Caring for California’s Aging LGBT Community

Caring for California’s Aging LGBT Community

Having an impact on the lives of people, especially the most vulnerable among us, is the goal of social work. 

Tania Wood (BS, Biological Sciences, ’96; Credential, ’97; Master of Social Work, ’12) achieved that goal in a big way through her work on Assembly Bill 663, which she began as a California Senior Legislature intern.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and sponsored by Equality California and the California Senior Legislature, ensures that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) seniors get respectful and competent elder care by integrating LGBT cultural competency instruction into the training received by residential care facility administrators. It was passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall. 

It all began during Wood’s second year of the MSW program, when she interned with Senior Assemblywoman Shirley Krohn, helping develop assembly bills.

“I asked if it would be all right for me to choose a topic of my own,” says Wood. “I knew I wanted to do something to help the aging LGBT community.”

Wood researched the laws already in place. She found many bills related to seniors but only two addressing the aging LGBT community. She then pored through literature, did informal surveys, asked care facilities and support organizations about cultural competency training, and watched documentaries about the aging LGBT community. Two of those films, Ten More Good Years and Gen Silent, planted the seed of an idea. 

“The plight of the people in those films, those who are discriminated against and victimized, who don’t have a voice or options to fight back, let alone defend themselves against the very people who they depend on for care, brought me to tears,” says Wood. “My theory was that discriminatory behavior comes from hate and fear, which is perpetuated by a lack of knowledge. What better way to change that than education?”

From there, it was a matter of writing up the proposal and turning it over to Krohn, who presented it at the next session of the Senior Legislature. Woods accompanied her and testified in the committee hearing. It was voted one of the top 10 state proposals. In October 2013, the bill was signed into law.

For Wood, the process of creating a legislative solution to a social justice issue was empowering. “I discovered that not only do I have a voice, but I can lend it to those who have none,” she says. “Me, little me, succeeded in making a change that will benefit so many people in this state.”

Kacey Gardner, Public Affairs and Publications

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Alum Notes

SHIRLEE ZANE

SHIRLEE ZANE

(’82) is third district Sonoma County supervisor.

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ADAM HENIG

ADAM HENIG

(BA, Political Science, ’02) published an ebook titled Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey.

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JADE MILBURN

JADE MILBURN

(’12) is a volunteer with Sacramento’s City Year program.

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