Monday, September 10, 2007
Sent: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 8:30 am
Subject: press-telegram article on oloc picnic
There were two great pics in newpaper but not online, one of Mari and Juni and one a wide shot of most of us.
LONG BEACH - They're old, they're lesbians and they refuse to hide.
The women of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change embraced their age and lifestyle on Sunday during the first "Old Lesbian Picnic" in Long Beach's Heartwell Park.
OLOC is a national organization for lesbians ages 60 and older. The group has more than 700 members across the country and works to confront ageism and other discrimination.
"Old is not a dirty word, and neither is lesbian," said Mina Meyer, head of the Long Beach Chapter.
Although OLOC has been around since 1989, the organization never had a Southern California Chapter until Meyer, 67, started the Long Beach chapter in January.
The group, now 35 members strong, signed up 14 new women at the Sunday picnic.
"It's good to know you're not alone," said 62-year-old Christina Vegas, the group's official photographer.
Meyer started the chapter as a support group for aging lesbians looking to find comfort among their peers.
"It's important for old people to be in a community," Meyer said.
During their monthly meetings, OLOC members discuss age-related issues and what it means to be an elderly lesbian in society. The women expressed their
frustration with comments that can been seen as ageist, such as being called "feisty" or "crotchety" when they are outspoken.
"After a certain age, women become invisible in society," said Sharon Raphael, Meyer's partner of 36 years. "If you don't speak out, you lose your voice."
The group also provides solace for women who have lost their long-term partners.
OLOC member Micky Clifton lost her partner of 45 years in 2003.
"There was no one I could talk to," said the 82-year-old Long Beach native.
Clifton, a former professor of kinesiology at Cal State Long Beach, found it difficult to come out to her colleagues when she worked as department chair in the late 1970s.
"In those days, you just didn't talk about it," she said.
Clifton waited until age 78 to finally come out to her friends and family.
The atmosphere at CSULB is considerably more open now, she said.
"Now you see gay student groups and more faculty members who are out," Clifton said.
Raphael and Meyer, who have lived together in Long Beach for the last 20 years, have also seen a change in the city.
"It's a more gay-friendly community," Raphael said.
But some things in society remain the same, they said. Many OLOC members have yet to find acceptance from their families.
Marilyn Taylor, who was formerly married to a man, has four adult children and six grandchildren.
Taylor never talks about her lifestyle with her daughter, and has not come out to her sons.
"The hardest part has been balancing my lifestyle with my children's beliefs," said the Seal Beach resident.
Taylor's parents, who raised her Jewish, have been accepting of her lifestyle.
"When I told my mother about my new partner, the only thing she asked me was, `Is she Jewish?"' she said.
Diane Tiniakoff tried to have positive female influences around the home, gay and straight, while her children were growing up.
Now that her kids are grown, Tiniakoff, a mother of three, enjoys an adult relationship with them.
"I don't run their lives and they don't run mine," she said.
Only on her death bed did Raphael's mother finally accept her daughter's 36-year relationship with Meyer.
"Her last words were, `Enjoy your life,"' she said.
Peer groups and organizations such as OLOC can become family for many elderly lesbians.
"We've created our own world; a positive world," Raphael said.
Society can learn a few things from old lesbians, she added.
"We're survivors," she said. "We've coped with loss of family, partners. We've faced discrimination over the years and have learned how to value ourselves and speak out. Hiding isn't good for anyone."
The Long Beach Chapter of OLOC meets on the second Tuesday of every month. For information, visit its Web site at www.oloc.org.
Kelly Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (562) 499-1305.
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Mina K. Meyer (MinaKay@aol.com)