Every week, I volunteer at a social group for lesbian seniors aged 55+. For me, it’s something of a sanctuary. A place of learning and laughter. A place to connect with a community I thought was lost to time.
For them, it’s a Wednesday.
This is a breakdown of my favorite lesbian elders (names have been changed).
Janet: The funniest of the bunch. Has a vibrator we all know by name.
Sam: Old school lesbian feminist. Here to claim space and tell it how it is!
Jennifer: Animal rights activist, lesbian separatist, pen-pal of the only female ‘serial killer’ in America.
Mary: Has an affinity for adult coloring books and doesn’t use the internet.
Lee: Oldest of the bunch with a story worth hearing. She’s still got moves, too!
These women are all worlds apart but share the one thing that brings us all here today: raging lesbianism.
And god, have they been through it!
We know Stonewall, we saw Milk and Bohemian Rhapsody, we know how many minutes are in a year. But we don’t know our lesbian foremothers. The women who have fought for the rights we have, the women who cared for ailing gay men during the AIDS epidemic, the women who wrote the feminist theory we still quote today…who are they? Where did they go? What are their stories?
They are incredible. They just aren’t listened to or prioritized in this burgeoning digital LGBTQIAXYZ community. Both on the basis of age and identity, our lesbian elders are being brushed off.
Well…I say no more!
I’ve learned a lot from these women. Their lived experiences are invaluable to us–they have been resilient in the face of unending homophobia and misogyny. Many of them are mothers and grandmothers, brought up in a time where marriage to a man was a given and children were a ‘when’, not an ‘if’. To live a life out of the closet to them was to risk employment, housing, family and friends, and yet they did just that.
Misogyny and homophobia haven’t gone away, they’ve simply evolved. Facing these demons blind and alone will only hurt and splinter us further apart. I think we should be looking back to the women who have been through it before us for their wisdom–or at least for a witty crack-shot at whatever tomfoolery the men are up to now.
I don’t want to tokenize these women’s lives or turn them into living lessons. I just think that they aren’t being listened to or valued the way they deserve. With them will go stories of long-lost lesbian hideaways and bars, of a counterculture being countered, of pride in times of prejudice. They are whole people, who have lived lives the span of mine thrice over. There is nothing I feel as if I can’t talk to them about. My problems seem small next to theirs, but I never feel looked down on. I feel reassured knowing they’ve been through it and are still here and strong.