Lives of Lesbian Elders: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Overview

The untold history of lesbian life from those who have lived it!

Lives of Lesbian Elders: Looking Back, Looking Forward illuminates the hopes, fears, issues, and concerns of gay women as they grow older. Based on interviews with 62 lesbians ranging in age from 55 to 95, this very special book provides a historical account of the shared experiences of the lesbian community that is so often invisible or ignored in contemporary society. The book gives voice to their thoughts and feelings on a wide range of issues, including coming out, identity and the meaning of life, the role of family and personal relationships, work and retirement, adversity, and individual sources of strength and resilience.

Cast off and overlooked at best or victims of scorn and prejudice at worst, lesbians in the twentieth century lived dual lives, their full voices unheard—until now. Lives of Lesbian Elders chronicles the life choices they made and their reasons for making them, set against the contexts of culture, politics, and the social mores of the eras in which they lived. Their stories of courage, resilience, resourcefulness, pride, and independence help restore lesbian history that has been forgotten, distorted, or disregarded and provide the information necessary to meet the future needs of aging lesbians.

Lives of Lesbian Elders gives aging lesbians a chance to discuss their thoughts on a variety of topics, including: Coming out “You didn’t talk about it . . . Until two years ago, I never even referred to a lesbian or would I allow the word to pass my lips” “I used to sneak into libraries and read about homosexuality and back in that era, it was not classy . . . it was classified as a disorder of some type”

Identity

“The only difference between me and anybody else is that I just happen to be sleeping with a woman” “I think I grew up not really knowing who I was and, I think, probably fighting all my life trying to find out who I was”

Family

“I feel very connected with the lesbian community here . . . I guess I would call that family” “Many years ago, my sister said: ’I think when they’re ready, you need to explain to (the nieces) what a lesbian is, because I want them to hear the correct story . . . I want them to hear what it really is and not all these stupid rumors that go around’”

Work

“I was going to become a youth minister at one point and it dawned on me in high school that there was no way the church was going to let me work with kids” “I didn’t really finish my career . . . I still have dreams about the military and about not finishing . . . It was my choice, but it wasn’t really my choice”

Aging and the Future

“I think financing, of course, is a real big problem for lesbian women” “I have a concern that if anything should happen to my partner—in growing older—of being isolated from the gay community” . . . and much more!

Lives of Lesbian Elders: Looking Back, Looking Forward also includes appendices that present demographic data on the women who were interviewed for the book, information on historical timelines, and suggested readings on lesbian history. The book is an invaluable addition to the growing collective history of lesbians in the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This work is structured around lesbian issues of coming out, identity, family, work, aging, adversity, and resiliency. Clunis (The Lesbian Parenting Book: A Guide to Creating Families and Raising Children) and her coauthors interviewed 62 lesbians ages 55 to 95 living in California, Oregon, and Washington. The authors identify themes from their interviews and present verbatim excerpts from the interviewees to illustrate them. Inevitably, some of the women are more articulate than others, and jumping from one respondent to another makes the prose a bit disjointed. The reader is, however, given intimate glimpses into the lives of these women as they discuss struggle and triumph in their personal and professional lives. Mindful that we are all shaped by the times in which we live, the authors open with a brief survey of how homosexuality has been perceived throughout history, and they close with a chronology of significant events. These interviews demonstrate experiences shared by all women, as well as those unique to lesbians. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Debra Moore, Cerritos Coll., Norwalk, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789023346
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Series: Haworth Innovations in Feminist Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 226
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction
Getting Started
Historical Background
Chapter 1. Coming Out
Coming Out: What Does It Mean?
The Closet
Growing Up Different
Marriage and Motherhood
Resistance and Rebels
Coming Out Older
The Movements
Chapter 2. Identity
What’s in a Name?
Identity Development
Family Influence on Identity
Turning Points
Finding Meaning in Life
Chapter 3. Family
Defining Family
Biological Family
The Lesbian Family: Partnerships and Relationships
Chapter 4. Work
Work and Sexual Identity
Lesbians in the Military
Work and the Double Life
Work Satisfaction
Planning for Retirement
Retirement
Chapter 5. Aging and Hopes for the Future
Aging: The Challenges and Anticipations
Financial Security
Independence and Dependence
Housing and Community
Partnerships: Journeying Through Life Together
Hopes for the Future
Chapter 6. Adversity
Family Rejection
Education, Military, and Political Lessons
Social Isolation
Looking Trouble in the Eye
Chapter 7. Resiliency
I Know Who I Am
Sources of Support
Best Times
Spirituality
Dreams and Desires
Advice for Younger Generations
Chapter 8. Conclusion
Appendix A. Historical Timeline
Appendix B. Demographics
Suggested Reading
Index
Reference Notes Included
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