Old and gay: Doc aims to smash stereotypes, call out ageism and make you laugh

Old and gay: Doc aims to smash stereotypes, call out ageism and make you laugh

"Ageism is a weird kind of oppression because old is a thing we are all going to be."

When an interview subject said this to Steen Starr, it just clicked for the Toronto-based filmmaker from Hanna, Alta.

"I hadn't heard anybody say it so succinctly," Starr told The Homestretch.

"We are all going to age and that's if we are lucky, if some disaster doesn't befall us. It brought it to the fore about any stigma is really irrational."

Starr's documentary, Older Than What?, shares the stories of older LGBT people facing a variety of challenges, and it's part of the THIRD ACTion Film Festival this weekend.

"I started to think about the film when I turned 50 when I started to think about aging, what that was it like in the queer community," Starr said.

She interviewed 18 people and her mom, who isn't gay but a great ally.

"They range from early 50s to 76 and mom who is 90."

Given the ages and evolution of LGBT acceptance, there were some common themes that took over.

"I started the film to get at ageism, particularly within the queer community, to knock down some of those stereotypes. As I spoke to people, they all had stories about rights struggles," Starr said.

She asked her interview subjects many of the same questions, but "What's the most outrageous thing you have ever done?" got some of the most unique responses.

"That question brought out stories about taking the Vancouver Sun to court because they wouldn't print an ad with the word gay in it. A trans woman in Edmonton who transitioned while teaching in the public school system in the early '80s and kept her job. A man in Vancouver who was diagnosed with HIV in 1984. He thought he didn't have long to live so he went off and prepared to say his goodbyes. He is still around, so his perspective on aging — he's 63 in the film — is completely different. 'I never thought I would be here.'"

But, Starr says, another common theme was humour.

"I didn't set out to make a comedy, but what I drew from people was some of their funny comments and that's what I edited into it," she said.

"I like a combination of the poignant or the serious with the release of humour."

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With files from CBC's Susan Holzman and The Homestretch