One of the joys of growing old is that your memories increasingly consist of what others label “history.”
That is one of the reasons older LGBT people and those who serve them may be very interested in a new website (www.OurFamilyAlbum.org) that features early photographs of people who may or may not have been LGBT.
The new website was put together by Stu Maddux, the creator of the much-lauded documentary on LGBT aging, Gen Silent. His in-progress work, “Reel in the Closet,” features home videos from LGBT people. The complementary website features more than 100 personal photos spanning more than 120 years and is designed to provoke conversation about identity and cultural context. Users are encouraged to post comments and questions, which are often answered by Stu Maddux.
The site also features a store that offers a 2014 desk calendar, cards, posters, wall clocks, and mugs. You can ask to be notified when new photographs are added to the site.
The [California] Ventura Star this week ran an article examining LGBT people in assisted living, an inquiry prompted by the airing of the documentary “Gen Silent” by the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.
“We’ve learned the bullies who are there at the beginning of life are there at the end of life,” Stu Maddux, Gen Silent’s filmmaker, said during a talk-back session. “This time, you can’t run and you can’t fight.”
The article interviews LGBT residents, potential residents, and staff members, and is illustrated by several pictures of Beverly Taylor, 81, and Edie Brown, 77, who have been together for 37 years. It’s available at http://www.vcstar.com/news/2013/jan/15/aging-gays-lesbians-find-challenges-in-assisted/
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but now you have a choice: Gen Silent, the marvelous documentary on LGBT aging, has been transcribed. The transcript is available at http://stumaddux.com/blog/archives/548 Enjoy!
Everyone interested in LGBT aging issues needs to see the groundbreaking and heart-tugging documentary Gen Silent, and it’s available for online viewing at no cost this week only. Go to http://stumaddux.com/XDO_Viewer_2.html Don’t forget to tell the service providers you know!
I was so pleased when I coined the quote about Gen Silent: “This film is critically important to our movement…it may be this generation’s ‘Word Is Out,’ marking the first public revelation of LGBT aging.” Unfortunately, the young reporter didn’t do what I intended and look up “Word Is Out,” instead dropping the quote altogether.
It is out of such moments, such minor decisions, that our LGBT history is lost. Gen Silent taught me other ones. As I told the reporter, “I’ve been working on LGBT aging issues for 37 years, and there were facts in this documentary that I’d never known.” One of those was the origin of what I thought was the “camp” practice of calling gay men by women’s names. It wasn’t camp; it was closet. Giving your partner a female name made it far easier to talk with others about daily things, simply and consistently implying that the person you did them with was your friend “Mary.” Another one: Lawrence and his partner of decades never signed their Christmas cards with their last names…just in case. It was a shocking detail, that tiny data point: to have to be that careful even with people close enough to be on your Christmas card list; it took my breath away.
There are many more reasons to see Gen Silent, and bring everyone you can think of, if you’ve not seen it already. As I also told that reporter, this documentary introduces us to real people who get under our skin, who make us laugh, and who move us to tears. It’s unforgettable. You can find out more at http://www.gensilent.com/. While you’re there, be sure to vote for it in the Gotham Independent Film Awards; if it wins, the publicity it will get will help this critical film reach a much wider audience.
Sometimes the discrimination and pain LGBT older people go through can end up making positive changes.
That is what’s happening in Sonoma County, California. In a case that began in 2008, Sonoma County Adult Protective Services (APS) opened a case concerning Clay Greene and his partner Harold Scull. Believing that Scull had fallen during an argument with Greene, officials separated the two men and began a series of actions that concluded, after Scull’s death, in a lawsuit that, among other things, charged officials with homophobia. (For more details on the case, see “Homophobia or Expedience? Sonoma County Goes on Trial” (see http://www.forge-forward.org/docs/Sonoma-case-VED-article.pdf.) Greene settled the case last July.
This month, the Sonoma County Division of Adult & Aging Services held a staff in-service training that included showing the film “Gen Silent,” about LGBT elders. This award-winning film was released last summer and highlights “the unique mix of isolation and fear facing many gay seniors.” For more on the Sonoma County showing, see the blog post by Stu Maddux, the film’s director and editor (http://stumaddux.blogspot.com/2011/02/agency-that-separated-elderly-gay.html). For more information on Gen Silent, see its Facebook page or go to http://gensilent.com.