"We people over 60 went through the lack of freedom and the lack of education in an open and relaxed atmosphere. Now we find ourselves in a situation in which the “closet” can open its door again. I have a wife, but if one day I must go to a retirement home, would I have the freedom to express my emotional life there?"

Paulina (lesbian and married)

The stereotype of a gay is that of a young, high-income person whose sex life plays a central role in defining identity. In parallel, sexuality among the elderly is a taboo subject and heterosexuality is taken for granted: elderly gays do not exist.

These stereotypes persist in many countries, including in Spain, whose law recognizes gay rights and is one of the most advanced in Europe. Reaching old age, LGBTI people disappear from the collective imagination and become invisible.

The reality of these people is not radically different from the one of any other elderly person. But on many occasions their problems are manifested with more intensity. In general they live alone, and even if they have a partner, in their youth they could not form a family, or had conflicts with her. Approaching old age, some fear the “return to the closet”, especially if they must enter a nursing house.

Flores de otoño (Autumn Flowers) is a documentary project in which LGBTI people share their stories and the fears they face in the autumn of their lives. Against stereotypes, the project invites reflection over realities close at hand but often ignored.

The project consists in: a documentary and an exhibition


 Many LGTBI seniors, upon entering assisted living...
Many LGTBI seniors, upon entering assisted living facilities, conceal their sexual orientation due to the fear of potential rejection or mistreatment, either from the staff or fellow residents. Some even revert to hiding their identity within the confines of their own homes. When hiring personal assistants, they may withhold information that could disclose their orientation or request certain friends not to visit while assistance is present.

MAITE (Valdemoro, Madrid): In 2005, the year Spain approved the marriage law for same-sex couples, Maite courageously shared her experiences as a lesbian mother on a television program (Espejo Público). However, after relocating to a senior apartment building a few years ago, she no longer feels comfortable discussing her private life openly.

Discover Maite's story
 The LGBTI community itself overlooked old age for many...
The LGBTI community itself overlooked old age for many years. Today, the pioneering generations that fought for equal rights are reaching retirement, bringing the issue to the forefront of collective awareness. In countries like Spain, where the responsibility for caring for elderly dependents often falls on children and family, the situation becomes even more pressing. Many of these individuals had no descendants, while others lost contact with their families during the process of self-affirmation.

MARÌA (Ripollet, Catalonia): 'I entered into marriage to put an end to the gossip, to evade further questioning. However, I proved to be a poor husband. It was a mistake, as I couldn't conceal or alter my true nature.'

Discover Maria's story
 The matter of parents "coming out" to their...
The matter of parents "coming out" to their children remains a highly sensitive topic, often shrouded in silence. Feelings of deception and misunderstanding frequently contribute to erecting barriers that may persist for years.

PAKO (Cardedeu, Catalonia): "I always aspired to start a family. A priest I had known since childhood assured me that with determination, I could marry and change. Soon enough, I realized it was a mistake, but by then, I already had children. Following the divorce, I experienced a sense of liberation. However, for my young children, it proved to be a traumatic revelation. 'Suddenly, you find out that your father is gay!'"

Discover Pako's story
 Several social workers emphasize the importance of...
Several social workers emphasize the importance of establishing safe spaces and providing training for medical and support personnel working with the elderly, ensuring that considerations for sexual and gender diversity are integrated.

Isolation and vulnerability can be especially heightened for transgender individuals. Whether receiving physical care at home, in hospitals, or in nursing homes, these individuals fear potential negative reactions when it becomes known that their biological sex doesn't align with their gender identity.

BRENDA (Madrid): "Everyone advises me to undergo surgery. Even my endocrinologist once suggested that, in this way, I would become a perfect lady."  -  Discover Brenda's story

DAVID (Madrid): "I require a space where I can access medical care and attention without being exposed to possible instances of homophobia.
Discover David's story

  "Aversion therapies"  were one of the methods...
"Aversion therapies" were one of the methods employed to "sexually reorient" homosexuals and bisexuals, attempting to "convert" them into heterosexuals. It wasn't until 1994 that the American Psychological Association declared these therapies as dangerous, posing a risk of suicide to the patients.

ANGEL (Llocnou d’en Fenollet, Valencia): "The sessions lasted about twenty minutes. They involved sitting in a comfortable chair, viewing slides of naked men, and selecting a few based on preference. After making the choice, they administered an injection with a black liquid into my arm, and immediately I began to vomit. I was vomiting while continuing to look at the slides..."

Discover Angel's story
 Many adult transsexual women choose to live as men in...
Many adult transsexual women choose to live as men in society, navigating their professional and familial development while assuming a masculine role. Only in private do they allow themselves to express their femininity. Fear often prevents them from taking steps to change this situation. The figure of a mature man affirming themselves as a transsexual woman, and often identifying as a lesbian, challenges established norms, resulting in rejection and incomprehension. Social exclusion appears particularly pronounced in the job market, with around 85% of transsexual women experiencing unemployment in Spain.

CAROL (Barcelona): "Had I known earlier about my situation, my life would likely have taken a different path. Perhaps I would have never become a CEO, and maybe I wouldn't have been able to secure any job at all."

Discover Carol's story
      EXHIBITION       The Autumn Flowers...


The Autumn Flowers exhibition comprises 28 photographs and testimonies exploring 6 themes and featuring profiles of protagonists. It addresses the following topics: 
1) Loneliness and vulnerability in old age
2) Coming out in front of children
3) Risk of returning to the closet
4) Aversion therapies
5) The need for safe spaces
6) Transphobia

More information
    DOCUMENTARY    The Autumn Flowers    documentary...


The Autumn Flowers documentary is composed by still photography with spoken testimonies and sound image from the life of the protagonists. It includes 3 chapters:
1) Marià : loneliness and vulnerability in old age
2) Maite: risk of returning to the closet
3) Pako : coming out in front of children

The full version - a 22 min.

More information

Hanna Jarzabek - Photography & Documentary Storytelling

Documentary photographer and Multimedia Storyteller specialized in projects addressing discrimination and societal dysfunctions, with accent on Europe.
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