As a member of the Diversity Committee, I am always looking for how oral histories from underrepresented communities are being collected and shared more widely. I recently came across a project from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center that piqued my interest.
As Kathleen Sullivan, Director of the Seniors Services Program, told me when I called about the project, they wanted to document stories not typically associated with the aging experience–those of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors. After the interviews were complete, they produced a short but poignant film showcasing a smaller subset of the oral histories collected. The film, primarily put together by a group of volunteers that included the filmmaker, an editor, and a musician who wrote an original score for the film, was also supported by limited grant funding which supported much of the necessary technical support needed to complete the project.
To start, the organizers came up with a group of questions they wanted to explore, drawing their interviewees mostly from patrons of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Those interviewees shared stories about coming out, the kinds of their life experiences as LGBT people, and their involvement in local activism. The filming, editing and production process took about a year to complete. After the success of this initial project, Sullivan notes that the Center hopes explore ways to showcase more of the stories they collected, perhaps in another film, collect additional oral histories from a more diverse group of seniors, and perhaps connect youth with elders through the oral history process. All in all, the project really highlights just how important community-based organizations have been in collecting, archiving and sharing LGBT histories, particularly collecting these kinds of stories through oral history.
You can watch the film here.