When I was growing up in Massachusetts, the end of August was about looking forward to school, to cooler and more comfortable weather, to leaves turning bright red and golden yellow, and to the smell of apples in all stages of ripeness. August is also my birthday month. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to be older. Now that I am older, I take great pleasure in the age I have achieved.
This August, the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women recognized my years of service creating policies, services and programs to meet the needs of LGBT elders and older LGBT women, in particular. I am proud and honored to be acknowledged by the Commission. There is something very special about being recognized by women leaders in the community.
I could have chosen to speak about data points and current and future needs of our aging community. After all, that is what I do. We can, however, be so busy working for change and striving to further social justice and quality of life issues that we forget to celebrate our histories, our pioneers and how far we have come. So instead I chose to speak of the lesbians who came before us: the women of previous generations who courageously loved other women and who lived lesbian lives but out of necessity had to hide their sexual orientation or be vulnerable to losing custody of their children and losing the support of their families.
When I started my LGBT advocacy work more than three decades ago, these were the women whose stories I told, whose courage I admired and on whose shoulders we stand. In 1986 I edited a collection of life stories as told by old lesbians, Long Time Passing: Lives of Older Lesbians (Alyson Books). It was deeply satisfying to bring the lives of these amazing women into the Commission meeting so that they could be recognized and honored along with me.