Thursday, March 24, 2011

Public screening in Newfoundland emphasizes acceptance for community at large

Documentary focuses on aging LGBT population

By Ryan Belbin

Media, politics, and pop culture have made great strides to eliminate the social oppression of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community over the past few decades, but stigmas still persist. For Andrew Bennett, a second-year medical student at Memorial University, this is particularly true for aging LGBT members.

“While the world is making many advances in accepting and giving equal rights for LGBT individuals, I think there is still lots of work to be done,” he said.

“There have been studies that have shown that LGBT older adults may be as much as five times less likely to access needed health and social services because of their fear of discrimination by the very people who should be helping them. I believe part of the reason is lack of awareness, and that it’s not a very open issue within our society.”

According to Bennett, the difficulties of being an elderly LGBT citizen is a particularly pertinent issue that people in St. John’s should be aware of. It’s because of this that he, along with fellow medical student Kelly Monaghan, are spearheading a public screening of the documentary Gen Silent next month.

“Basically, my goal for screening this film is to create an event where health professionals and the general public can come together to watch an amazing documentary on issues that are very important to everyone [in our] community,” he explained.

Gen Silent, the most recent project for award-winning director Stu Maddux, follows six LGBT seniors from Boston living in long-term healthcare units. As the film makes clear, these individuals do not only have to face their illnesses, they have to deal with psychological fear, loneliness, and oppression because of their sexual orientation. Struggling with these issues, some eventually end up going back into the closet.

It’s a shocking look at the realities of being an LGBT senior, some of whom are threatened by their paid caregivers and even pressured to assume a life of heterosexual orientation.

One of the things that Bennett is hopeful will come from this event is a frank discussion between members of the community, as well as with healthcare professionals.

“When I thought this film would be a wonderful idea to raise awareness and education towards the importance of these issues, I was trying to seek out local resources within our community here in St. John's for older LGBT adults and was surprised to find very few,” he admitted.

“Everyone is invited, and it will hopefully be a great opportunity to raise awareness of issues surrounding aging and acceptance within our city.”

This screening of Gen Silent is even more special for audiences because the film has not yet been released on DVD. All costs associated with securing screening rights were sponsored by Flower Studio here in St. John’s.

Gen Silent will be screened at the auditorium of the Health Sciences Centre on Tuesday, April 12, beginning at 8:00 pm and followed by a discussion. Admission to the event is five dollars, with all of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood’s “Ageless Intimacy,” which offers seniors relevant sexual health information.

Bennett is optimistic that this event will be successful and is already looking into making it a regular event.

“Hopefully this is a successful run,” he said. “If so, I would like to make it a monthly or bi-monthly occurrence, with various films on a variety of LGBT health-related issues.”

For more information about Gen Silent or the screening, contact Andrew Bennett at

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