The Story of Silver Pride ProjeCT
All are welcome…
Silver Pride Project is a group that supports and addresses the specific needs of LGBT seniors. We started this organization in order to provide safe spaces for seniors and allies of our community to meet and socialize, as well as educate others about the unique needs we have. Social isolation can be as bad for your health as hypertension or diabetes. This group, a first of its kind in this area, seeks to support the unique needs and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors as they age. We have activities four days a week as well as activities in the evenings and weekends.
SPP welcomes all LGBT seniors. We will be hosting a monthly, no cost, dinner and dance to encourage social interaction and group discussions, facilitated by a peer. When possible, guest speakers will be asked to present on topics of interest at the local recreation center. Meet-ups every Monday and Tuesday at Oak Lawn and Grauwyler Library provide older LGBT adults with a positive and safe setting to gather. We share coffee and snacks and speak openly in an atmosphere of trust to encourage discussions that explore issues that are important to us... or just sit back and chill while watching movies. No one should ever have to feel as if there is no one that cares if they exist... WE DO!
We also visit area nursing homes to play Gay Bingo with residents in order to let the real LGBT elders know they have not been forgotten.
If you would like to support this initiative or donate to the cause, we are are a nonprofit organization registered with the state of Texas, as well as a 501(c)3 so your donations are tax deductible.
Silver Pride Project In The NEws
Oak Lawn retiree now advocates for those who led the local equal rights fight 50 years ago -- and now face ageism and homophobia.
The elders among Dallas’ robust LGBTQ population -- women and men who led the charge for equal rights 50 years ago -- now stand on the front line of another daunting fight. As the first “out” generation to grow old, these baby boomers are threatened by the double-discrimination whammy of homophobia and ageism.
But Oak Lawn activist Portia Cantrell is determined that not be the reality her fellow senior citizens face – and you best not get in the way of this 63-year-old dynamo. With a big assist from Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano, Cantrell’s fledgling Silver Pride Project is beginning to fill a gap in services for Dallas’ older LGBTQ population.
The nonprofit offers a safe space for these seniors to come together four days a week for fellowship, education and entertainment at Dallas libraries and rec centers.
Cantrell alternately bounces with joy over her hopes for Silver Pride and tears up about the steep fight ahead. The issues are wide-ranging: Rising housing prices in Oak Lawn pushing seniors out of their longtime, gay-friendly neighborhood. Bias within assisted living operations. Deteriorating mental health and isolation amid an LGBTQ scene intensely focused on its younger members.
Cantrell preaches up a storm about the lack of respect for older Dallas residents -- especially those in her LGBTQ community. “We did so much to let these young people have the privilege and right … to hold hands and walk down the street. Now we mean nothing because we are old. It’s like we are invisible and don’t matter.”
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Isolation and depression suffocated Cantrell after she moved to Dallas from Chicago six years ago with her wife, T’Anya Carter. Still recovering from a back surgery that forced her to quit work, Cantrell told me, “I knew no one when T’Anya went to work every day. I had no reason for being.”
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano (left), park board member Jesse Moreno, and Silver Pride Project coordinator Portia Cantrell are shown at the Oak Lawn Library in Dallas. The project hosts weekly social events and recreational activities for senior members of the LGBTQ community.(Lynda M. Gonzalez / Staff Photographer)
Cantrell credits her volunteer work at the Resource Center, the longtime nonprofit serving LGBTQ residents, with saving her life. Those first weeks she washed dishes in the kitchen, but soon she handled intake for HIV clients and pitched in at the center’s Nelson-Tebedo Clinic.
“That work gave me a purpose again, and I started meeting people. And my life just improved from there,” Cantrell told me.
But the scant attention paid to senior citizens -- even by the Resource Center -- troubled Cantrell. Holding fast to the motto “Sometimes you gotta create what you want to be a part of,” and after enduring lots of meetings and even more false starts, she launched Silver Pride.
Cantrell reminds me every time we talk that she could not have done it without Medrano. But the District 2 council member pushes all the credit back her way.
“There’s something special about Portia that you notice as soon as you meet her,” he told me. “She’s a go-getter, a problem solver.”
Those traits already had led Medrano to put Cantrell on the Municipal Library Board. When she came to him with her Silver Pride idea, he said, the idea made a lot of sense because the city’s library and rec systems had no specific LGBTQ senior programming.
He also understood the need for these older community members to have their own space. “In that generation, straight seniors were told that gays are bad, so some of them still have that mindset,” Medrano said.
Jesse Moreno, Medrano’s Park and Recreation Board appointee, has ensured that Silver Pride is met with a welcoming environment at the Reverchon Rec Center, which hosts several of its activities. “It’s not just about providing a building but training the staff and making sure everyone feels included, no one feels they are being judged,” Moreno told me.
Medrano looked over those gathered at Silver Pride’s recent Coffee & Convo at the Oak Lawn Library and said: “Everyone who crosses paths with this group wants to be a part of it. Portia is getting buy-in.”
Among those enjoying the Monday morning camaraderie was Marion Hayes, who just turned 74 and has been active in the city’s gay rights fight since 1966.
“This is a group that gets us to go out, that keeps us from sitting around the house. We just went to the Perot Museum. We saw all the fossils -- we’re the fossils now,” she laughed. “With this group we have a lot of memories in common.”
But she emphasized the group is not all fun and games. A cancer survivor, she talked about going through her surgery alone seven years ago. “My neighbor dropped me off and then picked me up. If I had had this group then, I would have had a dozen people sitting with me.”
Hayes, who cared for her mother so that she could remain in her home until her death, told me: “I know what’s coming for all of us. So this is what this group is working toward, taking care of the older people in our community who just need help.”
John Selig, a 66-year-old with a rich life -- a loving husband and a large network of friends -- attends Silver Pride activities to show support for seniors who aren’t as lucky.
“The gay community is totally youth-focused. Older people in our society are shunned and put off to the side,” he said. “They have needs that need to be addressed. It’s nice to be able to socialize and help out.”
A fraction of Silver Pride’s participants are still decades away from their golden years. “Young people want to be a part of this,” Cantrell said. “They tell me, ‘If we help you, then things will be right down the road for us.’”
Devin Crutcher, 32, tries to get to Coffee & Convo each Monday, in part because he is fascinated by what the Oak Lawn community represents in the story of Dallas. “We can’t understand where we are now, until we can understand where past generations took us,” he said.
In addition to the weekly Monday gathering at the Oak Lawn Library, Silver Pride meets each Tuesday at the Grauwyler Park branch. The program varies between informal conversation and speakers dealing with senior-related challenges. Reverchon hosts the group’s Wednesday and Thursday Rainbow Rec activities.
The group’s Pride Prom, “Silver Oldies Days of Disco” in May at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, drew more than 100 people -- not counting the young crowd who joined in after their own Game of Thrones event.
Cantrell is a cheerleader at every Silver Pride gathering. She’s also the 24/7 mother hen for local LGBTQ seniors. Just last month, Cantrell was on her way to an important meeting when she learned that an older community member had been rushed to the emergency room.
“She turned around, went in and advocated for him,” Hayes told me. “He was having a heart attack. This was serious.”
Cantrell marvels at the LGBTQ community’s strides during the last 50 years or so –- progress that few of its most senior members expected to see in their lifetimes. Now she’s intent that none of those elders go to bed at night feeling that no one cares whether they even exist.
“The baby boomers were the leading edge. They broke so many barriers -- but now there are new barriers still to be broken,” Cantrell told me. “I won’t give up. We’re going to make this work.”