Documentary film, panel of advocates discuss discrimination against aging LBGT individuals

Monday, October 29, 2012 | 10:19 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 30, 2012

COLUMBIA — Ragtag Cinema held a special screening of "Generation Silent" on Monday.

The film follows six elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the Boston area and tackles the issue of discrimination and homophobia, which have frequently resulted in unequal geriatric care.

According to the film, many older LGBT individuals are so fearful of being discriminated against by caregivers, or ostracized by other seniors, that they hide who they are. In some cases, as the film shows, caregivers don't realize their patients are LGBT individuals.

The film was directed by Stu Maddux, a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism. Maddux appeared on a panel after the film via Skype from San Francisco.

Audience member Craig Rooney, who is a psychologist at the Center for Family and Individual Counseling, praised the film for its poignant depiction of the struggles of a largely voiceless community. 

"I thought it was touching, moving and important," he said. "I work with many LGBT individuals and I think that it's extremely important to be aware of what some of them are going through."

Mariah Dreisinger, a third-year medical student at MU and president of the Geriatric Interest Group, knew about the issue before, and appreciated the film's ability to give a name and face to a real problem. 

"I found it very moving and touching to see how this has impacted real people, and it's fired me up to get the word out there that this is a real problem," she said.

Steve Zweig, director of the MU Interdisciplinary Center on Aging, said the MU School of Medicine is incorporating training to help students be more "culturally effective" when communicating with different groups of people, such as LGBT individuals. The school has workshops and mandatory classes in the MU Family Medicine curriculum, such as introduction to patient care, that sensitize students to cultural issues in practicing family medicine.

"This training isn't some touchy-feely liberal idea," he said. "It's about being better at our job."

Zweig, who has practiced family medicine for more than 30 years said that the film was very powerful and that he often encounters LGBT individuals who live with a fear of discrimination from their caregivers.

Dreisinger was encouraged by the large attendance at the screening.

"More than 150 people showed up for this event and I really didn't think that would happen," she said. "Grassroots movements are the way to go."

The panel after the film featured Sherill Wayland, executive director of the St. Louis chapter of the Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Elders; Paul Tatum, assistant professor of clinical family and community medicine at MU; Geri Dickey, assistant professor and director of the social work program at Missouri Western State University; as well as Maddux.

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