31,536,000 seconds… How do you measure, measure a year?
“Not Another Second,” a new live and virtual exhibition explores the lives of 12 LGBT+ seniors and the time they lost by hiding their true selves.
A collaboration between SAGE (the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT+ older people) and The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights (New York’s new luxury retirement community), “Not Another Second” uses the portrait photography of Karsten Thormaehlen as a window into these 12 unique lives. The exhibition at The Watermark in Brooklyn has been extended through May 2021 and will then tour to Los Angeles, Napa and Tucson. Regardless of where you live, a substantial portion of the exhibition is available to view online.
We meet the 12 LGBT+ seniors through Augmented Reality technology and video testimonials. Among them is Reverend Goddess Magora Kennedy (81), who was forced to marry a man at age 14 to “cure” her of being a lesbian. We learn about Paul Barby (84) who declared his sexual orientation when he became the first openly gay man to run for U.S. Congress at the age of 61. We fall in love with Ray Cunningham (82) and Richard Prescott (78), who were close to 60 when they came out. They married in 2008. At one moment in the film, Ray chokes up discussing his job in the U.S. Navy: giving undesirable discharges to sailors known to be gay.
“Not Another Second” uses LGBT+ as the standard adjective out of respect for the experiences of some seniors, for whom the word “queer” is still painfully pejorative.
These pioneers paved the way for generations to come. “Young people need to know the struggles that were fought so that they can have the freedoms they have,” says Lujira Cooper (72), and openly gay African American woman who explains her biggest difficulties stemmed from being a black woman, not being a lesbian.
The exhibition’s 14-minute film is online and should be required viewing for all of us who enjoy the privilege of living our lives openly. “It’s been interesting seeing all these young people nowadays that are out and how they hold hands, live together, married. That was something that we never dreamed,” explains Ronnie Gilliard Ellis (79).
Weaving their stories, the film also helps create a timeline of our community’s progress. “In the 50’s coming out was not even an option necessarily. It was still a crime to be a homosexual,” says Nick Procaccino (87). In the U.S., about three million seniors currently identify as LGBT. That number is expected to double over the next ten years.
Now in 2021, this exhibition celebrates 12 trailblazers who lost 485 years collectively, suppressing their authentic selves, and are determined to lose not another second more.