Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Melbourne, Australia's Gen Silent screening

Posted by: Nicki Russell

So, y'all probably won't appreciate me telling you that a film you missed out on seeing was awesome. But Gen Silent, the documentary offering from U.S. director Stu Maddux that screened yesterday, was definitely a film that needs more talking about. Focussing on issues faced by the ageing LGBT community, Gen Silent is a moving reminder of a community that many never consider exists. An educator of aged care providers explained that many service providers and care facilities argue that they don't have any queer patients or residents, that they would know if they did, "as if [queer elders] would have a mohawk or pink hair."

Though I can't help but hope that somewhere out there there's a pink-haired nanna still hitting on the pretty young nurses in her retirement home, the subjects Maddux chooses for his documentary are reflective of the many and varied stories and issues faced by those reliant on care in the queer community.

Alexandre and Lawrence have been together over 38 years. With an age gap of more than twenty years, Lawrence was Alexandre's sole caregiver until he was forced to admit him to a care facility when he was no longer able to cope with Alexandre's worsening condition alone. Mel and his partner spent their whole lives in the closet, and through the support of a generous and accepting caseworker that he was able to acknowledge the life they lived together. Sadly this celebration of their relationship was only possible after his partner's death. Sheri and Lois, a married couple who lived through the 50s and were politically active (and continue to be), discuss their hopes and fears for their treatment when they inevitibly must rely on others for care. (Sheri: I don't want to be in one of those places with all those old people! They're all straight, I don't want to have to live with them Lois: But you don't want to live with lesbians either! You're always saying, "Oh, I couldn't live with lesbians. I know them, most women are too much trouble")

Perhaps the most affecting story is that of KrysAnne, a 59 year-old transwoman whose family abandoned her after her transition, rejecting her attempt to reconnect with them and returning her letters with abusive messages on the envelopes:

Now with terminal lung cancer, she has no-one close to help take care of her at the end. Trans people have a specific set of challenges when it comes to ageing and care. Stu Maddux found this out with KrysAnne, who was quite aware of the negative reaction many people would have to her: "Primarily [problems] revolve around making sure that you are treated as the sex you have chosen: making sure the hospital places you in a room with women or the caregivers aren't shocked by your body (your genitalia). It's tough. Right down to making sure your chosen name is on your grave marker. Krys Anne is a Vietnam veteran who plans to be buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery."

Maddux has done a wonderful job by all his subjects, whose stories he tells with care and respect. At times tragic and upsetting (I know I wasn't the only one in the cinema with salty discharge on their face), but ultimately uplifting and with moments of great humour (Ohhhhh, Sheri and Lois. They're great), this is not only an important film, but an interesting and engaging one. Admittedly the director has seemingly spent too much time making powerpoint presentations in his day, and has superimposed words such as "ISOLATION" and "LIFETIME OF FEAR" onscreen at the start of relevant chapters in the film; but that doesn't diminish its otherwise excellent execution. Each subject is given the time to represent themselves and their experiences exactly as they see them, and to be seen as sexual and human; an opportunity too often denied to senior GLTBI people. Attention and thanks is paid to those who work tirelessly providing support, and who educate and train others ("All together now: G is for GAY, L is for LESBIAN, B is for BISEXUAL, and T is for TRANSGENDERED. Now that we've all said the words at least once...") Gen Silent is enlightening and informative, but more than that it's beautiful and a fascinating film in its own right, independant of educational goals or otherwise.

Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and the {also} foundation presented this session. {also} provides a resource for people providing care to older GLBTI Victorians in the form of Val's cafe, which runs workshops and provides support. More information on the documentary can be found at the director's website, and information on aged care in the GLBTI community at the National LGBTI Health Alliance website or Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria. Currently surveys for queer-identifying seniors can be found in the festival lounge at ACMI. If you or someone you know is 60+, pick one up, they'll help guide the implementation of services in the public health sector.

No comments:

Post a Comment