Monday, April 12, 2010

Musings on Life and Death of An Old Lesbian Friend

Mina and I attended a memorial service, actually a celebration of life of our friend and sister OLOC member Ginny Borders. Ginny died in March 2010 about three weeks ago from this writing. Ginny was 86 years old. We knew Ginny originally when we attended Women over Forty Plus meetings at our local Long Beach Lesbian/Gay Center in Long Beach. When I first met Ginny, she seemed like a pretty crusty old gal. I wasn't sure she took to us newcomers, Mina and me. But we kept coming and Ginny seemed to mellow toward us. We both found the group which provided a support group for mostly sixty plus Lesbians to be kind of cliqueish, also inaptly named but we figured the women had grown old together and never wanted to change their name still including a few younger amid their midst. Most of the women had been members for years. We were new, outsiders, rather new to Long Beach via S. Bay with many connections to the Los Angeles, Silver Lake, Hollywood LGBT community. Ginny hosted many parties for the group. She also worked along with us on a Long Beach Lesbian's (Gerri Schipske's) run for City Council and earlier the same Lesbian's run for Congress which she lost by 2 percentage points.

Some years passed and Ginny now in her eighties became slightly unenchanted with the group because as the oldest in the group or so it seemed, she felt she was being objectified and patronized, her perception. Ageism seemed to be rearing its ugly head because as some of the women in the group approached their sixties, even seventies, they became afraid of getting past the age mark of 80 that Ginny had already reached. She sought out another group that Mina and I were leading, a local OLD Lesbians Organizing for Change, a group that stands up against ageism both within and outside of the LGBT community. Ginny joined OLOC finding some solace there as so many of the women in the group were either in their eighties also or if younger very empathetic with the issues surrounding ageism and Old Lesbian issues. Ginny remained loyal to her original group and continued with OLOC too.

Ginny had a conspiratorial air about her when she talked sometimes, then you felt only the two of you existed and you both were about to embark on a secret mission somewhere unknown. Her blue eyes twinkled almost winked as you listened as she took you into some confidence with no real words at all. She covered her loneliness with a false kind of bravado that seemed to stem from being widowed so many years from the love of her life Corrine. They had been together 44 years. Ginny liked to flirt with women much younger than herself, younger but still in the category of old age. Someone asked her once, if one of these women took you up on your come on, what would you do. Ginny said she would "run".

At the Celebration of Ginny Border's Life, stories were shared. One woman stood up, her name is Maria, Maria had interviewed
Ginny for her dissertation and in the process Ginny told her how she came to be with her partner Corinne. Ginny and Corinne who was older by maybe ten years was working at a camp that Ginny attended when she was about 19 years of age. Ginny became very attracted to Corine and at one point asked her if she had a penis under there. Corinne said if you still feel that way after camp is over, come to where I live and I will explain it all to you. Ginny was still feeling that way and hurried over to Corinne as she was directed. When Ginny arrived finally, Corinne read to her from Radcliffe Hall's book THE WELL OF LONELINESS. Maria asked " Is that all it took?" Ginny's response was " I didn't need permission. I needed a definition." They stayed together 44 years until Corinne's untimely death from illness.