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August to September 2010 - News Archive

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OUTeXpressions enewspaper

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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.


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