LGBTQ Elders Group to Honor South Florida Couple for Their Longtime Activism
By Steve Rothaus
Shed Boren and Jose Valdes-Fauli will receive the SAGE Miami Pioneer Award “for their continued commitment to serve those affected by HIV and AIDS and for giving voice to the fight for LGBT equality,” according to SAGE, a national organization that provides “services and advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender elders.”
“Advocacy goes hand in hand with taking care of our own. That’s what Shed and Jose made possible,” said Miami attorney Jerry Chasen, director of legacy planning for SAGE USA. “If you look at Shed’s work at Mercy [Hospital] in particular, he brought together treatment and experimental procedures all under one roof. That was no small feat. It’s one of the first private clinical settings that integrated research and development with direct care, treatment and services.
“Jose was on Mercy’s board at the time and he helped Shed make some of those things possible,” Chasen continued. “They’ve both been incredibly generous with their time, expertise and resources to the Miami community.”
Boren, 51, and Valdes-Fauli, 65, have been partnered for two decades. Twenty five years ago, Mercy Hospital hired Boren to find ways to help people living with HIV. He launched the Mercy AIDS institute, which became one of the largest and most successful private AIDS programs in the country. He also co-produced and co-executive produced the Emmy-winning 2014 Miami Herald/WPBT 2 documentary of 1970s singer Anita Bryant and the gay-rights movement, “The Day It Snowed in Miami.”
Valdes-Fauli, a prominent South Florida banker, at the time served on Mercy’s board of directors. He helped Boren mediate and bring together two feuding AIDS researchers.
“Jose readily agreed to host the get together in his home,” according to a SAGE news release about how he and Boren became a couple. “Thus began a loving and lasting partnership, both personal and professional.”
Valdes-Fauli, whose brother Raul is running to again be mayor of Coral Gables, has been president of four banks, the Florida Grand Opera and the Bass Museum, and has also served on the boards of Health Crisis Network (now Care Resource, an HIV/AIDS service agency), Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places, the Cultural Affairs Council and Florida International University.
Boren worked at Mercy until 2003 and then founded Sister Emmanuel Hospital. He became CEO of Camillus Health in June 2014, and CEO of Camillus House a few months later. He departed the private homeless organization in October 2016.
SAGE, which last year began a Miami-area affiliation with Jewish Community Services of South Florida, provides a host of services for LGBTQ senior citizens across the United States. SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. Including Miami, the group’s “SAGENet” is comprised of 30 affiliates throughout the United States. SAGE estimates there are 43,000 LGBT older adults in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“When I was in social work school 30 years ago, I worked in an LGBT counseling center,” Boren recalled. “It was the early time of AIDS. You also had a separate group of individuals who were older, who were coming out older and you had a group who were just older people dealing with issues of aging in a different climate. They were suffering from social isolation, health disparities, financial insecurities, and a lack of formal social support.”
Back then, Boren helped start a group in Houston that focused on older LGBT people, “so they could create a sense of community.”
“That’s what SAGE is about — forming a sense of purpose, support, decreasing isolation and decreasing stigma,” Boren said. “We’re dealing with a lot of issues about getting older and there was a whole generation that no one expected to get older. Our generation went through so much death and isolation early on, the heterosexual counterparts were dealing with that in older age. We were dealing with that as younger men.”
Valdes-Fauli said younger LGBTQ people must be responsible for helping care for the older generation of men and women.
“They’re our family. We take care of our elders — some of these people don’t have anybody,” Valdes-Fauli said. “When you take care of the elders , you're setting up a beautiful precedent. People don’t think they’re going to get old. But the experience that age gives you — it’s a wonderful combination — the experience of age and enthusiasm of youth.”