Are older lesbians an endangered species in San Francisco, maybe even on the verge of extinction? If you were at Mickey Eliason’s discussion group at SF’s LGBT Center in June, “Building Community for Older Lesbian and Bisexual Women,” the answer was emphatically “no!” Mickey, a professor from San Francisco State University, is currently researching the health of older lesbian/bisexual women.
The group of about a dozen women was animated and opinionated. Memorable quote from the introductions: “I’m tired of intense lesbians; I want to meet some fun lesbians.” Mickey first had us break up into smaller groups to discuss what “community” means to us and how we build it. Many women mentioned feeling a lack of community in San Francisco: “women have left the city,” “everybody is too busy,” “I can’t meet women my own age,” and “there’s no place for older women to gather” were some of the common themes.
Many women noted that the LGBT Center could become a more welcoming place for older women, and developed a plan to “occupy” the 4th Floor of the LGBT Center in August, holding a salon / games event / dance that will hopefully provide something for every lesbian, whether “intense,” playful, or both. This event will also be a kickoff for “Doing It For Ourselves,” a health program for over-40 lesbians and bisexual women currently being designed by Mickey Eliason with funding from the federal Office on Women’s Health and slated to begin in the fall.
The August kickoff event is a work in progress. But it will definitely include some of these things if not more:
Games: You will be able to sign up to play games such a mahjong, scrabble, pictionary, or charades. Some imaginative discussion participants proposed creating our own games with a lesbian twist. (Suggestions welcome.)
Salon: We hope to have discussion groups on topics including politics, art, and more—the more interesting and outrageous the topic the better.
Women-centered art: We plan to have displays that feature lesbian/bisexual women’s experience.
Food: Lesbians are famous for their brunches and potlucks, and what would any event be without good food? Maybe we can have an animated (or agitated) discussion about vegetarianism, veganism, the raw diet and gluten free while we’re eating!
Dance: Discussion group participants were most adamant about one thing: We wanted a dance for women over 40, with music we like and can relate to. (No techno!) We have an enthusiastic dance committee putting together an iPod mix.
Prizes: We hope to have prizes too—whether for best dancers, best outfits, or just by raffle. Some suggestions were free massage or acupunctures sessions that would be offered by our friends in those fields.