Once the ball started rolling on the “Not Another Second” art exhibit, it couldn’t be stopped. 12 queer seniors had their photo portraits on display in a Brooklyn, New York gallery when the show started picking up speed. The series was transformed into a documentary and, shortly thereafter, into a coffee table book. 

The photographs, taken by Karsten Thormaehlen, feature individuals and couples over the age of sixty. Each of the subjects were asked about their experiences with recognizing, accepting and living in pride of their LGBTQ identities. Some of them spent over fifty years in the closet, living life surrounded by intolerance, bigotry, discrimination and, in some cases and places, the risk of arrest. The exhibit opened at the start of this year in The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights and will remain open until September 2021. 

Participant Richard Prescott sums the purpose of the project up perfectly when he says, “I think I lost a lot of years not being myself. Not only do we get to share our stories, but give courage to younger generations who are still scared of being their authentic self.” 

Younger generations will benefit from the stories in the book “Not Another Second,” as well as all proceeds from sales, which will be donated to Watermark for Kids, a nonprofit that focuses on providing aid to LGBTQ youth. 

This intergenerational effort is something that Ronnie Ellis Jr., a North Carolina native, cites as integral to the fight for LGBTQ equality. Growing up in the rural Raleigh area, Ellis was wary of losing his career because of his sexual orientation and did not come out for fifty-four years. Both Ellis and his now-deceased partner feared for their careers and lives. Despite the risks, they made a secret life for themselves during a large portion the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the next. They spent forty-four years together before his partner passed away in 2011.

Ellis later purchased a Victorian home in the Historic Oakwood district in Raleigh, became a leader in spearheading the conservation and restoration effort of the area and was frequently referred to as “Mr. Oakwood” around Raleigh. These days he spends his residential time between Raleigh and Tarboro, North Carolina. 

Ellis, 81, mirrors Prescott’s sentiments about today’s gay youth. “Somebody needs to let the young people know, we did what we could and now they can pick up and make life better for other younger people.”

Watermark Retirement Communities and SAGE are funding this multi-media project, hoping to reach LGBTQ and allied elders and youth alike. SAGE Central North Carolina continues to serve individuals like Ellis; advocating for and supporting LGBTQ seniors over the age of fifty across the city of Raleigh. 

To purchase a copy of the book (an oversized coffee table hardcover with over 100 images across 144 pages), watch the film or find out more details about the ongoing exhibit in New York, go to notanothersecond.com.

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