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Art for the Cash Poor
June 6, 2017

Getting to Know Heshie Zinman – AFTCP Kickoff Party’s Honoree and Chair of the LGBT Elderly Initiative

About the Author
Elizabeth Roan

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InLiquid is proud to present our annual summer art sale at the Crane Arts Building, Art for the Cash Poor 2017. Based on the premise that everyone can be an art collector, AFTCP is one of the longest running art festivals in the Kensington/Fishtown area. The focus of the event is that all works, both by emerging and established artists alike, are priced at under two hundred dollars. It is a unique event that brings artists and the public together in an accessible way for everyone.
Today, we feature highlights of our annual Art for the Cash Poor Kickoff Party. Each year, this ticketed Kickoff Party serves as a meet-and-greet with the artists of AFTCP as well as a fundraiser for AIDS Fund: supporting HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and services in the Philadelphia area. Most importantly, we celebrate the advocacy and hard work of an honoree. This year, we could not be more pleased to celebrate Heshie Zinman, chair of the LGBT Elderly Initiative (LGBTEI).  
Heshie Zinman is a variety of things: Philadelphia native, University of the Arts graduate, and chair of the LGBT Elderly Initiative–a volunteer-driven organization committed to “assuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults have rights and opportunities to live vibrant, creative and mutually supportive lives.” During the ’80s, Zinman also co-founded the AIDS Library of Philadelphia, where he was the executive director for 13 years. He also played an integral part in the start-up of Action AIDS (now Action Wellness), AIDS Fund, SafeGuards Gay Men’s Health Project and Delaware Valley Legacy Fund.
While speaking with Heshie, we discussed a myriad of topics from LGBTEI’s mission, history, and call to action for us all.
Tell me more about the organization, your mission, and your vision:
Heshie: It was an organization started in 2010 as the result of community work and a survey at the LGBT Aging Summit. Essentially 2011 marked the first year that baby boomers would begin to turn 65. We looked at LGBT baby boomers, the aging services world that existed, and asked how ready were they to address the needs that LGBT elder adults have. We’re all getting older at the same rate…I don’t want to say that anybody ages faster than anyone else, but I do want to say that 80% of caregivers occur within the family structure–the biological family structure: the grandparents, the parents, and the children etc. But because of the unique life situation of LGBT adults, we are more likely to grow old, alone, be single, not have children, not be married, and live independently. At the time that we would be older and vulnerable, who would be taking care of us? We would have a greater reliance on formal systems of care (such as) home health supports. So we looked at what the formal systems of care looked like, and what we found is that they were not culturally appropriate at all. In fact, there are many instances where LGBT elderly adults have faced discrimination and harassment.
We needed to create structures that could put into place cultural competence training around LGBT to educate and inform these formal systems of what these unique needs were that the LGBT elderly would have: what past experiences LGBT have of marginalization and stigmatization. So we had a summit, we did a survey, and found out through more than 340 people that the top 5 priorities LGBT elderly adults think about are: physical and emotional well-being, access to safe affordable housing, culturally competent resources and services and access to supportive structures for socialization–people wanted to belong, fit in, and not sit in a room somewhere in the suburbs, not having access to friends. We found out that loneliness is directly correlated to poor physical health–so what we’re doing as an organization is looking to move the needle along social isolation, looking to find connections to LGBT elder adults.
Have you run into any challenges with the current administration?
So with regards to training organizations that don’t have an LGBT vet, who need to understand what the cultural sensitivities are, we’ve really not had any issues. In fact, many organizations are realizing that they need sensitivity training. You could credit that to it being morally the right thing to do to be culturally competent. It could also be a situation where from a business model if I am going to make my profit off of selling my business to people outside of the community then the more people I am able to market to, the more business I’ll have. The LGBT market, that’s a big market! So it behooves me as a provider of care. We don’t really care why somebody is doing what is necessary to become culturally competent because as long as they are, then it’s a win for them and it’s a win for us all.
What I have noticed, however, is that many of the benefits that grew out of the Older Americans Act like CHIP and SNAP, many of those safety net benefits are at risk for being eliminated or cut. and that affects everybody, but particularly the most vulnerable. We just really need to be vigilant and galvanize as a community. Not just LGBT but all older adults.
In what ways can we the community be involved? What is a good call to action?
A good call-to-action would be to understand and become part of the resistance. If that seems a little too close, look at all the things that are at risk: social security, Medicare, Medicaid, The Older Americans Act, (which has not been reauthorized yet). Within the Older Americans Act, LGBT people have not been identified as a most vulnerable group. So become an advocate, become an activist, pick up the phone call your congress person and legislature and tell them the Trump Budget should never see the light of day. But above all: love, respect, because at the end of the day that is all we have. Be for the LGBTEI–be for social justice.
Celebrate with us at our Art for the Cash Poor Kickoff Party, honoring Heshie’s amazing work for the community on June 16th.
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