Please make time to watch Gen Silent. The producers of this LGBT Aging documentary have made it available free for home streaming through New Years Day 2014.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender older people who fought the first battles for equality now face so much fear of discrimination, bullying and abuse that many are hiding their lives to survive. Thousands are dying earlier than their straight counterparts because they are isolated and afraid to ask for help. But a growing number of people are fighting to keep
LGBT aging from meaning aging in silence. 

“LGBT elders are going back in the closet.”
“In the first nursing home, we weren’t welcomed there as a gay couple.”
“They [caregivers] didn’t want to touch my body.”
“You just know when they don’t want you there. When you feel they don’t want you, you’re in a state of stress.”
“All I can do is sit in shadows, holding his tissue-paper hand, watching him breathe.”

These are comments from LGBT elders speaking out about the prejudice, hostility, and fear they face. No, not just when they were young, but now — in long-term care facilities, from caregivers, and from medical providers.

KrysAnne, a transgender woman, is living alone at the end of her life. “Most people who transition expect losses, but I didn’t expect to lose everyone,” she says. “For two years, I desperately tried to connect with my family. In some cases the letters weren’t even opened.”

One letter that was returned contained the message, “So glad someone finally took off your balls. What do you call yourself now. FREAK or IT??”

Thank you, filmmaker Stu Maddux, for making this stunning documentary and for providing it for free streaming right now. I’m not permitted to embed the video here, so please click here to watch it.

I am permitted to embed the trailer:

After you watch the film, I hope you’ll contribute your comments. (By posting here, you’re giving me permission to use excerpts from your comments in my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty, without identifying you in any way.)

Guest blogger Sue Katz is a wordsmith and rebel, offering frank talk about aging, sex, the Middle East, class rage and ballroom dancing. She used to be most proud of her martial arts career, her world travel, and her voters’ guide to Sarah Palin, Thanks But No Thanks, but now it’s all about her blog, Consenting Adult.

Sue recently reviewed Gen Silent, a documentary about LGBT elders who go back in the closet when they need long-term nursing facilities. It’s a topic that even LGBT activists rarely look at. Thank you, Sue, for permission to republish excerpts from this review. Visit the original for the full-length review.

 

Film Review: Gen Silent
by Sue Katz

This emotive documentary helped me clarify what should really be among the priorities of the LGBT community. When one considers all the resources that have been lavished on lobbying for equality in the sorry military/marriage institutions, the issues surrounding LGBT aging seem to be a more pressing and much more widely relevant front on which to focus our struggle. In the best of circumstances, we’re all going to get old.

“Gen Silent,” directed by Stu Maddux, is a documentary based in Boston about local ageing queers. What are their options? Who will look after them when they need help? How do elder and nursing facilities treat LGBT elders? Will they have to go back into the closet if they need care?

By following individuals and couples and allowing them to tell their stories, Maddux draws us in with a sense of both identification and admiration. Sniffles and quiet sobs marked the showing, for no one among us could avoid a sense of vulnerability as we approach old age.

With senior facilities too often lacking in consciousness of queer and trans needs, even some of the earliest gay militants are now facing the possibility of having to return to the closet in order to safely get the care they need.

When Lawrence Johnson can no longer care for his older partner of many decades, he must place him in a nursing home. But his partner feels too paranoid to be out, limiting the ways in which Lawrence can comfort him. Eventually, Lawrence finds a more open and supportive facility, so that he and his partner can hold hands without looking over their shoulder.

Sheri Barden and Lois Johnson are hoping to stay in their own home, for they live in a neighborhood with many long-time, close queer neighbors. But they are also aware of the kind of dangers any institution might hold for out lesbians – from physical and sexual abuse to isolation and ostracism.

KrysAnne Hembrough’s severe breathing problems are preventing her from taking care of herself. But her late-life transition has left this transgender woman with nothing but hostility from her entire biological family. Medical people, too, have expressed revulsion and have refused to touch her body.

“Gen Silent” is more than a top-notch documentary. It is a conscious-raising tool that needs to be shown widely in mainstream elder institutions and among professionals working with older people. It needs to be shown to LGBT people of all ages so that this important discussion becomes a key issue for our movements.

Unfortunately, “Gen Silent” is an underfunded project that could use support – both financial and in terms of distribution. The visionary director Stu Maddux asked for human and material resources to get the film out to the nooks and crannies of our aging lives. Visit his website to learn more.

And check out the trailer below, presented under the righteous banner: The generation that fought hardest to come out is going back in – to survive.