Lawrence: The streets are lined with ordinary faces, ordinary people that you see every day. When I look to the left, when I look to the right, I see everybody.
Bystander: We’ll be there in a few years.
Lawrence: I see kids, children, gay couples, straight couples. I am seeing cheering people really happy that we older LGBT citizens… that we’re still here. The young people today, I don’t think they…they can’t grasp what it was like- all transpired in the past- to make it so fabulous today.
We’re not just talking about name calling. Your very life could be at jeopardy.
You know, these things are internalized in you now. And now all of a sudden you’re at a point in your life where you are becoming more and more vulnerable and you need help.
I never imagined 50 years ago, I would see all kinds of people. In that moment it was sublime because I could look and I could see me.
SUPER- One Year Earlier
Lawrence: I love these grapes.
Alexandre: I love you too.
Lawrence: Huh, you love them too? They are very good.
Alexandre: I said I love you too.
Lawrence: A year ago, if somebody had said, “you’re going to be marching in the gay pride parade, I don’t think so.
Alexandre: Reach in that sleeve.
Lawrence: I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “okay from now on I am Alexandre’s caregiver.”
(to Alexandre) Want me to roll up your sleeve?
Lawrence: Bring your hand over. I’ll roll it up like that. How’s that?
I met him at Harvard. I was in my 20’s and he was in his 40’s. We’re still here for 38 years now.
(to Alexandre) That’s for you. Careful, you’re eating that one.
SUPER- Lawrence has cared for Alexandre for 10 years.
Lawrence: But we’ve always done everything together and we can continue doing this together.
Krys Anne: God wakes me up in the morning with sunrises or with his birds singing. And to this day I roll over, disheveled hair, with no teeth and I just beam from ear to ear because I’m just so thrilled to be who I am.
I lived 50 plus years of my life as a male. He was a sad, miserable person: angry at himself and the world and just received no joy or happiness.
SUPER- Krys Anne is a 59-year-old Vietnam Veteran
If I was the best athlete, if I aspired to be ‘king of the hill’ maybe I could just drive this out of myself. I mean I looked as ugly as I possibly could. Smoked cigars. Nobody likes the smell of cigars. I did that for a long, long time. And no one ever knew this about me. I was in a serious, serious depression- tried to take my life twice. Then I just said, “I know what I need to do” and I did it. Cured the depression. I’m just happy to be Krys Anne.
The word Krysallis is the time in the cocoon in which the caterpillar turns into a butterfly. He’s been… transformed. Now I’m a butterfly. I fly. Now I’m free.
SIGN READS: PRIDE TEA DANCE for LGBT Seniors & Friends
Song: Etta James, “At Last” playing as couples dance.
Sheri: (Singing to song) At last… Oh my darling
Lois: Oh my darling (laughing) My love has come my way…Gen Silent subjects Sheri Barden and Lois Johnson
Sheri: Couple of months it will be 45 years. Singing: “My lonely days are over…”
Sheri: Almost 45, Lois:…almost 45 years.
Sheri: Are we going to interrupt each other? Lois: Oh of course, is that bad?
Song: “And life is like a song…
SUPER- Boston’s South End
Sheri: I don’t want to go to a nursing home and be with all those old people. That’s what my 93-year-old aunt said.
Lois: I can still say that at 77, I don’t want to be with all those old people. She and I got together in 1963. We have been neighborhood activists for 30 years. We’ve been on every committee known to man…
Sheri: …and we’ve become family with some people.
Jazz music playing:
Sheri: We saw Jerry a week ago.
Sheri: I think we’ve paid our dues and the chits are out there and the chits are going to come back. I hope.
Lois: I think so.
Sheri: If anything happened to Lois I say to myself who would come to my aide? All I can think of is gay people. All I can think of is gay people.
Server: What’s he doing?
Mel: He’s filming
Server: Filming what?
Friend: He’s a movie star. (laughter)
SUPER- Northeastern University
Mel: Walter and I were very cautious about exposing ourselves publically. We had never even gone to the parade because we didn’t want to ever be caught in a video. We never in a picture touched each other. We reached a point where even in cards we weren’t writing our full names out because if anybody ever found this we didn’t want them to be able to know. The pendulum might swing the other way and we didn’t want to be out there and get discriminated against. You just hear too many stories.
Lawrence: LGBT seniors are going back into the closet because that fear is real.
SUPER- Dale Mitchell, LGBT Aging Project Co-Founder
Dale Mitchell: We’ve heard about homemakers going in taking out a bible and having the elder pray and asking for forgiveness…
SUPER- Lisa Krinsky, Director, LGBT Aging Project
Lisa Krinsky: …and to be cured it’s not too late for you to be cured of this. They go back in the closet. She might mistreat me or abuse me.
Interviewer: Do you think it’s a wide spread problem out there?
Krys Anne: They didn’t want to touch my body. I believe that as I sit here with you today.
Lawrence: The first nursing we weren’t really welcome there as a gay couple.
Lisa Krinsky: It’s not that you’re believing something from 40 years ago and everything is completely different right now. Your life could be at risk.
Lois: And I worry about people like ourselves, older who are hiding say, in nursing homes or whatever, because they are scared to death.
Sheri: It’s hard for me to think about it. A friend of ours, Bill. Bill was gay. Everybody knew he was gay. Well, when he went into the nursing home he became so fearful. He didn’t want any gay people coming to visit him. He didn’t want anyone mailing anything to him. He reverted to this whole homophobic…
Sheri: Internalized homophobia. Maybe there was somebody there. That wasn’t the Bill we knew.
SUPER- Bob Linscott, LGBT Aging Project
Bob Linscott: And it turned out he was afraid of the orderlies, he was afraid of all these people that would really harass him or abuse him. And, he was also afraid of these other seniors that were at this home. So he did not want to be seen associating with these gay people coming in here. It terrified him. So, they stopped going. And eventually they heard months and months later that he had passed away. He passed away alone.
Lois: I would never put myself in danger and I know that’s possible. And I certainly agree with some people where there is no one else that is supporting them in any way in their gayness.
Lawrence: You just know when they don’t want you there. I could observe people, you know, whispering. If you feel as if you’re not wanted someplace you’re in a state of stress because you’re not allowed to be who you are. He has Parkinson’s Dementia. It’s progressing and he knows that. He is very aware of that.
Alexandre: Is this my young friend?
Lawrence: Over there do you see your guardian angel?
Alexandre: Yea, right here.
(sound of flowing creek)
Lawrence: Alexandre went into the service in 1940. I think it was then after his marriage that he just sort of had a gay life during the 50’s and 60’s into the 70’s when we met and became long time companions.
(to Alexandre) Well, your 1st friend was Red. Remember Red?
Alexandre: Red Caldwell
Lawrence: Red Caldwell back in the 40’s.
Alexandre: He was my first…what do you call it now?
Lisa Krinsky: That person was in their mid-twenties during the McCarthy era when there was all sorts of effort to root out homosexuals; black list them and all that kind of fear.
Lawrence: Two pretty boys.
Alexandre: Yes, indeed. Don’t forget him.
Lawrence: Nope, were not going to forget him.
SUPER- Red committed suicide in 1951.
Lawrence: Obviously there were a lot of people killing themselves and a lot of tragedies going on. It was still considered a mental disorder.
Lisa Krinsky: So, if your family found out you were gay they committed you to a psychiatric facility to cure you. At this point in your life you may be reluctant when somebody suggests, “why don’t you see a psychiatrist?” And people were involuntarily hospitalized in psychiatric facilities whether you felt like you needed a cure or not.
Lois: In fact you know if you don’t be careful someone’s going to confine you to an asylum because you really are crazy.
Sheri: You got to understand she thought she was the only lesbian in the world when she came out.
Lois: I went to the library saying I’ve got to find some literature on this. There’s got to be something to explain this to me. So you read it: perhaps your early potty training was not good. You know all kinds of weird, weird ideas.
Lois: Remember this was 1958. It was the beat generation at that time. It was quite exciting for me. You know little Miss No Nothing from Boston. And you never let as we always would say “a hairpin drop”. You were very careful what you said to people. And you wore dresses. You didn’t wear pants.
Sheri: High heels and nylons
Lois: Whatever you had to wear to look girly girly and very 50’s. People would do anything. They would go to parties and they really wanted to be there with their lover but they would bring a guy. Usually a gay guy so that people would say “Oh isn’t that nice dear you have a new boyfriend”. God forbid you didn’t get married by the time you were 25 in the 50’s you were an old maid and so I was fast approaching that (laughter).
Lawrence: And that’s the reason a lot of gay guys, especially older gay gays, when you ask them, “what was your name back then?” “Oh I was Sally” or “I was Beatrice” or whatever because everybody had a feminine name. Alexandre was easy because he was simply Alexandra. This wasn’t camp, although when we look back at it it probably looks campy. But really it was more a way of life, of protection.
Sheri: Sheri was not my real name. My real name was Claire. Because in the 1950’s you didn’t want anyone to know what your real name was, who you were, where you lived.
Lois: There was something called the Midtown Journal which was a terribly scurrilous rag in the city of Boston. They used to go out and they tried to target people who were gay.
Sheri: …and they would get all the names of all the people who had been arrested that week in the bars and he would put their names in the newspaper.
Lois: Every week people would grab that paper to find out who would be “outed”. You know they wouldn’t call it “outing” in those days.
Sheri: And it would destroy your life.
Lisa Krinsky: So much was at stake for them in their lives as they are older there’s a real distrust of mainstream institutions.
SUPER- Earliest Known Images of LGBT Pride Events in Boston, MA. July, 1971
They would have been in their late 30’s when Stonewall took place- sort of the birthplace of the gay civil rights movement.
Lois: It’s not that the outside had changed so much it’s just that we had just taken a stand, hey enough of this.
SUPER- Earliest Known Film of Boston LGBT Pride Events July, 1971
Sheri: And then we started marching. The first march I think there was 30 people. The second march 300 and the next time there was probably 3,000. Give me a “G”, give me an “A”, give me a “Y”…what does that spell “GAY PRIDE” Blah, blah, blah, yeah. The marches were just… you had to be there. You’re too young to remember but you had to be there to know what a high it was.
Interviewer: Was it the fact that you hadn’t seen that many gay people in one place?
Interviewer: And what was the feeling in the crowd?
Lois: Exaltation. Exaltation.
Sheri: Oh God … thrilling.
Bob Linscott: They’re so close to their experience of some of the stuff that has happened that there’s a lens in place for some of these people because they’ve gone and experienced this.
Mel: The pendulum might swing the other way and we didn’t want to be out there and get discriminated against.Lisa Krinsky (L) Gen Silent Director Stu Maddux (R)
Lisa Krinsky: They then because of their experience are distrustful. The flip side is that even if we could encourage them, ‘it’s ok, it’s ok,’ the provider network isn’t comfortable and up to speed. 50% of nursing home staff reported that their colleagues would be intolerant of LGBT folks. And how do we measure whether somebody is comfortable? We may have people who say,
“I’m comfortable. I’m very comfortable with those people”.
SUPER- LGBT Aging Project Sensitivity Training
Aging services worker: “I mean I have zero frame of reference. I know some lesbians…”
Lisa Krinsky: Another home health aide said to me, “I know that my job is to respect my clients and to take good care of them. And I’m a professional and that’s what I want to do; but, if I saw two women kissing that would just be wrong”.
Bob Linscott: That’s very common. The other thing we hear a lot is people say, “well, that’s a great thing that you do, great program; but you know what, I don’t think it’s needed here. We treat all of our elders the same. Sure, they’ll treat all the elders the same in their facility or getting their care and services but they don’t know these people are never going to even come and ask for their services because they don’t know how they’re going to be treated.
SUPER- Ethos “Café Emmanuel” Federally Funded Meal Program for LGBT Seniors
Bob Linscott to café attendees: So it’s with great pleasure that we’ve got our students from Boston Conservatory back with us again…
Bob Linscott: So many of them are estranged from their families so they can’t rely on cousins or siblings or something like that.
Café Emmanuel is a congregate meal sight but also it’s a weekly check-in to see how they are doing and to make sure everything’s ok. So I have to have them fill out a registration form. It was when they got down to putting emergency contact information and that was a huge eye opener for me because people would say, “can I put my landlord down here? I don’t know who to put here.” I can’t tell you how many times people say, “Can I put you down there?” Me? I see that on a weekly basis. They hold out longer than most people do to get that assistance because they think, “I can still take care of myself” until it’s almost too late. Until really there’s either health crisis or some sort of medical crisis or anything. This isolation just festers.
TITLE: Most older american’s live with someone. 2/3rds of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender older people live alone.
Krys Anne on phone: Health care proxy, and that’s Jo Anne right?
SUPER- Jenifer Firestone Dr. Matthey S Shwartz Hospice, Chelsea, MA.
Jenifer Firestone: These are the ways in which we’re not just like everybody else. LGBT elders are more likely to age alone because many never had children; many are not in close contact or have not had a great relationships with their families of origin. (on phone): It’s not an easy time.
Krys Anne: Most people that transition expect losses sometimes a great many losses but I didn’t expect everyone. I haven’t heard from them since.
SHOT OF POSTAL LETTERS ON SCREEN READING:
“Mr.” Hembrough (deceased)
No such person!
To whom this may concern Lose This Address
So glad someone finally took off your balls. What do you call yourself now. FREAK or an IT??
For two years I desperately tried to connect with my family. And some of them weren’t even opened. They were, ‘this person is dead.” It was horrible. It was vile. But that plays right into how they are stuck in mourning, I think.
Interviewer: How long do they give you to live?
Krys Anne: About a year ago they said 18 months but just out of stubbornness I’ll probably make it 19 months anyhow. I’ve done it alone and things are getting worse and worse. If they ever choose to catch up before I die, I welcome them.
Lawrence: I think there are a lot of people hidden. Just as Alexandre and me. We were hidden. Alexandre was pretty much estranged from his family. We live in a suburban community so we were an island onto ourselves. And I think there are many gay couples like that especially a lot of older gay couples who are very comfortable in their little isolated worlds. They’re protected and when illness happens this becomes a real threat to their environment, to their protected environment. Alexandre, he became much more fearful of people knowing that he was gay. He became very interested in making the house look as straight as possible. I don’t know how one would ever do that but- and it drove me crazy because I was constantly having to look around if a physical therapist was coming, to make sure that I didn’t leave the latest edition of The Advocate out or something. As he progressed, he did not want anybody coming into the house. I was desperate for help and that forced me into early retirement. The daily routine became more and more dangerous really. When I was helping him down the stairs we both came down the stairs and that’s when I knew that my life with Alexandre in this house was over. He was angry that I did this to him. So every day he tore me to shreds. And then you get in a car and you just sit there for ten minutes crying because you’re wondering have I left him, have I actually left him in a place where he’s being abused? And then you just come home to what, to an empty house. And you sit there and you say yes, yes I am a piece of shit. I did this. If I wasn’t the only person responsible for Alexandre I would have ended my life.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne makes a video diary about her illness.
Krys Anne’s Caseworker: To hire someone to stay with you 247 is a lot of money. All of that stuff needed to be taken care of.
SUPER- Selling this car would pay for 1 month of 24/7 care
Most people have some people to take of those things.
Krys Anne: And I have desperately tried to develop a support network. Most of my seeds fell on baron ground but it’s ok.
Interviewer: Are you in contact with anybody in your family now?
Krys Anne: No. I paid a dear price for this transition.
Interviewer: What are you thinking about?
Krys Anne: The truth? What am I going to do when I can’t do that myself? That’s actually what I was thinking of. Or when I can’t walk out to the oxygen tank and turn it on. Then again, I am thinking about if I look good (laughs). I’m still waiting for the miracle. It’ll come. It’ll come. Christmas. He’ll give it to me at Christmas.
SUPER- Jenifer Firestone KrysAnne’s Hospice Case Worker
Jenifer Firestone: My biggest fear when I first met Krys Anne was that we didn’t have any of that in place and I had no idea how fast we had to put all that together.
Clara? It’s Jenifer Firestone. I’m fine. How are you? Yeah.
(cell phone ringtone)
SUPER- One Month Later
Krys Anne: The room was filled with all kinds of kindhearted people.
Jenifer Firestone: You know I’ve sort of hooked up other people with each other to help her out, to help her through this situation. A lot of it came from the LGBT community.
Krys Anne: These are people that I’ve only known since October.
Jenifer Firestone: And that I think has been really exciting to her to have people that are just so accepting.
Friend: You’re a girl now. You’re allowed to cry. (Laughter)
Jenifer Firestone: But thank God it’s happening. We’re going to need people to be around.
Dale Mitchell: We don’t want to pretend that there was this ramped homophobia in the 50’s and now in the 21st century homophobia is over because we know that isn’t true. And I think a common thread that runs throughout all of our stories is that our home is the safest environment. It’s the one place where the closet no longer exists.
SUPER- KRYS ANNE PREPARES TO GO OUT WITH HER NEW FRIENDS
Krys Anne: God I hate this. It’s such a masculine thing.
Dale Mitchell: For us, an organization that’s committed to help people stay at home, we go in that most protected space and that is frightening. Who’s coming in? How are they going to feel about me?
Krys Anne: They need to at least accept me or it just wont work.
I may have to modify that a little bit. I need people to do things for me.
Interviewer: Modify it?
Krys Anne: Well modify my … I won’t be comfortable with someone that’s not accepting of transgendered people. I’d rather not have it done. Just ‘um …
Interviewer: You’d rather not have the medical treatment or the care given to you?
Krys Anne: Anything. I’m an, well now it would be, a non-op transsexual which means I still have…a penis.
Interviewer: There’s a little shock value that people would have in some cases.
Krys Anne: Absolutely. I mean …
(on phone) Hey Stu it’s Bob. Uh, um it’s urgent. KryAnne collapsed. They’ve got her in an ambulance. They’re stabilizing her right now but … um, uh I have questions that the ambulance needs to know. I can’t believe this of all things. Is she fully male? You know if she has the bottom surgery? So, um, call me when you can. Bye.
Krys Anne: That was pretty scary shit. I mean the lung had totally collapsed and we had to get to the hospital. Monday we’ll start radiation for two weeks and then…Joe, stop trying to make me feel good. I know what it’s like. It’s a scary thing.
Lisa Krinsky: We just want to make sure that the people who are providing care are capable of treating LGBT seniors with dignity and respect.
Older person in wheelchair: Hi.
SUPER- Lisa Krinsky LGBT Aging Project
Lisa Krinsky: Part of what we do in our training program is try and help people get some practice skills and practice having hard conversations.
There’s a small and growing group of us.
Dale Mitchell: We’re a gnat on the side of an elephant. It’s at very, very early stages of development. Except in extremely rare situations. There has been no training and no work done.
SUPER- LGBT Aging Project Training Program
(to room) …and we’re going to kind of mix up some discussion questions.
Dale Mitchell: We’re really talking about a process that will mean the system is affirming for the old age of the people who are now young.
Aging services worker: How do I even say the right words or what the right words are? I have no basis.
2nd Aging services worker: Practice.
Aging services worker: Practice how?
2nd Aging services worker: Do.
SUPER- Bob Linscott LGBT Aging Project
Bob Linscott: When we go to a new agency one of the most common lines we get is “We don’t have any gay elders here.” How do you know?
(entire room talking)
SUPER- John O’Neill Executive Director Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services
John O’Neill: No. I had no idea of who might be LGBT. Once I realized who we were leaving out… First I’ll say it was guilt which motivates. A lot of things with Irish Catholics guilt plays a big role. I mean I need, everybody needs to participate in the training.
(entire room talking)
We do have a couple of staffs that morally express to me personally great unhappiness with what they saw the agency’s position was.
Interviewer: What I’m hearing from you is it’s happening at upper management as well?
John O’Neill: Yes. Right. And so we had to train at all levels.
Mel: That was the beginning of the whole experience with Elder Services. Walter and I, we knew that we would take care of each other -we thought. But I ended up taking care of him. Then a year later, I ended up being diagnosed with cancer. We just never said we were a couple.
SUPER- Mel lived near…Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services
(to case worker) How are you? Come on in.
(to friend at diner): She obviously recognized what our situation was and so was so, so sympathetic. Oh wow.
John O’Neill: We talked to some of the gay case workers here. Even they hadn’t thought in the terms of to even like to be looking for this.
Mel: I thought, at what point did Rebecca know?
Mel’s Case Worker:: Mel, I’ve got to tell you I don’t see two adults caring for each other like you guys cared for each other.
SUPER- Rebecca Heisler Mel Simm’s Case Manager
(to camera) I just don’t think I would come right out and ask it. I would dance around it and around it and around it.
Mel’s Case Worker:: There’s a moment when that person decides to share his life or hide it again depending on what you say and that particular moment can decide on how the rest of their life is going to be.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne reunites with her son after two years.
Krys Anne: Hold your head up. Look me in the eyes. Okay? I’m okay and you’re going to be okay.
The word is out about me being pretty sick. So now my family starts to come back into my life. Are they coming here because they accept me as Krys Anne or because I’m just a person dying? But, the silver lining is they’re here, some of them.
Krys Anne’s Son: I obviously want to contribute as best as I can.
Krys Anne: Mhmm. What is it you want to do to help?
Krys Anne’s Son: Anything you need.
Krys Anne: I don’t…I need acceptance.
Krys Anne’s Son: I found out at 17. So it was pretty difficult at 17 just finishing high school and everything.
Krys Anne’s Son: I’ll be back tomorrow.
Krys Anne: Yeah?
SUPER- Adam Hembrough Son
Krys Anne’s Son: There was a major depression. Random spots on the floor she’d pass out at and it was just hard to come home from practice or anything like that just to see that. Then she got off the floor with the transformation and I was happy for that but I just wasn’t ready to really accept it I guess.
(Son to Krys Anne) I love you.
Krys Anne: I love you too, Adam
Krys Anne’s Son: See you tomorrow.
Krys Anne: God willing
Krys Anne’s Son: Bye dad.
Krys Anne: I don’t know what their motivations are and I don’t have time to figure them out. For me to go home, I can’t take care of the house. I need people to help me take care of myself. Maybe with my son.
Interviewer: Do you think other family members will show up eventually?
Krys Anne’s Son: Some. I would say there’s a lot of them set in their ways and it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
Alexandre: I think my condition is worsening.
SUPER- Lawrence searched months before finding a new nursing home accepting of Alexandre.
Lawrence: There’s a part of him drifting away each day. Yet he’s with people who care for him.
Interviewer to Alexandre: Is it ok to be a gay man here?
Alexandre: As far as I know. We have some.
Interviewer: Have you been hassled at all?
Alexandre: Not at all.
Lawrence: I kiss him every day. I kiss him. I say I love you. We have pictures up and just feeling free when I get there to say, “Oh, it’s good to see you” or we’re just sitting there and he just looks up and says “I’m so glad you’re here”.
Lawrence to Alexandre: Doesn’t that feel good?
Interviewer: Would you have had that at the other place?
Lawrence: No, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that. And maybe you should just go ahead and do it. Maybe I would have… I probably would have gone ahead and… I would put lotion on his hands but I would do it in a almost clinical sort of way where you’re just sort of, “okay, let’s get this lotion on your hands and let’s get this cleaned up you know, boom, boom, boom.” But you know it wouldn’t be the- just massaging it in and taking your time and just feeling, feeling his skin, feeling his hand and you know, being able to sense my touch.
Interviewer: Is it nice to be able to hold Lawrence’s hand?
Alexandre: Oh, yeah. When he walks into a room I’m there. (crying) But I don’t think for long.
Lawrence: And I know he wants to die. He’s tired. But I don’t know once Alexandre dies what I will do. Why can’t I kill myself? There’s nobody in my life. I had all the pills ready.
But coming to the weekly luncheons got me out of the doldrums. I could go right up to the senior community center.
SUPER- Ethos “Café Emmanuel” Meal Program for LGBT Seniors in Downtown Boston
Lawrence: But it’s really different when you walk in and somebody throws open his arms to embrace you. The café saved my life. It got me out of the house and it got me out of the nursing home. It was my time. And so I immediately starting writing poetry, one after another one after another, one after another.
Lawrence reading poetry: …and all I can do is sit in shadows, holding his tissue paper hand watching him breath.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne’s son visited much less than she hoped.
Krys Anne: I’ve been here since the 10th of January. Today is the 2nd of February.
Interviewer: How often has your son been up here?
Krys Anne: Maybe four or five times. Maybe four.
Krys Anne to nurse: What was the pulse?
Krys Anne: (on the phone) I have some legal people coming in.
Radiation is at 3:00…
It’s going to be very expensive…
I’m trying to get my computer in here…
Are there any of my clothes that you want me …
Lawyer to Krys Anne: You wanted some other language concerning being buried…
Krys Anne to nurse: Double check that last estrogen…
Wait a minute I’ll ask… You can …
Krys Anne to nurse: Jeez, I didn’t know it was so hard to die.
Nurse: I think you’re getting a bit nervous about getting home…
Krys Anne: Not nervous but concerned. Where’s my family? Where’s my son, hmm? You would be too.
Jenifer Firestone: The goal with this radiation was that it would buy her some time at home and I think it’s been devastating to her to think that she may have to go to a nursing home at age 59 because she didn’t have enough people in her life who could help her out.
Krys Anne: Maybe we could put some kind of team together to cover 24 hours a day.
Jenifer (on phone): I would say like 9 or 10 at night until 6 or 7 in the morning.
SUPER- Jenifer Firestone Krysallis Anne’s Case Worker
Jenifer Firestone: She needed someone with her 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week which is a tall order to fill which is what we’re asking Krys Anne network of people to do. She doesn’t need skilled nursing care at home. She needs somebody to be there for her so that she doesn’t get afraid. I believe that it’s possible for them to be what this person needs. We’ve done it before. Gay people really mobilized around the AIDS epidemic. We, the various friends, sort of got ourselves together. I remember this vividly. We called a meeting, we got in touch with each other and we organized ourselves to take care of a friend of ours who never would have done it. Now aging people and aging issues are an epidemic in the LGBT community.
(on phone) Right…well I knew you couldn’t like get there. Alrighty. Alright that’s fine.
She and I both knew that it may not be workable. You know, I was not positive.
That’s out and that’s out.
Lawrence reading poetry: In his dying I learn to live and how to love…
SUPER- Lawrence wrote continuously through the Winter
There are close to a hundred poems all together in my loosely held manuscript. All based on reclaiming my life. I was hopeless.
Lawrence reading poetry: And it was the darkness that forges us to light and triumph. Eating Godiva dark chocolate truffles doesn’t hurt either.
SUPER- Lois and Sheri’s lives remained unchanged with one exception. The couple modified their home to stay near LGBT people.
Sheri: We’re going to die here.
Lois: As they say “feet first around the coffin corners”. These are you know our fond hopes just like all of our neighbors that we’ve been active with for the last 30-40 years. Some people you know well get sick at the time that they’re in these houses other people will have to downsize.
Hey “Lucky” come on.
We were lucky that we were able to put in that mechanical device you see in the hallway there.
Sheri: (singing) I’ll build the stairway to paradise with a new step everyday…
Lois: We may at some point have to sell the house.
Sheri: That’s where I forget the rest of the words.
(song) I’m going to get there at any price. Stand aside I’m on my way.
Lois: But to see people maybe on a daily basis at the dinner table, to be within our gay community I think is going to be extremely important to us particularly as we age.
Interviewer: How do you explain that to a straight person?
Sheri: Oh they are weird, they are weird. Straight people are not tuned in. They are not tuned in to what we like.
Lois: They can’t understand the depth of your feelings. They really can’t.
Sheri: Do you think we ghettoize ourselves because of that?
Lois: On the other hand you have said sometimes “I don’t want to, I don’t wanna move into that complex and have to deal with all of those old lesbians because I know how difficult some women can be.
Jenifer Firestone (on phone): Well, that is great. I’m delighted. Alright great thanks. Bye-bye Okay, I think we’re good.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne’s Sixtieth Birthday
Hospital Visitor: I’m going to make it stand up this way but we can’t light them because we’ll blow up the whole room. (laughter) The whole hospital.
Krys Anne: Every single person that was at the dinner we had. I mean they were all here.
Hospital Visitor: Pretend they’re lit because it aint gonna happen. (laughter)
Krys Anne: Now, who would have ever thought about a butterfly?
Jenifer Firestone: Now it’s a week later. People are taking time and energy out of their schedules to be with her and they don’t all even know her very well. We gave her this schedule as a birthday present.
Krys Anne: Wow. All the people that have volunteered to come and stay with me.
Krys Anne: that is really great.
A silly simple list of people that care. There was no way I was going to go home without something like that.
Jenifer Firestone: We have a big thank-you for all the people here that have made this possible.
Nurse: Oh, absolutely. We should get a group picture.
Jenifer Firestone: She’s not nearly as bitchy as she was. (laughter)
Nurse: She most certainly is.
(Krys Anne crying)
Jenifer Firestone: It’s all good. What I’m going to be watching most carefully is making sure that this very delicate, very fragile little system that we’ve created functions properly.
Come on, bubula.
Krys Anne: (crying) I didn’t ever think I’d be back here.
Jenifer Firestone: You’re back! You’re back.
Krys Anne: I truthfully never thought I would come home. I want to go on the deck.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne web chats with film’s director
Interviewer: So, your support group worked?
Krys Anne: As dedicated as ever.
Caregiver: …and today we’re going to do seaweed wrap. And we are also going to make the West meets East blue cheese with chicken …sushi.
Interviewer: How’s Adam been?
Krys Anne: I can’t tell one way or the other.
Krys Anne’s Son: I was doing my own thing for so long I just wasn’t ready for it. I mean, there’s a little bit of more time to kind of reconcile I guess.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne’s video diary
Krys Anne: I have to depend on all kinds of new people. It’s hard. It’s been so quick that they came into my life.
Jenifer Firestone: A lot of people who are dying have a real lovehate relationship with these very loving and well intentioned people who they need to take care of them.
Krys Anne: How long do you think I will tolerate this.
(sound of dish dropping)
Mel: I found out from the test at the hospital that they had gotten all of my lymphoma. But Walter’s health took a turn for the worse. Walter passed away. It was really just so nice that Rebecca was aware. And that’s when I finally decided that I was going to acknowledge our relationship to everyone.
Interviewer: And how long had you been together at this point?
Mel: 39 years.
SIGN READS: PRIDE TEA DANCE for LGBT Seniors & Friends
Mel: I can now shout to the world what he meant to me.
Mel’s Case Worker: I saw you sitting a lot. I didn’t see you dancing which broke my heart a little bit.
Mel: Oh, well no.
Mel’s Case Worker: Did you meet anybody interesting?
Mel’s Case Worker: Who was that guy with the glasses? Not the one who looked like Dame Edna…
Jenifer Firestone: With Krys Anne, she got stronger and more confident. By the third week, she had kind of had it with having people with her around the clock.
Krys Anne: The idea was to be here because I wasn’t too comfortable. I got comfortable really fast.
Jenifer Firestone: She did well for a few weeks on her own which was a gift to her. And then she began to deteriorate again which we knew was going to happen.
SUPER- Krysallis Anne’s last entry in her video diary
Krys Anne: It takes every ounce of my energy to get off this floor to do anything. (heavy breathing) Being alone is really hard. It’s really hard (crying). I went through all kinds of shit in my life. I was in Vietnam. Transition is hard. Losing my family is hard. But this is, this is terrifying. Just don’t let it happen to anyone you know.
(city sounds in springtime)
Lawrence reading poetry: I would love to touch your hand and take you far away with me to a place where we can be …
I gave a poetry reading yesterday in celebration of my new collection of poetry “Reclamation”.
(book signing conversation)
Lawrence It really is a symbol of coming back from the ashes. Alexandre is still in the nursing home drifting further and further away.
Lawrence to Alexandre: Can you see me?
Alexandre: That group left, Group of people that were next to us.
Lawrence: They’re gone?
Lawrence: Some days I see him and I’m really overwhelmed by sadness and guilt.
Lawrence reading poetry: I wonder what a sleeping caterpillar feels before it becomes a Monarch.
Interviewer: So you met somebody new?
Um, I have allowed myself to meet new people and
I am in love with somebody. He is a very important reason why I am here today.
…I would love to send a dozen pale yellow roses just because I want to but we both know I can’t.
When he started crying, I couldn’t look at him anymore because I know I would
never get through.
So until I can I will pretend not to notice you so much, not to want you so much, not to love you so much, but we both know I can’t.
And Alexandre is also entitled for me to be there. Maybe I shouldn’t be concerned what people think. I’m losing my fear of life. I was marching and one of the thoughts that came into my mind was I am so glad that I’m alive. That I didn’t end my life. I wonder what’s going to happen next.
Bob Linscott: If we are saying come out and be filled with pride, it is our responsibility to make sure that continues right through their last day.
Dale Mitchell: It’s made me feel proud about being a gay man and getting old.
SUPER- Lois and Sheri have managed to stay in their gay community and march…by trolley.
Bystander: We’ll all be there someday.
Parade announcer: That’s the Stonewall generation, the Harvey Milk generation, give it up. There is sex after sixty, yes?
Sheri: They don’t have a clue.
Lois: How could they? I mean because they just…
Sheri: They don’t have a clue what it was like. We did a lot for a lot of people. But these kids down there, they don’t know who we are. Not that I think they should know who we are; but, we are somebody. We really are. We put our heart and soul into the movement.
Trolley Rider: Good to see you, Hi!
Lisa Krinsky: It’s going to be you someday. Come on were all getting older. There’s always that ah-hah moment like, ‘Oh, old gay people I never thought about that before.’
Sheri: That’s really sad because you’re missing out on a lot. We know a lot. We did a lot for you. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for us. We were out there. We were taking the crap. You know before you were born. Yeah, we’re invisible but in the back of my mind I say, “hey hon, someday you’re going to be 72 too.”
(music: Stairway to Paradise)
Nurse: I find it very intriguing about being transgender.
Krys Anne: Did you ever, ever think that you ever saw a man here? Ever?
Nurse: Um, sometimes when I see that little temper flare up I think I do. Yea, well, you can’t get rid of everything.
Trainer: “L” stands for Lesbian; “G” stands for Gay; “B” stands for Bi-Sexual; “T” stands for Transgender. Now everybody has said the words at least once.
Lois: To help women come out, Daughters of Bilitis had chapters all over the United States at one point. If anyone ever challenged you, DOB what’s that? Democrats of Boston.
Sheri: Or date of birth (laughs)
Interviewer: Did you check to see if Krys Anne likes sushi?
Caretaker: Well, you know were just going to add extra wasabi there so it can kill some cancer cells. I am telling you it’s going to, she’s going to be, her nose is going to be on fire … (laughter).
Alexandre: One of the orderlies tried to put the make on me.
Lawrence: Oh really? The same one?
Alexandre: No, another one.
Lawrence: Another guy? He tried to put the make on you? You’re so popular.
Fade to Black
End of transcript
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My despair yesterday was lifted by a very good screening and conversation at the Riverside County Office on Aging and then the great news about the president and gay marriage. The warmth I felt in the room from the public and Advisory Council on Aging was recharging- and I told them that. I was told that there would be a work session around issues in the film that I would participate in. But the chairwoman asked each person to go around the room and give their thoughts of Gen Silent. While personal stories about being touched by an LGBT person in their lives came from each person, someone broke in with the news that President Obama had just announced his support for gay marriage.
There were a few nods of silence in the room and then we continued. It was something that at once was affirming but also I think I was taken aback by the timing. Kind of a “uh-oh. Did he just make a mistake that is going to cost him the election? Because that would be far worse.” I think most of us LGBTQIA folks were happy with him “evolving” until after the election in order to ensure it would not become a political liability.
But I feel saved. Like a lifesaver has been thrown to me amidst this rising tide of resentment and prejudice all around me. I feel like he may be the best and most astute President of my lifetime. Breathtaking yet..
I feel like Republicans, conservatives, bigots and bullies are going to make my life center stage between now and November. And that feels stressful. And Republican gay groups are calling him callous because he did it a day after the Amendment One vote in NC?! Just the opposite. It gave me hope and resolve after such a horrendous affront. It seems so sensitive to do it now.
Saying that its a states right issue will not work though. He probably knows that. But what began as a glum, fearful day ended so hopeful and affirming. Great news amidst a wonderful conversation and screening.
Today I drive into LA to check on the Knox house and then lunch with Brooke before flying to Phoenix for a few days with the parents.
After research on three LGBT aging and history documentaries, I just had to stop what I was doing and write a little reminder to myself about what would have really happened moments after this picture: society would have swatted them down where they stood.
They both would have lost their jobs as soon as they reached the office- and not for being late.
And for their single moment of “never hiding”, their families would have the right to institutionalize them in order to be “cured”.
This is not a worse-case scenario. This is how you would have expected your day to end for “never hiding”.
Now that LGBT history is part of national advertising, let’s make sure it doesn’t erase the memory of how hard some of us fought simply to gather behind closed doors. Holding hands in public with only the risk of name calling and staring was decades away. Come to think of it, we’re still working on that one in most places.
We were thrilled recently when we received a follow-up report about the screening of Gen Silent in the UK at Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival — Not just because the reviews were great (although, of course that’s wonderful) but because we love to hear how Gen Silent screenings go: who attends, what they think, and what impact the film has. It’s especially heartening to know that the film is being be seen by people who work with older adults and that it’s making a difference. For example one of the most most exciting things about this report is the number of people who indicated, after seeing Gen Silent, that they would like to get more involved with initiatives around LGBT/health care issues. The power of film to change LGBT aging is both humbling and encouraging.
‘Brilliant. Really made me think. Heartbreaking, heart-warming’
We had a full house, about 100 in the audience. Participants came from:
- Social Care Agencies (13)
Inc.: Age UK, Taking Part, Shrewsbury Home Care, Positive Options, Natural Health Centre, Unison, Leonard Cheshire, Police, Shropshire Council, T & W Council, PCT, CEDAR and Shropshire Partners in Care
- Care Homes (4)
Deansfield, The Wheatlands, Netherwood and Morris care.
- Colleges (2)
Ludlow, and Walford & N. Shropshire
- Individuals ( 15 +)
The Film: “Gen Silent” (63 minutes, USA, Stu Maddux, USA)
There was a 100% positive response to the film on the feedback forms. Comments included:
“The film was excellent, thought provoking, things will need to change”
– students from Ludlow College
“It broadened my perspective”, “Interesting, learned a lot as I did not know much before. I still feel much can be done as gays are not as open in small communities, compared to e.g. Manchester”
“informative, I was able to gain a good understanding. And what needs to be done and what improvements need to be made in the health and social care industry”
– students from Walford & North Shropshire College
“An eye opener”. “Excellent. Heart breaking, as well as uplifting”. “Should be looked at more widely” “ Very moving film and interesting debates. Highlighted the need of LGBT to work closely with the local [NHS/PCT] Trust”.” A superb Q and A session”. “Beautifully made film”. “ Powerful, relevant and challenging”
– individuals from agencies
Q & A Panel
On the Panel were:
- Debbie Price (Chair, Shropshire partners in Care),
- Stephen Chandler (Head of Adult Care & Support, Shropshire Council),
- Karen Kalinowski (Head of Care & Support, Telford & Wrekin Council) and
- Anthony Smith (Opening Doors – Age UK, LGBT Project)
Need for training – for care staff and managers.
Need for links – with LGBT organisations e.g. Border Women and the Older Men’s Group.
Good Practice – the W Mercia Police have used a good training model which could be adapted.
Limited resources – some low cost easy ways forward e.g. use by agencies and at care homes of posters for LGBT events or organisations, rainbow stickers at the entrance/reception desk, amend forms to include “civil partner”/ “living with someone else?” as well as “married/”single”. RSH still using out of date admission forms in this respect. Include LGBT references in all information/images e.g. brochures, leaflets, policy documents. Stretched resources a problem for everyone, more so for LGBT service users. How can a service be “person centred” but have low resources?
Invisibility – how do you know a person is LGB or T? How to put people at ease and enable the person, be they staff, resident, client, patient or service user, to “come out” if they choose to? An “uphill struggle”. No reference to LGBT on initial or follow up care assessment forms.
Homophobia – How to challenge and deal with it whoever it comes from e.g. another resident.
History – the need to understand lives lived pre gay liberation.
Separate provision – LGBT homes and/or communities? LGBT people pooling resources and engaging LGBT aware providers? Most LGBT people have lived their lives integrated within the wider community and want supported integrated provision and care. Need for both, separate and integrated? (e.g. Jewish homes and integrated services for Jewish people)
Inspection/Monitoring – CQC “has no teeth”? Need to ensure LGBT issues are raised and responded to. Measures in place to do this? There are Regulations already, but are they enforced?
Inclusion – LGBT people are usually excluded by default (if not by design).Include LGBT people in designing training packages.
28 people, who attended, indicated on the feedback forms that they would like to get involved in further initiatives around LGBT/health care issues in association with Age UK Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin. Their contact details will be forwarded on to Age UK.
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As a filmmaker, there are a dozen parts of the my message that I am conveying to you without saying a word. I am using sound, speed and light to tell you things. And with color, the slightest difference can change your perspective.
For example, we are used to seeing old photos in black &white or in faded color. It makes the people in them seem different than us today.
But take a look at the following photographs. Do you find a stronger connection to these people merely because the color in their faces is as fresh as if it was captured yesterday?
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