Organizations serving older LGBT adults presents 10th annual event
By: Lauren Walleser/ TRT Reporter—
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors and their allies danced with pride Sunday, June 2 as the LGBT Senior Pride Coalition presented “Come As You Are, Or As You Were!” A Pan-Decade Pride Dance Party— the 10th Annual Senior Pride Tea Dance—as part of Boston Pride Week 2013.
Lisa Krinksy, Director of the LGBT Aging Project, said the dance is the only event during Pride Week that is particularly focused for older adults.
“It’s important that [Pride is] not just for young people,” Krinsky said. “These are the folks that paved the way. We wouldn’t have Pride if it weren’t for the folks that we’re celebrating today.”
For 12 years the LGBT Aging Project has worked to create welcoming communities for older LGBT people. They train mainstream elder care providers in senior centers and assisted living facilities about what is unique and important in working with LGBT older adults, and they host events that help build communities so LGBT seniors feel less isolated. They also do policy work, and according to Krinsky, an LGBT Aging Commission, similar to the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth, is in the works. [pullquote]“It’s important that [Pride is] not just for young people,” Krinsky said. “These are the folks that paved the way. We wouldn’t have Pride if it weren’t for the folks that we’re celebrating today.”[/pullquote]
The dance was started by the LGBT Aging Project, which later joined with other organizations serving the LGBT senior population to form the LGBT Senior Pride Coalition. The 2013 participating organizations include the LGBT Aging Project, Boston Prime Timers, Massachusetts Association of Older Americans (MAOA), New England Association of HIV Over Fifty (NEAHOF), Older Lesbian Energy (OLE), Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC), Rainbow LLI, RALLY!, and Stonewall Communities.
“What we realized six years ago what that LGBT seniors were being left out of Pride,” said Jim Campbell, president of NEAHOF and founding member of the LGBT Senior Pride Coalition. “They didn’t feel welcome, and this was the Stonewall generation who was being left behind, the people who kind of made Pride happen. So we were trying to figure out a way we could get people involved.”
In addition to the Tea Dance, the LGBT Senior Pride Coalition organizes two trolleys that meet in Copley Square and transport LGBT seniors along the full route of the Boston Pride Parade for those who cannot walk and for those who get tired after walking part of the way. [pullquote]“What we realized six years ago what that LGBT seniors were being left out of Pride,” said Jim Campbell, president of NEAHOF and founding member of the LGBT Senior Pride Coalition.[/pullquote]
“The reception to the people that are on the trolleys and the reception to this generation is really what makes it a day worthwhile for the elders because they’ve been lost, passed by in the community,” Campbell said. “So this gives the community a chance to say thank you and its gives the elders a chance to be connected again.”
Among the attendees were several couples that have been together for decades, including Sheri Barden and Lois Johnson, who will celebrate their 50th anniversary in February 2014. The two helped start the Boston chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in 1970, a lesbian organization that was founded in San Francisco in 1955.
“They met in one another’s homes and they were so fearful of being found out,” said Barden.
According to Barden, at the time, the San Francisco DOB went under the guise of being a literary organization, and the Boston chapter even went under the name Democrats of Boston so people would not know they were a lesbian organization.
“People would come up to us, and I would vaguely recognize them, and they would say ‘DOB saved my life in 1974 or 75. I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking of suicide because I just didn’t know what to do, but I went to D.B. and found out there were other women like me,’” said Johnson.
The two shared their secrets to a lasting relationship—a sense of humor, tolerance for one another and communication.
“We came from a generation where your mother married your father and never left, for 60 years or whatever their lifespan was,” said Johnson. “So, when we got together we considered ourselves married even though there was no way we could marry.”
This year’s dance was attended by about 200 people and included a disco-themed costume contest, a “Who is This?” photo game featuring images of people from the 70s that they were encouraged to bring, and an auctioned-off makeover by the Boston Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which was given to the winner live on stage. While the dance caters to older LGBT people, everyone is welcome, and many younger people attended to socialize and support the event.
“Having something like this just be ordinary in a way is such a mindblower because I grew up in a time where we could be institutionalized for being lesbian,” said Alexis, a Tea Dance attendee who is active with OLOC. “It’s reappearing a segment of society that disappeared.”