When they asked me to speak at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) Gathering - coming up this month - I sucked in my breath. “I’m not old. I’m only fifty-nine!” I protested.
Then I stopped myself, wondering, “What does ‘old’ mean? Wasn’t I forty just the other day?”
Luckily I managed a “Yes, yes, of course I’ll speak,” and politely put the phone down. But the conversation started a week-long identity crisis.
Somewhere along the way I started thinking about that upcoming weekend … old dykes gathering to fight the system … old dykes coming together to have slumber parties in the hotel rooms … Alix Dobkin singing, Sue Fink might holler a rendition of “Leaping Lesbians” … panels and workshops to help me deal with my ‘issue’ … fun … learning … a chance to grow older gracefully… this could be a blast!”
“California Dreaming: Building a Better World for Old Lesbians” will take place right here in L.A. from July 30 - August 3. (http://www.oloc.org/)
This four-day Gathering will bring Lesbians from across the country together, to be with women like ourselves.
We’re going to be entertained by the likes of the Mothertongue Feminist Readers Theater, comedian Robin Tyler, and a reunion performance by the L.A. Women’s Community Chorus.
Three dynamic keynote speakers – all over sixty – will share their wise words: award-winning author Jewelle Gomez, former California State Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, and Blues singer Gaye Adegbalola of Saffire (who will also perform.)
Other highlights include a Saturday night Banquet and Dance and an optional Sunday Lesbian bus tour of West Hollywood sights.
Inspiring workshops will cover topics ranging from well-being to making social change, and from spirituality to belly dancing.
Yes, I am going to speak after all, on a panel on “Activism, Then & Now”; and other workshops will include topics like “Intimacy – More Than Just Coupling”; “Organizing & Coalition Building for Old Lesbians”; “African American Lesbian Activism and Visibility”; “Herbal Medicine in the Second Half of our Lives”; “Housing Alternatives”; and if you’re up for it ….”Line Dancing.”
Lesbians over sixty include the generations who came out in eras of great discrimination, as well as women who built the Lesbian Feminist movement in the ‘70s. It’s the first time that these two generations of Out Lesbians will come together to make their voices heard. And with all this talk of “the graying of America” in the mainstream press, Lesbians know that we are always ahead of the pack in making social change that benefits everyone who comes behind us. Throughout history – from the abolitionists fighting slavery, to the profession of social work, to civil rights and the women’s movement, and even the environmental movement – Lesbians have been leaders in these struggles. Now its time to put our experience to work on the next big issue – redefining what age means.
"Gilda Stories” author Jewelle Gomez says she’s looking forward to the slumber party! “I’m excited because we’re all still here.” She says, “I remember that first rush and thrill of working with Lesbians when I was in my twenties. That we’re still doing that work for change is just as thrilling.”
“I love consciousness-raising and smart old Dykes,” says Alix Dobkin, an OLOC Steering Committee member, “I put them all together and got OLOC. OLOC women taught me how to wear my age proudly, helped me to first accept and then welcome the onset of 60.”
Back to that word… OLD. I remind myself, the younger generation has reclaimed “Queer.” In the ‘70s we reclaimed the word “Dyke.” OLOC is all about reclaiming the word old with a capital O. Not calling ourselves Seniors or Elders – which conjures up pictures of us retiring to knit quietly in a corner. Hell, I use a knitting needle to clean my powertools. So yes, we’re Old & Proud and learning that real life does go on after sixty (or seventy or eighty.) In fact it also gets much sweeter.
And speaking of sixty – some of my young friends are surprised to hear that the OLOC event has an age cut-off of sixty (exceptions are made for lovers, partners and caregivers.) OLOC has boldly said “this is our space.” The e-generation has MySpace on the internet. I’m going to claim my space at the OLOC Gathering.