Tonight’s documentary is the perfect kickoff for Pride Month. Before You Know It is the story of three gay senior citizens, men in their late 60s and 70s, who lived through repression and are now seeing amazing changes in LGBT rights. Our guests tonight are producer Sara Giustini and director PJ Raval. While Before You Know It highlights three gay men, the underlying themes of aging and acceptance apply across the board.
Ty, who grew up in Harlem and still lives there, works in the Harlem offices of SAGE, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders. Now in a relationship with an old friend, he watches as New York State passes marriage equality–and yearns to be married himself.
For Dennis, a widower who lived a closeted life, after his wife’s death the internet provided him with an outlet. Closeted in his trailer park home in Florida, he visits Rainbow Acres, a retirement home in Portland, Oregon, and contemplates moving into the accepting retirement community where he can dress as “Dee” and not get stares when buying a nightgown at Goodwill. While a trip aboard a gay cruise exacerbates his feelings of isolation, he is embraced by the Portland LGBTQ in an amazingly beautiful way. Fate, in the form a broken water pipe in his Florida trailer, makes the decision for him, and he packs up for his new life.
Robert owns Texas’ oldest gay bar, Robert’s LaFitte on Galveston Island, which for over 40 years stages drag shows daily at the historic location. But along with losing his customer base of older gay men to death (what Robert calls “moving to California”), the bar faces potential closure from a lawsuit brought by the family of a drunk driver. With age taking its toll, Robert has ceded the day-to-day operations of the bar to his nephew, the only other out gay member of his family who hopes that the outcome of the lawsuit allows the bar to remain open so that the eclectic employees and customers will still have a place to go.
An estimated 2.4 million lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans are over the age of 55 in the United States, and many of them face heightened levels of discrimination, neglect and exclusion; while LGBT elders face a specific set of issues, aging and its challenges are universal. Before Your Know It stresses the importance of community, compassion and awareness for seniors everywhere.