As an older lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person, have you been thinking about writing your story? I’ve become so concerned about our history. My dear young friend Professor Amin Ghaziani writes about the demise of the “gayborhood,” a space many of us needed to feel safe, to feel connected, to feel that sense of belonging. The term post-gay. Because of societal acceptance of homosexuality (though less perhaps for bi and trans), our young “post-gay” folks don’t need the specific spaces that our generation did and in some cases still does.
As I read more about Ghazianai’s and other’s work, and as I maintain deep connections with my former UCLA students, I am concerned about our histories. I don’t want our stories to be lost. I want our young folks to understand on whose shoulders they stand as well as the struggles we incurred so they could be freer than we ever thought.
So back to the opening question: as an older lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person, have you been thinking about writing your story? I sure was, and a few years ago I actually did it! My memoir is The Purple Golf Cart: The Misadventures of a Lesbian Grandma. And one of the chapters, Letter to Anita, is now an award-wining documentary! When I retired from UCLA as the LGBT Center director, I had no idea my life would become so, well, literary. I’ve published many academic books and articles but nothing so personal as a memoir. I found it to be scary, challenging, and intimidating…but I did it.
As a retired woman, I needed some focus for my time. Oh sure, I still do consulting on college campuses around LGBT issues, and I’m currently writing a WWII historical novel, but I wanted do something specific that would be helpful for my retired LGBT sisters and brothers.
As an academic and a lesbian, I’m so clear about the power of our stories. The younger generations don’t know us and don’t know why they’re now able to marry, have children, and live in the ‘burbs as their heterosexual counterparts do. If we don’t share our stories and the battles we fought and won (and some we didn’t win), our history will be lost forever.
So I created Purple Distinctions Writing Retreats and Self Publishing. I want us to write our stories, but as I know all too well, it ain’t easy! Do some of these sound familiar to you?
- You start writing then get stuck immediately after once upon a time; or
- You want to write but can’t find the time; or
- You’ve been told by many people over the years that you should write your story; or
- Your partner has been nagging you to write that book already but you just can’t find the first words; or
- You often think to yourself, “I have a great story. I just need to figure out how and when to write it”; or
- You want to share your history or herstory, to leave a legacy for your family; or
- You finally get started then tell yourself you really have nothing to write about; or
- You finally make the commitment and set the time aside to write, then start feeling a desperate need to do the laundry, wash your car, organize your sock drawer, and now a nap is looking good.
Me, too! I felt all of these, and for as often as I write today, I sometimes still feel them! But writing our stories documents and preserves our history. So many of us have been silenced for much, if not all, of our lives. It’s time to begin to give life and energy to your own voice, your own story.
The on-line webinars I teach are specifically for US in the I’m Here, I’m Queer Series. When we doubt our own voice, we experience emotional pain. When we doubt our voice, we doubt ourselves. Your voice is your truth and your history, and it needs to be told. Self-discovery may be painful, but it’s also nothing short of grace.
I hope you’ll check out my website at www.purpledistinctions.com and join me in one of the webinars or the in-person three-day Palm Springs or Key West writing retreat. I’m offering a special early bird discount of 52% off of any 2015 webinar and 25% off of any in-person retreat. The coupon is on my website.
I look forward to meeting you and to writing with you! May 2015 be the year you write your story! Don’t let our history get lost.
With an advanced degree, obtained at the age of 50, Ronni Sanlo found herself working as the director of the lesbian and gay program at the University of Michigan and then at UCLA where she was fortunate enough to move up the administrative food chain while publishing a tremendous body of work about LGBT college students. In fact, Ronni’s first book was published at the age of 50. She now has 6 books and over 100 articles to her credit.