Saturday, May 2, 2015

Films about Older LGBT People

Photo of the Castro Theatre by Benson Kua.
While aging contains a number of opportunities and benefits, it also can present some challenges.

Compounding those challenges are prejudices and lack of civil rights for older adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  

A handful of films are emerging that depict some of the experiences of LGBT people as they age. 

Access to housing, healthcare and legal benefits for partners are just some of the issues these films explore.  Some films are documentaries and others are feature films. 

Here are a few films on the topic, listed in reverse chronology:

Love Is Strange (2014). John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play a long-time gay couple who finally marry--only to face a series of challenges.  Their friends and family rally around them, to a degree, but it's still difficult to solve the financial, housing, emotional and health problems that emerge.  

Before You Know It (2013). Three older, gay men are the subjects of this documentary, each having a different experience as they enter late life.  Robert owns a gay bar in Galveston where he mentors younger gay men. Ty is a gay rights activist in Harlem who talks about the recent legalization of gay marriage in his state. Dennis from Florida was deeply closeted until his wife's death and timidly starts to express his sexual identity. 

Cloudburst (2011).  Olivia Dukakis and Brenda Friker play a long-time couple who are separated by family members who have a voice through the law because gay marriage isn't legalized in their state.  They set out on a road trip to marry in Canada where they hit a few roadblocks--physical and metaphorical--along the way. 

Beginners (2010).  Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for his performance as a family man coming out after his wife's death (based on the director's own father's life). The point of view is largely from his straight son, but the older man's coming out and late-life issues receive significant attention.  The film's genre is indie rom-com with a dramedy feel. 

Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009).  Edie Winsdor and Thea Spyer met in the 1960s and became engaged in 1967.  It wasn't until 2007 that they were married in Canada at 77 (Edie) and 75 (Thea).  The documentary contains a lot of photos from throughout their relationship, which they narrate for the viewers.  Thea's progressively worsening MS makes their time together even more dear. 

Out Late (2008).  The five subjects of this documentary all came out late in life. Cathy from Kansas was 57.  Walter from Toronto was 60.  Leanna Bradley from Florida was 60 when she transitioned from male to female. Ken from Toronto was 72.  And after 51 years of marriage, Elaine from Florida came out at age 79.  They all speak candidly about what happened before, during and after declaring their sexual identities.   



  1. Some new ones in here, to me, anyway, and I'll be watching!

  2. These all sound great and I will be looking for them. I thought Love Is Strange was fantastic.

  3. As you know, I thoroughly enjoyed LOVE IS STRANGE. Gotta look for the others, as that's the only one I've seen.

    (Funny we wrote on the same thing today... kind of.)

    1. I'm teaching a class on diversity issues for older adults, and this week's topic on the syllabus was about LGTB older adults. My students generally chose Out Late from a list of documentaries. (I didn't offer feature films; I do that in a class specifically about films and aging that I teach.) Anyway, Love Is Strange was in the air this week!

  4. Wow I'm hearing about these for the first time. It seems like many topics are more widely spoken about now, which is making people feel more comfortable about telling their story.

    1. There is more social activism by older adults now -- in many areas -- than when my grandparents were aging. It will be interesting to see what narratives are emerging when I hit my 80s.

  5. Lots to go through here. I think that people are getting more comfortable with topics that used to be difficult to discuss.

    1. Yes, my grandparents would just quietly deal with any personal issue, but I find that starting with the Boomers, many are more willing to advocate for themselves.