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??”
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.)
Dan Savage is an outspoken, irreverent, gay sex columnist who gives sex advice to all genders and orientations at Savage Love and on his podcast. With his husband Terry*, he started the “It Gets Better” video project, designed to help kids who are bullied realize that it does get better.
So I was prepared to like Dan’s new book. I had no idea that I would love it, highlight it, bookmark it, rave about it. I had no idea that Dan could write so eloquently, and from the heart. For example:
- “Sex education in America is a lot like a driver’s-ed course that covers the internal combustion but not steering or brakes…so long as we skip past pleasure, desire, and negotiating a romantic or sexual relationship … we aren’t really teaching young adults about sex.”
- “Fighting your sexuality is like holding your breath: It can be done, yes, but not for long (when it comes to your breath) and not forever (when it comes to your sexuality).”
Politically, Dan is razor-sharp. His one-hour, dinner table debate with Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, about gay marriage is worth watching on YouTube — but what you don’t know about what happened before and after the debate is here in American Savage, such as the one question Terry asked after the debate was over:
“Do you think our son should be taken away from us?”
“You shouldn’t ask me a question when you know you won’t like the answer,” Brown said.
“Get the fuck out of my house,” Terry said.
Dan’s personal stories are moving, especially when he writes about his mother’s death, his husband, or his son. Each time he speaks from his heart with a story from his own life, it is to illustrate or lead us to an important point.
Dan Savage makes you think about things you thought you knew. For example, when is/isn’t it okay to cheat?
“We are socially monogamous — we pair bond; we couple up… but we are not sexually monogamous… The fact that your partner is willing to ‘forsake all others’ only means something is your partner doesn’t, on some level, want to forsake all others. and your partner doesn’t.”
How can you help laughing when he writes about Rick Santorum (“then the third most powerful person in the United States Senate [who] equated gay people to child rapists and dogfuckers”) and Dan’s campaign to launch a new meaning for the word “santorum”: “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex” in our culture and in Google searches.
I could go on for another hour, but here’s the bottom line: I recommend American Savage to everyone, straight or gay, who cares about how confused our culture is about sexuality and religion and politics. Please read this book and share it with people in your life who agree with you — and those who don’t.
*Okay, since I’m being honest here — I drool over the photo of Dan’s husband Terry posing in underwear, which I’ll share here with you, at the risk of undermining the intellectual nature of this book review.
|Terry posing in underwear|
We’re all reading and talking about gay marriage / marriage equality this week. I’d like to invite our LGBT Boomers, seniors, and elders to comment here about their lives growing up without acceptance or equality.
In high school, I had a guy friend who, I learned 50 years later, was gay. How much it would have accelerated my own education and evolution if he had felt he could talk to me about that then. But he didn’t. Maybe he felt he couldn’t. Maybe he thought it was none of my business. Maybe he wasn’t sure. He dated girls at that time.
Fifty years later, when we met again, I asked if he was married. He told me nonchalantly that he was in a decades-long relationship with a man. He said he wasn’t hiding it — he just informed people who asked.
they’ll number more than 3 million, Terri told us. She is co-chair of The LGBT Elder Initiative
(LGBTEI), which is “committed to assuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender older adults have rights and opportunities to live
vibrant, creative and mutually supportive lives.”
you cease to exist.”
I thought I was well-informed, but this session made my jaw drop, especially when Terri showed a short film from Project Visibility (trailer below). In it, people talked about their need to be closeted growing up. “We always kind of lived a lie,” they said. “That was your life and you’re not able to share it. Your story would be missing.”
Even decades later, they lost jobs, family, and their faith community when they came out. One college professor was told, “We don’t have room on the faculty for you any more.”
Many LGBT seniors are still closeted today. This makes them afraid to access senior health and legal services that the rest of us take for granted.
Yes, marriage equality is important. But that’s not the only chapter in this story. Gay or straight, young or old, religious or not, activist or not, we need to come together, stand up tall, and speak out loud for equality for all of us, in all aspects of our lives.
In the words of one of the interviewees, “It’s who we are. It’s not a moral issue.”
Dear John, I Love Jane — isn’t the title perfect? — is a 2011 anthology edited by Candace Walsh and Laura André (who happen to be a couple) and written by women who left their straight life/ relationships/ husbands because they fell in love with women.
Some always knew they were attracted to women, but bowed to society’s norm and married men anyway. Others had no idea they could or would fall in love with a woman.
The stories are engrossing, well-crafted, intimate, and dramatic. I felt I was sitting in a room hearing these women’s personal stories — their conflicts, thrills, misgivings (sometimes), and declarations.
When Seal Press offered me this book to review, I emailed back, “I hope some of the stories highlight women over 50.” I was surprised and pleased to learn that several of these authors are over 50, and in case you want to read their stories first–as I did–here are their names: Leigh Stuart, Sheila Smith, Susan Grier, Meredith Maran, Kami Day, Micki Grimland, and Katherine Briccetti.
I loved many of the stories, including “Memoirs of a Wanton Prude” by Sheila Smith, who first fell in love with a woman at age 69. As a teen, she was taught that gays and lesbians were “Sick! Immoral! Perverted!” and she fought back her feelings until age 50. Still, she stayed with her husband, “reading lesbian books and [keeping] my feelings about women under wraps. A divorce and a few years of solitude readied her to meet Diana, who taught her that “Lesbians are about intimacy”: “It wasn’t so much she wanted to go to bed with me; it was that she wanted to wake up with me.”
One of the most moving stories to me was “The Right Fit” by Kami Day (also over 50), who was raised Mormon and was taught that “Heavenly Father had made one man whose penis would fit just perfectly inside my vagina,” and that perfect fit would be revealed on her wedding night. It wasn’t. But 15 years later, the perfect fit arrived: Michele. And 15 after that, they are still together, “using only about half the mattress in our double bed.”
The writing is terrific — often lyrical, sometimes funny, and full of surprises. For example:
- “I have always been far more turned on by our magical, slippery little orchid than by their — what is that? A puppet? Some sort of sea creature?” (Veronica Masen)
- “My body has a need that’s burning a hole through the mattress. My brain is hanging on for dear life to what remains of my heterosexuality.” (Meredith Maran)
- “I had never imagined kissing another woman, but now I did, wanting to know the gentleness of soft skin, the taste of female, this female.” (Susan Grier)
- “I had recurrent dreams of making out with Ellen DeGeneres in a rustic Spanish house in Santa Barbara.” (Leigh Stuart)
Dear John, I Love Jane is an important book. It is more than a lesbian anthology — it’s about women making choices at first that go counter to what they really want or need (and isn’t that especially true of our age group?), then facing and accepting — and being thrilled by! — their true natures. It shows women’s sexual fluidity in a way we seldom see or acknowledge.
When I was writing Naked at Our Age, several women over 50 sent me their stories about marrying men (some quite contently, others battling their nature) and in later life discovering love with another woman — or wanting to experience sex with another woman and not yet putting it into action. If this book had been out then, I would have recommended it. I recommend it now!
Purchase the Dear John, I Love Jane on Amazon or order from your independent bookseller.
As always, I welcome your comments.