I remember a dinner at a transgender couple’s home, many years ago. I had just begun to expand my research from BDSM to other forms of alternative sexualities, and our friendship allowed me to finally ask one of those questions that sorta linger in the back of your thoughts yet you somehow know it is better not to actually speak. «There is one thing I just can’t figure out» I said. «Where do trans people go when they get old? You just don’t see them anywhere.»
My host, a very smart and educated activist, had but one moment of hesitation before giving me a PR-sounding answer. «We simply blend in, as we always do» she said, then everyone was happy to move on to another topic. A bit of common sense would have sufficed to remind me of simple demographics: open transgenderism and transsexuality as we know them today are a relatively recent phenomenon, especially in countries like ye olde Italy, where I live. In other words, I couldn’t see them because there weren’t many at all – simple as that. That was, however, some fifteen years ago or so.
Now that age has caught up with the early LGBT activists my question begins to have a more concrete answer – and it isn’t always a pretty one. We are talking about people whose sexuality prevented them to have children caring for them in their old age; people whose personal choices in a much more conservative culture often had them disowned by their families; people whose view of relationships sometimes left them without life companions. The sad truth is, many members of the vanguard who fought for equality and LGBT right are now alone. They need senior care, and they have to turn to institutions to get it.
The great majority of institutions however is not prepared to deal with non-normative persons. Most of them are run by religious or conservative organizations who flat-out deny the existence of senior sexuality, much less of gay, trans or lesbian patients. In several cases the caregivers insist trying to “cure” people with a different view of sex and love. Time after time, these persons report they have to hide their sexuality and beliefs back in the closet if they want access the same meager benefits of other elders within the care system.
Stu Maddux is a cinematographer who produced a great one-hour documentary about this scandal. Titled Gen silent, it is temporarily available to be watched online for free in its entirety. There is nothing more to say but: go and watch it now.
Then come back here, and comment. Hopefully, if we all keep the discourse going, when it will be your turn to be featured in a documentary, it will be a happier one. In the meantime, please find the trailer below.