Better OLOC Next Time!

There is a wonderful organization in my town offering LGBT programming to retired LGBT seniors and friends: the Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute. I’ve been wanting to get to something of theirs for a long time, and yesterday I was able to make it to a brown bag lunch talk by a local woman who has started a chapter of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. Three members of the homeschoolers QSA accompanied me (I’m the adult advisor to the group), so in the room were teen, middle aged, and old lesbians – cute!

The talk was wonderful. The 78-year old presentor gave background on OLOC, which got its start in California in the early 90s, and then talked about the process of starting a chapter here. Apparently, old lesbians are trendy or something, as a local senior center welcomed them with such enthusiasm it was almost embarrassing. They decided from the beginning to welcome anyone who defines herself as a lesbian, although apparently the national chapter does that stupid women born women thing. They’ve discussed lowering the age limit (the national chapter sets it at 59) and welcoming allies. They have an ongoing discussion about “old” and “older” and which is a better adjective. Our local chapter has been very popular and they are slowly going through their group process, experimenting with topics and discussing potential projects. They are planning a conference for November on sex and the old lesbian, a topic that was so thrilling to me that my enthusiasm brought about my downfall, thus:

After the talk, I rushed over to the presenter and thanked her, then rushed on to say that I’m an erotica writer and would they want to do an erotica-writing workshop at the conference because I would be interested in helping with that. She looked at me with a blank expression, and at first I thought she hadn’t heard me because earlier she had said she’s hard of hearing. I repeated myself, and she said, very quickly and without engaging me in any way, “The conference is for old lesbians.”

So I heard a welcome and she saw intrusion and she shut me down. Because she’d said that thing about lowering the age limit and welcoming allies, because I was so inspired by her talk, I wanted in. I certainly had heard her say how they’re working very hard to give leadership to old lesbians, that young people often end up having leadership in areas that concern old people. I went with the information that worked for me, though, and that turned out not to be what worked for her. She dismissed me with a glance. It was hard and it hurt my feelings, but I can also see that she probably gets lots of people coming at her with good ideas and taking up her time. And even though I related to so much of what she was saying about getting old, I am only 51 and that is just too young for OLOC.

Which does beg the question, where do we middle aged gals go? I certainly don’t feel particularly comfortable with folks in their 30s and early 40s, either. But more importantly, the whole thing got me thinking about being an ally. An ally takes cues from the oppressed minority she wishes to be in solidarity with. She comes up against her own ignorance all the time, she does what she can to educate herself, and she takes a lot of hits for the team. She can’t let the hits stop her from her dedication to being an ally, even though it’s easy enough to just walk away. In this case, easy enough to be so insulted that the relationship ends there, and I don’t want that. So I wrote an email to the presenter apologizing for my presumptuousness. I told her how much her presentation inspired me, and how grateful I am for her organizing. I waited until I wasn’t feeling so raw and could say those things genuinely without any hidden agenda, because they are true. I am not going to stop being an ally to old lesbians just because I got my feelings hurt. Especially given the sprinkling of handsome old butches in the room yesterday. In the end, my biggest regret is not that I bounced up to the presenter with my good idea, getting roundly shut down and embarrassed as a result. Nor is it that I handed off most of my lunch to the QSA gals, which is, after all, only the motherly thing to do. Nope, my biggest regret is that I forgot, for just that fatal moment, essential information that the Femme Rule Book tries so hard to instill in us all: You never know when you’ll encounter a butch in public.

My biggest regret is not taking the time before the talk to put on some lipstick.

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 12:50 PM  Leave a Comment  
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