One of the subjects the LGBT community doesn’t like to think about is growing old. Not because we can’t accept it, but because society — at least in the U.S. — still doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with “the gays.” So, when it’s time for gay senior citizens to find a retirement facility, many are forced back into the closet. For couples, the situation can be tragic, as significant others are separated because, legally, they aren’t a couple.
I am a Baby Boomer. Although I’m not close to retirement yet, I have to admit I think about it, especially as I see my 401K dwindle to a pittance. I am an only child with no children and, now that my parents are gone, I have no biological family to speak of. So, what will happen when I do retire and need to find affordable living?
This is the dilemma explored in A Place to Live: The Story of Triangle Square.
The film, which won the Audience Award at last year’s OUTFEST, follows seven older adults as they try to secure a place in Triangle Square Hollywood, the first affordable housing facility in the U.S. for LGBT seniors. Since the number of applicants far exceeded the number of units, candidates entered a lottery to sellect the facility’s first residents.
In a MySpace interview last year, director Carolyn Coal and producer Cynthia Childs talked about the documentary: (All the questions were answered by “CC,” so apologies for not being able to give precise quote attribution.)
I’m truly inspired by the seniors in our project — their stories are so powerful. One woman came out in east LA in 1947, joined a gang, transported prostitutes and was arrested for "masquerading", a city ordinance that stated that women must wear a certain amount of female clothing. Another woman marched on Washington. One gentleman designed floats for the Rose Parade. The diversity of their stories was astounding and I was overwhelmed with emotion when speaking with them.
Childs had the idea for the film when she saw the construction site for Triangle Square and was struck by the significance of the project, both architecturally and culturally.
She approached Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing (GLEH), the non-profit group behind the project, and was able to find people willing to share their journey to Triangle Square:
I think what surprised me most was not the seniors themselves, but the fact that they are so marginalized in our community. There is a misperception that all gays are young, fabulous and wealthy — but we’re not. We are all ethnicities, all socio-economic levels and all ages. I hope our film will bring attention to this issue of neglect and marginalization.
Here’s the trailer:
A Place to Live is making the rounds of LGBT film festivals. I hope you’ll see it, no matter what your age. Because like it or not, what happens to gay seniors happens to us all.