whites.

American Indians and Alaskan Natives

American Indian or Alaska Native refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.

Health coverage

  • About 68 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives under 65 years of age had health insurance in the 2005 to 2007 period.

Chronic health conditions

  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity in American Indian and Alaska Native preschoolers, school-aged children, and adults is higher than that for any other population group.
  • Thirty-one percent of men and 26 percent of women aged 18 years and over in this population smoke.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native adults were 2.1 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. They were almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes in 2006.
  • In general, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are 60 percent more likely to have a stroke than their white adult counterparts and American Indian and Alaska Native women have twice the rate of stroke than white women.

Leading causes of death

  • Leading causes of death among this group are heart disease, cancer, and accidents.
  • Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives. It is the second leading cause of death for those age 10 to 34 years. When compared to other racial and ethnic groups, American Indian and Alaska Native youth have more serious mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
  • There are 8.28 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in this population group. American Indian and Alaska Native infants are 3.7 times as likely as white infants to have mothers who began prenatal care in the third trimester or did not receive prenatal care at all.

Asian American

This racial group is defined as people having origins in any of the original peoples of eastern Eurasia, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. Asian Americans represent both extremes of socioeconomic and health indices.

Health coverage

  • About 82 percent of Asian Americans had health insurance coverage in 2009 compared to 88 percent of white Americans.

Chronic health conditions

  • Eight percent of this population reports it is in poor or fair health.
  • Obesity is not generally a problem in this group. In fact, about 1 in 10 Vietnamese and Korean adults are underweight.
  • Asian Americans suffer disproportionately from certain types of cancer, tuberculosis, and Hepatitis B. Vietnamese-American women, for example, have cervical cancer rates five times those of white women.
  • Southeast Asian refugees are at significant risk for posttraumatic stress disorder associated with trauma experienced before and after immigration to the United States.

Leading causes of death

  • Leading causes of death in this group are cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
  • There are significant variations in infant mortality among subgroups of Asian Americans that are not readily explained by known risk factors.
  • Older Asian-American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over age 65 in the United States.

Download this fact sheet (pdf)

For more, see:

This article originally posted by bon 

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Building Better Mental Health

Building Better Mental Health

Your mental health influences how you think, feel, and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships. Whether you’re looking to cope with a specific mental health problem, handle your emotions better, or simply to feel more positive and energetic, there are plenty of ways to take control of your mental health—starting today.

What does it mean to be mentally healthy?

Mental health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It encompasses the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.

Strong mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.

People who are mentally healthy have

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
  • The flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem.

These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships. These positive characteristics also help you cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses.

The relationship between resilience and mental health

Having solid mental health doesn’t mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress. But just as physically healthy people are better able to bounce back from illness or injury, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience.

People who are emotionally and mentally resilient have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and productive, in bad times as well as good. Their resilience also makes them less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future. Even when they don’t immediately know how a problem will get resolved, they are hopeful that a solution will eventually be found.

How to boost your mental health (yes, it’s possible!)

Anyone can suffer from mental or emotional health problems—and over a lifetime most of us will. This year alone, about one in five of us will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Yet, despite how common mental health problems are, many of us make no effort to improve our situation.

We ignore the emotional messages that tell us something is wrong and try toughing it out by distracting ourselves or self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or self-destructive behaviors. We bottle up our problems in the hope that others won’t notice. We hope that our situation will eventually improve on its own. Or we simply give up—telling ourselves this is “just the way we are.”

The good news is: you don’t have to feel bad. There are practices you can adopt to elevate your mood, become more resilient, and enjoy life more. But just as it requires effort to build and maintain physical health, so it is with mental health. We have to work harder these days to ensure strong mental health, simply because there are so many ways that life takes a toll on our emotional well-being.

Why are we often reluctant or unable to address our mental health needs?

Our inability to address our mental health needs stems from a variety of reasons:

  • In some societies, mental and emotional issues are seen as less legitimate than physical issues. They’re seen as a sign of weakness or somehow as being our own fault.
  • Some people mistakenly see mental health problems as something we should know how to “snap out of.” Men, especially, would often rather bottle up their feelings than seek help.
  • In the modern age, we’re obsessed with seeking simple answers to complex problems. We look for connection with others by compulsively checking social media instead of reaching out to people in the real world; to boost our mood and ease depression we take a pill, rather than address the underlying issues.
  • Many people think that if they do seek help for mental and emotional problems, the only treatment options available are medication (which comes with unwanted side effects) or therapy (which can be lengthy and expensive). The truth is that, whatever your issues, there are steps you can take to improve the way you feel and experience greater mental and emotional well-being. And you can start today!

Make social connection a priority—especially face-to-face

No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and function at your best. Humans are social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.

Why is face-to-face connection so important?

Phone calls and social networks have their place, but nothing can beat the stress-busting, mood-boosting power of quality face-to-face time with other people.

The key is to interact with someone who is a “good listener”—someone you can regularly talk to in person, who will listen to you without their own conceptions of how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt, judge, or criticize you.

Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. Most people are flattered if you trust them enough to confide in them. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, there are good ways to build new friendships and improve your support network. In the meantime, there is still a great benefit to interacting face-to-face with acquaintances or people you encounter during the day, such as neighbors, people in the checkout line or on the bus, or the person serving you your morning coffee. Make eye contact and exchange a smile, a friendly greeting, or small talk.

Tips for connecting to others

  • Call a friend or loved one now and arrange to meet up. If you both lead busy lives, offer to run errands or exercise together. Try to make it a regular get-together.
  • If you don’t feel that you have anyone to call, reach out to acquaintances. Lots of other people feel just as uncomfortable about making new friends as you do—so be the one to break the ice. Reconnect with an old friend, invite a coworker out for lunch, or ask a neighbor to join you for coffee.
  • Get out from behind your TV or computer screen. Communication is a largely nonverbal experience that requires you to have direct contact with other people, so don’t neglect your real-world relationships in favor of virtual interaction.
  • Be a joiner. Join networking, social, or special interest groups that meet on a regular basis. These groups offer wonderful opportunities for meeting people with common interests.
  • Don’t be afraid to smile and say hello to strangers you cross paths with. Making a connection is beneficial to both of you—and you never know where it may lead!

Staying active is as good for the brain as it is for the body

The mind and the body are intrinsically linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. Physical activity also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that lift your mood and provide added energy. Regular exercise or activity can have a major impact on mental and emotional health problems, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you to sleep better.

But what if I hate to exercise?

Well, you’re not alone. Pounding weights in a gym or jogging on a treadmill isn’t everyone’s idea of a great time. But you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits of being more active. Take a walk at lunchtime through a park, walk laps in an air-conditioned mall while window shopping, throw a Frisbee with a dog, dance to your favorite music, play activity-based video games with your kids, cycle or walk to an appointment rather than drive.

You don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches. Even modest amounts of physical activity can make a big difference to your mental and emotional health—and it’s something you can engage in right now to boost your energy and outlook and help you regain a sense of control.

Tips for starting an exercise routine

  • Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days. If it’s easier, three 10-minute sessions can be just as effective. Start now by taking a walk or dancing to a favorite song.
  • Try rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, weight training, martial arts, or dancing.
  • Add a mindfulness element to your workouts. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, focus on how your body feels as you move—how your feet hit the ground, for example, the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of wind on your skin.

Learn how to keep your stress levels in check

Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and emotional health, so it’s important to keep it under control. While not all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help you brings things back into balance.

Talk to a friendly face. Face-to-face social interaction with someone who cares about you is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Interacting with another person can quickly put the brakes on damaging stress responses like “fight-or-flight.” It also releases stress-busting hormones, so you’ll feel better even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself.

Appeal to your senses. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee or a favorite scent? Or maybe squeezing a stress ball works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so start experimenting now to find what works best for you. Once you discover how your nervous system responds to sensory input, you’ll be able to quickly calm yourself no matter where or when stress hits.

Make leisure time a priority. Partake in your favorite activities for no reason other than that they make you feel good. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.

Make time for contemplation and appreciation. Think about the things you’re grateful for. Mediate, pray, enjoy the sunset, or simply take a moment to pay attention to what is good, positive, and beautiful as you go about your day.

Take up a relaxation practice. While sensory input can relieve stress in the moment, relaxation techniques can help reduce your overall levels of stress—although they’re likely to take more time to learn effectively. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can put the brakes on stress and bring your mind and body back into a state of balance.

Manage emotions to relieve stress

Understanding and accepting your emotions—especially those unpleasant ones many of us try to ignore—can make a huge difference in your ability to manage stress and balance your moods. HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can show you how.

Eat a brain-healthy diet to support strong mental health

Unless you’ve tried to change your diet in the past, you may not be aware how much of what you eat—and don’t eat—affects the way you think and feel. An unhealthy diet can take a toll on your brain and mood, disrupt your sleep, sap your energy, and weaken your immune system. Conversely, switching to awholesome diet, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats, can give you more energy, improve your sleep and mood, and help you to look and feel your best.

People respond slightly differently to certain foods, depending on genetics and other health factors, so experiment with how the food you include in—or cut from—your diet changes the way you feel. The best place to start is by cutting out the “bad fats” that can damage your mood and outlook, and replace them with “good fats” that support brain-health.

Foods that adversely affect mood

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Trans fats or anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil
  • Foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones
  • Sugary snacks
  • Refined carbs (such as white rice or white flour)
  • Fried food

Foods that boost mood

  • Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Avocados
  • Flaxseed
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Brussel’s sprouts
  • Fresh fruit such as blueberries

Don’t skimp on sleep—it matters more than you think

If you lead a busy life, cutting back on sleep may seem like a smart move. But when it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping even a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. And over the long-term, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your health and outlook.

While adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night, it’s often unrealistic to expect sleep to come the moment you lay down and close your eyes. Your brain needs time to unwind at the end of the day. That means taking a break from the stimulation of screens—TV, phone, tablet, computer—in the two hours before bedtime, putting aside work, and postponing arguments, worrying, or brainstorming until the next day.

Tips for getting better sleep

  • If anxiety or chronic worrying dominates your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to learn how to stop worrying.
  • To wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep, try taking a warm bath, reading by a soft light, listening to soothing music, or practicing a relaxation technique before bed.
  • To help set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep, stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Curtains, white noise machines, and fans can help.

Find purpose and meaning in life

Everyone derives meaning and purpose in different ways that involve benefitting others, as well as yourself. You may think of it as a way to feel needed, feel good about yourself, a purpose that drives you on, or simply a reason to get out of bed in the morning. In biological terms, finding meaning and purpose is essential to brain health as it can help generate new cells and create new neural pathways in the brain. It can also strengthen your immune system, alleviate pain, relieve stress, and keep you motivated to pursue the other steps to improve mental and emotional health. However you derive meaning and purpose in life, it’s important to do it every day.

What gives you meaning and purpose?

Engaging work that provides meaning to yourself and others. Partake in activities that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for them. Some ideas are gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or building something in your workshop.

Relationships. Spending quality time where you give of yourself to people who matter to you, whether they’re friends, grandkids, or elderly relatives, can support both your health and theirs, while also providing a sense of purpose.

Caring for a pet. Yes, pets are a responsibility, but caring for one makes you feel needed and loved. There’s no love quite as unconditional as the love a pet can give. Animals can also get you out of the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.

Volunteering. Just as we’re hard-wired to be social, we’re also hard-wired to give to others. The meaning and purpose derived from helping others or the community can enrich and expand your life—and make you happier. There’s no limit to the individual and group volunteer opportunities you can explore. Schools, churches, nonprofits, and charitable organizations of all sorts depend on volunteers for their survival.

Caregiving. Taking care of an aging parent, a handicapped spouse, or a child with a physical or mental illness is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty—and can be as rewarding and meaningful as it is challenging.

When to seek professional help

If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. Following these self-help steps will still benefit you, though. In fact, input from a caring professional can often help motivate us to take better care of ourselves.

Recommended reading

Mental and Emotional Well-being – Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, and work productively. (Surgeon General)

The Road to Resilience – Including ten ways to build your resilience. (American Psychological Association)

Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health – What you can do to improve your emotional health. (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health – How stress affects emotions. (American Academy of Family Physicians)

What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health – How to provide the love, security, and boundaries every child needs for emotional health. (Mental Health America)

What is the Science of Happiness? Science-based practices for a meaningful, happy life. (Berkeley Wellness)


Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: November 2018. Originally posted at 

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Just how gay is Seattle?

Just how gay is Seattle?

This article originally posted October 7, 2012 by  at

The battle is heating up over Referendum 74, which will ask voters to decide if the new law allowing same-sex marriage in Washington should be upheld.  The people who will be most immediately affected by the outcome of this vote, naturally, are gay men and lesbians.

So just how many people would that be here in Washington and in Seattle?

It would be nice if there were good, solid data to answer that question, but there really aren’t.   The Census Bureau doesn’t ask about sexual orientation directly.   There are some surveys of the gay population, but the best they can do is approximate an overall figure for the country, not for individual states, counties and cities.

However, there is a relevant question that the Census Bureau does ask, and it at least hints at an answer.

Since 1990, the Census has asked Americans if they are in a same-sex partner household.   Theoretically, we can assume that there is a correlation between the percentage of same-sex partner households and the overall gay population of a particular place; in other words, the more gay couples, the more gay people.

A think tank based at UCLA, the Williams Institute, crunched the Census data to derive the percent of same-sex couples in states, counties, cities and towns across the nation.

So what do we learn from the Census about the current state of gay Washington?

We have about 16,000 same-sex couple households statewide.  That comes out to a rate of  7.3 same-sex couples per every 1,000 households.

More than half of Washington’s same-sex couples live in King County, which has not only the largest number of these couples, but also the highest percentage — there are 12.1 same-sex couples for every 1,000 households in the county (or 1.2 percent of all households).  That ranks King as the county with the 19th highest percentage of same-sex couples of all counties in the United States.  Three other Washington counties rank in the top 100 nationally: Jefferson, San Juan and Thurston, in that order.

There is a wide gulf between eastern and western Washington when it comes to gay and lesbian couples.  In the state’s top 15 counties for same-sex couples, the only one from the eastern side of the state is Spokane, which comes in at 14th place.

There is one county in Washington that actually has no gay couples at all — Garfield (any volunteers to move out there and make county history?).

And what is Washington’s gayest community?  If you’re thinking it’s got to be Seattle — close but no cigar.

Storefronts on Vashon Island

The Castro of the Northwest?  Gay little Vashon Island (Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)

The answer: Vashon Island!  3.3 percent of Vashon households are a same-sex couple, which not only ranks it first in the state, but 22nd in the entire country.  Seattle has to settle for 2nd place in Washington, with 2.3 percent of households being same-sex partners.  That ranks the Emerald City as 38th nationally, but it should be noted that among America’s large cities (250,000+ population), Seattle ranks 2nd only to San Francisco.

So here they are — Washington’s top 5 gayest cities:

1 22 Vashon 152 3.3
2 38 Seattle 6,537 2.3
3 97 Bryn Mawr-Skyway 79 1.4
4 134 Lake Forest Park 38 1.2
5 138 Olympia 241 1.2


Note: The source for this data is the Williams Institute report on Census 2010 for Washington, which can be found by clicking here.  To come up with their numbers of same-sex couples, the researchers combined two Census categories: “same-sex unmarried-partner” households, together with  same-sex couple households in which the partners chose to identify themselves as “husband/wife” rather than same-sex unmarried partners.

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An epidemic of loneliness

An epidemic of loneliness

This article originally posted January 6th, 2019 by The Week Staff at

Nearly half of all Americans today say they are lonely. Why is that so, and what are the consequences? Here’s everything you need to know:

How is loneliness defined?

Loneliness isn’t determined by the actual number of friends or social contacts a person has. Social science researchers define loneliness as the emotional state created when people have fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than they would like — relationships that make them feel known and understood. Essentially, if you feel lonely, you are lonely. One out of two Americans now falls into this category. In a recent study of 20,000 people by the health insurance company Cigna, about 47 percent of respondents reported often feeling alone or left out. Thirteen percent said there were zero people who knew them well. The U.S. is not unique in this respect: Loneliness is reaching epidemic levels throughout the developed world. Forty-one percent of Britons say the TV or a pet is their main source of company, and the U.K. has created a ­cabinet-­level minister to deal with the problem of rampant loneliness. A government study in Japan found that more than half a million people spent at least six months at home with no outside contact. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes,” said former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. “It was loneliness.”

What impact does loneliness have?

It makes people sick. A 2010 study by Brigham Young University found that loneliness shortens a person’s life by 15 years, about the same impact as being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Other studies have found connections between loneliness and a wide range of health problems, including increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, and cancer. Lonely people are more likely to suffer from insomnia, depression, and drug abuse. They are also more likely to suffer from more rapid cognitive decline in old age.

Why is physical health affected?

Stress. The feeling of loneliness, scientists say, is an evolutionary phenomenon. Just as hunger encourages animals to find food, loneliness forces humans to seek out the protection of the group, increasing the chances of survival. To produce this behavior, loneliness triggers the release of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. In small doses, these hormones help make solitary humans more alert to danger. But they damage health if the body is exposed to them over long periods of time. Stress leads to high blood pressure, increased inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Without an emotional support network, lonely people are also more likely to slip into unhealthy habits, such as substance abuse, overeating, and not exercising. For seniors, isolation can be especially deadly in the event of an emergency like a bad fall or a heart attack. “Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger,” said John T. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist who studied loneliness at the University of Chicago.

Is isolation more common?

It appears to be. Between 1985 and 2009, the average American’s social network shrank by more than one-third, defined by the number of close confidants. One reason for this is the aging of the Baby Boomers, who had fewer children and more divorces than their parents, leaving many without companions in their old age. About 1 in 11 Americans age 50 or older doesn’t have a spouse, romantic partner, or living child. That’s roughly 8 million people. One in six Boomers lives alone. The increasingly transient nature of work is also making people lonely, as Americans leave family and hometowns behind in search of paychecks. Surprisingly, young people are actually most at risk of being lonely in modern society. In the Cigna study, Generation Z members ages 18 to 22 and Millennials ages 23 to 37 scored the highest for loneliness.

Why are so many young people lonely?

Americans are getting married and having children later in life; there are now more single people in the U.S. than at any time in the past 140 years. Not being part of a regular workplace also plays a role, with freelancers and “gig economy” workers reporting higher levels of loneliness. And despite seemingly infinite opportunities to connect online, social media may actually be making the problem worse. Scrolling through an endless stream of curated photos of parties, vacations, family gatherings, and weddings may increase feelings of being left out or dissatisfaction with one’s own life. In one study of Americans ages 19 to 32, the top 25 percent of social media users were twice as likely to report feeling lonely as the people using it least. Some researchers say loneliness began becoming widespread long before the internet, when the Industrial Revolution broke up tightly knit agricultural communities. “I do think it speaks to one of the dilemmas of modern, mobile society,” said Stephanie Coontz, a historian at Evergreen State College. “As we gain the freedom to become whatever we want to be, we’ve lost the sense of belonging.”

Alone, angry — and intensely partisan

Some researchers believe that America’s increasingly polarized politics — and the partisan viciousness on social media — may be at least partly the product of increasing loneliness. Psychiatrists Richard S. Schwartz and Dr. Jacqueline Olds describe loneliness as the “elephant in the room” of American politics. Social isolation, they say, makes people less empathetic and more likely to view the world in terms of “us” and “them.” “I think comparing notes in a civil way is the antidote to a polarized society in which we don’t understand a point of view other than our own,” Olds says. “If we are so lonely that we have no one to compare notes with, we tend to become more polarized.” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska believes that Americans are turning to political tribalism for the sense of community they used to get from simple connection to those around them. “The local, human relationships that anchored political talk have shriveled up,” Sasse writes in his new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal. “Alienated from each other, and uprooted from places we can call home, we’re reduced to shrieking.”

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