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Gay and Lesbian seniors go back in closet to survive
Outexpressions Tuesday September 7. Film Review By Ben Faller, The population of GLBT seniors is often overlooked,
but why? These are the trailblazers; the folks who had the courage to be themselves
in a time when being yourself would likely cause you to lose your entire family,
your job, and possibly your life.
Imagine you and your partner have been together for forty years. You’ve lived
through the rejection of your families and your children. You’ve survived the
years of anti-gay witch-hunts and the constant fear of being exposed. Through
your love for each other, you’ve built a comfortable home and have shared every
triumph and heartache together. Your partner’s failing health has made nursing
home care your only option. He is your life, and now you are forced to leave
him, terrified by the thought of his possible mistreatment at a nursing home
where half the staff members admit their colleagues would be intolerant of GLBT
patients. Gen Silent subject Mel Simms
In Stu Maddux’s documentary, Gen Silent
he shares the stories of six GLBT seniors, each having traveled down their own
extraordinary paths. These are stories that will not just open your eyes to
an important issue; they will make you want to help. These stories are intensely
personal. You can’t help but imagine yourself in their situation.
Filmed in Boston, the documentary centers on six seniors, including a gay couple,
a lesbian couple, a gay man whose partner recently passed away and a transgendered
woman. All are either living or have a partner in a nursing home, or they are
being faced with life in a nursing home. Most staff in nursing homes have not
received training in the treatment and care of GLBT patients and their partners.
When asked about GLBT patients, staff will often answer, “we don’t have any
gay patients here.” This is where you get angry. Obviously, this is not true.
Often, out of fear for their safely, or fear of being shunned and outcast by
fellow patients, these gay seniors will go right back into the closet. If they
decide to remain true to themselves, they may be faced with staff members forcing
them to “pray” and ask for “forgiveness.” The decision to go back into the closet
can seem like the lesser evil.
Gen Silent subjects Sheri Barden and Lois Johnson. It’s a story that’s uplifting,
while at the same time heartbreaking. Help is now on the way with programs like
SAGE that assist GLBT seniors. There is hope that all gay seniors will not be
marginalized, but will be treated with dignity and respect while in the hands
of caregivers. Goodness knows—they’ve earned it.