It might not be a sexy topic, but one of the biggest and often ignored issues facing LGBT communities today and tomorrow is the fact that there is a rapidly aging population within them that is not properly being cared for.
There are an estimated 2.4 million LGBT Americans over the age of 55. As a demographic, they are five times less likely to access social services than their heterosexual counterparts, half as likely to have health insurance coverage, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker if they fall ill. And unfortunately there is not much attention being paid to them by their younger LGBT counterparts (or anyone else, for that matter).
Which is one of the reasons that PJ Raval’s documentary “Before You Know It” is such a crucial new edition to the LGBT doc canon. Following three different LGBT seniors each facing a different array of issues, it affectingly personifies an increasingly forgotten generation of queer folks.
“Overall, society desexualizes seniors, even though someone who identifies as gay is being defined by their sexual identity,” Raval said. “The two terms ‘gay’ and ‘senior’ are almost at odds. So one challenge has been linking the two and getting people to understand self-discovery, including sexual identity, occurs at all ages — even when you’re 80. Early on in development people asked ‘why look at gay seniors?’ and I would say because they are an extreme example of those facing ageism, loneliness, and also people in search of a community. However, though the documentary captures the unique experience of three gay men over the age of 60, the film is really about aging and growing older which is a universal experience. As Robert, one of the characters in the film, so eloquently states, ‘You never think about getting older when you’re younger, but before you know it creeps up on you and you’re there already.'”
While Robert’s quote and the film in general might sound very depressing, “Before You Know It” is as uplifting and it is devastating. Raval makes you want to be friends with all three of his subjects by the time the film’s over, and hopefully that will throw people out of the theater and into the streets trying to befriend the first LGBT senior citizen they can find.