In 1992, Colonel Patsy Thompson was a decorated Army nurse, only two years away from retirement. She was asked to preside over the military review board that eventually dismissed Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. Although Thompson had served her country with distinction for over thirty years – from conflict zones in Central America to working inside the Pentagon – that appointment was perhaps the hardest. In that moment, she had to protect her own life secret: she too was a lesbian and living privately with her life partner Barbara Brass for many years.
At the time, the story of Cammermeyer made national headlines, fueled in part by President Clinton’s push to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. In 1995, Cammermeyer published a successful memoir Serving in Silence, which was further adapted into a made-for-TV movie executive produced by Barbara Streisand and starring Glenn Close. Yet, Thompson’s part in the story remained a secret until 2013.
In the documentary film SURVIVING THE SILENCE, this truth is exposed in all of its complexity, and the three women involved come together again to contemplate those events and their impact. Along the way, Patsy and Barbara candidly revisit their life together and how they found love against a backdrop of impossible choices. By film’s end, they find something even more important and unexpected – their own voices as out and proud lesbians, later-in-life social activists, and dynamic role models for others.