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Out Late is a documentary from 2008, out on DVD now from First Run Features. It’s an interesting look at a bunch of interesting people – gay and lesbian men and women who didn’t “come out” until much later in life. Some participants in the documentary are in their 80s.
The thing is – there’s not much more to the documentary than that. Interesting interviews with compelling people. At times, the movie starts delving into social issues, like the couple who live next to a lesbian couple who are fundamentalist religious people and don’t believe in gay marriage. A lot of the gay participants are religious, and there is a lot of footage in churches.
But every time the movie starts heading in that direction, it pulls back. So what we’re left with is a series of interviews with likeable people. Which is fine, but there aren’t a lot of really amazing stories.
I found the most interesting story to be that of Elaine, who came out when she was about 80. For her, the most difficult thing is finding someone with whom she can have a relationship. Which is, of course, terribly difficult for someone who is that old, and who just now revealed that she is homosexual. And of course, now that she has finally come out, she wants to go crazy and live it up and finally be herself. But she’s waited so long that it’s nearly impossible, and she can be a little too aggressive for some people.
But mostly we learn about the families, how they reacted, how long these people have known they were gay. Which is okay, and it’s interesting enough, but when the movie was over I had more questions than answers, and I wanted a lot more out of it. What makes someone stay closeted for so many years, then what makes them decide that NOW is the time to come out? These are questions that are touched on, never fully explored.
With the tragedy that took place here in Ottawa last week, the suicide of councillor Allan Hubley’s teenage son, I was looking for something more here. And maybe I was hoping for more for the wrong reasons. 15-year-old Jamie Hubley was the only openly gay student at A.Y. Jackson, where my stepson also goes to high school. His suicide was a direct result of the bullying he endured at that school, bullying my stepson tells me is very commonplace.
The message a lot of us took from Jamie’s tragic death was that although yes, it does get better, asking a 15-year-old to wait three years until college, or maybe even seven years until school ends, can be way too much. His story told us how difficult it is to come out when you’re so young – and how sad it is that this is so often the result.
It seems as though this would have been much worse 60 years ago – I would have liked Out Late to talk a little more about that. The movie makes it clear that the fear of revealing one’s true self is a lifelong trepidation – and the one thing that is consistent among these older people is that they almost all say they wish they had come out much, much sooner. It’s a nice story, these are nice people, but there’s just not a whole lot of bite to it, and almost no connection to the larger issues affecting the gay community.