New Series Showcases Stories of LGBT Elders
By Jen Colletta
I’m From Driftwood’s “What Was It Like?” series debuted earlier this month. The initiative features video interviews with elders in which they share stories about their evolving experiences as LGBT people in the last century.
IFD has collected more than 1,000 video and written oral histories from LGBTs and allies since its founding in 2009.
IFD founder and executive director Nathan Manske said organizers ask interviewees to share one important story regarding their LGBT identity, and they then condense the footage to a four-six-minute piece for online publication.
“With the elders we interviewed, they tried to cram in as much of their life as possible in this one story. We found that people aren’t going to watch a 20- or 25-minute video, but we felt like we were doing a disservice by not sharing all of their stories,” Manske said.
That sparked the idea for “What Was It Like?”
“We knew we needed to do separate programming specific for elders,” Manske said. “It made a lot of sense because LGBTQ elders, more than anyone else, have been forced to keep their lives, their stories, in the closet, in the dark. It was about time somebody starting asking them to share their stories of who they are.”
IFD teamed up with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders) to find interview subjects.
“We’re very interested in helping to elevate the voices of LGBT older adults,” said SAGE chief engagement officer Susan Herr. “Nathan reached out about a year ago and we were super-impressed with his videos. There are a lot of storytelling initiatives out there, but this one has really gotten some reasonable traction.”
Each interview subject will share four to six separate stories. Manske said IFD will have completed five “What Was It Like?” interviews by the end of the year, with the goal of taking the initiative nationwide next year.
“We want to collect stories from elders all over the country,” he said. “It’s important to hear what it was like to be LGBTQ in New York in the 1950s and ’60s but I also want to know what it was like in Boise, Idaho, in decades past.”
That goal is being supported through IFD’s partnership with Philadelphia-based Comcast, the nation’s largest cable-service provider. Each video will premiere exclusively on Comcast Xfinity, through On Demand and at www.Xfinity.com/LGBT.
"What Was It Like?" is presented as part of the Xfinity LGBT Film & TV Collection, a growing library of more than 500 titles that launched earlier this year. Users with an X1 voice remote can also access the collection by simply saying "LGBT" into the device.
"We're proud to feature I'm From Driftwood's 'What Was It Like?' docu-series as part of this collection," said Jean-Claire Fitschen, executive director of Comcast Multicultural Services and director of the Xfinity LGBT Film & TV Collection. "Whether it's the first-person account of LGBT older adults, empowering stories of perseverance of LGBT trans women of color or positive portrayals of LGBT youth, we're committed to sharing stories with our audience that reflect the authentic lives of our customers."
“It’s amazing knowing that these stories will be in the homes of millions of people across the country," Manske added, "from major cities to small towns.”
After two weeks exclusively on Xfinity, the videos will be published on YouTube, where they will be sorted into playlists for each subject, as well as the IFD site and social-media channels.
The first series of interviews with New York City resident Sandy Warshaw published earlier this month.
Manske said the YouTube comments have been enlightening, such as, “Wow, I rarely hear stories of older LGBT people, I even wondered if they existed.”
“It was clear to us that not many people have asked our elders to share their stories,” he said. “Their faces light up when we ask them.”
Manske said IFD continues to seek “What Was It Like?” storytellers and plans to film in Philadelphia, working with William Way LGBT Community Center and John C. Anderson Apartments, the LGBT-friendly affordable-housing facility where IDF holds an annual fundraiser.
For more information, visit www.whatwasitlike.org.