November 23, 2014

Paul Alan Fahey on Getting Gertie Out

Q: Are we willing to go back into the closet as we age?

This is a question that I have to admit never entered my mind, at least not until recently. We’d come so far in terms of equality issues -- especially in these recent decades -- I couldn’t imagine even having to consider it.

About three months ago, I read a beautiful, heartfelt article by Marie Cartier about her ageing lesbian friend, Rae. The story truly opened my eyes about LGBT eldercare. And after more research, I knew I had to write Getting Gertie Out.

Gertie’s story, though fictional, isn’t so different from the personal stories I read online. Accounts by lesbians, gays, and transgender individuals, who after losing life partners, husbands or wives, often found themselves ill, alone, and at the mercy of an insensitive healthcare system, not to mention the wrath of other elderly residents.

What accounts for all this abuse, insensitivity, and lack of compassion?

  • Facility staff untrained in LGBT issues
  • Elderly residents still living in the twentieth century, a time when psychiatrists defined homosexuality as a mental illness; religious leaders condemned same sex attraction as against God’s laws and commandments; and law enforcement that made it a criminal offense to engage in homosexual acts
Getting Gertie Out is not a downer of a read. Far from it. It is one of hope and salvation.

As a married senior gay man, my purpose in writing Gertie’s story was twofold: I wanted to shed light on a subject one might not be aware of -- as I was in the beginning -- and to offer support to those LGBT communities working toward the goal of providing safe havens for their elderly seniors.

When writing a fictional story about an important subject, there’s a common fear that, unknowingly, the writer will trivialize the issues. Hopefully I haven’t.

I set out to create strong characters in Lanta, Bernadette, and Gertie -- folks I think you’ll identify with and root for. Please visit me at and let me know if I’ve succeeded. I love hearing from my readers.

Now back to my original question.

Q: Are we willing to go back into the closet as we age?

A: Hell, no!

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