5 August 2002
I was standing by the barbecue turning my chicken breast when a
woman introduced herself to me. She asked how I had come to this gathering and if I was an
official member of the group. I told her that I was a friend of Olivia's and that I lived
80 miles away. She explained that she was working on the newsletter and was talking to
people who had come from a distance to be there.
I explained that Olivia had invited me, for the second year, to come
and take pictures of the talent show which would begin shortly.
The woman's face changed and she began to lecture me on "the
rules," which I had apparently inadvertently violated last year when I posted the
pictures on the Internet, in order for those who wanted to see them or download them to
have easy access.
The party, perhaps 30-50 women gathered in the back yard of a
beautiful home, consisted of lesbians over the age of 50, some in their 70s or older.
"People were very upset to find their picture posted on the
Internet," she said sternly. "You can't violate their privacy like that. Some of
them are very closeted. Some of them live in nursing homes and it would be terrible
if they were discovered," she added.
(In my own defense, I have to say that I posted the photos last year
because I was asked to do so by both Olivia and the then-newsletter editor, not to
Later, I was inside the house, before the talent show was to began.
"I've warned people that if they don't want their photos taken, they should
hide," someone else told me, good naturedly.
As I sat in the garden, watching the show (what amazing talent is in
that group. Everything from serious poetry readings to ribald songs, and just about
everything in between) I listened to the talk around me. Directly behind me sat two women.
They appeared to be in their 70s. Their love for each other was blatantly apparent, as
they constantly touched each other, patted each other's arms, made sure the other had a
blanket tucked around her when the cool breeze came up. They mentioned to someone they had
been together 22 years.
At one point, flowers were presented to our two hostesses. One of
them is dying of cancer. She probably won't be around for next year's gathering. I
remember her from last year, standing on stage arm and arm with her partner, telling the
group that the doctors had just discovered cancer in several more locations (she had
recently had a double mastectomy). This year, she is very thin, in a wheelchair, bundled
up against the cold, barely able to stand. She and her partner of many years are coping as
best they can with her impending death and the surviving partner will become the legal
guardian for the child that the dying woman is parenting (her grandchild).
It struck me as so incredibly sad that some of these lovely
women had to be so terrified someone would discover their photo on a web site and learn
they were "the L word" that they should feel they had to hide when a camera came
But of course, they do. One reason is apparent in a message I read
this morning, in response to the question "have you ever been physically assaulted
because of your sexuality." Another woman in a long-term relationship, of over 30
years, responded: In 1978, I was with my girlfriend, walking back to my car, after an
evening out at one of the known lesbian bars when we were first verbally then physically
attacked by 3 male youths. I ended up with a black eye and very bruised ribs and my
girlfriend with a dislocated shoulder and bruised ribs.
In stark contrast to the party yesterday, today we attended the
wedding of Eric and his bride Nancy. Eric is one of the offspring from the group of
college friends who have remaiend friends all these years.
It was a beautiful wedding...lots of friends and relatives. Lots of
little children. A real "feel good" wedding.
Eric gazed at his bride with all the love that I saw in looks that
passed between the couples gathered at the party yesterday. How very sad that those women,
no matter how long they have lived in committed relationships, will never feel comfortable
to walk down the street hand in hand, for fear someone is going to physically assault
The union of Eric and Nancy crosses cultural boundaries and there
was a time when for the two of them to walk down the street hand and hand could have been
an invitation for physical assult. But we no longer have those taboos in this country. It
is my fervent hope that there will come a day when the gender taboo will also crumble and
same gender couples who are in love can feel the same freedom that Eric and Nancy feel
Thank you for nominating my entry, Moving On for a DiaristNet award!