Mystique Summers (Photo by Scott Kirby)

The senior advocacy organization recently surveyed older LGBT people and found greater isolation and different health needs

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
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In the world of drag pageants, Miss Ageless Pride Texas 2019 is something of a first. Melodia Gutierrez said she was watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race with her friend, drag queen Hillary Hunter when she realized that older drag queens deserve recognition, too.

“All the younger drag queens are pushing us off the stage,” Hunter told Gutierrez as they watched the show. She responded, “Let’s do something about that. Let’s bring our older drag queens to the stage.”

Gutierrez is the associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP, which includes managing LGBT outreach in Texas. So, when she hit on the idea of staging a drag pageant for drag queens ages 45 and up, she realized there was no one better to sponsor it than AARP.

What a great way, she thought, to bring attention to a recent study, commissioned by AARP and conducted by Community Marketing & Insight, a gay-owned company that’s been surveying the LGBT community for 25 years.

The survey found that social isolation is a greater problem in the LGBT community than in the population in general as we age. Medical needs are also different. Gutierrez said that Hunter’s comment about being pushed off the stage resonated.

Among the survey’s findings, only 27 percent of older gay men are married while 46 percent live alone.

Black and Latino LGBT Americans are more concerned about multiple forms of discrimination and are very concerned about abuse in long-term care.

Three concerns of aging stood out among LGBT people 45 and older: More than three quarters of those surveyed were concerned about having adequate family and social support as they age. Almost as many don’t have access to LGBT-specific senior services, and 91 percent are interested in LGBT-welcoming housing for older adults.
Sixty percent are concerned about long-term care and worried about neglect, limited access to services and verbal or physical abuse.

Gutierrez, who’s addressing those concerns with her organization in a number of ways, thought the drag pageant would be a fun way to broach the subject of aging in the LGBT community.

She said she asked around, thinking someone else within AARP must have done something like this. But, she discovered, the Dallas pageant will be a first.

“Everyone is waiting with bated breath,” she said. “We hope it will become an annual event here, and we can take it national.”

This pageant is open to contestants 45 years and older, and proceeds benefit Ed-U-Care, which trains professional and personal caregivers on LGBT cultural sensitivity and on compassion fatigue in caring for people in long-term care at home or in a facility, veterans and the elderly.

Gutierrez said she decided to partner with Ed-U-Care because of the work that organization does to maintain dignity of people in the community as they age.

“Ed-U-Care’s board does a ton of LGBT competency training,” she said.

In her preparation for the contest, Gutierrez said she wanted to do everything just right, so she even consulted with SAGE, the LGBT senior advocacy organization for ideas and any tips they might have.

It promises to be a most entertaining show, because while these contestants might not have youth on their side, they have experience. And that counts for a lot.

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Pageant contestants will vie for a $500 first place prize, with a $250 prize for the runner-up and a $150 third-place prize. Mystique Summers will emcee, and Candi Carroll, Hillary Hunter and others will perform. Wayne Smith will entertain as Cher.

Miss Ageless Pride Texas 2019 takes place on Sunday, May 19, from 6-10 p.m. at Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. Admission is $10 at the door. There is a $50 contestant entry fee. Information and entry forms are available online at EdUCareDallas.com.