LGBTQ+ ADVOCATE AND SPEAKER
KARYN SKULTETY IS AN LGBTQ+ ADVOCATE AND SPEAKER BASED IN COLORADO, COMITTED TO REPRESENTING UNDEREPRESENTED INDIVIDUALS, EXPECIALLY OLDER LGBTQ+ PEOPLE
You are a passionate and committed LGBTQ+ speaker and advocate based in Colorado. What does that role involve?
I made the decision to move back to Colorado (where I grew up) largely based on my need to advocate and connect with my passion as a queer person with two children and with ageing parents. I think many of us pour so much of ourselves into our social justice work, career and advocacy that we reach a moment where we lose perspective on who we are as our own LGBTQ+ person. So, much of my role since my move has been on being a mom, a daughter and a member of a chosen family of LGBTQ+ people who have faced our own particular challenges during the global pandemic.
That said, I have been providing consultation and leadership on projects that involve a more traditional ageing service provider partnering with a LGBTQ+ community organisation to build new models of care. This is the work I’m most passionate about! In addition, I’m honoured to have joined the Board of Directors of two Denver-based nonprofits – Envision:You (focusing on mental health services for LGBTQ+ people) and OneColorado (providing advocacy and political support for LGBTQ+ people).
You have also been an Executive Director for Openhouse based in San Francisco. What does Openhouse do?
Openhouse provides housing, services and community building for LGBTQ+ seniors in San Francisco. They opened San Francisco’s first (and only!) LGBTQ+ welcoming affordable senior housing buildings and provide some of the most innovative care models for ageing LGBTQ+ people in the country.
In the past few years we’ve seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights. What more needs to be done?
So much! I think the most pressing challenges are often those facing individuals in the transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) communities. There are constant assaults on the rights of this part of the community – unfortunately both from LGB people and the larger world. This can look like anything from misgendering to actual violence to the attempts to formalise discrimination through horrific new laws and policies being enacted all over the world.
What challenges do older LGBTQ+ people face which, perhaps, younger LGBTQ+ people do not, and how can we address those challenges?
LGBTQ+ seniors face a number of challenges. We know from the research that they experience significant health disparities and extremely high levels of isolation compared to the cisgender/ heterosexual ageing population. The problem that I spend the most time thinking about is the fact that traditional care models for seniors do not come close to meeting their needs and we see that they do not use these services, even when they are desperately needed.
I am passionate at finding ways that we can bring together the knowledge of LGBTQ+ communities, especially seniors, and have them rebuild our care models to support seniors ageing in place, surrounded by communities of support.
Describe a typical day in the life of Karyn Skultety.
This question made me laugh because there isn’t a typical day right now! As I said, the last six months have been more focused on my own kids and well-being and I definitely want to be able to say that out loud and with pride! But if I tell you I wake up and wear sweatpants to get my kids to school on time it may not impress your readers!
TO DATE ON EITHER A PROFESSIONAL OR PERSONAL LEVEL WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Absolutely without a doubt, getting to be a mom to my two kids – Quinn and Nova – is my proudest achievement. And the way that they see the world, including their own passion for fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, especially seniors, inspires me like nothing else. One of the most poignant moments in my life as a leader was having LGBTQ+ seniors thank me for bringing my kids to spend time at our community events at Openhouse. As one of them pointed out, LGBTQ+ seniors came of age at a time the world told them that they were dangerous to children and very few had the opportunity to have children in queer relationships. Watching my own kids interact with the people who fought for the rights that allowed me to be a queer mom is the most powerful opportunity and I cherish it.