Sue Katz Film Review: Gen Silent

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.

Orgasm Inc.: stunning expose of drug for fake disease

I just saw the film Orgasm Inc. You must see it. It’s a powerful expose of the medicalization of female sexuality, specifically the development and marketing of female sexual enhancement drugs based on a made-up “disease”: Female Sexual Dysfuncton (FSD).  The “disease” was created by drug companies so that they could sell drugs and procedures that have not been proven to work and have not been proven safe!

Filmmaker Liz Canner was hired by one of these drug companies, and what she learned was so apalling that she went on to make this expose. I was stunned by it. Some of the reviews call it funny. Though there were some hilarious moments, the aftertaste isn’t funny.

How did the drug companies invent a disease? They asked women questions designed to unearth if they ever had trouble becoming aroused or reaching orgasm (duh, who hasn’t?) and labeled those dysfunctional who said yes to any of the questions. Although women’s sexual responses are complex and based on relationship, health, energy, worries, other medications, and emotional issues as well as physical function, these issues were neither addressed nor ruled out.

The result: a new dysfunction and a drug to address it, both of which were then promoted by highly paid health “experts” on TV news and talk shows. I’m itching to name a visible, well-known “expert” who — although she denied any financial interest in the drug — was paid $75,000 a day for her media appearances on Oprah and other shows. You’ll see her identified in the film.

Below is one video clip — see the official trailer here (I couldn’t embed that one).

6/7/10 update: When I wrote this post a few days ago, Orgasm Inc. was available on Amazon, and today when I checked it, it has disappeared from the listings. This is odd indeed. I’ll keep checking for its return.  It is listed on Netflix, but the available date is unknown, as a reader commented. How frustrating — I really want you to be able to see it. I’ll update the info when this changes — keep checking back.

Cloud 9: German film takes risks portraying senior sex and love

Cloud 9 (Wolke Neun) is a 2008 German film about a woman in her sixties, in a routine but loving (and sexually dynamic) marriage of 30 years. Inge, a seamstress, falls first in lust and then in love with a 76-year-old man. This film, winner of several prestigious awards, is slow-paced, full of raw emotion, and — are you sitting down? — filled with one charged sex scene after another. 

Inge (brilliantly acted by Ursula Werner) has sex with her husband (Horst Rehberg), with herself, and several times with her lover (Horst Westphal). The film is graphic by US standards — you see all three characters’ naked bodies, both during lovemaking and just standing or sitting. The film seems to say, “These are the bodies we wear all day, so what’s the big deal? Why hide them?” The sex scenes are tender and erotic, and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed them.

I have to applaud this film, not only for its refreshing and realistic treatment of senior sex and love, but because they didn’t make Inge an aging sex bomb. Rather, she’s a plain, frumpy woman with a chunky body and pendulous breasts, who sings in a choir and never seems to comb her hair. She’s not beautiful by any means, but she is radiant when she’s sexually turned on — which happens throughout the film — or laughing.

I’m skirting around the plot details because I don’t want to spoil it. Please see it. I welcome your comments (but please don’t give away the ending.)
You won’t find this film in your local movie listings, but Netflix has it, and so does Amazon. Hurray.

Daily Show’s “Dirty Bird Special” poops on senior sex

About three years ago, I was contacted by a producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about appearing on a segment about the rise in STDs among sexually active seniors. The segment didn’t get produced at that time because they wanted to include sexually active elders, preferably unattractive and smarmy who didn’t use condoms, who were willing to let a camera and interviewer follow them on their how-to-pick-up-a-sex-partner-escapades.

I knew TDS would ridicule these elders and the whole notion of older-age dating and sex, but I wanted to be a part of the show because I thought I could bring some dignity to the topic.

After months of trying to locate their wild elders (who were likely smarter than I was and wouldn’t agree to be ridiculed by The Daily Show), the producer gave up on the segment — or so I thought.

I went on to be interviewed on the topic of unsafe senior sex by ABC Nightline, which did a fabulous, educational, and respectful segment and included a long interview with me, featuring comments from readers on this blog, in fact.

You know what happened last night if you were watching Comedy Central. On April 9, 2009, The Daily Show aired “Dirty Bird Special” about unsafe senior sex and dating, which featured an 82-year-old horndog (“lookin’ for it wherever I can get it”) who doesn’t believe his genital warts are contagious (“warts are my penis”) and hasn’t used a condom in 40 years, although he’s getting more “tail” now than in his youth.

Although part of the segment showed vivacious Miami elders dancing, dating, and having fun, the interviewer — who admitted that thinking of seniors having sex produced “gagging sensations” — was intent on making even social dancing and dating seem seedy, ridiculous, and icky. And I hate to tell you what they did with the segment about safer-sex education at a Jewish community center. You’ll have to view it yourself .

I thank Sue Katz for drawing my attention to this show with her superb blog post about it.