“Gen Silent” explores challenges facing the elderly LGBT community

Gen Silent PosterThere are almost 38 million LGBT Americans over the age of 65. This number is expected to double by 2030. Yet in a Fenway Institute study fifty percent of nursing home workers said that their co-workers are intolerant of LGBT people. That collision of a rapidly aging queer population and a nursing home system ill-prepared to serve them is explored in Gen Silent, a documentary showing at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) on Thursday, January 26, at 6:30 pm.

Gen Silent, from award-winning director and documentary filmmaker Stu Maddux, follows six LGBT seniors as they struggle to make decisions about their twilight years. These seniors put a face on what experts in the film call an epidemic: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors so afraid of discrimination in long-term health care that many go back into the closet.

Gen Silent startlingly discovers how oppression in the years before Stonewall now leaves many elders not just afraid but dangerously isolated and at risk on not receiving medical care. The film shows the wide range in quality of paid caregivers –from those who are specifically trained to make LGBT seniors feel safe, to the other end of the spectrum, where LGBT elders face discrimination, neglect or abuse, including shocking bed-side attempts by staff to persuade seniors to give up their “sinful” lifestyles.

This free screening will be followed by a call-to-action and panel discussion with some of Houston’s GLBT senior leaders.

View the trailer for Gen Silent after the break.

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Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas


John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90’s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

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Feeling Like I Voted For Those Who Will Contribute To My Peers & My Oppression

The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.

~Karl Marx

This election more than ever, I felt as if I were voting for those who would repress my peers and me. It’s not that I didn’t vote for a few local candidates I was pleased to vote for, but I also felt there were Democratic candidates I voted for that I didn’t get my vote because I was happy to vote for them, but instead because I felt they would repress me less than the Republican candidate running against them.

Examples of candidates I was pleased to vote for were Toni Atkins for my State Assemblywoman, and Steven Whitburn as my local County Supervisor. Back in 2003, when Atkins was a City Councilwoman, she introduced the proposed ordinance that actually did change San Diego’s Human Dignity Ordinance to provide citywide employment protections based on gender identity. Whitburn was active in San Diego’s Democratic Club, working to see that ordinance passed into law.

I was less thrilled to vote for my Congresswoman, Susan A. Davis. It’s not that she isn’t strongly for civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community — she gave a speech on the House for in support of transgender civil rights:

But that said, she belongs to the political party for the past two years — the 111th Congress — that had control of the House, but couldn’t seem to get a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) out of House committee.

The same with my Senator, Barbara Boxer. Her prior statements on marriage equality leave me believing LGBT civil rights aren’t something she embraces as a value, but embraces the freedom, equality, and justice for LGBT people to the extent she perceives donors and voters embrace these. And probably more importantly, Boxer belongs to the political party for the past two years had control of the Senate, but couldn’t seem to get a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) out of Senate committee.

Nationally, San Diego’s Democratic candidates for federal seats are good on the rhetoric on LGBT issues, but functionally, the Democratic Party they belong to has been ineffectual in turning rhetoric into law.

Of course, in the House, we’ll no longer have the problem of a Democratic majority that failed to live up to their 2008 campaign promises to the LGBT community made in their national platform. Thumbnail Link: 2008 Democratic Party PlatformAnd, we’ll have a Senate that still has a Democratic majority, but a much smaller majority — and with the current filibuster rules in place, we should have the continuation of total gridlock.

Oh. Back to local elections for the moment, when I voted for a candidate for San Diego’s County Recorder, either candidate I voted for is going to carry out the current court stay that still limits marriage in California to be “between one man and one woman.” I’m not planning to get married, but others in my LGBT community would like to get married and can’t, due to the Proposition 8, and stays of enforcing the ruling that said the law is unconstitutional. So whoever I voted for in that election, the candidate is going to be required by law and court ruling to be a representative of an oppressing class — an oppressing class member who’s going to both represent and repress my LGBT community peers.

Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor.”

~James Russell Lowell

Yesterday, I voted — I voted as I feel an active and concerned American citizen should vote, but I’m feeling a bit melancholy about some of my votes. I feel that I had the opportunity to vote for some members of the oppressing class that are going to represent and repress my LGBT peers and me; I feel I was given the opportunity to be my own oppressor. Hoo-rah.

How about you?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Get Equal Now protests Texas GOP platform

Protesters outside Blue Mesa Grill

A group of protesters from Get Equal Now braved the rain to protest the Texas Republican Party and its anti-LGBT platform on Thursday evening.

WBAP talk show host Mark Davis was the keynote speaker inside the Blue Mesa restaurant, at the meeting of a Hispanic Republican group.

Get Equal Now’s Chastity Kirven and Michael Robinson had reservations for the restaurant but were denied service. They were escorted out of the restaurant by Dallas police officers.

“We were met with security who escorted us off the property because they said we would be a threat to the event,” said Robinson. “C.D and I made dinner plans at Blue Mesa that evening at 7 p.m. and were refused service after confirming our reservation. Well at least we know we are a threat to them.”

Once escorted to the street, where they were allowed to protest, the group chanted “Gay, Straight, Black or White! Same struggle, Same fight!”

Kirven wrote to Dallas Voice:

“This protest today by Get Equal Now is a stand against oppression politics. The TX GOP’s divisive platform only creates divides that bind minority communities together. Whether its immigration reform, LGBT issues or an attempt to miseducate our future by rewriting the past in Texas schoolbooks, the platform leaves no room for inclusion and attempts to legalize bigotry. We will stand together and turn this red state blue.

“This is just the beginning and the gloves are off! We are not going to allow the TX GOP to legalize homophobia. We had a win with the federal judge finding parts of DOMA unconstitutional. We are in this to win this because it is about our lives, our families and our allies. We will GET EQUAL NOW!”

—  David Taffet