2009 Regional Gathering in Columbia, South Carolina
OLOC Regional Gathering a Huge Success
The OLOC Regional Gathering got under way in Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday afternoon, July 17, 2009, with a mixer led by Dr. Jean Boudreaux ( Shewolf). This informal activity invited women to connect with new people, to set meeting times, and to gather contact information.
After dinner, we were welcomed by a representative from Columbia’s mayor followed by an inspiring address by Harriet Hancock, who spoke on “Activism as We Age.” Harriet, who was instrumental in forming South Carolina Pride, PFLAG and the Harriet Hancock Center which supports LGBT programs, told her story of being awakened to LGBT concerns through her gay son’s coming out process.
OLOC’s Carole Stoneking was presented with the prestigious “Order of the Pink Palmetto Award,” and Paige Averette from East Carolina State University summarized her on-line study of Old Lesbians. The day concluded with an inspiring concert by Barbara Ester and Beth York. Old Lesbians deserve a good time and day one delivered.
Saturday opened bright and early with a line dancing workshop led by Sally Tatnall. With our energy level high, we enjoyed a panel discussion on “Old Pride” presented by steering committee members, Myra Brahms, Carole Stoneking, Ruth Debra and Sally Tatnall. Small group discussions followed with everyone being given the opportunity to connect with our pride and share stories about our accomplishments.
The afternoon offered a variety of workshops. Sally led a presentation and discussion on learning how to resist the untruths about ageism. Carole showed us the benefits of a relaxing massage. Barb Esterand and Beth York discussed the power of women’s music, including a journey into music of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Chris Roerden, author of Don’t Murder Your Mystery, explained the mystery of writing and publishing our stories.
After a late afternoon of unwinding in the pool and chatting with friends, we danced and partied to the music of DJ Tammy Rast, and singer Carol Brooks treated us to a performance of a song she had written and dedicated to Harriet Hancock.
The final day of the Gathering began with a large and varied brunch followed by a panel discussion on the importance of activism led by Mandy Carter. Panel members, Chris Roerden, Sally Tatnall, Judy Benson and Lavender talked about the impact activism has made on our physical, mental, and emotional health.
The final activity of our weekend was a bus tour of Columbia which included a visit to historical sites, theaters, and the L Word, Columbia’s Lesbian bar.
Thanks to our steering committee for an excellent regional conference.
By Judy Benson, 1946, July 2009
2008 National Gathering in
Building a Better World for Every Old Lesbian
July 30 - August 3, 2008
Los Angeles, California
2008 National Gathering Photos
Observations of an OLOC Virgin (September 2008)
As we say in OLOC, I’m Marcia Perlstein, age 63, from Puget Sound, Washington and SF Bay Area chapters of OLOC. My virginal national experience was the OLOC “California Dreaming” Gathering this summer.
At my first national gathering of OLOC I found passion, hopefulness, warmth and sincere efforts to educate ourselves about all the "isms" which permeate our larger culture and can find our way into our group. I’ve never been part of a group so attentive to the personal and political concerns of its members than our OLOC. We attempted to deal with ageism, racism, classism, and ableism. We talked openly
about preparing for inevitable increasing disability and eventual death.
We were respectful of differences; moved seamlessly from heartfelt emotion to joyful celebration. We honored our founders, foremothers, steering committee, conference organizers and the folks who served our food and set up our rooms. We asked for what we needed from accessibility and practical concerns to hugs and "remember to tell me how beautiful my sparkling shirt is!"
- The Memorial Service, led empathically and adroitly by our own Shaba Barnes brought our deceased sisters and late foremothers into the room with all of us. Though the workshops were too numerous to re-cap in this brief article, it is important to note the range, breadth and depth of knowledge, skills and compassion we have amongst us.
Suzanne Bellamy from Australia’s Lost Culture of Women’s Liberation was quirky,original, funny and outstandingly artistic. The talent show included playwright/actress Terry Baum’s excerpt of her one woman show; Ivy Bottini’s stand-up; Susan Wiseheart’s belly dancing. The rest of us had spirited vim, vigor and chutzpah underlying our moments at the microphone. Another veryspecial contribution was the 30-year reunion of the Los Angeles Women’s Community Chorus. They came together from points afar in honor of our gathering. OLOC singers assembled on site and sang several pieces with the chorus.
More talent was showcased through Mothertongue Feminist Theater, with their performance of their Disability script. In the usual tradition of this group, it was poignant, funny, courageous. They wrote and performed complex thoughts, casting a lens on the multi-faceted prism of living with grave difficulties. The performance generated an intimate conversation in a group of more than 200 women. People in the audience still remembered Mothertongue’s performance at the 1st National Lesbian Conference in Atlanta in 1991!
Other notable contributions continue long-term. The project with the greatest longevity is Arden Eversmeyerís Old Lesbians Oral Herstory Project.
The artfulness of the steering committee and other conference organizers was that their hard work, focus on abundance of detail appeared seamless but we all know the multitude of hours of contact and preparation this final result took.
While the details need to be determined, we are all aware that we will continue the work we’ve been doing for many years, for the life of our organization.
2006 National Gathering in Durham, North Carolina
Leave No Old Lesbian Behind!
August 17 to 20, 2006
Sheraton Imperial Hotel
Durham, North Carolina
The following women were speakers at the conference
Suzanne Pharr founded the Women's Project in Arkansas in 1981, was a co-founder of Southerners on New Ground in 1984, and was the director of the Highlander Center from 1999 to 2004. She is an organizer and political strategist who has spent her adult life working to build a broad-based social and economic justice movement. She works currently with Southerners On New Ground (SONG). Suzanne is the author of "Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism," (1988) and "In the Time of the Right: Reflections on Liberation," (1996), both published by Chardon Press. Her books explore the links between all forms of oppression - race, gender, class, sexual orientation and age.
Mandy Carter, who was recently a keynote speaker at the national NOW conference in Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the nation's leading African-American activists She has organized the grassroots in almost every major region of this country over the past 30 years. A noted speaker on LGBT rights and winner of the Stonewall Award, Mandy has served as a consultant for the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum. Mandy recently concluded three years of work as the Executive Director of SONG (Southerners On New Ground) which was founded in the vision of black and white southern lesbians to build movements across the South that connect race, class, culture, gender and sexual identity.
Our entertainer for the gala Banquet and Dance (which is open to all women) was OLOC's own old dyke, Alix Dobkin, who is back by popular demand.
Report on OLOC Gathering 2006, Leave No Old Lesbian Behind
by Jan Griesinger, 63
OLOC held its first national gathering in
the Southern United States, August 17–20,
in Durham, North Carolina. Southern women
responded in large numbers: 54 of a total of
125 Old Lesbians attended the event from 26
states and one woman from Norway. Women
came from Hawaii, Maine, Washington, Florida,
New York, and many states in between. An
additional 30 women came to the banquet,
the concert by Alix Dobkin, and the dance.
Scholarship funds to help women attend
the Gathering came from 28 individual donors
as well as the Gill Foundation, Silver Threads,
National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the
Astrea Foundation for Justice.
These generous donations made it possible
for 21 Old Lesbians to attend the Gathering who
could not otherwise have afforded doing so.
For the first time, OLOC held an intergenerational
dialogue for local Lesbians the night
before the Gathering began. The meeting
room was packed to overflowing with 62
women from their 20s to their 70s. Ageism was
the topic and discussion was lively.
Energy was high throughout the
Gathering. Comments included: “We’ve never
had anything like this before around here.”
“This is the most organized conference I’ve ever
attended.” “You were leaders without being
authoritative.” “This conference is really exciting.”
All are testimonies to the power of Old Lesbians joining together to sing, laugh, share
stories, protest injustice, strategize for change,
enjoy eating and dancing. Written evaluations
are still being compiled.
We expect these evaluations to highlight
those areas in which things were not done
as well as they should have been and note
improvements needed the next time around.
Women in the session for the differently
abled had many suggestions for making the
Gathering even more accessible in the future.
Suzanne Pharr and Mandy Carter engaged
in a stimlating face-to-face dialogue on “Race
and Class: Bringing Us Together or Keeping Us
Apart.” This was followed by smaller discussion
groups of women of color and white women meeting in different locations. OLOC acknowledges
that it has a long way to go to be sure
that women of color and poor women are
Workshops and discussions covered many
topics of interest, including:
1. Lesbian Lives Aloud: Encouraging women
to write their own experiences, and these
were crafted into a presentation.
2. How to be Your Own Medical Advocate
3. Housing for Old Lesbians
4. Dare I Fall in Love Again and Do I Want To?
5. Loss and Grief
6. Differently Abled in Organizational Settings
7. Activism and You
8. Energy, Healing and You
9. Building OLOC Community
10. Lesbians Empowered to Resist Race and Class
11. Lesbian Land Communities
12. The Well-being of You
13. Mobilizing People of Faith as Allies to Our
14. Timelines: Memoir Writing
An exciting panel presentation on “Ageism
and Lesbophobia” included Shaba Barnes,
Alix Dobkin, Mina Meyer, and Sharon Raphael.
There was a legal clinic to offer information on
elder law rights. Three new videos shown during
free time attracted a standing-room-only
crowd. (See page 3 for more details.)
The banquet buffet on Saturday evening
in the hotel ballroom began a fine social
evening that featured awards to prominent
Old Lesbians and organizations: to Catherine
Nicholson, founder of the lesbian magazine,
Sinister Wisdom; to Del Martin and Phyllis
Lyon (in absentia), founders of Daughters of
Bilitis; to Ladyslipper Music; to Astrea, Lesbian
Foundation for Justice; and to the National
Saturday evening also included a concert
by Alix Dobkin who had Old Lesbians standing
on their feet with strong energy and admiration.
Following the concert, the dance floor
was very crowded. Big smiles were on all the
A silent auction to benefit OLOC was
held for the first time. Beautifully designed by Shaba Barnes, the auction raised $2,100.
Successful bidders went home with fine crafts,
gift certificates, a week at a Cape Cod cottage,
and many other items.
The event concluded with a Memorial
honoring our foremothers planned by Shaba
A fine visual presentation featured
photos of many women whose names appear
on our OLOC Memorial Plaque. Participants
were invited to name and honor women in
their own lives, placing a rose petal in a bowl
of water as their names were called out.
My Gathering Experience
by Patricia Voelker
I wasn't sure what to expect when I
googled "old lesbians" earlier this summer and
stumbled across OLOC's website but, when I saw
the conference would be close enough to drive,
I knew I had to go.
This was the first gathering in which I, at
66, wasn't the oldest person — lesbian or not.
That, in itself, brought personal challenges
and insight. I thought I was the only "late
bloomer" there until I brought up that issue in
the fishbowl and discovered I was one among
many. As more and more told of coming
out… or having mothers who came out… in
their 60's, I lost that alone feeling.
I met one interesting woman after
another. I heard so much laughter and spirited
conversation that I had to leave the room
occasionally just to rest my ears! The group
who kept the hospitality suite stocked were a
This was a wonderful, eye-opening
experience. I'm so glad OLOC came South just
when I was ready to attend. Alix's concert was
great and I'd love to have the words to the
"terrorist" song. All the meetings I attended
were well-worth my time. The memorial spoke
to a need deep in the heart of individual and
group. Those who hurried to minister with
grace and presence to one who was grieving
freely for the first time were truly angels.
Lastly, I was surprised at the number
of women who spoke of activism but aren't
out. I'm told that's because it wasn't safe to
come out when younger so they moved away
from family to live an activist lifestyle. That's
another part of my learning curve. For all I
learned and for all I have yet to learn, I thank
the lesbians of OLOC for your part in my
Housing Workshop Report
Sally Tatnall, 64
In our session we talked about what
we desired and how we might achieve
those desires. We want Lesbian/Gay-friendly
caretakers when needed, diversity and acceptance.
We do not want to be isolated. We want
the maintenance of living to be taken care of.
We want mobility and the ability to stay in the
area in which we currently live. We want to live
with Lesbians and not have a corporate set-up.
Most important was staying independent as
long as possible.
For the most part, everyone in the session
liked where she lived and was not willing to
compromise very much to achieve all the
desires she had. Some women live alone,
others with a partner. There was talk of some
Lesbians getting together to live and pay
for the work they
became unable to
do as they aged.
This raised the issue
of private space vs.
lived on land in
the country and had other other Lesbians in
their community. These women seemed well
organized but were still anxious about declining
old age. One of the land groups is already
experimenting with adult day care. One
question was, “How can I stay in the country?”
The need for the city when we cannot do what
we have to was clear. While most women are
able to live their whole lives in the home of
their choosing, there is still concern about
being placed in a nursing home. The Lesbians
in this session expressed an interest in OLOC’s
acting as a clearinghouse for information on
Videos Shown at the Gathering
The following three videos were shown
and enthusiastically received at the recent
High Heels on Wheels, by filmmakers Donna
Cassyd and Leslie Sloan, about the Lesbians in
the Roller Derby in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
Fairness For All Families, distributed by
the South Carolina Equality Coalition to fight
against amending the state constitution to ban
any form of legal recognition or protection for
Gays, Lesbians, and their families. The election is
The Dyke March, filmed by Cathy Cade
of the march held in San Francisco the night
before the giant, annual Gay Pride March. Multicultural
and multiracial, it makes you want to
attend the next one.
Top Photo: Jan, Mandy & Shaba at the National OLOC Conference, Durham 2006, (photo by Cathy Cade)
|OLOC • P. O. Box 5853 • Athens, OH 45701
email: email@example.com or call: 1-888-706-7506