The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ rules committee unanimously voted to recommend lesbian psychotherapist G. Joyce Pierson for a vacant seat on the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force at its meeting today (Thursday, October 31).
“I’ve worked in community services funded by the Older Americans Act in many different communities throughout California,” said Pierson, who came out in her 40s and now lives in a senior complex in San Francisco. “Now that I am a senior myself I am getting to know what it feels like to be on other side of the table.”
It will now be up to the full board to approve Pierson, who is semi-retired as she continues to sees private clients, or select a different person for the seat. The nominee will fill out the term of the panel’s former vice chair, Jazzie Collins, a transgender activist who died this summer.
The volunteer body is working on delivering its recommendations for how San Francisco officials can address the needs of older LGBT residents by March of 2014.
District 5 Supervisor London Breed had announced earlier this month she was prepared to recommend that the vacant seat be given to Pierson, who was the project director for the LGBT Elder Law Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Due to several of the applicants being unaware of the hearing during the rules committee’s October 3 meeting, and Supervisors Norman Yee (District 7) and Malia Cohen (District 10) acknowledging they had not met with any of the applicants, the three supervisors postponed making a decision until they could meet with those seeking the seat.
The decision came down to Pierson and Marshall Feldman, coordinator of psychotherapy services at the UCSF Alliance Health Project. Feldman focuses on mental health issues facing older gay men and noted the aging policy task force currently does not have a member with his background.
“I am focused on the psychosocial health of older LGBTs,” said Feldman.
Although the supervisors hailed both Pierson and Feldman as being qualified to serve on the aging policy body, their decision came down to one of gender. Due to there already being 11 male members and only three female members on the task force, they choose to recommend Pierson for the seat.
“As much as Mr. Feldman you are a very qualified person, it is the desire on my part to see these committees be as balanced as possible,” said Yee. “For me, Miss Pierson is the most qualified. Nobody is going to replace the shoes of a Jazzie Collins but you are the most qualified in my mind.”
A third applicant for the seat, Carla Harris, 50, who identifies as lesbian and is board president of Pathways to Safety, also testified today in hopes of securing the appointment.
“I am passionate about LGBTQ aging issues,” Harris told the committee.
The other applicants – gay AIDS survivor and activist Gregg Cassin and gay lawyer James Wagoner, 57, who is HIV positive and launched the GLBT Seniors Advocacy Project at Bay Area Legal Aid – did not appear.